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Grit Laskin – Member, Order of Canada

Today is the big day for Grit Laskin – see our story below from July 4, 2012. He is in Ottawa for the investiture ceremony at Rideau Hall.

You can tune in for the live stream of the ceremonies at 10:30 AM at http://gg.ca (and we will attempt to embed the video right here).

Note: Grit Laskin never, ever, wears suits, let alone ties. He barely wears shoes. Just seeing him dressed up is worth the effort.

– Andy Frank

***

William (Grit) Laskin, luthier, businessman, musician, mentor and mensch, was recently named a Member of the Order of Canada.

If you know him, you’ll know why – but for those who don’t here just a few of the reasons the Order of Canada folks may have considered, and others we think are special.

  1. Grit’s an imp, a ham, leaving no pun left unspoken. Loving audiences big or small brace themselves when Grit is near a mic, they never know what groaners will hit ’em.
  2. He is a folk singer, solo, or in a band, The Friends of Fiddler’s Green.  They are a group of UK ex-pats who perform mostly traditional songs from the Isles, the perfect act for a teenaged Jewish kid from Hamilton to join in the 1970’s. They recently celebrated forty years of bandhood. Being on the giving or (usually) receiving end of the Friends’ practical jokes honed Grit’s sharp sense of humour. Maybe you heard the story of Grit’s miracle Volvo?**
  3. He is the author of three books, including a published novel, Angel Could Smell The Fire, that his adoring wife Judith said, “just flew out of him”.
  4. He is a man who has walked many miles in others’ shoes, an activist, a selfless, compassionate man who quietly but effectively supports a myriad of causes he considers just. He has walked many more walks than even he could ever talk.
  5. He is among the finest luthiers in the world, a craftsman whose waiting list for a custom-built William Laskin guitar is between two to three years. He has championed many causes on behalf of luthiers over the years, and has earned the respect of his peers for his leadership.
  6. He is best known for his amazing inlay work, and is almost entirely self-taught.
  7. He is a cancer-survivor, but unlike this writer, he kept it quiet while he continued his many pursuits, perhaps not wanting any of the groups he leads – or for whom he is a key contributor – to suffer because of his personal plight. Among those groups: The Woods Music and Dance CampThe Canadian Folk Music Awards (CFMA), and of course, Canada’s folk-roots record label, Borealis Records.
  8. His bullish determination to give contemporary Canadian folk music a much more significant profile in the music marketplace via the CFMAs, Borealis Records and other pursuits has resulted in the genre being stronger and more vital than ever.
  9. And for us at Roots Music Canada, well, Grit (and Bill Garrett) offered us a very fair-priced shared-office/studio space with enthusiasm and love. We are proud to call 290 Shuter Street our home thanks to Borealis’ faith in a couple of guys with some crazy ideas about promoting the Canadian folk/roots scene. And while we’ve struggled due to health and other reasons of late, Grit’s compassion and understanding has been as expected, simply remarkable.  We are so proud of Grit Laskin. What a deserving recipient of the Order of Canada.

Here is a video we produced in 2010 to celebrate Grit Laskin’s Estelle Klein Award, issued by the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals.

** Once upon a time, Grit bought a used Volvo. Gas mileage was a hot topic in the 70s and 80s, and Tam Kearney of The Friends of Fiddler’s Green decided to make Grit’s car one of the most efficient cars ever. Whenever possible, he topped off Grit’s tank with a bit of gas. Grit would eagerly report to the Friends (and presumably anyone else who would care) that his car had incredible gas mileage. Then, Tam decided to reverse the technique, and siphoned gas out of the Volvo at regular intervals. Of course this was very distressing to Grit. But one fine day, the tables turned on Tam. A policeman caught him siphoning gas. Tam pleaded that it was all just a joke, and offered to prove it to the cop. Together, they knocked on Grit’s door. When the policeman asked Grit if he knew Tam, Grit said “Never seen him before in my life.” and closed the door. Such is life in The Friends of Fiddler’s Green. Tam and Grit remain best of friends to this day.

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13 comments

  1. avatar
    Paul Mills 4 July, 2012 at 19:20

    Beautiful description of Grit and his Good Works, Andy! The Order of Canada is given to people who have worked to make a difference. That’s been Grit’s mission in all of the 40 years I’ve known him so the fit is more than excellent – it’s downright obvious!

  2. avatar
    Michael "A Man Called" Wrycraft 4 July, 2012 at 21:07

    i did a wee bit of design work for grit recently

    instead of billing him i asked if i could barter for a copy of his book of inlay art

    i will eventually own a copy myself but this one i wanted to give to my brother at christmas

    i design and create visual images every damn wonderful day of my life yet as i paged through that book my jaw dropped and i started to drool and mumble incoherently eventually wrapping my arms tightly tightly around myself rocking back and forth, back and forth all tingly and and blissed out

    that book is pure, potent porn for guitar and art geeks

    and seeing the work in real life is almost better than sex

    god bless you grit laskin

    and that is obviously just a sliver of the man’s output and talent

    cheers to you grit

    and long live borealis

    no seriously i love the work

    cheers, michael

  3. avatar
    Eric Thom 4 July, 2012 at 21:47

    I’m just so happy to see your pen working, Andy. If that works, the rest can’t be far behind. Great piece.

    ET

  4. avatar
    Beverly Kreller 5 July, 2012 at 02:26

    Andy, what a wonderful piece about Grit…and I love that Volvo story LOL! Congrats to Grit…Such a sweet and talented man. None more deserving.

  5. avatar
    Bill Garrett 5 July, 2012 at 15:06

    Andy, you’ve written a beautiful piece that very much captures the man.
    As many folks here probably know Grit is my partner in Borealis Records.
    It is rare I think that one’s partner is also their best friend, but that is definitely the case here. Grit is everything that’s been mentioned above along with being one of the most generous and determined people I’ve met. This little story may explain his determination.

    A few years ago both of us were on our way to MIDEM the big record conference held annually in Cannes, France.
    We shared a cab to Pearson and were checking in at the British Air counter when it was discovered that Grit had forgotten his passport. This was two hours before departure so it was agreed that I would go on down to the departure lounge while Grit grabbed a limo back to town to collect his passport. About twenty minutes prior to departure I was paged in the departure lounge. It was Grit calling from upstairs to inform me that after a return limo ride ($120.00) he had checked in again only to be told by the BA agent “I’m sorry sir but this passport expired last month”

    It was agreed at this point that I would carry on and he would see if it were possible to join me later.

    If you know Grit you’ll appreciate this next part.
    The next day he got up very early and somehow managed to find a photographer at 8:00 in the morning, after which he rushed to the passport office, told them what had happened and was issued a new passport on the spot. From there he went back to Pearson explained the whole long story to the folks at BA and incredible as it may seem, they believed him and gave him a new ticket on the spot gratis along with a better connecting flight at London’s Heathrow. He made it to Cannes in less than 24 hours after me.

  6. avatar
    Andy Frank 5 July, 2012 at 15:17

    Bill, that story really exemplifies what sets Grit apart – and why his name is so appropriate. He is as human as anyone you’ll meet, he’ll forget his passport, forget that it expired, run around town like a chicken, but wakes up the next day with an unparalleled resolve to get his ass to France regardless, and makes it happen. Grit and determination. And of course, endless patience, such as learning how to do inlays the way he does, etc. You wonder if this will can be taught or what, I know I sure as hell would struggle to do what he does.

  7. avatar
    derek andrews 5 July, 2012 at 15:35

    well done andy. i did LOL on the tam cop story. hadn’t heard it and it is so dead pan grit. i understand the borealis underlings adorned grit with various garish canadiana items to help draw attention to his celebrity status in the crowds of unwashed, and a swell local lunch. all this attention couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

  8. avatar
    Bruce Morel 5 July, 2012 at 15:53

    Andy a brilliant piece, crafted with the same passion and humour that Grit is well known for. Some of the creative juice is likely fueled by the St. Viateur bagels, Schwartz’s and Moishes you’ve been munching on. Congrats to Grit well deserved.

  9. avatar
    Andy Frank 5 July, 2012 at 16:17

    Derek, wow, I wish I wasn’t at the bloody hospital again yesterday, I would have LOVED to have seen that lunch and stuff, great touch at Borealis, Linda and Alex rock.

    Bruce, we walked past Schwartz’s Sunday night at 10:30 after Moishes. 25 people in line, along with some entrepreneurial change-collectors. Montreal’s charm is truly alive and well, a week in Mile End/ Plateau really drove that home.

  10. avatar
    Jay Aymar 6 July, 2012 at 00:41

    Andy, your story and subsequent posts have put a firm smile on my sleepy face. Where artistry meets humility with a dash of self-deprecation and wit. I say this without truly knowing Grit at all. It sets a wonderful tone for all of us in this community. Something to strive for beyond ourselves. Thank you for sharing this.
    (P.S. I never ride with more than a quarter of a tank lest the gas thieves are reading).

  11. avatar
    Arthur McGregor 23 November, 2012 at 11:08

    So he looked somewhat stunned but was quite well dressed. He didn’t shave! He nodded to the GG and smiled during the photo op. Ooor wee Grit!
    I’m so happy for him. Truly well deserved.

  12. avatar
    Bill Houston 10 March, 2013 at 04:29

    I met Grit at Eastern Sound in 1971 while recording the song “Ojibway Country” for the IMAX film “North of Superior”. I had spent most of the day trying to get the music synchronized with the visuals. After several hours of this grueling stop/start routine, we all took a break. Mine consisted of going for a leisurely walk around the studio. As I passed by the small projector room, I spotted a bushy haired young man sitting on a stool, reading a book. After the usual introductions, he looked at me quite earnestly, and stated flatly that he didn’t like what they were doing to my song, and that if he ever got a chance to record it, he would do it with the proper respect. Twenty years later, I got a phone call from Grit. He told me he had just recorded a new album called “A Few Simple Words” and “Ojibway Country” was on it. He had remained true to his word, and done what he said he would do. And that’s the way it’s been, all the time I’ve known Grit Laskin. When he was awarded the Order of Canada, the only thing that surprised me was how long it took them to recognize the marvelous contributions he’s made to our country. Congratulations, Grit.

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