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Interview with Sam and Ritchie from the Sam Moon/Ritchie Oakley Power Unit


GB- Tell me a bit about your musical background Ritchie ?

RO - I was ten years old and I found a guitar in the garage, as my mother was taking Hawaiian guitar lessons at the time. I had a friend who was always playing a bit, so he started showing me some chords. We were playing old Johnny Cash tunes. After a few years of that we started a band. My first gig was at my grandmothers house for a party. I was 13 at the time.

GB- How did the Sam Moon/Richie Oakley Power Unit get formed ?

RO- When Sam put out his record, I was in his band and we did a western tour together. After I came back from out west, which was back in 1989, we played together for another five years. One of the big gigs we did was opening up for the Beach Boys in Sydney. We did a lot of gigs with Sam and Matt and I.

GB- Your first and only Oakley band album was released in 1980, although I've heard that there was another album cut before that and unfortunately never got released. Could that ever see the light of day ?

RO- Not at this particular time. Bill is gone and Bruce Dixon is playing with Roch Vosine now. Wayne is with Loggerhead records. The boys are all out doing other things now. We haven't had a reunion in quite some time. There was talk of one when Bill passed away with the keyboard player before Bill, John Lee, who was playing with Matt Minglewood. It may happen some time in the future. As far as the second album, I can't say no to it as we have the tapes and stuff like that, but what there is a better possibility of, is the original Oakley album being released on CD. That's just a glimmer of hope right now as its been discussed by several people. One of the tunes that I wrote on that album "I Almost Call Your Name," has been recorded about six times since we put it out. Nobody's made a big hit out of it but the most recent recording of it has been done by Trina. (country artist) I'm still doing gigs with John Curtis Sampson also. We just did the Stan Fest and we are opening up for Joe Diffy when he comes through here.

GB -Any chance of you and Wayne Nicholson hooking up again anytime soon ?

RO- I don't think so. Well I shouldn't say that. I'd like to but the only time we have ever got together was the reunion stuff.

GB - What were some of your favorite venues and haunts to play live ?

RO- Probably the Hilltop in Fredericton. We played there and the Rollin Keg and the Riverview Arms. We did the whole bunch of them. The Golden Line in Saint John. In Halifax it was back in the old days when The Palace first came out and the Misty Moon. We played there a lot. Clancy's also. I started the band at The Wyse Owl. Note: located on Wyse road in Dartmouth and later changed to Clancy's)

GB- I believe you've opened for some big name acts in the past, Santana comes to mind when you were in Soma. Can you recall others ?

RO - Ya Soma opened up for Santana and Sly and the Family Stone at the Montreal Forum. And Chicago at the O'Keef Centre. We did really great. With Oakley, The Doobie Bros in Moncton. They told us no encores and people went wild, so the road manager came up and said all right go do another one. They were very good to us. We did a nice tour with April Wine, fifteen dates on a Maritime tour. That was wild.

GB - What about a Ritchie Oakley website. Any consideration for that ?

RO - If we do one it will be a Sam Moon/Ritchie Oakley one to promote the band. We would incorporate into that, the history of both of us separately. But to be honest there has been no talk of that yet.

GB - Any thoughts on today's current Maritime artists - Sloan, Carson Downey, etc ?

RO - Great, great. I've know Carson for quite some time and I'm very happy for him as he has paid his dues.

GB - Who are your guitar heroes ?

RO - All the standard guys. I suppose Eric Clapton would be one, Stevie Ray Vaughan. There are so many players. I listen to anyone who is good. You can learn so much from them.

GB - Have you any favorite tunes you like to play live ?

RO - Oakley tunes (laughs). With Sam, we do a big variety of cover tunes. A lot of times if someone from the audience hollers out a song that is not in our repertoire at the time, and if we know it and figure we can get away with it, we'll play it for them. We do everything from Van Morrison to the hard rock Oakley tunes and everything in between. The general idea for this unit is not for a heavy hard rock band.

GB - Any new original material in the works ?

RO - I got things I'm working on but we're not playing it. We are thinking about going in the studio sometime, maybe in the fall.

Sam Moon joins the chat

GB- Tell my about your early days in Sydney and what got you into music Sam ? Did you come from a musical family?

SM - Kinda, dad played harmonica and mom played piano. My sister was a good piano player also. One guy down the street played the guitar and everybody used to walk over to his place. Another guy bought a set of drums, so he was invited over to the basement. It was more the neighborhood that got us into it. I started out on drums believe it or not.

GB- In the late 70's, you had a great band who went on to become 36th Field Battery, then The Battery. What was the story behind that?

SM - They we're actually The Battery before I met them. We played together as The Sam Moon Band. We did quite a few treks across Canada. Ross Billard is still a musician and does a lot of production and arrangement for people. Ian Acker is in a very popular Cape Breton band called The Blues Merchants. Colonel Jessome is in Toronto playing in bands.

GB - The New Moon album, was your only Sam Moon album. Why was that ?

SM - A few reasons. I got tied up with the people I recorded with and because of legal problems I couldn't do anything right away. It was my own fault afterwards, as I got kind of discouraged. I didn't want to go through that experience again, although I enjoy the music on it. Now everybody's recording a CD as you can do it very simply.

GB - What was it like playing in the Minglewood Moon - Universal Power? Did you enjoy those days ?

SM - Ya that was the first of everything. First tours. We started off with a pretty big one here, a big outdoor concert here in Halifax with Steppinwolf in the late 60's. That was quite a way to start, as all of a sudden you're playing in from of 12, 000 people. You could write a book about those days.

GB - Both you and Matt changed your names very early in your music careers. Matt is actually Roy Batherson. I believe your name was Richard Boudreau. Why the name changes ? And how did you both arrive at the names you chose ?

SM - When we started out in early bands, we we're kind of impressed by the artists of the day. Bands with stage names that were unique. Matt was a pretty good horseman and rider, and there was a song by The Greatfull Dead called The New Minglewood Blues. So we kind of threw that name on him. Me, because of some of the habits of mooning (laughs) and my size and so on, and just to have a stage persona, it kind of stuck.

GB - Do you and Matt still hook up often?

SM - Maybe a couple of times a year. There is a big tribute to Matt in Sydney in September so I'm going to be at that show. I'm the godfather to his daughter so I've been there for a lot of family stuff. It's pretty hard to keep up with him as he is playing all over the country. Richie and I played with Matt at the Springhill Festival last year.

GB - How often have you performed outside the Maritimes?

SM - Just once or twice to Toronto a year. I haven't been out west since 88. It's pretty much a Maritime thing unless things change, but I wouldn't mind jaunting around.

GB - Being from the old school of Maritime rockers, I wonder if you'd care to share some comments on your peers say Dutch Mason for example?

SM - He was the first guy to be doing it. He was the granddaddy. He kind of set the tone. When I first came to Halifax he was probably the first guy I heard live. I was memorized by him. Not only by his singing but by his antics on stage. I think he has had an influence on a lot of us.

GB - It's no secret you're a huge Van Morrison fan. Who else would be an influence ?

SM - The British Stuff, The Animals. I like American soul music. Old James Brown and all that kind of stuff. One guy I enjoyed listening to a lot who just passed away, John Lee Hooker. It's kind of mixed bag I'd say. Van Morrison was influenced by a lot of those people too. If I had to name just one. I think for local singers I have always been in awe of Frank McKay who is the premier vocalist around. I heard him at a very young age and he still continues to be a heck of a singer.

GB - You play with Rick Gautreau in the Wing Nuts. Is this a permanent thing for the foreseeable future ?

SM - We do an acoustic thing quite often around town. But it isn't a full band. We do a lot of Maritime stuff.

GB - Have you any tracks in the can or tracks that you'd consider putting out on a new album or a live one ?

SM - We're talking about that now but don't think live is what we're going to do.

GB - You've always been known for wearing the long kimonos (moo moo's) on stage. Where did that originate from Sam ?

SM - That kind of started out as a practical joke. We were playing a high school in Fredericton, NB and there was a bunch of Christmas pageantry stuff hanging in the dressing room including some robes for the singers and someone said I bet you wouldn't put that on and go on stage. And I did and the crowd got a big kick out of it. So I started having them made, plus they're kind of comfortable when your under the lights. I used to jump around in those days quite a bit.

GB - What motivates you to keep performing after all these years?

SM - I think the same thing that got us into it. The love of performing for people. Once you do it its pretty hard to stop and get an office job and retire. It becomes a part of you.

(Special thanks to Steve Marsh for the questions and Anne Oakley for all the help setting up the interview.

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