By Paul Tessier
For The Morning Star
Life changed for Ben Waters at age 14 when one evening his parents insisted they watch Fats Domino’s 60th birthday party on TV.
“At first, I was annoyed,” said Waters, who grew up in a small village in Dorset on the southwest coast of England.
“We only had three channels to choose from and I didn’t want to watch it. But when they talked to Fats Domino and he started playing the piano, well that moment changed my life.”
Since that life-changing moment, Waters has played piano with The Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry, PJ Harvey, Jerry Lee Lewis and many others.
Waters will pounding out award-winning boogie piano for the Vernon Folk-Roots Music Society Jan. 31 at the Powerhouse Theatre. He’ll be joined on stage by his 16-year-old son Tom, on saxophone.
Waters still marvels at the feeling he got, listening and watching Fats Domino.
“It wasn’t just the notes he was playing. It was the whole joyful feel of the music. It felt like music could suddenly make the whole world happy and it all made sense. It was such an overwhelming experience and I’ve never had anything like it before or since,” he said.
Waters was fortunate to have an aunt and uncle who had a great collection of boogie piano recordings and also video recordings of many superb piano players.
“I watched the video footage over and over again and I basically learned to play by watching their hands. I just tried to copy my heroes and got into it that way,” he said.
Waters’ son Tom also had a life-changing moment that got him into music.
“Tom was only five or so when he decided to come with me to Scotland for an outdoor tribute show,” said Waters. “As it turned out, the weather took a nasty turn and ended up being very chilly. We hadn’t expected cold weather and weren’t dressed for the cold but I had to go on stage. So, out of desperation, we put him in a suitcase and zipped it up with his head sticking out. So he sat there watching the band right next to the saxophone player. At the end of the gig, he asked if he could play saxophone.
“Most experts recommended he wait till age eight to start playing. For two years, he kept asking about getting a saxophone. He got one just before his eighth birthday and has now overtaken his father.”
Tom was recently accepted into the Royal Academy of Music in London.
“He can play anything and will play non-stop, given the chance; he loves it so much,” said Waters.
Both father and son say they are thrilled to be performing for the first time ever in Vernon.
“We always have a lot of fun at our shows. We don’t take it too seriously. I think our music is happy, uplifting music. And we love getting to know people,” said Waters.
The audience can also expect an evening of spontaneity.
“I’ve been doing this for 25 years and I always change to the surroundings. There’s no set thing that we do. Expect lots of funny songs, which we wrote, and some hilarious old blues songs. We also love to tell stories and get people involved.”
Ben and Tom Waters perform at the Powerhouse Theatre Tuesday, Jan. 31 at 7:30 p.m. Doors open at 6:45 p.m. Tickets are $25, ($20 for VFRMS members), available at ticketseller.ca, (250-549-7469), the Bean Scene (Vernon) or at the door, if available (cash only).
For more information,visit vernonfolkroots.com.