The Northern Ontario Country Music Awards weekend kicks off next Friday. Nov. 4 and Sat. November 5, It’s only fitting that Dave and Carol Patterson be the subject of this week’s Salt Legends column.
He passed away recently and one fact that no one can argue with is that he, along with his wife Carol, who died in 2013, did everything possible to promote country music in Northern Ontario. A great couple supports each other and country music needs Carol as much as Dave needs it and vice versa.
Dave Patterson’s start in country music was a perfect fit for his story. He did it to help a friend. Patterson started out as a liquor salesman, a job he held for many years when he began promoting country music and then wanted to do a country dance to raise funds for George Sherrard’s 1-500 race. The dance was a sell out.
When the phone rang at the Patterson house, they considered forming a club for country music, starting with members of Al Mooney and the Country Way and George Pinder and the Patch.
The club needed a band for the event so New Country, consisting of Rick Turcotte, George Sherrard, Ron Schrier, Rick Datson and Randy Dooling, was the club band.
By 1991, the Sault Ste. Mary and District Country Music Hall of Fame was formed and Don Ramsey was inducted as the first inductee. In 1992, it included Bud Schrier and Bill Haight.
The idea got off to a slow start but Patterson stuck with it.
They started a country club bowling league, five-pin bowling out of Gore Street’s Centenary Bowling Lane and organized a curling spiel and a country club show and dance at the Tarentoras Curling Club.
The club also started a country club square dance group, which operated from the Ramada Inn on Monday nights, providing music by Fred Kent and Ray Maddo and calling the hits.
The club has had a float in RotaryFest’s summer parade for several years with the help of Avery Construction.
In 1993 they changed the event’s name to The Great Northern Opry Show and Dance and had a grand backdrop similar to Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry backdrop. It is 32 feet wide by 16 feet long and was used in the Memorial Gardens and the Central United Church in Sault Ste.
In the mid-90s they organized a Great Northern Opry Open Country Music Singing Contest that held qualifying competitions throughout northern Ontario during the summer, with the finals in August in the Sault. Dave took the Texas Street Band to locations all over Northern Ontario from the Sault to back up the contestants. He bought a trailer and painted it with The Great Northern Opry on the side.
“It was a lot of fun, but very expensive,” Dave Patterson wrote about it a few years ago.
In 1993 Savoy’s Jewelers designed a Great Northern Opry ring that is presented to each Great Northern Opry inductee. has been presented for several years.
They started a Sault Ste. Marie and District Country Music Hall of Fame exhibit in 1991, located in the lobby of the Ramada Inn.
In 1997, having trouble finding a home for The Country Music Hall of Fame, they opened a bar to display all the photos of The Great Northern Opry inductees and portraits of The Hall of Fame inductees.
They decided to sell their house to make up for the money they were losing at The Country Club and the bar.
Bill Haight once said: “You people don’t understand Dave and Carol. They invested thousands of dollars of their own money and years of their lives to keep Dave’s dream alive. Anyone else would have walked away from it after two or three years.
Two changes were made. The country club was renamed The Northern Ontario Country Music Association (NOCMA). The Sault Ste. Marie and District Country Music Hall of Fame changed to the Northern Ontario Country Music Hall of Fame.
NOCMA has since established two tourist attractions in Sault Ste. Mary represented Northern Ontario at no cost to the city.
By 2014, in their twenty-fifth year of operation, they booked eight highway buses from across Northern Ontario to bring 400 people to events, not counting cars and local supporters from out of town. They had 300 room nights booked at The Comfort Suites and Conference Center. They’ve booked the entire hotel at The Annual Northern Ontario Country Music Awards weekend location and an additional 100 room nights at The Super Eight Hotel across the street.
By then NOCMA district representatives had been chosen for each district from Cochrane to Parry Sound. After NOCMA covers the districts of Cochrane, Temiskaming, Sudbury, Algoma, Nipissing, Manitoulin, and Parry Sound. Each delegate had a district contract and the promoter from each district chose that both the delegate and the promoter signed the contract.
“Let me explain the recognition that the Northern Ontario Country Music Hall of Fame and The Great Northern Opry have created for country music performers across Northern Ontario. Growing up in the Sault I always thought that the Sault Ste. Marie was blessed with better than average country music talent,” Dave Patterson once wrote. “I’ve also learned that at least 80 to 85 percent of these talents decide not to try a professional career. I believe some of them make it. Could. But, they decide to hold a regular job and raise a family regularly and just share their talents with friends and neighbors and get a few bookings at their local bars.”
NOCMA has never received any financial support from any level of government. It had no support from Sault Ste. Marie EDC or Tourism Sault Ste. kill It has received corporate support from Avery Construction, Lock City Dairies, Handyman Clem and North Shore Tractor many times over the years.
But there is still no permanent home for The Northern Ontario Country Music Hall of Fame.
Dave once listed his influences growing up in local country music: The Skagen Brothers, Charlie Skagen, Wayne Richards, Evelyn and Ray Richards, Evelyn Richards’ brother Larry Hogan, Grace Kozak and her brothers, Jack and Larry Forbes, her sister Ella Rose Evoy. Forbes and their father Jack who was a part of The Forbes Brothers Band and Gramma Bud Schrier and his sons Ken, George, Ron and Gary.