Favourite local achiever over 60

Supplied photo

1. Fred Penner
2. Scott Oake
3. Al Simmons

Since the 1970s, Al Simmons has made audiences worldwide laugh at his off-the-wall performances. Until, like a lot of people, the initial COVID-19 lockdowns left him without work.

“I must admit, for a little while, I was – upset is too strong a term. I guess I was concerned that I’d lost a lot of work and was just wondering what was going to happen,” Simmons says. “I ended up napping all the time. And then I thought, you know, enough of this. Get a project. Get up, Al Simmons. Find a project.”

Simmons decided to record a goofy poem he wrote about the Klondike Gold Rush in Yukon. Working remotely with other musicians presented challenges, like navigating the delay over a phone call. But by spring, he had a collection of new tunes in the vein of his previous award-winning albums.

Simmons’ act is rooted in vaudeville-style comedy for all ages. He toured festivals every weekend this summer but kept putting off returning to the recording studio. Finally, he got a push from his youngest granddaughter, Penny.

“There’s a play structure in our yard, and she was afraid to jump. I went and helped her down. And I realized, that’s right, I’m not alone. I’ve got a helper. I’m working at a studio, and I’ve got talented musicians around me. So I’ve got help. I don’t have to be afraid.”

For the first time in his 54-year career, Simmons is producing his own album. He says the finality of putting his songs to tape was intimidating, but now that he’s made the jump, he’s completed five new tracks so far.

The beloved Manitoba-based entertainer expects to finish in the studio by December before moving on to completing artwork and liner notes for the upcoming release.

Published in Volume 77, Number 12 of The Uniter (December 1, 2022)

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