Coast Capital Savings CMO goes on a roll
“We basically play at places where people have no choice but to hear us,” Lawrie Ferguson declares cheerfully about her band, Couldn’t Sleep (more about the name later). “So, little parties and stuff.” Their biggest audience so far was at a birthday celebration with about 60 guests. Last summer the group put on a backyard concert from the lower deck of Ferguson’s New Westminster home while friends and neighbours watched from the lawn or their own yards. Ferguson is planning a repeat performance this year. “No one has complained so far,” she says. “We don’t go that late because we’re really old ourselves.”
Ferguson, 54, isn’t shy about appearing before an audience. The Tina Fey fan has taken a standup comedy course, performed locally a couple of times and likes to incorporate humour into work events. Growing up in Salmon Arm, she was a drummer in Vernon’s MacIntosh Girls’ Pipe Band. But she only picked up the sticks again when her father, an accomplished snare drummer who played with many bands and taught drumming as well, developed advanced dementia.
“Alzheimer’s patients really respond to music even though a lot of their other faculties aren’t quite there,” she explains. “I would go up, and we would have little drum pads, and he and I would play.”
When her dad died about a year and a half ago, her mother had a piper at the service. He brought along a snare drum, and although Ferguson hadn’t drummed since elementary school, she strapped it on and played as people arrived. Afterward she realized she had always wanted a drum kit, so she bought one at Long & McQuade.
Her friend Barb Jefferys was with her and suggested starting a band. They picked up a glockenspiel for another friend, Cheryl McTavish, for her birthday and convinced her to join them. “So we are adding glockenspiel into songs that really don’t have glockenspiel,” Ferguson says with a laugh. “Barb listens to songs and then kind of adapts and finds where we can put a glockenspiel solo.”
They also roped in Suzie Ketchell—the four women met through an over-30 soccer league—to do harmonica, percussion and backup vocals; Ferguson’s brother, Ross Ferguson, on bass guitar; and her son, Malachy Ferguson, who plays bass, saxophone and keyboard and sometimes sings. Jefferys plays guitar and handles lead vocals while McTavish sings backup in addition to the glockenspiel. Pretty much anyone is welcome. McTavish’s son occasionally plays guitar, and Ketchell’s daughter, the ukulele. “My son’s actually a musician, and Barb is a musician,” Ferguson observes. “The rest of us are just fooling around, but it’s fun.”
Their genre is mostly rock and blues—the first song they ever tried was Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.” When there’s a gig like the birthday party coming up, band members practise every week, but it varies according to their schedules. They usually gather in Ferguson’s back bedroom, where “we’re all squished in,” she says. “We’ve had people in there to watch—there’s all these people sitting on the bed. It’s quite hilarious.”
The band’s name was inadvertently contributed by a friend with whom Ferguson had been discussing what to call it. That night, he emailed her a list of suggestions with the subject line “Couldn’t Sleep.” When Ferguson forwarded them to the other band members, Jefferys replied that she liked Couldn’t Sleep. “And I’m like, well, that wasn’t one of the names, it was the subject line of the email,” Ferguson recalls. “So that’s the funny story, and we decided to keep it.”