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Lester the Lobster

"I have had a sort of mini-hit, as I like to refer to it, a little thing called "Lester the Lobster", and that fool thing took off for me like crazy. I mean, of all the goofy things! I write some pretty good songs from time to time, like ecology songs, something with a little bit of guts to it and, oh, ordinary working-class-type songs. And just out of a goofy notion, I write this stupid song called "Lester The Lobster". A red lobster of all things, from Prince Edward Island. Big deal! And I got this trombone in the background going, blurp-blurp-blurp-blurp. something rediculous like that - a novelty song that caught on like crazy.

"And nobody comes roaring up and says, "Hey Stevedore Steve, you're the guy who wrote 'Cat Tracks on the Mountains' or 'Big Money in Polution'." Oh no, it's: "Hey, there's the guy that wrote Lester The Lobster".1

When "I've Lived" came out, Stevedore Steve was banking on it putting him over the top. With well known musician and producer Freddy McKenna at the helm and a decent budget from Boot which enabled them to purchase some great studio talent, it was an album couldn't fail. It was much tighter and better sounding than 'Hard Workin' Men', with a more varied scope of subject matter.  Stevedore Steve was stepping it up a bit, hoping that this album would make an imprint in the Canadian country music scene. He still had his truck driving songs, a few of prison songs to show that he was still a blue collar type, but added into the mix were songs about the environment (Cat Tracks), the difficulties of dealing with a failed ego (Big Wheel), and human rights (Fellow Man). Also on this album was a jazzy, smokey song called Walkin' Easy; the poignant heartbreak of "Sittin' By The Window" and the whimsical "Ballad of Kate and Luke", complete with an honest Newfy sparkle in the eye. But it was the 'stupid song', Lester the Lobster, that caught everybody by surprise.

I'm Lester the Lobster from PEI
An ugly little bug with beady little eyes
I can tackle anything up to twice my size
I'm Lester the Lobster from PEI

Now some people hold to the silly little notion
That every single lobster in the big wide ocean
Is as green as can be until they're boiled
But I'm as red as Prince Edward Island soil

An Amzain' crustacean that's what I am it's plain
The first little lobster to bring the island fame
I was hatched on the shores in the PEI mud
And the colour of the Island soil has gotten in my blood

Well I'm grown up now and looking for a mate
A quaint and dainty lobster miss who would co-habitate
With a great red lobster from the shores of PEI
But my little lobster miss would have to be as red as I

Well I'd like to send a message to the people of the world
If anyone should come across a little lobster girl
Who's as red as Prince Edward Island, sittin' in the sea
Just crate her up and ship her here, and send her C.O.D2

Lester the Lobster was the first song in the Boot corral not by Stompin' Tom Connors to make it big, receiving a substantial amount of airplay. Released as a single, Lester was only played because of listener demand; the radio stations had no intention of making it the hit that it became. As The Stevedore catagorically stated, "this stupid song, Lester The Lobster from the shores of PEI" caught on for him much the same way as Bud The Spud did for Connors. Was it because of some endearing quality about little PEI that made these two songs so likeable? Whatever it was, it put Prince Edward Island on the map in far away places like Wawa, Ontario, Brandon, Manitoba and Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. The song caught on so much so that Steve was dogged at every performance with demands for the song two or three times a night.

It bothered him, at first, that Lester was so well received, over-shadowing his more thoughtful works, but Steve was smart enough to know a good thing; it's success was the icing on his career. Because of this song, people were exposed to his greater repertoire. The song was put into public school music books and eventually hit the "Reader's Digest top 100 best childrens' songs". It received airplay all over the world and became the theme song for the early morning "Pete and Geets" show on alternative rock music station CFNY-FM in Toronto.

The Lester phenominon was such that Steve landed his weekly television program over the new Toronto cable station, CITY-TV, (channel 79 in those days), the beginning of Moses Znaimer's broadcasting empire. Known primarily for its 'Baby Blue' movies at the time (films such as 'I am Curious Yellow' were shown uncut, uncensored), CITY was game for local features which were inexpensive to produce. Aired on Sunday afternoons and featuring champion Maritime fiddler June Eikhard in the house-band (Shirley's mother), the feel presented was 'around the old wood stove' of which there was one, complete with fake fire.

(Promo shot for the Stevedore Steve Show.
A picture currently resides on the wall of the CITY-TV studio in the CHUM-CITY building, Queen St. West, Toronto)

 I remember this one guest - and Gini can back me up on this one; I didn't know the guy from Adam. Here we are shooting - and in those days we did it live-to-tape - and this fella non-chalantely opens the door of the stove and spits into it! 3

The shows were shot, sometimes three in a day, in the old CITY studios at 99 Queen Street East, in Toronto, the same building which once housed the short lived Electric Circus. Props were the stove, a red lobster on Steve's mic stand, a fake church gothic window for the Spiritual (or 'God Song' as Steve would call it) - and little else. There was always a special guest star - usually a Canadian country or folk musician, much like Steve was himself, who would get up and sing one song after a short interview by the fake wood stove. Nearly everything done in one take, live. But the program had its special moments and gave The Stevedore a window into living rooms throughout the greater Toronto area.

It was by watching these weekly television programs that I was convinced that Stevedore Steve, in his own way, was every bit as talented as Stompin' Tom Connors, long my personal God of CanCon. It was through these programs that I learned about so many other Canadian artists or got to see them perform for the first time. It aired for two seasons: 1974 - 75. Then things began to sour for Stevedore Steve.

1. From Singin' About Us
2. Published by Morning Music
3. Conversation with Steve Foote, by Steve Fruitman

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© 1999 & 2010 by Steve Fruitman for Back To The Sugar Camp ®