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Classic Lightfoot Live is coming to Orangeville’s Opera House

September 7, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

“I’ve been a musician all my life,” said John Stinson, who quit computer sales in 2005. He had other jobs, but he wanted to pay more attention to music in the long run. In particular, the music of Gordon Lightfoot.

Mr. Stinson is bringing Classic Lightfoot Live to Orangeville on Sept. 29 at the Opera House for one show only.

He continued, “I’ve been able to play around with other things, played with a friend playing other covers, learning off the Lightfoot late ’60’s, thinking I would be a Lightfoot guy and I stayed that way, more a folky guy not a rock player.”

When he was 17 or 18 years old, he was an usher at Massey Hall.

“We got paid $12 for seating people and $5 bonus if you stayed to the end,” he reminisced. While there, he stayed to watch Gordon Lightfoot sing whenever he was performing at Massey Hall. 

Musically, John Stinson began to play with a partner who played Beatles covers and “didn’t like Gord.”

He decided, however, ‘I’m going to do a Lightfoot show,’ admitting to himself he needed backup and musicians who knew Lightfoot’s music well.

“Now in 2023,” he said. “I am with some of the greatest musicians in the business. I do all the contracting and bookings as well as playing in the shows.”

When he moved into Aurora, Ont., there was an ad offering guitar lessons from a guy, Red Shae.

“The Red Shae,” he emphasized, “Gord’s lead guitar player. I could take lessons and learn the unique sounds of Red Shae, who is known around the world. When you get him teaching you how to play Lightfoot, that was something special. I was singing and he was playing.”

Next followed Mr. Stinson’s chance to meet and learn from Terry Clements. Now, he was learning from the then-active lead players and thrilled to be in “Terry’s house, learning how to play Lightfoot music.” 

For one concert, he asked Red Shae if he would come out. He told us that Red Shae said yes but no marketing about it.

Mr. Stinson’s sad comment, “For him to be there for the last 10 years to teach me but he died before it could happen.”

Currently, Mr. Stinson is actually putting a show together in Orillia, Ont. where the town is putting on Lightfoot Days. The organizers heard about John Stinson and his band and asked them to perform their show.

Beverley Eyers was Gordon Lightfoot’s sister and was his manager through the 70s.

Mr. Stinson said, “She saw us play at the Orillia Opera House. ‘You’ve taken me back to when my brother was playing,’ she told us.”

He clarified, “Steve Eyers playing bass in our band is Gord’s nephew.”

The third member of this band is Eric Kidd. He was also mentored and trained by Red Shae. Eric Kidd was “way better” than Stinson’s lead player, so he asked Mr. Kidd to play. For four to six years, Kidd has played lead guitar.

Pushing ahead, he wanted to do some recording with Bob Doidge, who produced “Gord’s last five recordings.” He is the Artistic Director of CLL.

Through it all, there are remarkable memories: “Another thing, in 2016,” Mr. Stinson told the tale, “as the new fellows, Red Shea and Steve Eyers were coming on board, we were playing and Gord came to see our setup in Orillia. That was a special moment for me, to shake his hand.”

A mention came up over Stinson’s singing: “It’s nice to see the songs being played the way they were supposed to be being played,” Gordon Lightfoot said.

At the root of it all is the question, what’s in this for you?

“I’m musician at heart so I enjoy playing,” Mr. Stinson responded, “making a song sound well. The combo of singing and playing, songs that tell stories.”

He said, “I enjoy the Edmund Fitzgerald story telling.”

The magic happens when you interact with the crowd by telling a story, if you can tap into that by talking about Canada. Some of those stories in the songs Mr. Stinson likes the most, like Ode to Big Blue, relates a story of a whale that lives 100 years. There is a restlessness in the more recent songs, he reckons, songs about nature.

“He strings some lines together and you love saying them,” is the admiration.

Within the Edmund Fitzgerald song plays the line, “No one knows where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes into hours.”

John Stinson lives by Christian Island. There is a treasured Lightfoot song about Christian Island, too.

Classic Lightfoot Live with John Stinson, Steve Eyers and Eric Kidd is coming to the Orangeville Opera House on Sept. 29 at 7:30 pm.

For details and tickets, visit or the Opera House Box Office at 87 Broadway in Orangeville Town Hall.

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