Gaye Delorme was a guitar player who died early Thursday morning in Calgary, Alberta, June 23, 2011. Many of you do not know him or ever heard of him before but his music touched people around the world. In his mid teens Gaye learned the guitar and in a relatively short time developed a skill set that allowed him to play in New York recording studios with some of jazz’s great players like Miles Davis, Stanley Clarke, Airto Moriera, Flora Purim, Billy Cobham and George Duke to mention a few. Anyone who knows anything at all about jazz will agree that these are all giants in their field so to include Gaye in such company speaks volumes about his talent, not to mention an almost impossible feat like accomplishing all this in only a few years..
Gaye also lived in Vancouver and played music with Tommy Chong which started a life long relationship that saw Gaye work on a movie soundtrack for a Cheech and Chong movie. Remember “Dave’s not here Man!” ? This was probably one of Gaye’s many schticks that was introduced by Cheech and Chong on their “Big Bamboo” comedy album that most of us “older people” remember from our youth. Gaye’s comedy was often copied, borrowed, stolen and repeated by people that met him but more often than not it just didn’t work.. It had to come from him in order to be effective !! He was gifted, very charismatic and it was the type of impish humor that you wouldn’t expect from someone that looked like him. It was one of those, ” I guess ya had to be there” sort of things.
For all of the talent Gaye had as a master guitar player he will probably be most remembered as the guy who wrote the “Rodeo Song” and co-wrote “Earache my Eye”. Both songs are known world wide by those who love comedy but Gaye was much more than that, his guitar skills are wide and diverse on the instrument and just a small amount of poking around on youtube will reveal great musical moments like this:
After watching Gaye play with a symphony orchestra behind him, it almost seems perplexing that someone with such sensitivity and love for a broad scope of music could pen, “Well its 40 below and I don’t give a f**k, got a heater in my truck and I’m off to the Rodeo…” But that was Gaye in all of his magnificence. He had immense depth when it came to music, comedy, seeing life behind bars and also holding court in the world’s finest restaurants. Who of us can possibly relate to so many facets of life and be able to tell you stories from this sort of experience first hand? I don’t know a lot of people who could.
There was something about the guy that you could never really accurately describe that made him so magnetic, he had known some of the most beautiful women you could imagine and they couldn’t get enough of him… Well, maybe a few had enough but there is always a more intense side to any genius’ personality that can be a bit disruptive and hard to be around at times, but those of us who truly loved him would always forgive him for moments that occasionally happened to be a bit dark whenever a great bottle or two of fine wine would show up. When I remember these moments I always think, “Let he who is free from sin, cast the first stone”.
Gaye moved to Los Angeles during the ’70s after driving from New York in, I believe Airto’s Rolls Royce and began doing a lot of recording with many artists and many producers. His skill in the studio really started to blossom in California, so along with his incredible musical ear, guitar playing ability and bedside manner in such a milieu, be became invaluable to a number of producers that kept him very busy at that time. All was fine until cocaine reared it’s ugly head in the music industry and the California music scene welcomed the destructive powder with open arms. Gaye told me that after a while, musicians doing a lot of recording were even being paid in cocaine and thats when he decided that it was time to move home to Edmonton.
Not long after, Gaye moved to Calgary where the oil boom was in full speed, so bars, lounges, restaurants, pubs or anywhere alcohol was served, had live music and Gaye owned the town. He would assemble fine bands and it would always be easy to find him by doing a small amount of driving around the downtown area and spotting the longest line-up of people waiting to get into whatever room his group was performing. His guitar playing was on fire by this time as was his song writing that featured long guitar solos that amazed most everyone that had the good fortune to be in the rooms where he played. He used to use a black BC Rich 6 string into a Boss Chorus Pedal plugged into 2 Fender amplifiers in stereo which gave him his own signature sound which was beautiful and unique. Sadly, another guitar player from England had the same sounding voice, guitar sound and playing style that was so similar to Gaye’s sound that people in the audience started shouting out, “Play Sultans of Swing” … You’d see Gaye’s face wince and he’d gruffly say into the microphone, ” Go buy the record !! ” Who could blame him, it was an artistic coincidence and that was all that it was, but a part of me knew that a bit of wind was taken out of his sails… Sometimes an artist’s life can be a bit unfair.
The following years saw Gaye move to Vancouver where he would record, play live and produce albums for various artists who wanted his input and experience and the city’s mild weather was great for Gaye’s soul as he’d bike around or go for long walks to different gyms around town. Gaye was very active and in great health but as the years went on it was discovered that he had diabetes and it started taking a toll on his eyesight. He eventually went blind in one eye and was left with about 30% efficiency in the other which meant that the first thing to go would be his drivers license. For the most part Gaye took it in stride and started using public transport but it had to be a bit difficult when it came to doing gigs. Playing in his band meant also being his chauffeur but what resulted was that you got to spend more time with the guy hearing his stories and he was always very appreciative. Those were special moments, it was never a problem.
Gaye moved back to Edmonton, maybe a year ago and found a city that was still hungry for his music and supported his art with many live venues. Gaye was in fine spirits and would call me regularly with news of his recording, live work and more beautiful women that he kept meeting. Edmonton was good to him this last year and I was happy that he was working as much as he was…..
I want to backtrack and tell you one more story about his days in Vancouver shortly before he moved to Edmonton.
Gaye was living in a suite with some great folks that became sort of family to him but his desire to have more independence had him looking for and finding a place a few blocks away where he had his own space where he could record, play guitar and entertain friends. It was a difficult time financially and there wasn’t a lot of live work for Gaye, he was running short on funds.. So it was a cold rainy morning when Gaye thought of the not so pleasant possibility and looming reality that a visit to welfare may be the only option but on his way to the government office he decided to drop in on his old address to pick up any last pieces of mail that may have been delivered. In the miserable non-stop Vancouver downpour, Gaye walked up the steps and noticed a letter that was waterlogged and half folded over the mailbox. Upon opening it he discovered that Korn had recorded, “Earache my Eye” and here was a soggy cheque for $20,000..( God bless Korn ), this was the first of 3 such cheques that Gaye received for his part in the co-write. Young songwriters should know that a great song will pay off for years.. Never give up hope !
There is so much to tell of Gaye’s life, I’m sure much will be revealed in blogs, newspapers and websites in the near future and I can’t wait to hear every detail..
This morning after breakfast I decided that a Cohiba Piramides EL 2006 would be the most fitting cigar to smoke as I write this and I’m glad I lit something with such class and flavor when remembering such an immense talent, legendary personality and great friend.
Thanks for a recollection on the life and times of a Fantastic Musician! Great Job! RIP Gaye! Had the privilege of seeing and meeting him in Lethbridge!
Anyone who ever saw him play certainly remembered his music and comedy.. I felt very lucky to be able to know him and work with him..
Thanks for the comment
Dennis, rings very true to me!! Thanks so muh for the kind words and the love you show for Gaye’s name!! Thank you all for your kind words