It’s not every day that a pint-sized singer-songwriter-guitarist upstages a blues giant, but that’s what happened when Beamer Wigley took the stage at the 2010 Rarearth Music Festival.
It happened as Jim Byrnes was ending his set. He guided the audience’s attention to the side stage, where the then seven-year-old talent was getting ready to perform.
With his straight sandy blonde hair flopped onto the side on his face, three-quarter acoustic guitar in hand, Wigley had the audience at hello.
But he had them eating out of the palm of his hand when he performed a song he wrote for a girl in his class called Flirt Alert.
Vernon’s Don Klepp remembers the moment well, along with the first time he and his wife, Betty, first saw Wigley perform on stage. It was at the 2010 Our Kids Have Talent competition, and it was the first time the young Penticton-based performer ever played in front of a live audience.
“He got up on stage with his guitar and his nephew was accompanying him. He was twice the size of Beamer (who is 21 years younger than the youngest of his five older siblings),” said Klepp. “He had written two songs especially for the event. One was In the Valley, an homage to the Okanagan, and how beautiful it is and how we should appreciate it. I thought that was pretty impressive for a boy his age.”
Wigley has since endeared himself to all those who have met him and seen him play. In Vernon, which he considers a second home, he has become a regular contestant at Our Kids since that inaugural performance. And this year, he placed third overall in the competition.
His talents are becoming recognized near and far, says Klepp, and soon they will be heard at a nation-wide sporting event coming to town.
Klepp, who with wife Betty and OKHT founder/organizer Kath Raeber have become the unofficial boosters for Beamer, is also involved with the RBC Cup, the national junior A hockey tournament that is coming to Vernon in 2014.
“Betty asked him if he’d write a song for us to use for the tournament, and his first reaction was yes. He thought it was so cool. He came back to us with the song a few days later,” said Klepp.
Channeling Stompin’ Tom Connors, Wigley co-wrote the lyrics to his Hockey Tonight with his dad, Mike, but the music was all his.
“It’s a great song. It’s already received a couple thousand hits on YouTube. The chorus is very catchy and at least part of song will become our theme song,” said Klepp.
For Wigley, Hockey Tonight was one way he could honour the people, and the town, that have been supportive of him since he first stepped on that stage more than two years ago.
“The Klepps and Kath have been very supportive and helpful to me,” said Wigley. “I’ve made friendships with everyone at OKHT, and I plan to keep entering the contest as long as I can.”
That, and Wigley says he would like to move to Nashville when he is 10 to become a country star like his idol Keith Urban.
“I’ve seen Keith Urban twice. I first heard him on Start a Band with Brad Paisley, and after that I wanted to start a band,” said Wigley, who although is primarily a solo performer, does occasionally invite a friend to perform on stage with him.
He also has complete support from his parents, Mike and Heather, who not only help Beamer hone his songwriting skills, they accompany him to gigs and competitions, including Penticton’s Kiwanis Music Festival, where his high-pitched clear, and in-tune voice won him almost every category he was entered in.
Mike Wigley says he first noticed his son’s musical inclination when he was five. Born in Kingston, Ont., Beamer was six weeks old when the family moved to the Okanagan.
“He was always plunking away on some guitars I had lying around. We bought him a three-quarter size guitar, and after that he learned to play the drums,” said Mike, adding Beamer is now home schooled and spends a lot of time in the family’s music room, which has a keyboard, drums, and his newest addition, a 12-string guitar.
“Music is a passion for him. He has absolutely no stage fright. He is mostly ear trained, and although his teachers have tried to teach him to read music, he would rather get to the job of playing.”
The family also attributes Raeber for allowing Beamer to have a stage on which to perform.
“We sent her a video for the Our Kids Have Talent, and he learned to sing for that. She has been so supportive of him the last two-and-a-half years. They all treat him so well. He’s been able to perform at festivals, and he and other musicians are always jamming together.”
Beamer has also given back by donating the money he won at Our Kids to the competition, said Klepp.
“His parents have instilled in him that he shouldn’t take anything for granted. He’s fortunate.”
Wigley has a number of performances coming up, starting with the kick-off rally for the RBC Cup, which will take place at the Sunshine Festival in Vernon Saturday at noon. He will, of course, perform his Hockey Tonight song at the event.