Ricky Blue's Other Life
Ricky Blue
Ricky Blue
is a Montreal-based humorist, singer, and writer. He and partner George Bowser are the famous Bowser and Blue comedy act. Here's his bio from their Bowser and Blue website.

Ricky Blue was born in Liverpool, England, but raised in Maine, New Jersey, and Toronto. He has an MA in English from Concordia University. He has been involved in bands and media music in Montreal for over twenty years. In 1981 he won an international 'Clio' award for excellence in advertising.

He once appeared on television naked.

His life had no real meaning, however, until he began to play with Bowser and Blue. Rick plays guitar, mandolin, and harmonica, and sings in a rather pleasant baritone when George will let him.

His columns are archived here

Posted 07.21.03


Honky-tonkin' on Montreal's West Island

There is a tradition in the United States of the 'honky-tonk' on the outskirts of town.

These are smoky low-rent bars where the playing of blues or country music accompanies boisterous drinking and dancing, especially on Saturday night. In these profane places, the musical style of rock n' roll was created, and more than a few amorous relationships begun and ended. Some of us might owe our very existence to a chance encounter in a honky-tonk.

And right here in the West Island, in our suburban 'outskirts of town,' discreetly hidden between stores catering to daily family life, we have honky-tonks of our own.

The rent may not be as low and the music only derivative of blues and country (this being Montreal) but there is all the unabashed fun of boisterous drinking and dancing.

I found myself in such a place in Pointe Claire a couple of weekends ago. It's called the Topaze. It is a restaurant by day and a bar by night, and on a Saturday night this is a genuine West Island honky-tonk.

The strip mall was empty and only a few cars parked at one end gave any indication that there was life here but there sure was! As I entered this dark and smoky world, I immediately noticed that there were more women here than men. That is always a good sign. They sat together at tables in threes and fours while the men watched from the bar. This was not a Cheers-type bar full of young hunks and babes.

This was no Labatt Blue commercial. These folks were 30-to-60-something. But the lights were low, the music was fast and after a couple of beers the girls were all Kim Novak and the guys were all Rock Hudson (oops, bad example). Look, there's Racquel Welch. There's Brigitte Bardot. There's . . . Edith Bunker.

Here's Hugh Grant. Or is it Carey Grant? Or General Ulysses S. Grant? My, is it that dark in here?

The smoke took some getting used to. In these politically correct times there aren't many environments where smokers can be free. But the music was at just the right volume, loud near the dance floor but quieter by the bar so people could actually talk.

A guy at the bar recounted his exploits driving a truck to Florida and back. Turns out that he had just returned and stopped here for a nightcap. His 18-wheeler was parked in the lot outside. Now that's something you can't do downtown.

Behind the bar a blonde goddess named Danielle worked her magic, making everyone feel welcome and special. Up behind the dance floor a single musician played a keyboard, with a computer filling in bass and drum tracks.

The music was pop baby boomer classics. He sat behind a large sign that read: 'Ricky T.' I assumed that the 'T' was the initial of his surname but he later grinned and told me that because of the demographic he serves he likes to also think of it as saying "rickety." He sang the songs the patrons all knew. The songs that took them back to their youth. Songs they liked to dance to. The floor soon filled up with ladies, whooping and wiggling.

Yes, it's a great tradition.

For the price of a few beers you can talk, laugh, dance, sing, and flirt. Isn't that what a honky-tonk is for?