One of the founding fathers of the Northwest Territories’ music scene and a Western Arctic guitar legend has been honoured for his lifelong contributions to Aboriginal arts and culture.
Louie Goose, well known in the Delta for his packed shows at the legendary Mad Trapper in Inuvik, will be given the Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards in Winnipeg on Nov. 2.
The award is bestowed upon iconic music makers dedicated to their communities, families and musical legacy, who pave the way for up-and-coming musicians to follow in their footsteps. Recent winners include celebrated artists Buffy Sainte-Marie, John Kim Bell and Errol Ranville.
Goose’s daughter Leanne, herself a prominent musician in the NWT and across North America, said she couldn’t be more proud of her father.
“My dad raised me on his own and I grew up as the baby of the band, so for me to be around while he’s being honoured in this way is incredible,” she said. “The first time I remember singing was alongside my dad, and it was his encouraging words that helped me. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the drive and dedication that he’s shown to music. It means a lot.”
Louie was born on the west coast of Victoria Island near what is now Ulukhaktok and moved to Aklavik in the mid-1950s. While his family was busy helping establish the Northwest Territories, Goose was playing guitar by the age of 10 and was soon taken under the wing of local fiddlers and singers as an accompanist.
At the age of 16, he formed his first band with friends while at Grollier Hall residential school, where he helped introduce live music to much of the region. In the decades following, Louie established a presence on CBC Inuvik’s radio airwaves that helped make him one of the best known musicians in the territory. After 30 years, he still hosts the weekend jam at the Mad Trapper.
“Louie is one of the best-known Northern musicians and is an excellent choice for this award,” said NWT Premier Bob McLeod. “When Louie comes to town, there’s no doubt there will be music and dancing. He’s played a big part in keeping his Aboriginal culture vibrant and has had me jigging Delta style more than a few times.”
Goose said her father has played with hundreds of musicians at thousands of community events, talent shows and festivals throughout the years, coaching the first-timers and bringing some of the best into the spotlight. Doug Villeneuve of the Delta Flood bought his first guitar from Goose. Mel Sabrin, who now plays with Randy Sibbeston, bought a pedal off Louie back in the day. And still, Leanne says, house parties in the Delta often turn into Louie Goose cover sessions.
“Looking at the Delta musicians, there are so many people who play guitar and play his entire set list,” she said. “Those are the songs they grew up with. I’ve been to house gatherings where I say, ‘Well, what do you want to play,’ and they say, ‘I know all your dad’s songs.’ It’s not the original artists’ songs – that’s what they remember; that’s what they relate to.”
Goose said she sees the award as honouring not just her father, but the other original members of the band who brought music to life in the Delta, including Charlie Furlong and the families of Willie Gordon and Lawrence Thrasher, both deceased.
“It was those people who created a music scene here and they kept it alive. If it wasn’t for many of them, live music just wouldn’t have happened here in the Delta,” she said. “I don’t think they thought of that when they first started the band back in the day, you know. It was just a saving grace, I believe, in really hard times.”
Catch the awards broadcast live on Aboriginal Peoples Television Network on Nov. 2.