Friday 12 April 2013

Renfrew Tales. Townsmen guitarist retires from his day job!

He Is No Longer In Town. 
Milliken Turns Out The Lights And Goes Home (To Play Guitar)

I stopped by the King Edward Hotel in downtown Toronto Wednesday night on my way to the a dance performance at the Fleck Theatre (a Norwegian troupe using soccer moves to create a 55-minute dance). This was important Renfrew business, so I broke down and wore a clean shirt and a tie, and lotsa cologne. Open bar but I showed some respect and didn't let my Valley thirst roots show. The guest of honour at this high-end retirement party was for the adopted son of Renfrew and the Renfrew Valley.
It was a retirement party for David Milliken - former guitarist for the Townsmen, former editor of the Renfrew Mercury and former news editor at the Ottawa Journal. And, as of tomorrow he is the former vice president of Canada News Wire (the people who move press releases and financial statements across Canada). Great retirement party - editors of newspapers, TV station managers, bankers, fundraisers, PR people, friends of the family, and me.
David Milliken was the lead guitarist for the Townsmen, a group that at one time rivalled the Staccatos (Five Man Electrical Band), the Mandala and the Reason's Why for the record number of times they performed at the Bayview Pavillion in Cobden (and the Rec Centre back in  Renfrew).
They were one of Canada's top Rock and Roll dance bands out of Ottawa during the 60s. The Townsmen had five national selling singles, including I'm Such a Dreamer, Funny How Love Can Be, We're Doing Fine, Lion Sleeps Tonight, He's In Town. That was back in the 60s. In the 70s he ran the Mercury, married a local girl and then moved way out of town (Ottawa) never to hoist a boilermaker at the White House again.
At the time I had a weekly column in the Mercury. I lost touch with David when I moved out of Renfrew. That is, until the early 80s when I walked into Canada News Wire and asked their help in sending out across Canada a picture of a military project I was helping promote - a tank that could fire mini-cruise missiles at the Red Menace. The weapon meant to protect NATO troops in West Germany but the Berlin Wall came down before it was deployed. Dave was fascinated by the project and helped us get it into newspapers across the country, and since then we have been friends, albeit with decade long gaps in between.
Anyway it was great seeing him go out on his own terms at the age of 67. Says he is going to golf, play his music and maybe write a book. Think his band is called the Beavers - sounds a whole bunch sexier than the Townsmen.