If you ask Erik Eriksson, the birthplace of the blues was not the Delta Mississippi but Iceland.
By his account, the crossroads where legendary bluesman Robert Johnson made his pact with the devil was at Portage and Main in Winnipeg.
“A lot of people don’t know this but he was leaving Gimli, Manitoba, and tired of the cold, he ended up in Winnipeg at the crossroads. Nobody knows what happened, but before, he was Icelandic Canadian, and after he left he was African American, and went down to New Orleans and the rest is history.”
The Courtenay councillor — known in some circles as The Big E (which he picked up in Tahsis) or Ice Blue (combination of Iceland and his favourite colour) — was born in Iceland, where his sister is a scientist. His brother is a retired diplomat living in India. At age five, Eriksson’s family left their homeland when his father secured a job as minister of the Icelandic Lutheran Church in Vancouver. While at university, Eriksson got his first taste of Vancouver Island when he landed a summer job in Tahsis on the west coast.
Ice Blue plays keyboards and sings in a band called New Mother Earth, which performed in the summer at the Nanaimo Blues Festival and locally during the Canada Day festivities. The group performs New Year’s Eve at Roy’s Towne Pub in Royston.
During the Christmas season at lunch hour, Eriksson can be heard playing piano outside Searle’s Shoes on Fifth Street.
The retired Eriksson is an electrician by trade who worked at the sawmill in Tahsis — where he also served on council — and later at the Field Sawmill in Courtenay. He eventually became a union rep.
Besides music, Eriksson is also into sports. He used to pitch in the local masters ball league, and continues to umpire baseball games in the B.C. Premier League. He also plays drop-in masters basketball at the base in Comox.
“I’m the second oldest guy on the basketball court,” said Eriksson, a father of three.
He also serves as a director with the Comox Valley Walk of Achievement, which recognizes people who have excelled in their field of endeavour, and who have made significant and lasting contributions in their professional or personal lives.
“We’re kind of proud of that,” Eriksson said. “We’re honouring people who have been recognized with awards outside the community.”
Walk of Achievement inductees include broadcaster Red Robinson, actress Kim Cattrall and numerous Olympic athletes.