August 30, 2013
Sepia Saturday #192: The Music Man: Wild Bill Davison
This is a picture of my father, taken in Toronto in the mid 1970s, in front of Daniel's lounge on Richmond St. West. It would have been taken on a day when he was working just the other side of Yonge Street at the Revenue Canada building on Adelaide St.
This photo was always a source of merriment for my father because his name was also "Bill Davison", and to happen upon a billboard with not only his name, but the correct spelling of it, would have been a monumental event in his life. He was forever correcting people about that spelling - both on the phone and in letters. He was very proud that there was no "d" in the middle of his last name, and would be rather dismayed to learn that back home in the old country, there really isn't much concern about whether or not you get that detail correct. Davisons are pretty much interchangeable with DaviDsons!
The subject of this lettered sign was not known to my father prior to coming upon this board, but after doing some research, I have learned that the two were virtually poles apart in manner and ability.
My father was a nice family man - devoted to his wife and children. He was a social drinker, who loved a good party with his Catholic friends. He couldn't read or play a note of music, though he had a strong, melodious tenor voice. The only time he could be described as "Wild Bill" was if he lost his Irish temper and raised that voice in anger.
Wild Bill Davison, the musician, was a talented cornet player who played with many of the famous jazz musicians of his time. He was born in 1906, and died in 1989, leaving a trail of four wives, and a legendary reputation for womanizing and drinking.
He would have been 11 years my dad's senior, so I'm guessing at the time of this photo, he was about 68 years old, and still playing hard. My father was just a few years older than I am now.
Only once can I recall my father making an attempt at playing a musical instrument. In the late 1960s, "Santa" brought him a guitar which he strummed on haphazardly for about a day. Ever after, it hung on the paneled wall of our family room as a grim reminder of his failure to master it. It should be no surprise to you to learn that I have a ukulele that I bought last Christmas, tucked away in a corner in MY family room, out of sight.
On the other hand, my mother's side is very musical, and I did take piano lessons for years as a kid. I still tinkle the ivories once in a while. My father, never got beyond some playing-by-ear on our piano, but he did enjoy a good round of "Chopsticks" or "Heart and Soul". Oh there was also the harmonica ...
Regardless of his lack of talent on the instrument front, I know which "Wild Bill" I would rather have had for a father.
As for the Sepia Saturday image, there were always newspapers in our house. My father could always be found behind one, whether it was reading something with which he took issue, or just working away at his (and my) favourite pastime, the cryptic crossword puzzle. When I saw the photo for this week, I immediately remembered THIS picture - another of my father's little jokes.
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