Murray McLauchlan sings about straw hats and old dirty hankies.
And it won me over.
I was eight year old when I first saw him play the Farmer’s Song.
And for months afterwards it went round and round in my head -“Straw hats and old dirty hankies, mopping my face like a shoe. Thanks for the meal, here’s a song that is real, from a kid from the city to you ….”
Now, more than two decades later, I listened to it again on YouTube and the memories and lyrics came flooding back.
McLauchlan is playing the Yukon Arts Centre on Thursday with his group Lunch at Allen’s.
So, after all these years, this childhood fan had a reason to talk to the harmonica-playing guitar folkie.
But McLauchlan never called.
His publicist Cristin Fraser started promising an interview early last week.
But McLauchlan was on the road, and it was tough finding time to talk.
Finally, it was set for Monday at 10 a.m.
First, however, there was an interview with prolific songwriter and Lunch At Allen’s co-musician Marc Jordan.
He was going through a Tim Hortons drive-through in Cochrane, Alberta, when I called.
Jordan’s written songs for the likes of Rod Stewart, Cher, Bonnie Rait and Bette Midler, back when he was living in LA, working for Warner, BMG and Atlantic Records.
It sounds like a tough gig, writing a hit and letting go without getting the chance to record it.
But Jordan loved it.
“The whole idea was to get as many people as possible to hear the songs,” he said.
“And I always wrote the songs as if I was going to record them.
“I never thought, so-and-so needs a song, so I’m going to write it for him.”
Jordan started off writing for himself.
But after losing his record deal in the early ‘80s, he took the staff writer position at Warner.
“And people started cutting my songs,” he said.
Now, playing with McLauchlan, Ian Thomas and Cindy Church in Lunch at Allen’s, Jordan is reappropriating some of his long-lost songs.
And sometimes, they’re better than when he left them.
“In one case, I wrote a song for Amanda Marshall, and she did it so much better than my demo,” he said.
“So when I recorded it, I copied her.”
Lunch at Allen’s came out of a lunch meeting at Allen’s Restaurant in Toronto.
Murray McLauchlan had been asked to put together a songwriters series and approached Jordan, Thomas and Church.
“I said I’ll do it, if you do it with me,” said Jordan.
The show was so successful, an agent in the audience asked the group to do a few more performances.
Eight years later, they’re still touring.
“We became more like a band and dug in and learned each other’s material,” said Jordan.
After getting together at Thomas’ studio, an old barn outside Toronto, the group started putting out CDs – acoustic versions of their individual hits with musicians shuffling from guitar to percussion and piano.
Thomas’ songs are philosophical, said Jordan.
Church’s have an emotional beauty.
And McLauchlan’s songs are photographic -“they have this wonderful sense of time and place.”
McLauchlan was set to call next.
But he never did.
Leaving me to contemplate his “song that is real, from a kid from the city to you ….”
Contact Genesee Keevil at