Dennis Ellsworth has an affinity for the music of The Tragically Hip.
As a teenager, he covered many of the legendary band’s songs with his own band, Adam’s Eve.
Their favourites included “Fifty Mission Cap”, which tells the story of Toronto Maple Leafs hero Bill Barilko, who died in a plane crash just months after winning the Stanley Cup. They also liked “The Secret Path”, which recounts the fate of Chanie Wenjack, a young boy who died on his way home, walking along the railroad tracks, trying to escape the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School.
The Tragically Hip loved songs filled with Canadian symbolism. So did Adam’s Eve.
“The band’s music is fantastic. The thing that drew me in was the band’s lyrics,” says Ellsworth.
Fast-forward 30 years to 2016. Adam’s Eve had a chance to play some of the Hip’s songs during a reunion show and had such a great time, they wanted to continue playing together.
So last year when The Tragically Hip’s lead singer, Gord Downie, announced that he had terminal brain cancer and his band was doing its final tour, Ellsworth had an idea.
“We knew that people were going to be starving for his music.”
So he sent his fellow Adam’s Eve band members a message asking what they thought about doing a tribute for The Tragically Hip. It was to be a one-off event with the band donating half the proceeds to the Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund.
“We kind of seized the moment. We played that one gig and we’re still performing today,” says Ellsworth, frontman for The Fabulously Rich, Tragically Hip Tribute, which will perform at the Charlottetown Beer Garden on Saturday, March 17, at a time to be announced.
Ellsworth has another reason for creating the tribute band, which includes Mike Montigny, bass, Trevor Campbell, lead guitar, TJ Lewis, rhythm guitar, and Greg Stapleton, drums and backing vocals.
“I knew Gord. I have personal stake in this because I really feel strongly about what he was working on before he passed away. I know how he felt about it. And I feel that we should still be carrying the torch for it,” says the frontman, referring to Downie’s dedication to Indigenous reconciliation.
His new band, which takes its name from lyrics in the song, “Grace, Too”, will perform a number of Tragically Hip songs. They include classics like “New Orleans is Sinking”, “Blow At High Dough” and “Courage”, as well as songs from the latest albums, “In Violet Light” and “In Between Evolution”.
“I’ve got the phrasing of these songs in the back pocket. But, what is difficult for us, is knowing when we’ve got the song right because there are a number of versions of each song.”
As for the future of the group, Ellsworth remains positive. While he knows there are a number of Tragically Hip tribute bands in Canada, he believes this is a “really special” one.
“As far as I know, it’s the only band that’s raising money for this charity on a regular basis at every gig we play.”
As for the future, keep watching for upcoming gigs, he says.
“We have some ideas. And we’re just waiting for a timeline with the charity itself to see what kind of partnership we can strike to see if we can bring a little more awareness about (truth and reconciliation) and keeping the story out there.”
5 Facts about The Hip
1- The Tragically Hip, often referred to simply as The Hip, is a Canadian rock band from Kingston, Ont., currently consisting of guitarist Paul Langlois, guitarist Rob Baker (known as Bobby Baker until 1994), bassist Gord Sinclair, and drummer Johnny Fay.
2 - They have released 14 studio albums, two live albums, one EP, and 54 singles. Nine of their albums have reached No. 1 on the Canadian charts. They have received numerous Canadian music awards, including 16 Juno Awards.
4 - The tour's final concert, which would ultimately be the band's last show with Downie, was held at the Rogers K-Rock Centre in Kingston on August 20, 2016, and broadcast globally as a cross-platform television, radio and internet streaming special.
5 - Downie died on October 17, 2017 but before his death he indicated in interviews that the band had unreleased material that may still be issued as one or more new albums in the future.
- For information on The Fabulously Rich - Tragically Hip tribute, check out the band’s Facebook page.