Mr. British Columbia

By Annie Palovcik

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B.C. crooner Alan Moberg has been painting vivid pictures of the province he loves for over four decades. Along the way, he has released 16 albums and been inducted into the B.C. Country Music Hall of Fame. Alan was born on the coast near Pender Harbour to a fishing family, and has always done hard and rugged work throughout the province, whether fishing, logging, or as a telephone lineman, merchant seaman or landscape gardener.

“When I was young,” says Alan Moberg, “I heard many songs about places - certainly in the United States they celebrate their places - I heard the songs from back East that celebrated places in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. But I heard very few songs about British Columbia. So, one of my missions has been to write these songs about B.C. and her people.”

Howard White, publisher of the well-loved *Raincoast Chronicles* says, “Moberg has lived the west coast experience to the fullest, he brilliantly conveys his love and attachment to the great spaces and unforgettable people of his home turf. From evoking a starlit night on the Skeena to calling the boisterous action of the Williams Lake Stampede, from depicting the miraculous journey of the wild salmon to painting the heartrending beauty of the Cariboo sunrise. Moberg does for B.C.'s interior ranchland and coastal rainforest what Ian Tyson does for Alberta cow country and Stan Rogers did for the Great Lakes.”

Alan's musical career began when he wrote the song “Saltwater Cowboy” in honour of the man who most influenced him to start playing the guitar, the man “who taught me my very first chords.” Red Nicholson lived next door to him, and he played the guitar and sang the old songs. “I was enthralled, of course, by what he could do, the stories he told,” Alan remembers.

These neighbours had moved their house from a logging camp in Jervis Inlet down to Pender Harbour. “The bay we lived in was a tidal bay, and they floated those houses in on the tide as high as they could onto the shore and built foundations under them.” Many of Alan’s songs capture historical snapshots of a way of life that has ended. “Sunday Night Seine Boats,” for example, takes listeners to a time when fishing was in its heyday.

The Williams Lake Stampede, an institution for more than 80 years, is still going strong. When Alan wrote his classic song, "The Williams Lake Stampede," people used to camp right beside the fairgrounds. Some of them even came in horse-drawn covered wagons. At the Stampede, different cowboy skills are tested, like saddle bronc riding and bull riding. “It was also a time when people got together,” says Alan, “when probably in those older days they wouldn't have seen each other all year because they were busy on their own ranches and distances between them were far. So, it was a time to swap stories and enjoy being together.”

Alan is one of the finest yodellers on the Coast. “I remember being at a Roy Rogers movie as a child.” He has been yodelling ever since.

“Alan has many gifts, not the least of which is a bell-like vocal quality, which we don't hear enough of today in this less-than-gentle musical time," says Canadian country singer Laurie Thain.

Alan’s ballads contain traditional western themes of bravery, innocence, survival and of his admiration for the cross-cultural friendships Canadians share with First Nations people. “Song for an Indian Carver” is a tribute to his Gitxsan brother, the late Walter Harris, who received both the Governor General’s Award and the Order of Canada for his magnificent artwork.

“[Walter's] mother, Mrs. Harris, adopted me,” says Alan. “It’s a matrilineal society in their culture and the crests of the tribe are passed on through the mother. So, I am now a Killer Whale, by adoption at a traditional feast.”

Like many of his heroes, Alan Moberg has walked the long hard road of life and has known when to ask for a helping hand. As a result, gospel music is part of Alan’s repertoire. His song “This Could be the Day” has been performed by The Mennonite Men’s Choir of Abbotsford and the choir of Knox Presbyterian in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Not everyone can live in a house on Rainbow Road, which Alan did, but he has used that as a metaphor for choosing to leave the big city and come to a more simplified style of life on Salt Spring Island. His songs celebrate the lives of ordinary men and women, giving them identity and dignity. He sings reflectively, “We’re tired of chasing that elusive pot of gold.”

But simplicity doesn’t mean stagnation. Besides being a landscape gardener, Alan has become host of a program on Salt Spring’s new radio station, streamed live at each Wednesday at noon, The Alan Moberg Show. He airs many of the songs he has loved and performs, from early Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash to Roy Orbison and Guy Clark. In his late 60s, Alan continues to perform his music throughout the province. “Sometimes, I think I’m so young!”



Hear Alan Moberg:

Jun 27 Country Gospel Music SundayFest
Providence Farm, Duncan

Jul 1 Canada Day Show & Shine
Rainbow Road, Salt Spring Island, BC

Aug 1-2 Capital Festival’s B.C. Days
St. Ann’s Academy, Victoria

Wednesdays, noon, The Alan Moberg Show
107.9 FM, or
Cds at

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Showing 1 to 1 of 1 comments.

Alan I love your music. We sing your your songs every time we get together in our various prayer groups. We are your fans from Burnaby Christian Fellowship. What a pleasure to here that you are doing so well. Bless you Alan

Posted by George Stoneystreet | January 10, 2012 Report Violation

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