A one-man band powerhouse, Flashback Freddy performs July 7th at Entertainment in the Park.
Presented by the Town of Stettler, Entertainment in the Park features a total of 10 artists this year, including quite a few who will be taking the West Stettler Park stage for the first time.
All shows start at 7 p.m.
“I’ve always loved music, and I picked up a guitar that was an old beater of my dad’s – he never really played it – when I was about 10 or 11 years old back in Sydney, Nova Scotia,” explained Freddy (Fred Wortley) during a recent chat.
“I was determined to try and figure it out – in those days, I also had no instruction. We didn’t have access to some of that stuff. But I was blessed genetically with the ability to ‘hear’ music – to know if a note is right or wrong,” he said.
So over the years, he indeed figured it out and a style began to emerge.
“I think I was programmed to do music at an early age,” he said. “I didn’t end up doing it for a living, but now I’m living my dream! I am 68, so I’m a bit of a late starter,” he added with a laugh.
“I was a lad in the late 50s, and I had an older brother and sister in high school,” he said, reflecting on his early influences.
“So I grew up listening to Elvis and Buddy Holly and The Platters – and I just had this affinity for the music – I loved it,” he said. “I remember walking up to the juke box like I was somebody, putting my dime in, and playing Don Gibson or Walk on By – I loved the country tunes, too.
“But only in my dreams was I a rock star!”
Originally from Toronto, he would go on to work in the logging industry for nearly four decades.
“I tried a few things in between, but I always seemed to go back to logging,” he said. But music was always in his heart. “I would take my guitar to logging camps and play for the guys over a beer kind-of-thing,” he recalls. “I also used play a lot of folk music – Gordon Lightfoot, Cat Stevens – but I had this burning desire for the old rock and roll.
“I would play with a couple people here or there, or at open mics through the years.”
Today, Fred calls Lacombe home.
His wife, who he had met in B.C. is originally from Lacombe. “We were made for each other, and we lived for quite a few years on the coast.”
But family brought them back to the prairies.
And speaking of family, it was his wife that helped inspire his current moniker of ‘Flashback Freddy’.
“I eventually retired from logging, and I was sitting in the kitchen one day with my acoutic guitar, playing some old rock – maybe it was a Buddy Holly tune. My wife looked at me and said, ‘You’re not Fred – you are Flashback Freddy!’ I thought that was so cool!
“So one thing led to another, and I found a way to make it happen,” he said, adding that he went on to play in a couple bands after that. But he really wanted to focus on the classic rock tunes. “That’s what I was determined to do.”
So he decided to head out on his own.
“I figured out the world of backing tracks,” he said. “I do acoustic stuff, but it’s pretty hard to play acoustically to something like Rock Around the Clock, he added with a laugh. “You need a band to make it sound more authentic, and my whole objective when I went on this adventure was to make it as authentic as possible to the original tunes,” he explained.
“It’s just worked so well to go into small places like seniors’ facilities and long-term care homes – I have my backtracks which are custom made and professionally done, and just take out the guitar and have the vocal. It’s been a bit of a learning curve learning to do all that, but it’s worked out really well and I have it kind of figured out – it sounds like the real deal,” he said.
Vocally, he’s gotten more adventurous over the years, too, as in hitting higher notes and stretching out his range.
“It got to the point where I was doing Sherry by Frankie Valli, ” he said with a laugh. “I’ve just had a ball with this stuff!”
For Wortley, the tunes from that era are just timeless.
“The content that came out in that short time-frame was just astounding,” he said, reflectively. “I really do believe that good music doesn’t have an expiry date.”
Next up in the series is Ollee on July 14th, Travis Pickering on July 21st and Off the Rails on July 28th.
Heading into August audiences can check out the Wheatland Band on Aug. 4th, TEN02 on Aug. 11th, Tap9 on Aug. 18th and rounding out the season is Ryan Langlois on Aug. 25th.
Scoop Ice Cream & Snack Shop will also be open during all shows, located next to the eastern parking lot of West Stettler Park.
“This year’s lineup has something for everyone and can be enjoyed by the entire family every Wednesday night of the summer” says Manager of Recreation and Culture Brad Robbins.
“Residents and visitors of Stettler have an opportunity to listen to some amazing Alberta musical talent amongst the beautiful back drop of West Stettler Park.”
For more information, visit www.stettler.net and follow @TownofStettler on Facebook.