By Vivian Collings
If you knew him, there’s one thing we can all agree on: we were lucky to exist at the same time as Patrick Monaghan.
The Canoe FM Buckslide Blues Cruise host’s grin and signature thumbs up, with a firecracker personality to go with them, are being mourned by the local community as well as the blues lovers across the country.
“He just connected with everybody he came in touch with. He’s one of those guys that as soon as you get talking to him, you consider him a friend, and he would do anything for anybody,” said friend of Monaghan’s and fellow member of the Buckslide Blues Society, Rusty Rustenberg.
Monaghan passed away on Tuesday, July 25 after a long battle with cancer. Exactly a week before, he was in the studio at Canoe FM, broadcasting his profound love of the blues for the last time, his 371st show.
“When he was diagnosed with cancer four years ago, he told us time and time again this radio station kept him going. It gave him a purpose and drive. Some days you could tell he was so tired, and he still did it all. We’ve lost such an amazing person,” said Canoe FM station manager Roxanne Casey.
Production technician Ron Murphy worked closely with Monaghan during his numerous interviews with musicians and blues festival organizers and said it was remarkable to watch the host exude so much energy and passion despite being ill.
“He was a goer. He did it old school. He had so much music at home, so what he would do is to put his show together he would put all of his music on one or two CDs. He worked off a CD player – I tried to get him into using a USB instead of a CD player I don’t know how many times,” Murphy laughed.
But that was Monaghan, determined and dedicated.
He devoted full days to put together his two-hour Canoe FM program each week, writing a script for the entire show, with notes on each specific song.
“He was a fabulous host – host isn’t even the right word – just an advocate for blues all across Canada. You mention Patrick Monaghan to some of these blues musicians and all of them knew exactly who you were talking about,” Casey said.
Monaghan was a multi-award winner, with three Best Blues Show of the Year awards from the National Campus and Community Radio Association and a Toronto Maple Blues Society award for Best Blues Booster of the Year in 2022 on his shelf.
Monaghan would frequently travel to Memphis, Tennessee, where his name is now permanently on the sidewalk of Beale Street, the “blues street of the world,” for his Maple Blues award.
“It’s hard to even explain how well-known he was,” Murphy said.
Rustenberg remarked on Monaghan’s humble nature.
“Three weeks before he passed, he got a call from an international podcast. They wanted him to join their program so his Buckslide Blues show would be played worldwide. He was shocked to be invited to part of that team. It’s like being invited to the NHL for DJs. Unfortunately his health had declined, but the honour of being asked really touched him.”
Murphy hosted a tribute Buckslide Blues Cruise show in Monaghan’s honour on Tuesday, Aug. 1, one week after he passed. Monaghan had prepared all the songs ahead of time.
“Ron was having some technical difficulties, and he said over the years he would get calls from Pat having problems in the studio. Pat always said, ‘There’s gremlins in there, Ron.’ So when Ron did the show, sure enough he had problems, so I sent him a message and said, ‘Pat’s giving you a grin and a thumbs up for the great show, and he’s also saying, ‘I told you those gremlins were real,’” Rustenberg laughed.
He said even if Monaghan was very unwell and tired, when the light came on in the Canoe FM booth, it’s like a switch flipped inside him.
“It was sure something to witness. Canoe FM was like home and family to him,” Rustenberg said.
Buckslide Blues Society
After hosting their very first concert in 2018, “Pat said ‘Let’s form a blues society’ because there was a void here in the Highlands, so we put our heads together and came up with Buckslide Blues Society, and it was Patrick’s dream to get that going,” Rustenberg said.
After some COVID-19 delays, the Buckslide Blues Society is up and running with two projects under its belt, both near and dear to Monaghan.
“Patrick wanted to promote blues music for youth. Grand River Blues Society has a youth camp where professional blues musicians teach skills at a four-day camp, and once the kids are done the four days, they perform at Kitchener Blues Fest.”
The Buckslide Blues Society ended up hosting a talent contest at Haliburton Highlands Secondary School in 2022.
“We selected three or four students to go. All contestants got received the Patrick Monaghan Award. Any profits we make from things we do this year we hope to be able to use to send more kids next year,” Rustenberg said.
The second project important to Monaghan was the Music Revival Project.
The society was able to purchase 11 noise-cancelling headphone sets for use in senior residences.
“We had learned that those with dementia responded well to music therapy. We’ve had one trial run so far with really positive results,” Rustenberg said.
The society plans on continuing both projects.
Haliburton Highlands Blues Festival
The first-ever Haliburton Highlands Blues Festival was another dream of Monaghan’s that had come to fruition.
The festival held at the Logging Museum in Haliburton Forest was to be MCed by Monaghan, and is now a tribute event to the “blues guru.”
It begins on Friday, Aug. 25 with the Forest Festival presenting Jenie Thai and Sandra Bouza opening.
From noon to 10 p.m. on Saturday, The Smoke Wagon Blues Band, Jim Dan Dee, Rosie’s Smokehouse Deluxe, The Swingin’ Blackjacks, The Erin McCallum Band, Chuckee Zehr & Cheryl Lescom, Erin McCallum & Teddy Leonard, and Sean Cotton & Tamica Herod will perform.
Tickets for Friday are available at www.haliburtonforest.com and tickets for Saturday can be purchased at www.haliburtonfolk.com.
“He enjoyed life and he enjoyed music,” Rustenberg said. “He accomplished all of this with a Canoe FM hat or shirt on, and that big grin on his face. I think that’s what I’ll miss the most.”