Franc Rota and I played in the Oakville Minor Football League on a team sponsored by Syd A Vince Insurance. When I came to Canada, after playing the gentler sport of rugby in Scotland, I really wanted to play ‘American’ Football. My Aunt Norma had sent me Minnesota Vikings fan gear so I wanted to experience the game. At one practice early in the season the team met and there was a player on the team who was busy running laps of the White Oaks High School track. That was Franc. I have a memory of Franc saying it was a punishment of some sort but I’m not sure he remembers this.
The fact that someone was actually following through on some sort of punishment on a weekend when nobody would have known if he did it or not struck me that Franc must be a stand up guy, even as a teenager. Maybe I’m completely out to lunch on the punishment thing but he was running laps and we were not. Somewhere along the way we ended up playing in the WOSS high school jazz band together. We smoked cigarettes on a CP Air flight on the way to a BC Jazz Festival and spent hours stuck on a broken down bus on the way back from a music exchange in Washington DC. We worked for at least a summer at my Dad’s factory. He met that hot girl, I was just the boss’ son. Franc must have been a good guitarist because he had a custom Telecaster as opposed to my off the shelf Kramer Pioneer bass. He was good. Still is.
We lost track of each other after high school although I think I did visit him once at Huron College at UWO to see The Cult at Alumni Hall. But we lost touch until the Mark Zuckerberg took over the world and invented Facebook. There were a few people who I was looking for over the years and finding Franc was an important person on that list. We actually connected once before Facebook through mutual friends but it wasn’t until Facebook came along that we were able to keep in touch more regularly. I was glad to hear that Franc was still playing guitar and even singing as well.
Recently with my music taking me to Toronto on a few occasions with folks like Colleen Brown and Emm Gryner (you’re going to get a sore back picking up all the names I drop throughout SteveClarkOnBass) I was able to connect with Franc in person. It was cool to be able to put a friend on a guest list for a big show like Emm and Colleen. One of my best nights of 2010 was sitting on Franc’s back porch drinking beer and single malt and swapping stories of what we remember from years gone by and where our lives have taken us.
It wasn’t long ago that Franc popped up on a Facebook chat or email. Would I be interested in coming down to Toronto to play a few tunes with him at a bar called Bread and Circus? Of course! Franc asked Toronto’s busiest drummer/singer/guitarist/all round really nice guy Derek Downham to join us and we played a short set together. As Franc said to the audience that night, the last time we likely played music together was at White Oaks High School in Oakville. I don’t even want to count how many years ago that was. I look like those years have gone by but Franc still look like a rock star. Derek, Franc and I have just finished recording tunes Franc has written and it sounds like Franc will want to record some more.
Playing music with Franc at Bread and Circus and being in the recording studio together really felt like my life had come full circle. The trick now is not letting another 20-something years go by before we actually do record and play another show together.