When Ovide Pilon was growing up on a small farm near Batoche, his dream was to someday be a musician.
“I remember there was always music around home,” said Pilon. “Lots of traditional Metis fiddle and stuff; but what really grabbed my attention was rock and roll. I wanted to be a rock star.”
Pilon, 67, is a self-taught guitarist who’s played with Buddy Knox, Billy Joe Royal, Paul Revere and the Raiders and fronted Beatles and Beach Boys tribute bands for years.
He’s bringing his brand of classic rock to Saskatoon with a variety show featuring tributes to the Beatles, the Monkees, the Ventures, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, the Beach Boys, Creedence Clearwater Revival and other bands.
“The Ed Sullivan Show was the biggest stage there was back in the 1960s,” said Pilon. “The television audience was huge. That was the ultimate exposure for bands, and it was where my generation first saw Elvis, and bands like the Beatles and Rolling Stones.
“There was so much energy and great music in those shows, and that’s what we’re trying to convey with our concert and dance.”
Pilon, along with band members Jay Slack, Terry Hoknes, Ken Reinhart and Roy Sydiaha are taking the stage with their “Ed Sullivan Show” tribute on Friday, September 14 at the Western Development Museum.
Pilon’s passion for classic rock ‘n roll has never dimmed, even as he balanced a part-time career in music with the demands of raising a family and earning a living at a full-time job.
Pilon got his first guitar when he was 12 years old.
“It was pretty beat-up and it only had three strings,” he said. “But I banged away at it anyway. Then one day one of my brother’s friends said, ‘hey, you need some strings on this thing, boy.’ So my dad bought some strings and the guy showed me some chords and I learned to play by listening to songs on the radio and watching guitar players on stage whenever there was a dance in town.”
“When I was 14 I played on stage at the Domremy Hall with a band that used to play regularly at the Sugar Shack in Prince Albert.”
Pilon got married in 1970, moved to Saskatoon and wrangled a job at Intercontinental Packers by, showing up at the plant every day for two weeks till they finally hired him.
“I had no money, but I had persistence,” he said. “At the packing plant, I met a couple guys who played guitar and we started a country band. We’d rent halls in small towns and put on dances. We made a little money; not much; but we learned a lot about entertaining a crowd.”
He worked in construction for many years while fronting a Beatles-tribute band called England, and was in a band that played the Craven Jamboree in the early 1990s. More recently, he‘s focused on charity fundraisers for the Saskatoon Food Bank.