John Knowles, a great character and old friend – Sail on.

Posted December 19th, 2013 by Anna

Sadly, our old friend John Knowles left us this past Sunday. John and his first wife Sandra were friends of Edward Ruznak’s, a luthier and long-time employee of Edgar and Charlotte Jones’ Record Centre on MacKay St. Edward introduced John and Sandra to Peter Weldon, the rest of us followed, and their fate was sealed. The Knowles house at 440 Grosvenor Ave. in Westmount was to be the scene of some pretty wild evenings through the 60s and early 70s, but also of more sedate musical get-togethers, to learn the parts to Bach’s Mass in B minor around the old upright. One could say it was where the rowdy met the sacred, though John never actually partook in the ‘effete’ stuff. He was more into Peg Leg Howell and Jimmy Rodgers.

A talented musician and singer with an arresting stage presence, Johnny was also a fine raconteur and just 3 weeks ago he entertained a table of dinner guests with crazy stories about his days working as a barker on the travelling carnival circuit when he was a teen…’they dart, they drive, they dip and they dive, they’re Canada’s only racing monkeys.’ As The Band sang ‘Life is a carnival.’

In the early 80s John married Audrey Bean (co-writer with Anna of Cool River and Louis the Cat) who also happens to be Sylvan’s godmother. John and Audrey, both keen sailors, spent Summers in Riverport N.S. where they own land and where John’s son Peter, a house-builder, and his family live. If you’re ever in Rose Bay, you can see examples of Peter’s work in the graceful maritime vernacular he created.

In Aug 2008, Lily and I visited John and Audrey in Riverport. Here’s a bit of video Lily shot while we were out on the boat in the mouth of La Have River where it meets the Atlantic. Sail on John.

John and Audrey Knowles, Riverport, N.S. Aug 2008 from a. lanken on Vimeo.

John’s obituary from the Montreal Gazette. Funeral is at 2 p.m. this Sat. the 21st Dec. Unitarian Church, deMaisonneuve W. just West of Claremont at Bulmer.


3 Responses:

  1. Campbell says:

    December 19th, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    John was the real deal- Decency is eternal

  2. zz dans le meteo says:

    December 19th, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    I love listening to John sing and play the guitar. Thoroughly unique, clear, beautiful and somehow profoundly authentic, knowing, beautiful. It never even sounded like he learned this or that here or there. The music was his and he shared it. Thanks to John … and also a very nice man. Grateful for all of our encounters.

  3. David Young says:

    December 20th, 2013 at 8:12 am

    Thanks for posting this.

Leave a Reply

© 2013 Kate & Anna McGarrigle, All rights reserved.