For The Morning Star
When Jack Garton first tried the accordion, he put it on backwards.
While busking and learning to play the trumpet, he was once given money to stop playing and told to take lessons. That was a long time ago and can laugh about it now. He’s paid his dues.
Jack Garton and the Demon Squadron are set to perform for the Vernon Folk-Roots Music Society Oct. 21 at the Spitfire Lounge of the Army, Navy and Airforce Club.
He started taking guitar lessons at five years of age after seeing rock stars on MTV.
“I thought that if I took guitar lessons, I’d be able to grow my hair long, have people screaming and the glory would be imminent,” Garton said. “So I went to guitar lessons but it was classical guitar. I kept waiting for the glory but instead ended up learning good technique.”
And, at the age of nine, he started playing the trumpet.
“It was through the school band program and my father played trumpet,” he said. “So I started on that but the band teacher also got me playing the French horn, euphonium and flugelhorn.”
At around that time he also started doing an act at local talent shows as an Elvis impersonator.
“I was a huge Elvis fan as a kid,” Garton said. “I was really in love with showbiz and the whole aura of his presence was mesmerizing. I started doing that at around age eight or so until I was about 12.”
At age 19, Garton moved to East Vancouver and immersed himself in the arts scene.
“I moved to that part of town and became a professional busker and bum, basically,” Garton said. “I kept moving around from place to place — I lived in a van for a while.”
And he still remembers honing his craft on the streets of Vancouver.
“Just playing for folks on the street really helped get my performance chops up,” he said. “That’s where I learned to get people’s attention, try to play something that’s ear-catching, while making a connection with people.”
There were some hard lessons as well.
“That’s when a woman actually gave me money to stop playing the trumpet,” he laughed. “I think it was in front of the art gallery downtown and this woman gave me a dollar to stop playing and told me to go get some lessons. That sort of thing happens when you’re learning. Usually I would make enough to get a slice of pizza and do it all over again the next day.”
After a couple of years in Vancouver, he discovered the accordion.
“I was thinking of starting a band with a friend of mine. We were hanging out at his house and his uncle had just given him an accordion,” Garton said, remembering the first day he picked it up. “I thought I should give it a try. I think I put it on upside down at first. But I started with one chord and then another. I wrote a song to it that had only two chords and we performed the song at a gig. It went over really well so I decided to learn more chords and it just took off from there.”
Garton continues to play the trumpet and accordion at shows where he gets to perform his own songs.
“It was right between 2013 and 2014 that I decided I was going to pursue songwriting seriously and to really work at discovering what kind of songs I have in me.”
He describes his shows very simply.
“Our shows are fun,” he said. “Everyone in the band is a lot of fun and they’re all very skilled musicians. We play mostly all types of roots-based music. We do everything from Americana to Canadian folk music, some rockabilly, some Caribbean and Louisiana and European stuff- — it’s all mixed in to a really fun show.
“Although I take songwriting very seriously, our shows don’t have the heavy songwriter feeling. We like to have people get up and dance, hopefully sing along, jump around and get the medicine of the music. It’s all about having a good time. Get ready to dance and shout for joy.”
The Vernon Folk-Roots Music Society presents Jack Garton and the Demon Squadron at Spitfire Lounge of the Army, Navy and Airforce Club Oct. 21. Doors open at 6:45 p.m. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25. Get your tickets through www.ticketseller.ca, 250-5497649, at the Bean Scene Coffee House or at the Spitfire Lounge. Tickets at the door if available. For more details, go to www.vernonfolkroots.com or check out their page on Facebook.