An Ashland native will be on the stage of the Paramount Arts Center next week when Alaska’s fiddling poet Ken Waldman brings his show to town.
Born in Ashland in 1957, Rex Blazer lived in the area until 1975. HIs father, also Rex Blazer, was CEO of Ashland Oil, a company founded by his great-uncle Paul G. Blazer.
“My mother, Lucile T. Blazer, was one of the founders of the Paramount Performing Arts Center, I believe,” Blazer said.
Blazer attended Hager Elementary and Putnam Junior High School before leaving for prep school in Texas. His love of music began with viola and trumpet lessons while still in Ashland.
“I really started playing while attending the University of Montana in the late ’70s and never looked back,” he said. “I pretty much stick to fiddle, preferring to focus on one thing well. Since then, I’ve juggled a career in natural resource management and policy with music.”
Blazer met Waldman in the late 1980s in Alaska.
“I was the executive director of the Northern Alaska Environmental Center, the regional grassroots Environmental Group for Northern Alaska,” he said. “Ken was teaching creative writing and tennis, if I recall. Subsequently we both lived in Juneau when I was appointed to serve in the administration of governor Tony Knowles for two terms. At one point, I hooked Ken up with a rental room in the home of my piano player in Seattle for a year or so, also. And, as I became a touring musician in my free time, I would, and continue to, bump into Ken all over the place, nationally — notably in Louisiana, where we both share a love for Cajun music and all things Cajun.”
Waldman said it’s common for him to piece together a band, depending on where his show will be.
“I’m fortunate to have friends virtually everywhere who may be local musicians, but have not only regional credentials, but are national and international caliber musicians,” Waldman said.
He and Blazer, who tours with the band Lift Ticket, haven’t performed together in such a show as is planned for Ashland, but Waldman said when Blazer asked if there was a way he could join Waldman at the Paramount, he thought it was an excellent idea.
“The show was already being called ‘From the Paramount to Point Barrow,’ and Rex not only had the Alaska connection, but had very deep Paramount and Ashland ties,” Waldman said.
Waldman has toured the United States as Alaska’s Fiddling Poet since 1995. He is the author of six poetry collections and has released seven CDs. “Are You Famous?,” his first book of prose, is part memoir, part travel notes, and part artist how-to.
Next week’s show will include Waldman’s old-time Appalachian-style fiddling, original poetry and stories about life in Alaska and music.
Waldman also will perform at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the main branch of the Boyd County Public Library, a preview of the show on Thursday. He is scheduled to appear at Shawnee State University while he’s in town, too.
Other special guests expected at the Ashland show include John Lilly of Charleston and multi-instrumentalists Jesse Wells of Morehead, Brett Ratliff of Whitesburg and Sabra Guzman of Charlottesville, Va.
Walman said he’s looking forward to the program at the Paramount.
“Like a trip to Alaska, the night’s music will be memorable, varied and full of surprises,” he said.
“Ken Waldman: and the Secret Visitors” will be at 7 p.m. Nov. 8 at the Paramount Arts Center in Ashland. Tickets are $12. For more information, call the PAC box office at (606) 324-3175.
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LEE WARD can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2661.