October 15, 1997


Blue Rodeo
by Michael Bertin


OCTOBER 13, 1997:  Invading Canada. It's the oldest joke. The humor supposedly lies in the fact that Canadians are harmless and hence not a threat. Truth is, though, it's no joke. Not only has the United States invaded Canada, we've already pillaged it, too. Amateur social commentator and professional musician Greg Keelor, singer and guitarist of the sometimes rocky and always rootsy Canadian outfit Blue Rodeo is keenly aware of the crimes committed against his patria.

"I think it's a shame to the Canadians," says Keelor over the phone. "I'm sort of mildly disgusted that baseball is played in Canada. It's sort of like the extension of American cultural imperialism. In Toronto they fill the place, but as a Canadian I would boycott the baseball games, because the SkyDome is a terrible place to see a sporting event -- it's like going to a mall -- and it's not our sport. Hockey. Hockey is our game."

We're bad. We've forced baseball down their throats, stole two of their professional hockey franchises, and then marketed their quaint little game with gauche MTV tactics. Worse yet, as a country, we've mostly ignored Blue Rodeo and the songwriting axis of Keelor and his partner Jim Cuddy, who formed the band in 1981 and have since released more than a half-dozen albums. And the damage hasn't stopped there. Turns out we stole Americana, too. "The whole thing was invented by Canadians," claims Keelor. The Band, Neil Young... heck, even Blue Rodeo predates the supposedly seminal Uncle Tupelo by about eight years. Maybe Keelor's right on this. The trail of damage can be traced even further back.

"I can remember watching Captain Kangaroo," recalls Keelor, "and I'd be sitting there in front of the TV singing, `The president on the dollar/ George Washington's his name/ The president on the dollar...'. And my mom would come in and say, `No, no, no, that's not you. You're Canadian.'"

Okay, it's true. Captain Kangaroo was created to undermine Canadian national identity. But revenge is a dish best served cold, and Keelor may some day get to serve it on the ice, quite literally. You see, Keelor used to play Junior Hockey in Canada -- he was even drafted once upon a time. What if he got on one of those charity hockey teams? You know, the ones that Jason Priestly and Matthew Perry play on to raise money for their egos. And what if the gloves came off and Keelor had to throw down? Would he do his country proud?

"Oh yeah. No problem," he says. "I think I could take them both."