Petunia & Jimmy Roy at Gallery Vertigo TONIGHT

By Kristin Froneman – Vernon Morning Star


Petunia and his Vipers’ bandmate, lapsteel guitarist Jimmy Roy, give an intimate concert in Vernon’s Gallery Vertigo, Friday, April 6.

Photo submitted

He may be known for his guitar and his rather peculiar name rather than for a hockey stick, but Petunia may want to pick up a Vipers’ jersey when he returns to Vernon this week.


It’d be the perfect souvenir, not because the yodelling cowboy crooner with the flower name is a hockey fan, but because his band is also called the Vipers. He also has a Vernon friend to thank for saving him from being caught in an avalanche a while back.


“I broke down there about 20 years ago and made a friend in Vernon while hitchhiking,” said Petunia with his faded Québec accent. “Years later, I was driving up to High River and my trip was delayed. I was not going to make it to the Rockies in time, so I called my friend from Vernon. He met me in the Armstrong Hotel. I later found out the highway was closed due to an avalanche. I’m glad I didn’t get stuck there.”


Petunia’s connection with the North Okanagan also goes back to 2008, when he composed all of the songs and was the music director for the Caravan Farm Theatre’s winter production, The Secret Sorrow of Hatchet Jack MacPhee.


Petunia returns to these parts for an intimate concert at Gallery Vertigo Friday. He’ll be joined by his Vipers’ bandmate Jimmy Roy on lapsteel and electric guitar.


Roy is a former member of The Ricochets, the band fronted by late Vancouver rockabilly/western swing legend Ray Condo.


“After Ray died (in 2004), a lot of his band members joined my band,” explained Petunia.


Reminiscent of folk troubadours who rode the rails back in the ‘20 and ‘30s (think Woodie Guthrie and Jimmie Rodgers), Petunia has spent the past two decades as a wandering minstrel.


Originally from Laval, Que., he and his guitar (and the occasional kazoo, trumpet and whatever else he could fit in his backpack) started appearing in subway stations in Montreal and Toronto. He later traversed the cobblestone streets of Paris and Amsterdam, among other European destinations, and eventually made his way to New York City, where he became a fixture busking underground. The New York Post even interviewed him for a piece they published on subway musicians.


“I discovered I loved street life, it was a good fit for me,” said Petunia, who also travelled back and forth from coast to coast across this great nation of ours. “I spent a lot of years homeless, touring across the country in my camper van.”


Although Petunia denies he is now “settled,” he moved to Vancouver approximately five years ago due to a “great romance” and is now a father. However, there’s no doubt that music is still his life blood.


About to take off across the country, Petunia and the Vipers have also been travelling to the U.S. to open for Exene Cervenka of the seminal art house band X and Phil Alvin of The Blasters, and they plan to join them again for shows this summer.


“Aside from being famous and having a cult following, they are also sweethearts and they seem to love our band,” said Petunia.


Petunia also travelled south of the border to record his seventh album, a self-titled album with the Vipers, at L.A.’s famed Sound Factory by three-time Grammy winning engineer Ryan Freeland and mastered by Bernie Grundlund.


Released in November as a download and CD, Petunia is particularly proud of the vinyl version of the album.


“It depends on the kind of music, but I think our band sounds better on vinyl, and there’s also the longevity that the record has with the art work and liner notes. It really is a collector’s item. The only problem is, it’s heavy to travel with records,” he said.

Petunia will test that out when he arrives in Vernon this Friday, April 6 with Roy.
ALSO: To kick it off Friday APRIL 6th at Gallery Vertigo- OMA will be playing the noon hour concert from 12 PM- 1 PM. The brother and sister duo focus on strong harmonies and lyrical content. All ages show by donation. Come out to welcome the reunited duo to Vernon!


Tickets for the intimate concert at Gallery Vertigo, 3001-31st St. (upstairs) starts at 7 p.m. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $10, available in advance at the Bean Scene coffee house, downtown Vernon.

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