Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers reflect on 40-year career as new members of Order of Canada

Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers are Wayne Chaulk, left, Kevin Blackmore and Ray Johnson.  (St. John's Arts & Culture Centre - image credit)
Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers are Wayne Chaulk, left, Kevin Blackmore and Ray Johnson. (St. John's Arts & Culture Centre - image credit)
St. John's Arts & Culture Centre
St. John's Arts & Culture Centre

For 40 years Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers have been making their audiences keel over from laughter with their own brand of humour stemming from their roots in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Their sketches and songs have been so successful, in fact, that the group itself is every bit a part of the province's culture they've been drawing their own inspiration from.

That's why in late December, the trio — Kevin Blackmore of Glovertown, Wayne Chaulk of Charlottetown and Ray Johnson of Carbonear — were appointed to the Order of Canada.

"I came up with 363 towns and cities that we've performed in. Think further to that, the number of towns we've passed through to get to those, to stop for lunch, to go visit somebody or whatever, we've seen this country from northeast, southwest and all over," Chaulk said Monday.

"The benefits of money, fulfilment and bringing music to people, that's one thing. But we intimately got to know the country and that's a gift."

The three comedians and songwriters were appointed for their contributions to Canadian music and comedy and as ambassadors for Newfoundland and Labrador's culture and heritage.

The band was formed in Glovertown in 1983. Chaulk and Johnson were teachers at the time, while Blackmore had just moved to the area.

Mark Cumby/cbc
Mark Cumby/cbc

"We were asked to do a little show with a whole bunch of other people. At the end of the show they ran out of material and wanted somebody else to go on stage," said Chaulk.

"We just popped out there and came up with something on the fly and just felt good about it. A few days later we said we'd just get together and play some music."

Turning out hits

Johnson had already released six albums by the time Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers was formed.

He brought his catalogue with him when the group started piecing things together.

The trio started playing traditional Irish and Newfoundland songs but before long started turning out their own originals.

Songs like Sarah and Saltwater Joys became instant hits and are still popular in venues throughout Newfoundland and Labrador today.

"Predominantly, in the beginning it was comedic, which was great. But then after a while we branched out to more pensive, thoughtful ballads and things like this, and I was delighted," said Chaulk.

Mark Cumby/CBC
Mark Cumby/CBC

Each member salutes the others for being the comedic backbones of the group.

Blackmore said comedy in the mainstream has changed in the years since he, Johnson and Chaulk penned sketches like Da Yammie, about a souped-up snowmobile.

However, each agrees a song like Saltwater Joys stands the test of time because it's a song that can be about any home — not just Newfoundland and Labrador.

"It's universally a favourite song. It doesn't matter where it's played, everybody loves it," said Blackmore.

"The sentiment is the same for everybody who has "home."

As for the future, Chaulk jokes the group is taking 10 years off to write some new material.

"Who knows beyond that," he said.

The group will be invited to an investiture ceremony at a later date to receive their Order of Canada insignia. The date of the ceremony hasn't been announced.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador