While he's already celebrated his fiftieth birthday this month, Shawn Brush puts on a special birthday, Octoberfest, fundraising country music event to make for one big party called Tober West. While Brush suffers from a rare birth defect known as Morquio syndrome, which basically causes a kind of dwarfism and weakens bone and tissue. Regardless, Brush has been tenacious recording some fifteen discs and playing countless shows over thirty plus years. Recent times have been a little harder but Brush remains determined to fuel his musical muse and inspired to rekindle a special fundraising party that started last year.
"I always have a big party around my birthday and last year I had a fundraising event that helped me get a new wheelchair accessible and we raised around fifty thousand dollars," explains Brush. "It was raised through grants but the community helped me raise a big chunk of that. With all that goodwill that I experienced, I want to always try to give back and there was another grant available from arts and culture department of the city of Burlington so we applied for the grant to hire the musicians and to put on a big show and here we are. There's a bluegrass club in Burlington and they've put on shows at the Legion for years - I mean, Ricky Scaggs played that room as well as some of the biggest names in bluegrass so it made sense to do the show there.
"We've got some stellar veteran players and some newer ones so we've got a full day of fun," adds Brush. "I've seen Chopped Liver play and they're a young band playing traditional bluegrass bringing some young blood to the show. The Wildwood Strings are veteran Canadian bluegrass guys that play all over the place. Tiny Bill Cody is playing with Mimi Shaw and they're doing some western swing string band music for a new project and they definitely fit the bill."
Brush has assembled a wealth of performers for a full days event as well as a star studded cast dubbed the Krooked Cowboy and Friends to headline with two sets.
"I'm a contemporary traditionalist - I play the old country and you need some good players that know the music and that's what we've got," says Brush. "We've got two really great drummers - Danny Lockwood is a first call session drummer and Sonnie Bernardi from Crowbar is a legendary veteran of the music scene. If you listen to Willie Nelson, they always have two drummers and I wanted to put together a really good rhythm section to do that. Grant Avenue Studio's Bob Doidge will be joining on bass and trumpet. Wendell Ferguson is a guitar virtuoso, he's like the Chet Atkins of Canada. We;ve got top notch guys like Burt Carroll on steel guitar and Matt Horner on keyboards as well. And what don't you love about Ginger St. James? She's a star and I'm happy she is tying it all together as host and she's going to play some of her own songs."
While Dallas Harms was scheduled to be a special guest this weekend, sadly he passed away last weekend. But with special guests Mark LaForme and Harold McIntyre. Shawn Brush is putting on one heck of a party with Tober West to get a little help so that he can continue to help out the community.
"People can come and go, enjoy some bluegrass, have dinner and hang out or they can come for the evening show," says Brush. "I hope some of the diehard bluegrass and country fans come out, maybe see one of their favourite artists and get exposed to some new artists and have a great time. It's a reasonable price and the money goes into paying for the show and a wonderful way to give back to the community. It's Octoberfest, Halloween, my birthday all in one kind of celebration. Any extra money we make will go back into my Shawn Brush Foundation to give back into the community so that I can donate my time and skills to do some good things."
Shawn Brush's Tober West happens this Saturday October 19 at The Royal Canadian Legion in Burlington (828 Legion Rd). The event runs from 2pm to 10pm with Chopped Liver, Wildwood Strings, Tiny Bill Cody and Shawn Brush doing a featured set with Sonnie Bernardi, Burke Carroll, Bob Doidge, Danny Lockwood, Wendell Ferguson and special guests Mark Laforme and Harold MacIntyre and your host Ginger St. James. Tickets are $15 in advance or $25 at the door. Children 12 and under are free. Click on shawnbrush.ca