Bud Davidge has received a number of well-deserved awards for his songs and music since he and Sim Savory formed Newfoundland and Labrador’s best and most famous traditional band, Simani, back in 1980.
Over the years Davidge has received awards from the East Coast Music Awards and from the Newfoundland and Labrador Music Association.
While these awards, and other accolades, were important, Davidge received a very special honour on May 11 as he received a Honorary Degree (Doctor of Laws) from Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador at a convocation ceremony held in Corner Brook.
A section of the letter he received notifying him about the award read: ‘As a musician and producer of music you have done a great deal to foster music in Newfoundland. Most importantly, your ‘Mummer’s Song’ has had a major role in the revival in mummering and an interest in folk traditions.’
Shane O’Dea, the public orator at MUN who is in charge of presenting an Honorary Degree, said that MUN’s senate chose Davidge for the honour because his music has had such an impact on Newfoundland music and culture.
He said, “While the ‘Mummer’s Song’ is central to the award, Davidge has written a number of other great songs such as ‘Outport People’, ‘The Loss of the Marion’ and many others which will help keep Newfoundland history alive through stories and song.
Davidge said that it gives him a great deal of satisfaction in realizing that such an important institution like MUN is saying that his work deserves such significance.
“It is a great feeling of accomplishment to know that the MUN Senate has given such consideration to my work over the past number of years. The other awards that I received were based on approval from our peers in the music industry but this is extra special as it is from a respected group of people who have looked at the songs and music in an objective manner.”
Davidge talked about the history of the song that was central to his receiving the honour from MUN – the “Mummer’s Song” which every Newfoundlander knows pretty well by heart.
“I can remember distinctly the process we were going through back then. Sim and myself had two records under our belts by 1893 and were feeling confident enough to do a Christam album.
As I always tried to have our own songs on our records I said I would give some thought to writing some original Christmas songs instead of doing the old standards. I asked myself what could I write about related to the special time of year, and my thoughts went drifting back to my youth in Bay du Nord.
“I asked myself ‘what was the most significant thing about Christmas growing up in Bay du Nord? I immediately thought about mummering. I gave it some thought and the rest was simple as the words to the song came pretty easily. As a matter of fact, it probably was the easiest song I wrote in terms of it just rolling out of my head.
“At the time I didn’t think it would be the most popular song on the record as I had another song called ‘Christamnd Fancy’ that I thought was better.
“As there was no other song about mummering out there, we decided, in the fall of 1983, to release the Mummer’s Song on a single with another song called, ‘Santa Just Might Not.’
Anyway, we printed 1000 copies and sent one off to a local radio station in the fall of 83, as the record itself was not released until 1984. The radio station played it first in late November or early December of that year and since that time the record, as they say, has taken on a life of its own.”
The ‘Mummer’s Song’ just took off from that time and has become one of those iconic songs that nearly everyone in Newfoundland can relate to. The song also brought a lot of attention and interest to Simani and their music.
In 1985 the CBC program ‘Land and Sea’ came calling to do a show originally entitled ‘A Fortune Bay Christmas’ but has since become know as the ‘The Mummer’s Show’. Of all the ‘Land and Sea’ programs done over the years, the ‘Mummer’s Show’ is by far the most popular. The CBC has carried the show every Christmas for about 25 years and even to this day the phones at the St. John’s CBC station start ringing in early December, as people want to know if the famous program will be shown this time around.
In 1993 Simani received an invitation from a publisher in Toronto to do a children’s book version of the song that is still a popular seller in December.
Davidge said, “Once the song was out there it sort of got separated from us and went off on its own tangent. All of these things started to follow because we never pursued any of that. These people came to us and said we’d like to do this because it sounds good.
“We also never said our music has revived an interest in folk traditions and culture in the province. Many people have said that to me over the years, and if it’s true I’m grateful for that and I’m sure Sim would be too.”
Bid Davidge and Sim Savory recorded 12 records as Simani although both artists did a number of solo recordings after the band stopped touring in 1997. Their music has evolved through a number of genres from vinyl records, to cassettes, to cds and today is making the rounds in cyberspace through YouTube and other web sites.