Halifax has lost country music veteran Gordie Roach at 73 years old. Roach performed until the end of his life, collaborating with local musicians such as Al Tuck and Tyler Messick long after losing his ability to play guitar in the early 2000s. Roach was present in the music community, recognizable at shows by his old-time country garb—reminiscent of traditional country musicians.
Musician Lyle Peterson recalls first seeing Roach play with Al Tuck at the Dandelion Café about 17 years ago. “This mysterious cowboy guy in the corner came up onstage, took his guitar and started bashing away on it and singing,” says Peterson. “I just thought, ‘this guy’s incredible.’”
While talking to him after the show, Roach invited Peterson—only 19 years old at the time— to play with him at his next concert. “It was not always easy playing with him because there were no rehearsals so you’d just have to follow along,” says Peterson. “He would say ‘This one starts ‘E’’; that would be all you’d get so you’d have to figure it out from there.”
Peterson says Roach would challenge a lot of new musicians by making them “walk the ropes.”
Roach may have been inspired by polished traditional country musicians but his own sound was much scrappier. “Gordie’s shows were always a little ramshackle in a kind of perfect way,” says Peterson. “That’s exactly how they had to be because you wouldn’t want to see Gordie doing a really slick professional set.”
Peterson suspects most of Roach’s recorded music would be difficult to find, apart from a few recent collaborations with local musicians. Close collaborator Al Tuck shared the news of Roach’s death on his Facebook page February 6, saying he “died overnight” and “Country Music might not know it, but it just lost one of its greats.”