Remembering my friend Gary Smyth
HodgePodge By Charlie Hodge
This is all wrong. None of it makes any sense.
I was busy packing up some hockey memorabilia into a box to eventually mail to him – when the phone rang. How can I mail a parcel to Gary if he is not there to receive it?
I am a at a loss.
My good friend Gary Smyth has died.
So far I know nothing more other than he had a heart infection recently diagnosed and then taken from us too rapidly.
Regardless, his sudden demise leaves family, friends, and those in the music industry in shock. Gary was truly one of the ‘good guys’. Kind gentle, talented – he was simply an all round wonderful person.
Our friendship began through music some 40 years ago, but we did not know each other well or hang out together back then. However, soon after I returned from living on Vancouver Island (around 2001) we formed a bond of friendship sharing numerous hours on the road and even more in my backyard just sharing thoughts and dreams. The first years of those conversations we shared beer together, the latter coffee. He loved to visit under the guise of helping me with yard work. It was really just a foil to chat and sort out our hearts. I loved the man, his wit and his genuine love of life. Gary eventually quit the beer when he realized it was running his life. He handled his addiction and withdrawal well and was a great coach and mentor to others on that long journey.
He truly was a dear friend and brother.
I have spent three days trying to share my thoughts and simply feel lost. Since then I have received a number of emails or read Facebook comments by other friends. They expressed their feelings better than I – so I share their words. I will try again with my own thoughts on another day.
With love to you Gary and Pauline:
“Gary Smyth is a Canadian, through and through. His original songs are taken from real life, with a dash of humour, a pinch of emotion and a good portion of roots-inspired playing. Gary is well known in Western Canada as lead guitarist for the Roots/Americana band, The Cruzeros, a band that played festivals coat-to-coast in Canada and in Europe. He is also a veteran of the Vancouver rock scene, the Toronto country scene and plays jazz and blues and loves teaching guitar. That scratches the surface of his experience as a musician. As a lead guitarist and bassist, he was not known as a singer/songwriter until his recent album, “How To Laugh”.
“Smyth’s unique guitar playing was built on jazz, country, rock ‘n’ roll, Americana, folk and beyond. The song always came first, heart and soul makes it come alive. Deep experience with many artists, in many forms, from solo shows to playing in front of symphony orchestras made for a well-rounded artist. In Kelowna, Gary was a long-time lead guitarist for country rockers/roots The Cruzeros. From there to jazz roots Cowboy Bob, pub rock trio Green Room Riders, eclectic guitar duo the Stringers with brilliant guitarist Sean Bray, gigs with Dirt Road Opera and more. – eiKelowna.
Good friend and band mate Dan Clifford wrote, “This world lost one of the good guys this week. If everyone who ever said ‘my friend, Gary Smyth’ got together we could be a town, maybe even a city.
“Apart from being a great musician Gary was a ‘Helper’ of all sorts. Anyone he helped musically sounded much better because of it, he had deep empathy for people less fortunate than himself and he was there for his friends when others might not have been, whether it be for physical help or companionship. He was a team guy, if he would have been a hockey player the Leafs might have won a cup in recent history, ho ho ho. I know the team he loved best was team Gary and Pauline, they traveled, listened to so much music, hosted some amazing dinner parties, turned houses into fabulous homes and he loved just watching TV with Pauline and Dexter by his side. We played guitars and sang together at many occasions, never made a nickel doing it but we sure had fun and sometimes I sounded pretty good with my friend Gary Smyth helping me out.”
Sean Bray wrote, “Gary and I shared the love of the same important things in life – family, dogs, guitars, humour, the Toronto Maple Leafs, coffee and Steely Dan! Going to miss playing music together and just hanging out with my dear friend.”
Jim Ryan wrote, “While Gary and I never lived in each others’ back pockets; we caroused in various musical and social circles apart from the other – since playing together in a band together in 1980, we loved and respected each other in bands we played together in until 2019. A particular joy was forming the Green Room Riders with he and Scott Grant sometime in 2016. I fully appreciated his musicianship, dry humour, gentleness during that time. Today I look at my kitchen table where he and I drank endless cups of coffee and laughed at things and moments only shared by two people who’d travelled long storied roads, apart and together. He’ll remain in my life for my remaining days. I’ll grin, laugh, shed an occasional moist eye or two thinking of him. Ladies and gentlemen, Gary Smyth.”
Last but not least band member for 40 years if not more – Curtis Tulman wrote, “Goodbye Gary Smyth, dearest friend, most giving of souls, mentor, musician extraordinaire and wonderful human being. It is a testament to your beautiful and magnificent life that so many hearts are broken today. I owe you so much. 41 years of deep friendship was not enough. The hundreds of gigs we played was not enough. The thousands of laughs and many many conversations and road trips together – not enough. You are so deeply and dearly loved and it is my profound hope to see you again someday, some way, God willing. Thank you for all the happiness you caused in my life, you dear sweet man. Rest well.”