Not only is he a virtuoso harmonica player,
Sherman Doucette is a collector of
Chasing the Blues with Sherman “Tank” Doucette
The blues are alive and well in the hands of Sherman Doucette, who is ready to rain down the power of the blues on you and yours.
On the eve of the release of his latest album, Blowin’ Through Town, harp bluesman Sherman Doucette is relaxed. The album, already creating a strong current of anticipation in the blues community is his first in 4 years. Sitting in his harmonica museum, “Harptown” surrounded by over 700 harmonicas and cases, most of them antiques, Doucette conjures the past and glimpses the future.I knew right then and there I was a bluesman. I was a bluesman and would be until the day I die
“I was the kid that was sitting on the curb waiting for live bands to come through North Battleford, so I could help them bring their gear in,” says Sherman, “There was the Guess Who, Witness Incorporated, even Neil Young. I could hang out and listen and get to know them. You know they say things were always meant to be.” That being the case, Sherman Doucette was already on his way to fulfilling destiny. Leaving home and heading west, Sherman had 20 bucks in his pocket, a guitar, and a harmonica.
Inspiration hit Sherman hard at a John Lee Hooker concert at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver. “Somebody bought me a ticket to go see John Lee Hooker. I had just finished a 24 hour shift on the docks. I
Unfortunately, it turned out to be a prophetic statement-and not in a good way. Getting sidetracked from his music for a bit, Doucette took a job at a lumber mill. Arriving at work one morning, he flicked on a switch and the building blew up. He suffered 3rd degree burns to 54% of his body. He was not expected to live beyond 24 hrs. “I was in the burn unit in Vancouver for 6 ½ months. I didn’t feel anything for 2 ½ months and then there was a whole lot of pain. They put me back together. I learned how to walk again through physiotherapy.” Sherman fought for his life. “Yeah, I fought for my life, and they call me ‘The Tank’ because of it.” He goes on to explain the effect the explosion had on him. “You know how you hear when someone loses something, like maybe their vision and they gain other things? That’s what happened to me. I knew right then and there, when I recovered that I was a bluesman. I was a bluesman and would be until the day I die.”The blues is a celebration of life that’s what it is. I wish more people were hip to the music
Vancouver’s blues scene in the 70’s and upwards to the 90’s was vibrant. “It was incredible, Vancouver was just bustling. Music was pouring out of the buildings, and there were tons of great blues rooms,” Doucette recalls. “You’d have the Powder Blues playing at one place, me and my band playing upstairs at another, Jim Byrnes down the road, John Lee Hooker at the Commodore. The world was swirling, things were happening, you could feel it. I remember one time when Chief Dan George walked in and joined me on stage to sing Green Green Grass of Home and Jambalaya. What a beautiful person. We would jam and sit in with each other. Everyone was working. It was a really cool time.”
A bluesman forever-
Sherman �Tank� Doucette
Since that fateful explosion, Sherman “Tank” Doucette has stayed true blue to what is in his heart. He carved out a career in western Canada and some parts of the states, playing blues harp with his band Incognito. He has hosted many jams and fundraisers at the Yale, the only blues house in Vancouver. He has shared the stage with the likes of Pinetop Perkins, John Lee Hooker, Long John Baldry and many others, yet still remains a humble man. Moving to Kelowna, BC 10 years ago, Sherman is still promoting and playing the blues. The year 2005 saw the release of his album Harp and Soul. He is the recipient of many awards, most recently the BC Interior Music Award for Best Blues Artist. Glimpsing the future, there will be an appearance at the Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival this August, and Sherman hopes to see many more festivals and tours.
The grit in his voice and the joyful, sometimes haunting sound of his harp can cause the hair on your arms to stand up and your body will follow suit. “My music is called blues,” Doucette says. “But it’s not a sad thing, it’s a happy thing. It’s about the joy that the music brings, how it makes you feel. I think it’s important for people to know that. The blues is a celebration of life, that’s what it is. I wish more people were hip to the music. The blues had a baby and it was called rock n’ roll. Rock n’ roll was huge, but blues has never really had its day. It’s always been the bad guy in the back room. That’s okay, I’m good with that. I bought my blues shoes as a young man and I wear them proudly.”