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Songs and Stories of Davy the Punk

By Barbara Popel on June 20, 2014

Review by Barb Popel
60 min / Comedy, Drama, Musical, Solo / G

I was thoroughly charmed by Bob Bossin’s affectionate memory piece about his father, Davy Bossin.

Bob Bossin, founder of the Canadian folk group Stringband ‘way back when, has garnered praise from luminaries such as Peter Gzowski, Stuart McLean and Pete Seeger.  But some years after 1963, the year his father died, he discovered that the quiet man he’d called “Dad” had a certain kind of fame too.  His father had another name amoungst his gambling cronies – Davy the Punk.  Because that’s what Davy Bossin had been as a young guy – he’d been a punk.  He’d associated with some very unsavoury characters, both in the underbelly of Toronto the Good from the 20s to the 40s, and the New York Mafia.  He’s always stayed just this side of the law, in a grey area where he was “known to the police” but never convicted of any crimes.

As he said, “My father didn’t write anything down, but the police wrote everything down”.

The stories Bob Bossin dug up – from 90-year old cousins and police dockets and newspaper morgues and provincial archives – are fascinating. Bossin is a good raconteur, particularly since he’s adept at doing Yiddish accents.  And that, frankly, was part of the charm of the performance for me. I grew up in Winnipeg where Yiddish is (or was) a common language. Here in Ottawa, I can’t remember the last time I heard a Yiddish expression used, save by an ex-Winnipegger. So although I’m not Jewish, there was more than a touch of nostalgia for me in hearing Bossin’s stories. The story about his grandmother’s “fork garden” was particularly sweet.

Bossin washes down the stories with some pleasant little songs such as “All Horse Players Die Broke”.

I’ll end with a quote I loved:  “My father taught me that the track is the one place the window cleans you.”

If you enjoy storytelling, especially about a forgotten part of Canadian history, you’ll enjoy meeting Davy the Punk.

Songs and Stories of Dave the Punk by Bob Bossin is playing at Venue 5 – ODD Box (2 Daly Ave., Elevator A) on Friday June 20 at 22:30, Sunday June 22 at 16:30, Tuesday June 24 at 20:30, Friday June 27 at 19:00, and Sunday June 29 at 16:30.  Tickets are $10 each.

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