Interview: Cody Canada talks about The Departed, Cross Canadian Ragweed, the Wormy Dog Saloon's 20th anniversary
A version of this story appears in Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
The past, present and future of Cody Canada
The frontman of the late, great Cross Canadian Ragweed and current red dirt rockers The Departed will play Friday night during the 20th birthday celebration of the Wormy Dog Saloon, a venue that has played a pivotal role in his life and music.
Cody Canada has spent a good chunk of the past two decades in bars, and he doesn’t expect that to change anytime soon.
That’s just life as a red dirt musician.
But one bar in particular has played a pivotal role in the Yukon-bred singer/songwriter/guitarist’s life and career: The Wormy Dog Saloon.
“I hate to put my life around a bar, but you know, I met (singer-songwriter pal Jason) Boland there, I met Stoney (LaRue) there, I met my wife there. And I love it,” That’s why we invested in it and became partners because we wanted to see it succeed and we wanted people to have that same feeling even if only for one visit,” Canada said in a recent phone interview from his office in his adopted hometown of New Braunfels, Texas.
The original Wormy Dog in Stillwater, which was open from 1992-2004, was the main stomping ground for Canada’s previous band, the late, great red dirt rockers Cross Canadian Ragweed. His new band, Cody Canada & The Departed, will headline the saloon’s 20th anniversary party Friday night at the Bricktown location, which he and his wife/manager Shannon Canada helped establish in 2003.
“It was really a shock to my ears to hear that it’s 20 years old. I didn’t even think about it. You know, I showed up the Wormy Dog when it was 2 years old. That’s when The Great Divide was blowing up and I’d just discovered what was in my back yard with all this great Oklahoma music. I can say it now ‘cause nobody’s gonna get in trouble, but I’d sneak in there at 17 years old — well, I guess I was 16, damn — and talk to a certain few people that knew how old I was and it was just, ‘If you’re gonna drink beer, drink it in back, be quiet, don’t get drunk and be a dumbass,’” Canada recalled with a laugh.
“I got to do that for a long time, and “Then when I was 18, I got a gig with (Great Divide frontman Mike) McClure. I played Mondays with him for about six months and then they gave me my own night.” But man, it was really boring. I mean, it was fun to play music for people, but being alone just sucked. I was so used to playing with a lot of people in the last six months being with McClure. And then I met Jason and … I started bringing him to the Wormy Dog on Tuesdays.”
The past with Ragweed
In other words, Canada, 36, learned all about music, life and himself during those Dog days, including that he was a band kind of guy rather than a solo artist type.
For 16 years, seminal red dirt quartet Cross Canadian Ragweed was that band. Formed in 1994 in Yukon, Ragweed — Canada, bassist Jeremy Plato, guitarist Grady Cross and drummer Randy Ragsdale — planted its musical roots in the fertile red dirt soil of Stillwater, The band forged a following playing college crowds around Oklahoma State University, particularly at the Wormy Dog, built a strong fan base with virtually nonstop touring and took the music mainstream by inking a record deal with Universal South.
In May 2010, Ragweed shocked its fervent followers by announcing it was going on indefinite hiatus, giving the reason that Ragsdale, who lives in Yukon, needed to spend more time with his family, particularly his son, JC, who has autism. While Ragsdale and Cross settled down off the road, Canada and Plato formed The Departed with Texas guitarist Seth James, Tulsa keyboardist Steve Littleton and Yukon drummer David Bowen, with the band playing its first shows before the end of 2010.
“With the split up of Ragweed happening so fast, we decided that there was not gonna be a gap between acts. I mean, obviously Jeremy and I are gonna keep playing. I mean, Jeremy and I have really been connected at the hip since we were kids and then when we started playing music together, the cards were set. We knew what were gonna do. And There was that day and a half of freak out when Ragweed split, like ‘What the hell we gonna do?’ And Jeremy said, ‘Well, what do you think we’re gonna do, man? We’re gonna rock. We’re gonna get a band together,’” Canada said.
“We decided that instead of throwing together a record and putting out our first Departed original record, let’s take our time with it and make it the best we can possibly make it.”
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