Wawota and area has been thoroughly entertained over the years by Keith Olson and his family orchestra.
For the past eight, Olson and good friend Garry Dickson have become a two-man band and regularly perform in various communities throughout southeast Saskatchewan. A few weeks ago, they played at the Carlyle Happy Gang at morning coffee and muffins hosted by the local Lions Club.
Back in the 1950s, Olson played in his family band known as Cliff Olson and the Harmony Six. It consisted of his mother, father, and three siblings.
“Mom played the keyboard and dad played the drums. Our first dance took place at the Carlyle Memorial Hall in 1953,” Olson said. “In their early days, they often had to travel by sleigh from the farm to the village of Walpole and then borrow a car.”
Olson and his good friend Dickson teamed up eight years ago and have known each other for years. Olson, who has performed for 68 years, is the only singer of the pair and plays various wind instruments including the trumpet, trombone, clarinet and the saxophone, which is his favourite. Dickson has played the accordion since he was eight. Back in high school, he was a member of a band called the Tornadoes.
Olson and Dickson both live in Wawota, one and a half blocks from one another.
Olson is now 82 years of age, Dickson is 80. They call themselves Musical Memories and entertain audiences at nursing homes, group homes, coffee shops and town halls. They have played for birthdays, anniversaries and even the occasional wedding or funeral. Said Olson, “Due to the age of our audience and ourselves, we usually play for a maximum of 60 minutes. Back in the day we could go on for hours, but we just can’t do that anymore. And no more evenings. We don’t like driving in the dark.”
Olson and Dickson know the music and lyrics to countless songs. They have their audiences clapping, singing and toe tapping to the music from the 1940s, ‘50 and ‘60s. The pair are accomplished entertainers and Olson provides his unique quips and humour to the act.
Added Dickson, “With the pandemic getting under control, we have now played at 130 functions in 2022. In 2019, we played at 224.” Dickson remains active and healthy. He retired as postmaster in Wawota.
Olson has been retired for many years and enjoys good health. Keith and Myrna have five children and 12 grandchildren.
So when are they going to retire? Olson and Dickson looked at one another, grinned, and said in unison, “We will go until we can’t go anymore.”