Indie Rock / Rock & Roll
To avoid any confusion as to who I am right away, I'll tell you so you can keep it on file. I am Robbie Tucker. I was born in the small community of what is now known as Miramichi, and within the most loving family that anyone could have ever hoped for. My mom Lois, and father Sherman, cared as much as they could for my older brother Jason, and I. From our front door I could see my grandmothers' (who I've always referred to as nanny) house, with its red trim and a honey suckle tree guarding her front door; the house was surrounded by trees and more grass than I ever cared to mow. I grew up in what some people could consider paradise. Summers were spent barbequing and swimming in the river that was visible from nanny's', which as I mentioned before was also in view from our front door. As a child the life I had was a good one.
Dinners and days passed, as I grew older and taller. In 1989 cancer abruptly took my mom leaving her family in a state of shock that was not easily absorbed. My father continued to drive trucks and support and love us as best he could. My father was forced to work and my brother began to go off with friends; I was left alone; well, not completely alone; I found a new best friend, music.
In 2003 I released my first album, The Ledden Street Sessions. It would prove to be one of my great accomplishments. Not having had much or any experience in recording, playing bass, drums or piano, I did a fairly good job at fooling people into believing I did. This album brought together an appreciation for and love of Elvis Presley’s, Roy Orbison’s and Paul McCartney’s music. They gave me a chance to see how my original material went down with others. These days, no matter where I am, when I write a new song, I'll call my dad and play it for him.
My dad bought me my first guitar and has always been supportive of my music career. I should also mention that he bought me my first set of drums, bass and digital recorder that were used in making The Ledden Street Sessions. Umm…yeah! And he also paid for half of its manufacturing and printing costs. Like I said, I couldn't have asked him for any more. He’s always been there for me. My album had landed me a summer gig doing theatre in Charlottetown and this without having to audition. Playing music and making people laugh, it was great. Not really knowing what to do with myself after that gig ended, I kicked around for a few months in Toronto, ON. I guess I started to feel lazy or something.
During my brief stay in Toronto, I was able to get booked on The Toronto Show, which was a pretty big deal for me. Unfortunately, after a bad rehearsal it was cancelled. And when I say badly, I mean bad on my part. I wasn't sure why but I was losing power in my voice and the fluidity in the movement of my performing abilities.
The cancellation of my first big Television appearance hit me pretty hard and I had a hard time shaking it off. At this point I began writing a new song, Betty’s' Summer Vacation, which would have been the second song I'd written since my debut in April 2003.
Feeling hurt by my lost television opportunity, a month or two later I retreated back home to my dads to gather my thoughts. I knew that I did not want to stay in Miramichi but I also didn't know where I was going to go. It was at this point that I came into contact with one of the guys I had done theatre with in Charlottetown. He was living in Halifax, NS doing theatre there and so I went down for a visit and ended up moving in with him, his brother and another guy I'd done theatre with. I felt good about the move, and everything else. But things were about to change.
Slowly I began to write more material and I fancied putting together a band and playing some shows featuring my original work. Nathan, my theatre buddy and then roommate quickly voiced his interest. With a few calls and a lot of imploding bass players I actually pulled it off. I had formed a band, the first since high school. Now the next step was playing some shows.
I had worked in my hometown of Miramichi at a restaurant for 3 - 4 years before my summer in Charlottetown. Though I told myself I would not return there, I found myself having a job opportunity at the same franchise in Halifax and since I had previous experience it made it very easy getting the job. This is when things started to seem a bit different. My ability to make drinks, roll forks, but most devastatingly and heartbreakingly my piano and guitar playing began to disintegrate. My inabilities to perform simple tasks got to such a point that I just couldn't function at work. I felt awkward, out of place and a touch useless.
In order to continue performing I had to switch off piano and re-work the songs, so I'd be able to play (hide behind) my guitar. My voice though not in top form, was much better than when I had been in Toronto. I began to notice some frequent back pains but attributed them to the constant moving of stage equipment. I visited the doctor to discuss these new problems, hoping that some pill they had somewhere would make it go away. I had some small tremors in my hands and a few questions for the doctor. Fortunately (sarcasm) for me I got an intern or whatever you call the guys who are studying to be a doctor but aren't actually one yet, oh yeah, a student. Now, the funny thing is this guy, who was not so good at taking blood, was the first to mention the word Parkinson’s. It would be almost a year later before I'd hear that word again. That day they didn't really have any answers for me. They did blood work and when I left I felt better. My tremors had stopped and overall, I felt better. I am not sure why, but it didn't matter, my good health wasn’t going to last.
Due to my increasing lack of skills, I eventually had to quit the restaurant and I got a job that payed 100$ a week, doing data entry. I auditioned for the theatre my roommate was involved with, but didn't make the cut. Everything seemed to be going to shit. I was happy to be playing shows but didn't feel like my performing was very good. In fact in comparison to past performances, ah... lets just say I didn't. There was one good thing that had happened around this time. I met a guy, an artist, who I fell very much in love with. I eventually moved to Montreal with him.
Now, if there were one word that could mean that something is a horrible idea and an opportunity of a lifetime, all at once, I'd use it here__________.
Moving to Montreal would prove to be the biggest challenge of my life. Though I was very much in love with the guy whom I'd moved in with, he didn't share the same feelings about me. It was at this point in my life where I met the very beautiful Ashley Woodman, whom everyone, because she was from New Jersey, called Jersey. Jersey was my next door neighbor and if it were not for her and her little dog Jake, I'm not sure how I would have gotten through the bad relationship situation I had placed myself in. I have a picture of them both hanging on my wall.
Over the next few months, I began to notice a serious decline in my walking, talking and performing abilities. There was a clinic close to our place (apt#12) where I visited no less then 2 - 3 times a week. What were my problems? Let's see,
Decreased motor skills (i.e. tying shoes, buttoning pants, playing guitar)
Weakened speech and a drastic loss of power in my singing voice
Slowness of movement
I was also starting to feel a touch crazy when I kept going to the doctor over and over and over and over without any solutions. They did blood work, CT scans, urine samples and MRIs. But the worst moment of all was when my right leg had become so limp that when I walked I completely wore out the side of my sneaker off.
I had gone to the sports doctor to see about getting some insoles or something to keep my right foot straight and "normal" when I walked. After the doctor examined me all he could say was that, he could see nothing physically wrong with me and suggested that the problems might be psychological and related to my mothers’ death. He then suggested that I get a brace made for my foot. Perfect! I finally discovered what my problem was, I was crazy. (the frustration kept building)
Amidst the mess,
To keep myself feeling like I hadn't completely lost it, I had begun working on a new album Songs from apt#12. My new material included Damien Come Home, a kick ass song about Jerseys' boyfriend. I wanted to play it live for her, so I invited her to Brutopia where on Sundays there is a fairly decent open mic. There was a problem. Often times there are a lot of people who want to play and chances are, you can play late, well not late but it seemed late for my body. I had gone onstage to perform 3 new songs, good ones. I was proud of them. Pennie Moore, Damien Come Home and I don't remember the last one and I'll tell you why: I performed Pennie Moore horribly, the fast paced vocal and guitar bit I'd arranged was so out of whack with my body and mind that I secretly didn't finish the song. Next up was the new Damien Come Home. I had just finished writing it before leaving and was excited to sing it for Jersey. This stands to be the most disappointing moment of my life. You see I can deal with a lot of things: Failed relationships, lost loved ones even having a doctor tell me I am crazy. But now, something was tearing my soul out, something was killing me; something had taken my gift of music away from me. With two awful performances I cut my losses and walked home slowly, hunched posture telling myself I'd never perform live again.
The last job I had before my diagnosis was a salesman. It was the summer of 2005 and it was hot. My job was to sell beauty packages and game packages to people on the street. Though this was physically very demanding for me, I had to do something to make money. Walking all over Montreal from 8AM in the morning until 5PM at night making only commission. Most days I made nothing.
It was raining, hard. I was feeling lousy. I had taken shelter in a mall trying to make a sale inside away from the rain but was having a hard time walking around. I felt as though I would pass out if I wasn't able to sit down when I needed to. I sold two packages with my shaky hands that day and finally went back to the office and told them how much I appreciated the job but that I had some problems that were making it too difficult to continue. I handed in my credit card machine and I walked home, in the rain. I got back to apt#12 said hi to my roommate. He asked what I was doing home and I explained. It just seemed like no one understood and you know what? Maybe I was going crazy. I headed into our tiny kitchen where we'd been high and eaten excessive amounts of cake, where I had twice left the sink running and flooded the place, where I now sat with my head in my hands crying. I had reached my breaking point. My roommate came to console me; he did a good job of that sometimes.
I decided that, one more god damn time, I would go to the doctor. So alone, crying, walking in the rain I once again entered that little clinic that had become so familiar to me. There was a lot people there and just like so many times before I waiting, and I cried. When I finally reached the reception all I could say was “please help me”. They had become so familiar with my face that they immediately scheduled me for the following Monday with my neurologist.
For the very last time, I explained all of the problems I was having and as redundant as my doctor visits had become it was necessary. I had pissed in jugs, been poked with needles, zapped with machines and been accused of being crazy, so what was my solution? The doctor finally said the word Parkinson’s. I was happy and sad at the same time. Sad for obvious reasons and happy to finally have an inkling of hope that maybe I was not crazy after all, at least not for that reason.
The Resurrection of the great Robbie Tucker
The days that followed my first prescription of my new blue and grey candy were amazing. Honestly, when I first started medication I felt better then I had in years and I told myself that while I have it, I’m going take advantage of it and I’ve stayed true to that ever since.
With all the extra dopamine I now had, my songwriting kicked into HIGH gear and the new album Songs from apt#12 winds down at 24 tracks featuring some of my best work to date. I penned the song, PD Groove (L-dopa shakedown), an abbreviated melodic version of the story you just read.
I'm not sure if everyone is here for a reason but I know while I am here, my reason is music. Music wakes me up and music pulls me through. It lifts me up and sets me down.
And life these days? Life is great! The only difference that I see now is when I wake up I need to take some medication to help me function through the day. But isn't that how we live anyway? Food; Water; Little blue and gray pills?
Robbie is currently living in Montreal and has finished up his 3rd album, GreenRoom. His recent creation The Carnival took runner up in Canada for the international music aid awards. To contact Robbie visit his website please visit http://www.robbietucker.com