By Adam Eisenbarth
In the quiet openness of central Alberta lives a man whose career was anything but quiet.
Born and raised in Bentley, Dick Damron will be honoured Aug. 7 in the Bentley parade for his more than 50 years in country music.
Now 76, Damron keeps busy, though he considers himself semi-retired, performing at benefits and small events.
“I’m working on some new songs. I wrote a bunch of new songs last year in Mexico so I’m busy demo-ing them and getting them ready to go into the studio and do some sessions.”
Over the years Damron has been a first-hand witness of the many changes to the music industry. Some that stand out to Damron include the ‘Beatles phase’ in which the Fab Four ruled the charts and nearly wiped out country music.
“Not that they dominated the country charts but even the record companies, like Capital Records, the country artists that were on Capital couldn’t even get a record released because they were just totally concentrating on the Beatles and their popularity, so there was that real lull there.”
The ‘Urban Cowboy’ phase in the 1980s when city slickers took up the rural style in clothing and music, is another period that amuses Damron.
“They weren’t cowboys but everybody bought the hat and the boots because this was the scene. It was the big fad.”
His first record was released in 1958, though he’s been in music longer than that.
“It keeps evolving and no matter how big it gets, when you look back, you can see the hills and the valleys.”
Right now the country music industry is a young person’s business, though that, like everything else, may change again.
“Right now it’s the kid’s game. A lot of them are the ones that won American Idol or Canadian Idol and they’re all 17, 18, 19 years old. The old boys have kind of been put out to pasture.”
Over the years, Damron has been a student of the music industry, observing it’s every change and today he has a wealth of knowledge about the way the industry has moved. Today’s biggest issue in music seems to be the illegal downloading of music.
“To me at this stage it doesn’t make any difference but if you’re a young artist trying to make a living out of it (it’s an issue.)”
Over a career of many accomplishments, Damron says a couple moments of recognition stand out the most.
“Being inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame and the International Country Music Hall of Fame are two of the biggest things for me I guess.”
Along the way Damron has also won songwriters awards, vocalist awards and many other prestigious honours. He has also performed in some major shows over the years along with singers such as Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard and the Oakridge Boys.
When Damron reflects on his career he sees both positive and difficult moments.
“I do look back sometimes and see where I made a lot of mistakes and I see where I had some really lucky breaks and I see where I had some really bad breaks, things that weren’t my fault but I just wasn’t at the right place at the right time.”
One of those bad breaks came when he released what he believes was one of his best albums ever, Legend and the Legacy.
“It was the last vinyl album I had out and it got lost in the shuffle because everybody was changing to CDs and everything.”
Of course, aside from his great singing voice, Damron has been a guitar player for most of his life.
“I started when I was about five years old and I’m still learning. It’s one of the few passions you can follow to the end of the earth. Even the most accomplished musicians still practice many hours a day.”
While Damron spends most of his time living in Mexico, Bentley is still his home throughout the summer.
“I really enjoy it here in the summer, except for when it’s like this,” said Damron as he looked out at the rainy weather. “I was born and raised in Bentley and traveled all over the country but Bentley was always home for me. It’s kind of hard just to give it up.”