Formed in 1979, the Ceedees were known during the early 80s as a post-punk/new wave power trio who wrote their own songs. The two creative members from that era—Curtis Jacob Driedger and Douglas John Cameron—played their first ever public get together performance October 25 and 26 at the Theatre on King, which featured the Ceedees’ repertoire.
Curtis and Douglas dropped by Trent Radio House for an interview, which you can listen to in full here. The following is an excerpt, edited for print by Pat Reddick.
How did it come to be that you guys got together to do a concert? How long has it been since you’ve played together? What are you playing?
Douglas: Curtis and I last played together in the Ceedees in around 1983, but we kept in touch. We’ve had opportunities to play together since then, fairly informally. Particularly in the last year or so I started coming up to play with Curtis’ mandolin orchestra, which I’d always wanted to do. Over the years, certainly for me, the idea of having a reunion of the Ceedees popped into my head. I always loved playing with Curtis, I loved being in the Ceedees, and it always seemed like it would be a great idea, so we talked about it. Towards the end of last summer I was in my hometown of Midland and Curtis called me and said he wanted to do the reunion idea, but not as a rock and roll band. He said that he didn’t want to do it as we had done it. He said he wanted to do it two pianos, four hands. I just started laughing; I thought it was an insane idea. But, I thought okay, sure, let’s try it, and it was great! So it’s going to be Curtis and me both playing the keyboard and singing the songs from that time. It turns out we both have identical keyboards that we bought independently of one another.
I’m not quite sure where to jump in. You brought up the Ceedees, that great name …
Curtis: Our first getting together was a weekend where we recorded, and really I had just met you through Edward Dick, founder of Ed’s Music Workshop.
D: Ed and I had a band—Texas Jim and the Heartbreak Kid, sometimes known as Catshit Cameron and the Dancing Bears. We had a number of names.
You were the heartbreak kid, I assume.
D: I believe so.
And you sang songs like “Stand By Your Man”?
D: Well we played at various bars around Peterborough. That would have been the summer of 77. Curtis showed up on the scene, a friend of Edward’s, and he had written a bunch of songs, so our little combo merged with Curtis and became his band, per se.
My first memory of you was the federal election of 79 with the Rhino Party, playing at the now defunct Empress Ballroom, downtown Peterborough. People came back saying “Wow! This is amazing! What’s going on?”
D: Was I in that band? I was in and out of the band a few times.
C: I think you were then. We were just going over that this afternoon. There was a bit of flux. There was an album during the time he was away. When he left I still did want to continue. Basically it took two people to replace him. It took illustrious people too. It took Susan Newman and Rob Fortin. Of course that was wonderful, but then understandably they wanted to go their own separate way after that session was done. And then Douglas was more or less back.
D: I came crawling back after my life fell apart and I had to move back to Peterborough.
There’s a moment in my mind with you guys and Nick Kent, and occasionally Nick couldn’t be there.
D: No that’s right. We played for a long time with Nick. At a certain point we became a trio, when Edward took off. That was the period of time that our performance now is based on.
At that point you were both writing songs, and it was an amazing time, it was profoundly productive.
D: I had not written songs for a band before I had met Curtis. He had all these songs and we were playing them, and I thought “gee, maybe I could write a song too.” So I began writing these totally ridiculous songs about things that were happening around me. We would play some of them mixed in with Curtis’ songs. By the time we were a trio I remember it was quite competitive in a way, a friendly kind of competition. We were writing songs every week. It was this incredible, fertile volcano of songs.
Are these songs going to be featured in your concert?
D: Well there are a lot of songs. It was a very interesting time. First of all, the fact that Curtis wanted to play his own songs in a band was pretty profound because people who played their own songs [at that time] were generally folk singers … but there weren’t a lot of people doing it. Certainly to play in a bar was a slightly different prospect. Curtis did, and in a way blazed that trail, certainly for me. And the idea that you could write a song and then a band would play it was, for me, a huge revelation. As a trio it became very supportive the way we would arrange songs, and it is now too the way we’re finding our parts. And the other thing is, and I think Curtis would agree, that they’re really good songs.
I don’t have many recordings of you and Curtis. So this is the amazing thing, I understand you pulled together and remastered a new live recording from the El Mocombo from about 1982.
C: April 1982. If this were 30 years later and we were doing this we would have these amazing tools at our fingertips to record ourselves. We didn’t even have amongst us a cassette recorder. When we did we started to record gigs, which is what that is from—the sound engineer’s desk. But I wish we had some early footage of ourselves and some recordings.
For me, the songs were absolutely amazing at the time, but even then I didn’t realize how astounding it was.
D: I remember a number of times when I wasn’t in the Ceedees I would come and watch them. I remember seeing them at the Empress Hotel Room and I remember that the songs always moved me. Curtis’ songs move me to this day. Curtis had, and has, this slightly acerbic view of the world, shot through with this incredible tenderness. These songs, I play them to this day, and they were incredibly moving. I think the other thing that happened, because it was rooted in Peterborough at the time, it was something from this place, and people really identified with it. It meant something because these were people who we knew. These were our friends and our fellows.