Music, God and Breakdowns Grand Prairie, Alberta, May 2nd, 2015

Shama - (still known as 'Barney') January 2nd, 1976
Shama – (still known as ‘Barney’) January 2nd, 1976
Whenever I’m in Grand Prairie, my mind floats back to me at 18 years old, on the road with Shama. Although I thought I was emotionally prepared and mature enough to handle being out on the road, I found out by the third month of traveling that I wasn’t.
Michael Sicoly and I left Sault Ste.Marie to join Jeff Neill and Brien Armstrong on January 2nd of 1976. We flew to Vancouver because Brien’s brother-in-law had two homes there… One in Surrey where we would sleep, and one up the road in Delta where we would rehearse. ‘Barney’ was established out in the prairies, and since Michael and I were replacing the two other members of the band, it made sense business-wise to work within that market.
In the stories section of this website is the Shama story…yet to be finished and I apologize for that (soon) but I don’t want to repeat myself too much within these little blogs and stories.

We started playing as Barney, but after one of the former members protested our continuing to use the name (sending a legal Cease & Desist letter ironically) we changed our name to Shama. Brien had bought a thesaurus and found that name along with a few others. A Shama was an East Indian bird noted for its ‘good song’, so we went with that.

In January we rehearsed for 4-5 days at Brien’s brother-in-laws house in Delta BC and hit the road; although not to the prairies yet but for a three week stint at the Barclay Hotel in Port Alberni,BC and then straight to The Park Hotel in Red Deer, Alberta for a week, The Sahara Nights in Regina for two weeks (halfway through that engagement we became Shama), then The Westlander Inn in Medicine Hat Alberta for two weeks…. On and on….this would continue for two years before we would let ourselves play in The Vancouver area.

Shama had great success almost immediately. Looking back it was a very good young band. The playing and vocals were quite unparalleled for the circuit back then.

But then we found ourselves playing The Harwood Hotel in Moose Jaw Saskatchewan. By the end of that engagement the walls came crashing down on me.
On our second weekend there, the coat check girl had asked Brien if we would like to go to an after-party. Brien asked the band and Jeff and I said yes we would. Michael had decided to stay back at the hotel. Brien offered her a ride with us to the party. We all got into our Ford Econoline van parked in the back alley when all of a sudden we heard a smash against the van. We looked to see a garbage can rolling away, and about 5 guys standing there with ‘that look’ on their faces. Brien got out to investigate and they swarmed him.

Although it was all quite innocent, one of the guys apparently had ‘a thing’ for this coat check girl and armed with just enough liquor and a few of his friends, he was going to ‘right this wrong’.
I ran back into the hotel and called the police. The police arrived fairly quickly, and although Brien handled himself well, he had been punched in the throat (Adam’s Apple) very hard, which meant he couldn’t sing for a few weeks after that.
The police wouldn’t do a thing. Apparently most of these guys had very connected parents in the community, and the police didn’t want to press charges. It was safer for them to just let the travelling minstrels ‘be on their way’.

We left Moose Jaw to head to our next gig at The Hi Holiday Inn in Yorkton, Saskatchewan. All of a sudden I realized where I was… 1000’s of miles away from home and absolutely vulnerable.

For the next while I had what I now think was a mild nervous break down. I would cry endlessly… Stopping just long enough to play a set, then run upstairs to my room to continue to cry. The world in a blink of an eye had become a horrible place to my young mind. I had gone from feeling extreme joy in pursuing my life’s dream with these great musicians to complete and udder terror of what ‘the real world’ was like.

When I was a little younger, I had been ‘saved’ through a friend of mine. He had started hanging out with a very strict Christian lad who’s father was the minister of a very strong evangelistic Finnish Lutheran Church. My friend Jon had become ‘born again’ and was actively after me to ‘be saved’ as well. I was never a bad kid… But with the fear of hell and damnation, I ended up doing my little pledge of allegiance to ‘The Lord’ and found myself questioning everything in life all of a sudden.

Although this period in my life probably only lasted a few weeks before I unchained myself from the crushing weight of being this ‘born again’ kid, the memories of what the pastor had said haunted me. One of the things he had told me was that playing music for anything or anyone other than ‘The Lord’ was a sin and I would spend my eternity in hell because if it.

These thoughts started to roll around in my young mind in Yorkton. Was God punishing me for playing music in bars? Maybe I had to quit my dream. Maybe I needed to repent. Maybe maybe maybe…. In short I was driving myself crazy and couldn’t stop crying.

I phoned my dad and my brothers (back when phone calls pretty much sucked up my entire pay cheque) to lament and cry. My dad told me on several occasions, “Son, you can always come home…” Which made me cry even more.

Ironically my good friend Jeff Neill with his ‘driven attitude’ helped snap me out of it. He had had enough!
One day he just looked at me and said, “Look…if YOU can’t handle it, fuck off back to The Soo! NOBODY’S going to stand in the way of my career. Either get it together or leave!”

That was the catalyst that started me back to being myself. While everyone else was coddling me to help me through my terrible time, Jeff took that whole other approach. What he said rang a bell in my head. I had to break this thing!

Which brings me back to Grand Prairie. We were hired to play the Grand Prairie Motor Inn for two weeks. On the very first night we played, I met two guys in the bar. They were a little older than me (probably early twenties) and as we talked, they informed me that they worked at a halfway house for wayward teens. Intrigued, I asked them if I could go there with them and they agreed to it. They picked me up the next day and drove me to ‘the house’ which actually was just across a large wheat field from the hotel.

As I met with the kids, they asked me a lot of questions about being a musician. Most of them were shocked when I admitted I didn’t do drugs and seldom drank. The lady who ran the centre thanked me for coming and remarked that the kids seemed to really like me. Before I left, I asked her for her number.

The next day I met with the hotel manager and asked if I could have the cabaret for free on a Saturday afternoon. When he asked why, I stated that I wanted Shama to do a free show for these kids to show them that people still care for them. He said he would think about it. The next day he agreed to it. Now I had to convince the band. For the most part, the guys were happy to play this ‘Sock Hop’ for the kids.

I phoned the head mistress of the house and told her. She thanked me and we spoke of the time of the show and logistics etc.
In short, It was a great success… The kids loved it… And loved that they knew the guy in the band.
When it was done they all asked me to join them all at the house for dinner. I happily agreed.

About two hours later, I walked across the field to that house. I looked up the sky and said, “if you need to take me, take me now! I know I’ll go to heaven!”

I needed to prove to myself that music could be used for good, benevolent purposes. The fog had lifted…

Published by

Mick Dalla-Vee

Early days 1976 - He moved to Western Canada, after leaving Bawating High School from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, with the band Shama. Shama toured Western Canada and was managed by Bruce Allen (Bryan Adams, Martina McBride) before disbanding. 1981 -From that point he became the lead guitarist of Trama, managed by Sam Feldman (Joni Mitchell, Diana Krall), 1984 - then on to playing bass for the band Paradox which evolved into his current band Cease & Desist. 1989 - Cease & Desist has been described as "one of Vancouver's most popular bands" by Tom Harrison the rock music critic of The Province. He also plays the part of John in a Beatles cover band, Revolver, that was put together for Expo 86 Songwriting Mick has written or co-written many songs on albums for artists as diverse as country music's Brent Howard and Canada's Singing Cowgirl: Marilyn Faye Parney, the heavy rock sounds of Blackstone (released on the Delinquent label in Canada), the soul/R&B sounds Belinda Metz and 'Emily Jordan' to the 'smooth jazz' sounds of internationally acclaimed Lori Paul. 2005 - He co-wrote ten of the eleven songs on Paul's album Vanity Press. 1998 - His first country song 'The Wrangler' reached the country top 30 charts right across Canada. It also achieved 'Heavy Rotation' on C.M.T., Canada's country music video channel. One of the songs from Mick's 'A Whistler Christmas' album entitled, 'All I Want is You at Christmastime' has been recorded and released by Canadian country star, Brent Howard Currently - He has also written music for movies, television, videos, video games and promotional spots. His writing styles run the gamut from 'Smooth Jazz' to 'Heavy Thrash'. (A Whistler Christmas and Dalla-Vee's original Christmas songs are often heard on Canadian radio during their Christmas music programming.) Producing Aside from producing himself in an array of projects such as 1994's A Whistler Christmas album, he runs his own studio 'Millennia Sound Design', producing and engineering for artists like: Randy Bachman, Twitch, Swaggerjack, Emily Jordan, Russell Marsland, Lori Paul and Suzanne Gitzi among others. 2007 - has provided theme music and soundscapes for two network television series and Simon Fraser University. 2005 - Randy Bachman's CD "Jazzthing" had some work done on it at "Millennia Sound Design". Vocals Dalla-Vee has contributed to projects as diverse as, 1991 - the multi platinum heavy rock of the "Mötley Crüe" album "A Decade of Decadence" to the 2001 - country/rockabilly sounds of Brent Howard and Southern Cherry to Colin Arthur Wiebe. 1989 - Canadian legends, Trooper and The Powder Blues Band have also used Mick's voice for recordings. 1991 - He has worked extensively as a studio session singer/musician, with his talent of many voices being used on a worldwide 'Karaoke' album package marketed over the dreaded U.S. infomercial. He has sung a number of commercial jingles for radio and television. Awards Having recorded with a host of other Canadian and international recording acts such as Randy Bachman (of the band The Guess Who and Bachman Turner Overdrive), Mick was awarded a 'Gold Record' for his work on the 'Trooper' album 'Last of the Gypsies' in 1991. In 1997, he received the Saskatchewan Album of the Year Award for his song writing/musician contributions to an album with proceeds going to people affected with multiple sclerosis. 2011 – Gold Award for Bachman & Turner DVD – Live at the Roseland Ballroom 2013 – Platinum Award for Bachman & Turner DVD – Live at the Roseland Ballroom Appeared in ‘The Campaign’ with Will Ferrell, Zack Galifianakis, Dylan McDermott, John Lithgow, Dan Aykroyd and directed my Jay Roach (shot in New Orleans) Current – Write music for the popular ‘Holmes’ TV series on HGTV Releases: “Bachman and Turner” in 2010 Producing the Toronto pop/soul band ‘Hello Beautiful’. Heads the ‘Music in Motion Workshop’ for the Down Syndrome Research Foundation, a pilot project designed to develop a musical camaraderie with children, youth and young adults with Down Syndrome and other developmental disabilities. Live [edit] He keeps an extremely steady schedule playing guitar, bass and keyboards with his main band, Cease and Desist, and “The Atlantic Crossing Show” featuring Mick as John Lennon and Elton John. Since 2001 - He is the bass player/vocalist with Canadian Rock Legend, Randy Bachman's band 2004 - Bachman’s recent foray in the jazz world with his new CD, ‘Jazz Thing’ features Dalla-Vee on the ‘upright bass’. Ongoing - He plays mandolin, banjo, acoustic guitars and harmonica in the Brent Howard and Southern Cherry band, Ongoing - and has toured as John Lennon in 'Revolver - The Worlds Best Beatles Show'. Ongoing - In addition, he also works as a solo artist appearing regularly at special events and casinos. Affiliations 2004 - A longtime member of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, he has sat on the panel as a judge for Canada's Juno Awards (Canada's Version of The Grammy's). 1989 – 2001 He was on the board of directors of the Pacific Music Industry Association for 3 years, and is also chair of 2000 – 2005 The Carolyn Foundation Musician's Assistance Society; a non-profit organization he and colleagues set-up in the wake of his daughter Carolyn's sudden death in November 1999