By Carol Gudmundson
This story begins in 1979 when Roy Gudmundson, Clifford Lindstrom and Laugi Johannesson began singing gospel music together. The making of the 1980 Reunion Album, produced by Wes Wilson, was already in the planning stages. The guys wanted to put the hymn “How Great Thou Art” on the album but they needed someone for the fourth harmony. In stepped Dick Johnson and they realized how good they sounded together. The Fine Country Folk Band was born when they played their first dance for ‘AA ‘ in the Minerva Hall in Gimli in 1981. Dick brought in his friend Gene Bodykevich (Winnipeg) on drums so they were all set with a drummer, accordion, lead guitar, acoustic guitar, bass guitar and tight four-part harmony. Mike Klym, a drummer from St. Anne, joined them in June of 1983, when Gene went on medical leave for-six months. Mike became a very close friend and filled in for Gene over the years whenever required.
On May 24, 1982 the boys were selected from among 126 entries, to compete against nine other acts in CKRC’s Search for Talent competition at Rainbow Stage, where they placed second. They finally got to showcase their talent outside of their hometown. The boys wore black pants with white shirts that their wives had decorated with black sequins. And so began their fancy wardrobes, wearing matching shirts and pants on every occasion. Then came the calls for them to play in new places - June in Woodlands with the Family Brown and in July at the Hazelridge Fair. It was the beginning of a path that took them all over Manitoba and beyond.
They played for every type of occasion - dances, weddings, anniversaries, socials, reunions, fundraising shows, festivals, rodeos, Icelandic celebrations and conventions. Like Hank Snow’s song “I’ve Been Everywhere” the boys played in Austin, Altona, Morden, Holland, Cripple Creek, Gardenton, Minot N.D., Killarney, Bossevain, Camper, Lake St. Martin, Dominion City, Ninette, Minaki Lodge ON, Lynn Lake, Beausejour, Manigatogan, Powerview, Great Falls, Winnipeg - 3 years at Folklarama, at the Concert Hall, the Pantages, many fancy hotels, and of course in nearly every town in the Interlake. They played on shows with Buddy Knox, Tanya Tucker and Nestor Pistor.
They were award winners and participants at Manitoba Association Country Awards with George Strait, Johnny Lee and Shelly West. A letter in 1984 from MACA board director Paul Graham said “You made the ending of the show very classy. (They sang “Moments to Remember”) and it was perfect the way you all worked with George Strait. Needless to say, George was impressed.” They were the recipients of the most promising talent award in 1984 and in 1986 they won the most popular band award.
Of course transporting all the equipment and themselves became a challenge so in June of 1983 they got a delivery truck that could hold all the equipment. The boys were playing nearly every weekend - in the mid-80’s, more than 30 weekends a year - and travelling great distances so in Aug 1985 they bought a motor coach, got their name painted on both sides, cleared out half the seats, put up some curtains, and installed some couches and hangers for all their wardrobe bags. They now could change their clothes in the privacy of the bus. Now they were travelling in style, and advertising as they drove around the province.
“Moments to Remember” and “Give My Love to Rose” were recorded on a 45 rpm at Century 21 in Winnipeg. On January 21, 1983, CKRC started playing it on the radio and 30 other radio stations across the country soon followed suit. Again their phone was ringing off the hook. They decided to build their own studio, first an 8-track recording board in August of 1982, then six months later they upgraded to 16-tracks and were recording and producing their own albums and cassettes. They also recorded other musicians as well.
Fine Country Folk released several cassette tapes, including Easy Listening, Back Thru the Years, Fine Country Cookin’, and a Gospel collection. Moments To Remember would become their first LP, recorded at FCF Studio in 1983, which was followed later that same year by the Christmas album. Both were also released on cassette tape, and other songs were released on 45’s.
Maureen Johnson and Carol Gudmundson travelled with the band everywhere they went. They looked after the business end of things and also the soundboard for the music. The 13 years they spent together were full of fun times and “some not so fun times”, but they met so many wonderful people along the way who simply could not stay in their chairs when Fine Country Folk played.
All of the guys had day jobs, as did the ladies, but they were young and doing absolutely what they enjoyed. “ Memories were made of this” as the song goes.
Their last show was on June 24, 1993. Shortly thereafter, Laugi took ill and the entire community mourned when he passed away in March of the following year at age 57. Sadly, Cliff was also taken from our world, passing away in February of 2009 at the age of 65. To this day, Roy and Dick are still keeping up the FCF tradition, entertaining as a duo at small gatherings in and around Riverton.
May the legend live on!