Goodtime Country Band knows its stuff, but dancing steals the show
I arrived at 7 p.m. just as the band was loading in. The group has been playing together for five years, but they’re all lifetime musicians. They call themselves the “Goodtime Country Band” and they play on Tuesday nights at the Royal Canadian Legion in Truro.
First to arrive was Kathy MacDonald. She plays keyboard and does some back-up vocals. She has been playing with this group for about 10 years. As she helps the volunteers set up the stage, you can tell she’s a pro.
Next to come in the loading doors are Wayne Elliott and Franklin Fulton. Elliott does lead vocals and plays bass, and Fulton plays the fiddle. Elliott is the newest member of the group at five years, while Fulton is the veteran, playing this gig for more than 20 years.
Lorna Letcher comes in next with her drum kit and starts setting it up on stage. Letcher grew up in a musical family. Her dad, Wallace Letcher, was a well-known local fiddler and her first gig was when she was barely a teenager with Carl Elliott (from Economy) and his two boys. Still heavy into the local music scene, she has been passing on her knowledge to music students in Valley and Bible Hill for 30 years. Letcher has been playing with the Goodtime Country Band on and off for about 15 years.
The last band member to arrive is Andy Crossman, who handles lead guitar and helps out on vocals. Crossman is also a gigging musician and plays all around town, including some of the seniors homes.
The Goodtime Country Band was good enough to pose for some quick pictures before they got to the task of setting up the equipment.
While they were getting ready, I had a chance to sit with Gloria Elliott, president of the Good Times Senior Citizens Club, and wife to the band’s lead vocalist.
“The club started in 1980 in the Salmon River Fire Hall, but it wasn’t long before the crowds got too big and we had to move to the Legion,” Gloria says.
The Good Times Senior Citizens Club has been all about dancing for almost 35 years. They started in the 1980s with 150 members coming out once a week to dance to ‘classic country.’ The highest membership was in the early ’90s with 299 members and there were many years with waiting lists to join. The club now stands at 159 members. The yearly dues are $10 and its $6 per person to dance and the club is restricted to people ages 55+.
I came to this gig for the music, to learn about the band and what kind of music they play, but then Gloria starts to explain the dancing and I realize there’s a whole culture here I had no idea about.
“There are four main dances,” Gloria explains. “The Waltz Quadrille, the Fox Trot, Round Waltzes and the Polka. The Fox Trot, Round Waltzes and the Polka are all done with partners, but the Waltz Quadrille is done with four couples in a set.”
I ask if the band will announce what dance is coming up, but the dancers know by the first chord.
“All the dances have their own steps, but you can do what you like,” Gloria says.
In fact, in April, providing there’s enough interest, the Good Time Senior Citizens Club will offer Waltz Quadrille lessons from 7 to 8 p.m. before the Tuesday night dances.
As Gloria and I are talking, a woman goes by shaking a grainy powder on the floor.
“Dancers wax,” Gloria explains. These folks are serious.
Promptly at 8 p.m. the music starts. The band is tight; you can tell they know these songs like the backs of their hands. They play Merle Haggard, Gene Watson and Ray Price, Hank Williams Sr. and Ernest Tubb. Classic country, old time music. Fulton is awesome on the fiddle, with the notes clear and right on target, moving through the melodies with ease. He knows his stuff and it’s obvious.
The whole band is like that — no one misses a beat as they play through the classic tunes. And Gloria was right, her husband IS Gene Watson.
I’m loving the band, but I’m blown away by the dancing. When 8 p.m. hit there were 75 people in the legion. By 10 seconds into the first song, there are only five people still sitting. Maybe some people come on Tuesday nights to be social, but at that moment, it was all about the dancing. The shuffling of their feet was like a sixth instrument.
By the fifth song, a gentleman by the name of Fred MacDonald asked me to waltz. I think I waltzed once with my dad at my wedding, but not before or since. I warned him, but he assured me we’d do fine. And we did, thanks to his expert leading and my fierce concentration to listen to the band and count to three. MacDonald is well into his 80s and I’m confessing he had me winded after the second waltz.
I left the Goodtime Country Band’s gig with a renewed appreciation of classic country and a plan for the day I turn 55.
Melanie Grant is a music enthusiast supporting local artists. She lives in Truro.