Volume 91, Issue 26

Wednesday, October 15, 1997

Country Club road


McGhie: Staying true to a tradition

By James Pugsley
Gazette Staff

Western's folk music fans are breathing a sigh of relief today after the university's trademark entertainer, singer Rick McGhie, announced his show would go on even after the death of John Denver, the composer of two of McGhie's most powerful songs.

Denver, a country music legend, crashed his experimental plane into California's Monterey Bay on Sunday and was found to have been flying without a valid pilot's licence. But an emotionally-strong McGhie has chosen not to let it alter his routine.

"My kids ask me 'who the hell is John Denver'?" said McGhie, whose Wednesday and Thursday night performances at The Spoke have been a popular Western ritual for more than two decades.

"I think I have been more upset about other plane crashes. [Denver's] father was an air force pilot and John flew a Lear Jet – I'm surprised he didn't die sooner."

McGhie's renditions of "Leaving on a Jet Plane" and "Take Me Home Country Road" are a big part of his weekly gig – attracting abominable attention from Saugeen-Maitland Hall, the residence which uses "Jet Plane" as its unofficial song.

Saugeen residents' council president Ricardo Mathison said there is nothing planned as yet to honour Denver's memory, but a lighter ceremony may be in the works for McGhie's show tonight at The Spoke.

"When we sing the song it will mean that much more to us now that he is gone," Mathison said.

McGhie said he will not be having a special tribute concert and he has no plans to wear a black armband. "There wasn't a tribute for Jimmy Ferguson of The Irish Rovers who died a week ago, so I've got to be fair."

Even after the tragic incident, McGhie did not downplay the use of airplanes as a form of transportation or enjoyment for musicians. He did admit, however, he has never had any ambitions to take his show to the air.

"I don't even like ladders," McGhie said. "I only recently got an air miles card because my wife told me to."

McGhie said Denver changed his name from John Doitchendorf Jr. to pay tribute to his favourite state and attempted to become the first American to fly on the Space Shuttle – a move that would have cost him his life as it was the tragic Challenger mission that he was denied.

If he had gone up he would have gone down in history 15 years ago doing something he really wanted to do, McGhie said.

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Copyright The Gazette 1997