Special to The Telegram  08/01/08
The Telegram - St. John’s, NL: Arts & Entertainment
by Danette Dooley

With his black cowboy hat accentuating his snow-white hair and beard, the man affectionately known as Grandpa Pike resembles a well-groomed Ronnie Hawkins.

Laurie Blackwood Pike has also been told that he looks like Kenny Rogers.  While Pike has singing and guitar in common with both men, when he decided to embark on a project to benefit others, his thoughts immediately turned to children.

"I have a soft spot in my heart for kids and I wanted to tie this into some charity where we could raise some money," Pike says, opening the CD case of his recently completed project.

Grandpa Pike with Hockey Gale and The Grand Codroy Band is a collection of songs that he's appropriately titled "The Will To Live."   Pike hopes to raise about $10,000 for the Children's Wish Foundation from the sale of the CD of gospel, traditional and country music.

Pike was born in the Lewisporte area and moved, with his parents and family to mainland Canada in 1948.  He returned to Newfoundland numerous times over the years and came home for good in 1997.  He now works as a territory manager for CanWel, Hardware Division.  It's through that work that he met Hockey (Edwin) Gale who owns and operates a general merchandise retail business in Milville in the Codroy Valley.The project is a partnership between himself and Gale, Pike says, and the CD was recorded in Gale's music studio adjacent to his store.

"Everyone who played on the CD donated their time as did the photographer and the graphic artist," Pike says. 

The painting on the CD's promotional poster is of the Codroy River - near where the CD was recorded - and is the work of well-known artist Lloyd Pretty, who also came on board to support the project. 

Pike prefers to use his full name - Laurie Blackwood Pike - so as not to confuse him with his daughter, Laurie Pike. He received his nickname, Grandpa Pike, when he went gray while in his 30s.  "Many people would assume that my daughter was my granddaughter," he says.  Pike capitalized on the nickname by naming a business he bought in New Brunswick, Grandpa Pike's.  The name Blackwood, he says, comes from his mother's side of the family. Her ancestors were sea captains from the Greenspond area.

Long before his days as a business owner, Pike began singing in the church choir and later in the men's gospel quartet while still in his teens.  The songs on the CD have significance to Pike for various reasons or, "are songs that remind me of times and people that live on, if only in my memory."  

Pike has written a few sentences about each song, giving a simple yet poignant explanation on why the tune holds special meaning to him.  Reading these liner notes gives a glimpse into this man's life through the years.  Pike dedicates "Tramp on the Street" to his late father Rev. Roddy G. Pike as well as to the memory of the late Bill Cherniwchan, a man known on the streets of St. John's as Hobo Bill.  

His words accompanying this song read in part: "Dad, who was a preacher, told me, 'If you're in trouble, and away from home don't go knocking on the door of the fancy house. Instead,' he said 'find the poorest, humblest one. They are so used to having nothing, that if they have anything they'll gladly share it with you.'" 

Pike has also included in the CD liner notes kind words about the late Paul Magee, referring to the former announcer with VOCM radio as "a legend in Newfoundland, not just for his radio work, but for his humanity."  Magee died from cancer on Oct. 13, 2006.  Children's Wish Foundation director Derek deLouche says he was excited when Pike came to him about his project.

"He asked us for nothing other than permission to use our logo and a little bit of support with getting the CD out to the public and he's done most of the work," DeLouche says.  "It's fantastic when we can enter into a project where the majority of funds raised will go towards our mission and mandate rather than to paying the bills for the project," he adds. 

DeLouche says those involved with the project are to be commended for their volunteer effort.  "The foundation is currently working on 34 wishes so there couldn't be a better time for us to take on something new like this where there is potential to make a lot of money for our work," DeLouche says.

The CD can be purchased at Fred's Records, O'Brien's Music, the Children's Wish Foundation (1-800-267-9474) and at numerous stores throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.  

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