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It’s been over a month now since veteran crooner and genial entertainer Buddy “The Bear” Armstrong passed away suddenly December 22 while in hospital receiving dialysis treatment following a surgery also related to his chronic diabetes.
As is so often the case with people who are mainstays of the music scene, his death has prompted an outpouring of emotion from the hundreds of musicians and fans whose lives he touched with a voice so surprisingly nimble emanating from the world-wise big man with a little boy’s smile that lit up stages.
There should be a photo of Bear in the dictionary next to the word “trooper”. Oxford defines the term (derived from the theatrical term “trouper”, btw) as being a “resilient, hard-working, reliable or uncomplaining person” and that was Bear in spades. The past few years he’d laboured under a multitude of medical afflictions that involved various amputations and much hobbled him, yet whenever it was at all possible he got himself from his home in Mississauga out to Southside Johnny’s in Etobicoke, where he had hosted a weekly Saturday matinée for almost three years now.
His wife Mary recollected, when we talked with her after his death, how it had been “quite the ordeal” of several hours to make the trip to the club and back via Wheel-Trans but that “it was what he loved to do, what he looked forward to all week.”
Indeed, that’s who he was. He was often playful and had absolutely no pretensions. Equally at home in a swank lounge, a neighbourhood bar or partying with bikers at a summer festival, Bear was always the same laid-back, genuine fellow –but one with an amazing amount of vocal talent who could croon soft ballads or belt out dance-Rock numbers with equal conviction. [See Bear with his band on the TorontoMoonTV channel on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RAyb3JTR27s&list=UUAGqbu8YyatxAyh5JxgHgVw.]
Everybody loved Buddy because he made everyone feel at home when he was on stage.
Many of his fellow artists, including the members of his Bear Band that’s continuing on with the Saturday shows featuring a variety of special guest singers, will be on hand this Saturday, January 31, for a special edition of the event to commemorate Bear’s life and music.
Hosted by Etobicoke singer and radio personality Johnny Max, this week’s special event in the club at 3653 Lakeshore Blvd. near Brown’s Line starts an hour early, at 3 p.m., and runs till 8 p.m. A plethora of talented artists from the west end and from as far away as Simcoe County will be on hand and no doubt most of them will perform.
So far, in addition to the Bear band members (Adam Battersby on guitar, Bob Bilton on bass and Paul Maddigan on drums) the roster of talents includes: Al Weir; Alana Truda Edwards; Amanda Rose; Bob Bleakley; Dave Girdlestone; Dennis Brunet (of David Bacha Band); Derick Lindo; Greg Anzelc; Kat Lovett; Kevin Phillips; Kim Doolitte; Kimberley Wetmore; Krista Blondin; Lisa Shaughnessy; Maxine Young; Michael Keys (of Danny B’s band); Stan Miczek; Susie Q. Grooves and Tom Bona. No doubt many others will end up attending.
-Gary 17, TorontoMoon.ca Copyright © 2015 Toronto Moon Magazine. All Rights Reserved