James Gray

While some people have to practise to be great, to others it just comes naturally. James is one of these people. Obviously multi-talented, he took up the piano at age seven, then started playing the violin and guitar for a few years after that. In 1970, he brushed against illegal activity; it turned out that his guitar teacher was a draft dodger. Just like Jim and Greg, James had played with several other band before joining Blue Rodeo. His bands, too, playing every genre of music under the sun. At first he was only a ‘jobbing' musician. Meaning he did what he could to play music and find work. This all changed, however, when Bob Wiseman (Blue Rodeo's keyboardist) left the band.

James knew Glenn Milchem for a few years and even played in three bands with him. When news got round that Bob was leaving, James called Glenn up. Unfortunately at the time they weren't even thinking of replacing him so it was eventually forgotten. But a few months later, he got a call from Glenn about an audition that Blue Rodeo was holding. James took up the offer and arrived just in time to see someone else auditioning. Impressed by how well he was playing, James began to doubt his own credibility. When, finally, it was his turn he was asked which songs he knew. Saying only that he was familiar with the music, Greg Keelor suggested Floating from Outskirts which had a big solo number in it. This posed as a problem for a while, since James did not know the songs by heart. It was compromised that the rest of the band would start and he would just jump in. When the solo came, he says that he performed in a way that he even impressed himself. Glenn, too, complimented James on his performance, something that James claims he has never done in the years that they've known each other. He was asked to learn as many songs as he could manage and appear for a call-back the next week. The plan was to debut the new player at a gig at the Ontario Place Forum (1992), so there was even a greater importance to learn the tracks. As fate would have it James got a message on his answering machine from Glenn the day before the schedule was scheduled. The audition the next day was changed to a rehearsal - meaning that he had gotten the job. James debuted with Blue Rodeo in July 1992 in front 21,000 people over a span of three nights. The legendary (and almost unreplaceable) shoes of Bob Wiseman had been filled, and James is certainly doing a fantastic job of it.