Cumberland's Jess Lee is an esteemed member of the BC Music Hall of Fame

Coffee with … Jess Lee

Scott Stanfield

Record staff

But the country musician has nevertheless earned a trio of Juno nominations and a spot in the BC Music Hall of Fame.

One nomination was for his album Sacred Ground, which got him banned from Canadian radio stations due to references to the 1995 Gustafsen Lake standoff and the 1990 Oka Crisis in Quebec.

“A lot of people phoned up the stations and said, ‘It’s about time you guys played some music that told the truth.’ But an equal amount phoned up and says, ‘Don’t play that kind of stuff, it just stirs up the Indians’,” said Lee, 63, who performs this weekend at MusicFest. (solo performance, Saturday at noon, Grassy Knoll Stage)

“That was maybe nine, 10 years too soon for that album,” he added, noting former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s apology. “Effectively, I ruined my own career because I chose to tell the truth about the native people. I can live with that. Sure, it’s been tough over the years. But somehow we managed to survive. I’m a musician, I’m a writer. That’s what I do. I’ve learned to live on very little.”

Lee formerly lived in Peace River, Alta. where he owned a hobby farm, and worked a few years as a hunting/fishing guide.

“I just couldn’t do it any more. I was always trapping as a kid, and hunting, but always for food, never for sport. I helped feed other families with elders. It’s the Metis tradition to help the elders out. Then I quit it all. Killing ducks and geese. I just didn’t feel good about it.”

Lee recently became a resident of Cumberland, where he had visited on and off since the ’70s.

“I always loved it here. Living in Cumberland, you’re surrounded by so many musicians. It blows me away.”

Years back, Lee had tried to secure a record deal in Nashville, where he met songwriter Joel (Doc) Shapiro. He wanted to manage Lee, but as fate would have it, Shapiro died. Then in 1992, he was slated to perform at the American Music Awards, but the event was cancelled due to the L.A. riots.

“I just quit. I said, ‘I’m done with this whole cartoon of trying to get a record deal and being a country music star. I love the music but I hate the business.”

Lee enjoyed performing a series of Merle Haggard shows in Saskatchewan and Alberta — but first had some explaining to do after Haggard died earlier this year.

“We had to tell everyone, ‘We’re not trying to jump on the bandwagon. We had planned this way before he died.’ I’m not an impersonator. I just sing the tunes. But it worked out really good. We had sold out rooms and standing ovations.”

 

Just Posted

Dog killed by gunshot north of Courtenay – Crime Stoppers

Police seeking help from public after dog found dead near mouth of Oyster River on Nov. 27

VIDEO: 2018 Everybody Deserves a Smile campaign packaging day

Students from throughout the Comox Valley come to Ecole Puntledge Park to help the less fortunate

Valley student’s passion project helping Cumberland forest

It took a little while for Frederica Blouin-Comeau to find her passion… Continue reading

Emailed bomb threat triggers heavy police presence at Comox Valley RV

Heavy police presence could be seen at Comox Valley RV on Ryan… Continue reading

Baby, it’s nasty outside: wind and rain will continue across Vancouver Island

Police warn drivers and pedestrians to use precaution during expected rain and winds

Omar Khadr wants changes to bail conditions

‘My life is held in suspension’, says the former Guantanamo Bay detainee

Sissons scores OT winner as Predators beat Canucks 4-3

VIDEO: Vancouver battles back to earn single point in Nashville

High streamflow advisory in effect across the Island

River Forecast Centre issues advisory as Pacific storms batter the coast

Trapped Vancouver Island crash survivor celebrates second chance at life

“Life is good now. It’s good to be alive.”

Lions announce seven members of coaching staff not coming back for 2019

The operational moves come two days after the Lions announced DeVone Claybrooks as the team’s new head coach

VIDEO: Kitten rescued from under school bus in Duncan

School staff have affectionately called kitten “Axle”

$12K awarded to atheist family who oppose Christmas, Hanukkah in B.C. classroom

Gary Mangel,May Yasue said holidays, Remembrance Day and Valentine’s Day not appropriate in preschool

Coach accused of sexual assault says apology letter was misinterpreted

Dave Brubaker has pleaded not guilty to one count of sexual assault and one count of invitation to sexual touching

Give the gift of nature this holiday season

Please don’t be mad, but I bought you a moose

Most Read