In his half-century in show business, Dick Damron has inspired many people — including a British fan who carried the lyrics of his song Jesus It’s Me Again in her purse for many years.
After she passed away, her children found the tattered lyric sheet and went to great lengths to find out who wrote it. They finally tracked Damron down in Canada, after getting his name from a Question and Answer column.
“They just wanted me to know how much those lyrics meant to their mother,” recalled Damron, who was touched to hear about it.
“One of the most important things about songwriting, to me, was to communicate with people,” added the 75-year-old Bentley musician. “That’s my real reward as a writer.”
Now Damron is getting another kind of reward — a tribute concert will be held on Saturday, Oct. 3, at the Deerfoot Inn and Casino, Calgary, featuring 12 country musicians who have all had recording success with Damron’s material.
Charley Pride, George Hamilton IV, Ronnie Prophet, The Good Brothers, and Carroll Baker will sing Damron songs at the concert, as will Gary Fjellgaard, Glory Anne Carriere, Michelle Wright, Patricia Conroy, Julian Austin, Joan Kennedy, and Beverley Mahood.
The artists will get to pick from among the 500 tunes the songwriter has written, including his hits Countryfied, Rise ‘n’ Shine, The Long Green Line, Good Ol’ Time Country Rock ‘n’ Roll, High on You, Whiskey Jack, and Silver and Shine.
Since Dick Damron & Friends — A Tribute Concert will sum up his 51-year career, it will be taped for a TV special on the Alberta country music artist.
The Calgary crew was to also film parts of Damron’s Saturday night performance at the Central Music Festival for the documentary, which is to air on CBC TV later this year.
Damron, who is often referred to as a country legend and icon, is taking all the attention in stride.
“I’m pretty happy about it,” he said — especially in getting to perform at the end of the tribute concert. Damron will sing for 15 minutes and do a duet with Pride.
The songwriter is generally flattered whenever another artist records his material. Very few cover versions “made me so disappointed I’ve cried,” he admitted, with a chuckle. “Usually I think that if (singers) like a song well enough, they like it enough to perform it faithfully,” said Damron, who feel some covers have even improved on his original versions.
“I feel very honoured when somebody wants to do one of my songs.”
But his tunes were never written with other performers in mind — Damron said they were written as a way of reaching out to ordinary people — whether fans in a partying mood, or individuals in a lonely place, in need of inspiration.
“When I first started out in the 1950s, I would do rock-a-billy stuff, like Jerry Lee Lewis . . . Everything had to be about rockin’ my baby, partying with my baby tonight, rockin’ around the clock . . . ”
While Damron began recording in 1959, he didn’t have his first hit until he put out Countryfied in 1970 — a song later redone by Hamilton.
The songwriter followed this up with popular tunes, such as Susan Flowers, Mother, Love and Country, Ballad of T.J’s, If You Need Me Lord, My Good Woman, Honky Tonk Angels, Good Ol’ Boys, Ride Against the Wind, Wild Horses, and Bitter Sweet Songs.
Damron, who recorded for the MCA, Columbia, and RCA labels, put out more than 30 albums, won a slew of Canadian Country Music Awards, and was twice voted Foreign Artist of the Year in Europe.
The inductee in the International Country Music Hall of Fame has performed in all across that continent, as well as in Las Vegas and at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry.
Of every song he’s written — and Damron averaging some 50 new tunes a year — he believes his humble Jesus It’s Me Again is the most loved.
“I had the verse in my head for many years. It was like a silent prayer that I carried around with me during my overseas tours,” he recalled. “One time, I just sat down and went through a part of it with my guitar, and the rest of the song came together. I would just sing it and it was there.
“And that song has touched so many people all over the world. It’s the most important song I’ve written in my life, in terms of communicating with people.”
Tickets for the Oct. 3rd Dick Damron and Friends — a Tribute Concert are $99 from Ticketmaster. Doors open at 5 p.m., show starts at 7 p.m. at the Deerfoot Inn and Casino in Calgary.