As It Happens

Ontario's Seth Scholes met Bowie in '87 when he was just 11 years old

Seth Scholes wanted to go the Bowie show so badly, he busked on the streets of Kingston with his saxophone to raise the cash. When the legendary musician got wind of the boy's efforts, he gave him backstage passes and played a bit of "Young Americans" with him.
Eleven-year-old sax player Seth Scholes takes a tip from rock star David Bowie while jamming before Bowie's concert in Toronto, Monday, Aug. 24, 1987. Band member Richard Cottle (right) played along. Scholes tells us it's just a coincidence his hair is just like Bowie's. (John Felstead/CP)

There are David Bowie fans and then there's Seth Scholes.

The year was 1987. And 11-year-old Seth knew one thing for sure. Bowie was set to tour Canada and no matter what, he was going to see him live. So he did what any kid with lousy pocket money would do. He grabbed his saxophone and started busking on the streets of Kingston, Ont.

I remember being absolutely ecstatic and for months afterwards.- Seth Scholes

In an archived interview with As It Happens, a young, shy Scholes told us the songs he played: I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing, Eleanor Rigby, Puff The Magic Dragon and Chariots Of Fire

This week, we caught up with him again. Scholes is 39 years old now.

"I was determined to go, no matter what," he tells As It Happens host Carol Off, recalling that summer almost three decades ago.

Seth Scholes with his saxophone and a magazine on Monday Jan. 11, 2016. The saxophone case and the magazine was signed by David Bowie in 1987 backstage during Bowie's North American tour. (Lars Hagberg/CP)

He raised about $30 on his first day. But, in the end, he didn't have to buy his tickets. The media attention his stunt drew also caught the attention of David Bowie, who sent him free tickets and backstage passes to his Toronto show.

Scholes recalls being nervous about meeting Bowie, but the musician quickly put him at ease.

"He's fantastic. He was very charming and non-threatening," he says. "He seemed genuinely interested in me as a kid. . . I think he was really sincere and I think that really just shone through."

A newspaper clipping from 1987 saved by Seth Scholes, documenting his meeting with David Bowie. (Courtesy of Seth Scholes)

Bowie's sax player, Richard Cottle, taught Scholes a few lines from Young Americans.

Here's how Scholes described that moment on As It Happens when we spoke with him back on Aug. 27, 1987:

From our archives. 0:09

"I remember being absolutely ecstatic and for months afterwards as well. It's still exciting," he says now.

Like many young people, Scholes was drawn to Bowie because was an outsider, someone who signaled that it was OK to be whoever you wanted to be.

Another newspaper clipping from the summer 11-year-old Seth Scholes met David Bowie. (Courtesy of Seth Scholes)

Scholes still has the saxophone he used to jam with Bowie, but he's since switched to playing guitar. He's made a career related to music, as technical director of Octave Theatre in Kingston.

He says the news of Bowie's death hit him hard.

"I cried. I'm not going to lie. I had a quick tear and then I had a quick laugh at myself," he says. "The volume of music he's left us, there's nothing to be sad about."


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