Where: McPherson Playhouse, #3 Centennial Square
When: Thursday, June 23, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $69.50 from rmts.bc.ca or 250-386-6121
Note: The Stampeders also perform Friday at the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre (Duncan), Saturday at the Tidemark Theatre (Campbell River), June 29 at the Sid Williams Theatre (Courtenay), and June 30 at The Port Theatre (Nanaimo)
The Stampeders will play five dates on Vancouver Island over the next week, all of which will feature the original members of the award-winning group.
That’s a considerable accomplishment, given that singer-guitarist Rich Dodson, bassist Ronnie King, and singer-drummer Kim Berly first came together as a unit in 1968. The pandemic emerged as a temporary threat to their longevity, but the group has rebounded in the months since the country has opened back up with a string of 25 dates in Ontario over a five-week period.
“It was almost a spiritual experience,” Berly, 73, said. “You could feel it in the audience. It was so wonderful to be out of the box and be able to be doing this thing again. When we were shut down, we were thinking, ‘Is this it? Are we ever going to be out touring again?’ To have another tour and see people again, it’s certainly not taken for granted.”
The group was one of the most popular Canadian acts of the 1970s, both at home and abroad. Before they broke up, in 1978 — they later reunited, in 1992 — The Stampeders toured extensively in the U.S. and Europe, at a time when few Canuck acts made such inroads, and had hits on both sides of the border. Sweet City Woman, the laidback 1971 smash hit that won the group best single at the Juno Awards and hit the No. 1 spot on several radio formats in Canada.
It also hit No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, where the country-rock staple stayed for 16 weeks, eventually breaking the group in the United States. To this day, it still gets a big response when The Stampeders play it in concert.
“You can’t hear that riff and the melody without feeling good, and that’s what we’re all about,” Berly said. “We’re there to entertain people and to have as many laughs as we can get and to play as well as we possibly can.”
Sweet City Woman has aged well, even though portions of it “were an afterthought,” according to the drummer. The song was recorded and considered complete when King suggested Dodson add a few banjo licks, which are now among the song’s most identifiable traits.
“But Rich [Dodson] said, ‘I don’t play a banjo,’ ” Berly said. “Ronnie [King] told him to get a four-string banjo and tune it like a guitar — which is exactly what he did. It was literally an afterthought. It was the last thing that was recorded on the song, but it was perhaps the key ingredient.”
Thanks to the enduring success of Sweet City Woman, the group has all the road work it can handle. Its upcoming dates on Vancouver Island, which take the group through June 30, are the latest of what appear to be an ongoing series of dates.
“We’ll go until someone is incapable of going,” Berly said, “and then we’ll see what happens.”