Cliff Erickson: “Tastings” headliner muses on his enduring bond with Sarnia

Perennial crowd pleaser Cliff Erickson is playing the 25th annual Tastings for Big Brothers/Big Sisters Photo courtesy, Deanna Carpenter

Cathy Dobson

It was the Canadian invasion of Port Huron’s nightclub scene in the 1970s that kick-started Cliff Erickson’s prolific career north of the border.

“That’s when I met a lot of people from Ontario who were coming over, mostly because the drinking age was only 18 in Michigan,” says Erickson, who’s made a living playing acoustic guitar for more than 40 years.

“They invited me over and I did the university circuit in Ontario. Years later, those same people invited me to their corporate events.

“It’s been a wonderful relationship.  There’s no town that’s supported me more than Sarnia.”

Erickson, now 61, grew up in Port Huron and took off to Fort Lauderdale when he was 19 to play guitar.

“I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life,” he said. “I thought I’d do this until I found out what I would really do.”

But he never put his guitar away, finding that audiences liked his choice of covers, a few original songs over the years, and the easy way he has of entertaining.

“There’s always been enough work to make a living. I’ve never done anything else,” said Erickson.

“I should feel guilty saying that because I love what I do, and I’m loving it more than ever now. I love the music as much as I love food and the sun rising.”

He’s never joined up with a band, preferring to play solo.  And he’s seldom had anyone represent him, although there’s been the odd promoter over the years.

From the bar scene, to special events, corporate gigs, cruise ships and gated communities in the southern U.S., Erickson said he continues to play three to four shows a week. About one third are in Canada.

Through it all, he’s been married 37 years, has two grown children and two grandkids.

Most of his covers reflect the music he loves from The Beatles to Gordon Lightfoot and The Doors to Elvis.

“I often get on stage without even knowing what my first song is going to be,” he said. “It depends on the crowd and the geography.  I play everything from The Everly Brothers and Roy Orbison, to the classic rock of the ‘80s, and current music like Zac Brown.”

On Friday, Erickson provides the entertainment at Tastings 2015, a major event for Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Sarnia Lambton.

Twelve to 15 wineries and breweries will be handing out tastings while Erickson plays, says organizer Bill Adams.

“It’s like a large cocktail party,” he said.

The ticket price includes the tastings, gourmet food, a live auction, silent auction, raffles and Erickson’s two-hour set.

 IF YOU GO:

WHAT: 25th annual Tastings for Big Brothers/Big Sisters

WHEN: Friday, April 24 at 7 p.m.; 6 p.m. if you want Whiskey Tastings ($25 extra);

WHERE: Dante Club, London Road

TICKET: $65, available by calling 519-336-0460, or at the door.