First Nations musician Percy Tuesday is being remembered for his commanding stage presence, his sense of humour and his role as a teacher in the community. He died of leukemia on May 26 at the age of 72.
"As a person, his heart and soul was in working as a councillor to help people and as a musician he represented an era of musicians in the late 60s, 70s and 80s," said his friend, Dave MacLeod.
Nicknamed "The Reverend," Tuesday played with virtually every musician from the First Nations community, including the likes of Billy Joe Green and Gerry McIvor. MacLeod says he played at every kind of event under the stars, whether it be a house party, a book launch, a community event or on the big stage on National Aboriginal Day.
He was a mainstay at Times Change(d) High and Lonesome Club where well known musicians regularly invited him on stage to play. Tuesday's partner of 18 years, Linda Wolch, fondly recalls his 60th birthday celebration there. The club was filled to the rafters four times over to accommodate all of his friends and fans.
In 1998 Tuesday and Wolch founded the Chief Big Bear Gathering at Stony Mountain Institution, an event that continued for ten years. The idea was to honour the First Nations inmates, to let them know that there was hope, that there were people on the outside of the walls who were thinking of them, who were cheering them on to find that better path.
This event tied into his work as a councillor. Born on Big Grassy River First Nation in Ontario, he was the product of six residential schools. He battled and conquered addictions and then shared his experiences with others in his work.
He was also a real family man. His son, Jason, also a guitarist, says his father loved his family, his grandchildren and his two great grandchildren. He also says his father was well loved for his great sense of humour.
As a musician Jason was deeply influenced by his father. "He had such a command and presence on stage. He taught me a lot as a musician, as an artist. I'll still be learning for a long time from the memories I have growing up watching him play," he said.
MacLeod says Tuesday will also be remembered for his generosity. "His giving as a musician was key to his being so well known and loved by the community.
"His legacy will certainly be as the reverend of indigenous music, as a man who joined music with traditional teachings to help and connect with his community, and as a man who helped hundreds of people find a better way of life."