When Teena Ree Gowdy met Curtis Tulman, both were proud parents of disabled sons and both were committed to their music—Tulman as a member of the Cruzeros, Gowdy as a jazz singer.
“He was a wild guy,” said Gowdy, who used to watch the Cruzeros play at their old stomping grounds, the Corner Pin Inn in Rutland.
The Cruzeros were a huge and almost instant hit when they released their first CD in the mid-90s, earning themselves a Juno award for Country Group of the Year among a string of accolades. It took them five years to come out with their second album.
Though their sophomore effort, El Nino, earned a Canadian Independent Music Award for Best Country Album, in the intervening years, Tulman’s son, Lukas, had passed away having finally succumbed to the cancerous brain tumour that first paralyzed him, then stole his hearing as he struggled through surgeries and treatments that left him disabled.
“He was a remarkable guy,” said Tulman, noting the five years they had with their son after his diagnosis were special years despite the struggles.
Gowdy and Tulman remained friends after Lukas was gone, and she watched as the Cruzeros crazy frontman began to change.
“He had a turnaround in his life…then the next thing I knew they were doing Cowboy Bob, singing oldie jazz, Moon River, that sort of thing.”
Cowboy Bob, Tulman’s current band, sounds like it would be a country band, but nothing could be further from the truth.
The band does succumb to those twangy roots from time to time, but mostly they play jazz, swing, and whatever else sounds great on guitar. The should is a little bit of everything and it should go over really well when combined with Gowdy’s jazz and blues stylings and her daughter Julia Gowdy-Harnett’s dance moves in a fundraiser designed to bolster the Kelowna and District Society for Community Living’s coffers so they can eventually build new digs.
KDSCL is an advocacy organization which tries to help those with disabilities participate and contribute to society as equal members of the community. They offer a wide range of services, from employment programs to the bi-monthly dances at Parkinson Recreation Centre that Gowdy’s son enjoys.
KDSCL was the big winner of the Juicy Give, a $100,000 jackpot they received in a radio contest staged a couple of years back; but the group needs significantly more money to move from their small building into one that meets their needs. And so, this year, when Gowdy decided to host another Christmas extravaganza—she’s thrown two others— she decided the money would go to the society.
Her daughter, a mother of a six-year-old son herself, immediately jumped on board, saying her experiences being a sister to someone with severe disabilities have taught her to have compassion for others and made her a better mother.
“I feel like I’m compelled to do this because it’s something that means a lot to me and my family,” she said.
Gowdy-Harnett was on So You Think You Can Dance Canada a couple of season back and is now chasing her dreams as a Latin dancer.
Dancing the samba, cha cha, rumba, pasodoble and jive, she and new partner Matthew Michaelski have been madly preparing for their first competition in New York in January with hopes of making it to the Blackpool Dance Festival, the largest ballroom competition in the world, by May.
The fundraiser will include music from Gowdy’s Christmas CD This is Christmas and runs Nov. 27 at 2 p.m. (matinee performance) and 7 p.m.
Entertainment will include the Cowboy Bob Band with guest Jana Luksts on violin and Gowdy-Harnett and partner. The event takes place at the Laurel Packing House; tickets are $25 and $15 for KDSCL associates or those 65 and older. They are available at the KDSCL office (925 Sutherland Avenue) and Rutland Curves (150 Hollywood Road) and Lonnie’s Drum Studio (1751 Harvey Avenue).