Saturday, December 5th, 2009, marked the final two performances by Canada’s foremost folk band, Tanglefoot, winners of Best Vocal Group at the 2007 Canadian Folk Music Awards.

Tanglefoot's current lineup performs a finale at Owen Sound's Roxy Theatre.

Tanglefoot's current lineup performs a finale at Owen Sound's Roxy Theatre.

For some twenty-five years, this band has delighted audiences with their funny, invariably quirky, yet often moving songs based largely on true stories from Canadian history.

The band’s final performances, matinee and evening shows, at Owen Sound’s soft-seat Roxy Theatre, made for an amazing and emotion-filled day.

The shows started off with a duo taking the stage: Joe Grant and Bob Wagar were the band’s first members.

Joe Grant and Bob Wagar were Tanglefoot's first members.

Joe Grant and Bob Wagar

They sang the traditional tune: “The Banks of The Don,” which contained the line “taking tanglefoot whisky and getting drunk in the street” which gave Tanglefoot its name.

By the end of the song, the five current members of the band had taken the stage and launched
with ‘full throated abandon’ into a stirring rendition of “One More Night,” one of Tanglefoot’s most memorable pieces.

A string of the terrific story-songs followed, resulting in a three hour love-in with the audience at each show.

Tanglefoot's current lineup

Tanglefoot's current lineup

Throughout each performance, musicians who had been in the band over the years were invited onto the stage to sing and play with the current band: Steve Ritchie (guitar), Al Parrish (double bass), Terry Young (mandolin, banjo, guitar), Sandra Swannell (fiddle, viola), and Rob Ritchie (keyboard).

What an amazingly talented group.

Songwriter Joe Grant, the creative force behind much of Tanglefoot’s material, performed with the band as if he’d never left.

Pianist/guitarist Bryan Weirmier fit right back in, as did fiddler Terry Snider and mandolin player Bob Wagar. The band even found space for Robert Graham who had played brilliant keys on several of the band’s tours of England.

In all, ten musicians were on the stage during the very moving finale, and there were few dry eyes in the house.

There was lots of meet and greet time between shows and during the reception afterwards. The band sold a record quantity of CD’s, tshirts, posters and DVDs. It seems no-one wanted to go home without something signed. One young gal from England gamely bought a copy of every one of Tanglefoot’s seven CD’s and fought the adoring crowds to get each and every one autographed by all of the band members past and present.

It is a great testament to Tanglefoot’s popularity that there were literally loads of people in the audience from across the USA and England. Imagine crossing the Atlantic or flying in from Minnesota just for a concert!

Musically, the repertoire selected for the playlist was just about perfect. It was the right mix of favourites: there were the stirring anthems with rousing five part harmonies, but then there were also the contemplative pieces that make you think about how wonderful life is and how thankful and lucky we are. The very final tune “Song for the Road,” co-written by bassist Al Parrish and Holmes Hooke, was sung by Al with the other nine musicians supplying harmonies and choruses.

Quite an image it was, all those amazing musicians on stage together.

A huge thank you to Steve Ritchie, Al Parrish, Rob Ritchie, Terry Young & Sandra Swannell, along with Joe Grant, Bryan Weirmier, Bob Wagar, Terry Snider and Robert Graham.

It’s been a slice, guys!

Al Parrish

Al Parrish takes it home at Tanglefoot's last show.

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17 comments

  1. avatar
    Roger Weller 15 December, 2009 at 08:41

    Well, It was quite a run and now some of you are “retired”, some looking for new gigs, and some just contemplating solo albums and the like. You may think that it will all fade away, but “Nay”! The joyous refrains and verses will continue on in my mind and my heart for the rest of my life. Tanglefoot is the best damn band I ever had the privilege of seeing and hearing and your songs will go on forever in the hearts of your faithful fans. Congratulations and God Speed to you all!.

  2. avatar
    Will VanDuzer 15 December, 2009 at 09:00

    Hey all!
    just wanted to say that it was a great run! I have seen y’all play quite a few times at the College of Misericordia in PA. It was always fun! And you guys were a great meet and greet as well. I wish you all the best of luck!

  3. avatar
    Rick Liebel 15 December, 2009 at 18:06

    Hey Guys
    You where the first band that played at the Perry Summer Concert Series at the Erie Maritime Museum in 1996. We had 15 people there and when we did our last concert in 2004 you packed in almost 400.
    It has been a great pleasure to have worked with every band member and most I can call friends
    Rick

  4. avatar
    Ryan Jarvis 23 December, 2009 at 11:36

    It was an amazing show, and if you ever do a reunion tour down the road you know it will be sold out! Thank you for 15 years of great music (for me at least).

    Cheers!

  5. avatar
    Robert Allen 7 January, 2010 at 21:11

    I just logged into your site and found that you have done your finale. Loved your music. I play and sing along when I travel. A great way to pass the time. My best to you all and much success to you as you go your separate ways.

  6. avatar
    Janet Hale 5 February, 2010 at 15:36

    I know that life moves on – but one of the great joys of life is that you are able to recall moments of pure pleasure. It was bittersweet to be at your last concerts (yes, I was one of the people nuts enough to tavel from England) but the memories will last forever – I wouldn’t have missed them for the world…all the best to all of you in your future ventures

  7. avatar
    Roz Howard 17 March, 2010 at 12:43

    Hi guys – I have just logged on to check your forthcoming gigs in England in 2010 – to find there aren’t any!! Couldn’t quite believe it! Have seen you numberous times (with slightly different line-ups). Bought your CDs – told numerous people you were the best band on the folk scene – used your music to listen to, to dance and lose weight to – have fun with – so so sad you are ‘retiring’. I hope you all have a wonderful retirement (especially Joe, whom I love to bits and Al, whom I fell in love with when he did a piece, I think it was called ‘when the base players took over the world’? Good luck in the future guys.

  8. avatar
    Lyn Palacheck 25 April, 2010 at 21:46

    I have loved your music since first hearing you play in Thunder Bay in 1989. I know the tunes, words, and refrains. Your music touches a very special place within me and will be carried in my heart forever. Thank you and God bless you. Best wishes to you all in your future endeavors.

  9. avatar
    Kip Gardner 10 May, 2010 at 14:32

    Hello All,

    We just got back from the Central Ohio Folk Festival, where I heard the disheartening news that you had disbanded straight from the mouth of none other than James Keelaghan. Over the years we heard you play in Virginia Beach, Erie, PA and Syracuse – the last being pure happenstance – I ran into Allen at Ecovillage Ithaca when he lived there & discovered there was a concert that night.

    I can truly say that your concerts were without equal and I will miss the music, magic, laughter, tears and everything else that made a Tanglefoot concert.

    Godspeed to all of you & if any of you ever need a place to land for the night in northeast Ohio, there is always a bed waiting.

    Kip, Beth & Hannah Gardner
    North Canton, OH

  10. avatar
    Lost in PA 5 August, 2010 at 22:48

    Well

    I was introduced to your music by my boss today, I only regret that I never got to see y’all live.

  11. avatar
    Bea and KR Dahlen 14 August, 2010 at 13:15

    We are proud to call ourselves Tanglefoot Groopies. The Williamsburg Library’s yearly line-up has a huge hole now. Thankfully, we have all your CDs, and although we will sorely miss seeing you, we can still sing along with your haunting music. Enjoy your retirement. If any of you get down this way for any reason, there’s a few beds waiting, and some folks who would love to see you again. Just let us know you’re coming. We really miss you.
    Hugs,
    Bea & KR
    Newport News, VA

  12. avatar
    Islandgirl 15 August, 2010 at 23:31

    We were just listeining to some of your CD’s today and I decided to check the website. We truly enjoyed seeing you in Calgary years ago, it was great fun and we are glad we can still listen to the CD’s. Good luck to you all!

  13. avatar
    Roger Lundberg 30 September, 2010 at 15:31

    Hello Gentlefolk, You were introduced to me by some very dear friends of mine and unfortunately,I don’t see very often anymore, they had invited me to go with them at the Cedar in Mpls…I was over-whelmed by your incredible performance that I had to go more times…I could only make two other concerts after that…I have been looking for you regularly, but to learn that the live concerts were no longer to be…I am grateful for your great music, because it reminds me of my good friends and the good times that we had with you…

  14. avatar
    Guy Wingate 6 October, 2010 at 15:46

    We saw you in the tint Georgian Threatre in Richmond, North Yorkshire several times. My children have grown up with your CDs in the car and we all join in. All the really great bands come back togther after retirement for a ‘special’ gig or two. I hope the same will be true for you – just make sure if you do then come back to England for all your fans here. Thanks for the music and the performances – fantastic.

  15. avatar
    Steve 28 October, 2010 at 12:39

    I can only say I’ve seen you one time, but that was enough (I guess). Your music will stay with me for a long, long time. I would name my favorate tune of yours, but there is more than one. Thankyou so very much.

  16. avatar
    Philip Woutat 19 December, 2010 at 13:29

    After… what was it, twenty-some years? … I can’t see anyone blaming the band for deciding it was time to move on to other things, especially ones that perhaps don’t keep you away from loved ones at home nearly so much. How wonderful, though, in contrast to some other groups, for the band to have disbanded on such a high note, with a composition, sound, and repertoire fully the equal of any incarnation of the band I ever heard.

    I first heard Tanglefoot at the Big Island Rendezvous in Albert Lea, Minnesota, and along with the other members of the Twin Cities branch of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society who were also performing at the ‘Vous immediately became a fan. Seeing and hearing you all each year was a major highlight for us of coming to the ‘Vous, and you’re sorely missed.

    You made so many of us laugh with humor always good-natured, not snarky; you helped us empathize with the trials and tribulations of others through songs that are evocative without being sappy or saccharine; and throughout you inspired in us the joy you all clearly felt in making your music. The world is definitely a better place, in perhaps subtle but adamantly important ways, for there having been Tanglefoot. Thank you all, and may all your recordings long remain in “print”!

  17. avatar
    Tim NH 3 August, 2011 at 18:30

    Throughout many years of my life, Tanglefoot has been a constant! I have been fortunate to enjoy concerts in Norwood, Owen Sound, Toronto and Bethlehem! You made my tenth wedding anniversary so special! And I consider myself so fortunate to have attended the final concert in Owen Sound. Your hard work and effort is truly appreciated. You have given so much to so many of us… beautiful music, amazing harmonies and wonderful memories! Thank you for making real music!

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