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Arts & Culture ᐊᔨᐦᑐᐧᐃᓐ

Low Budget Rock Star mourns the loss of drummer Richie Cudmore

BY Ben Powless Feb 10, 2023

It starts with a simple, pensive guitar riff, before the baseline kicks in like thunder. Then the vocals jump in: “I need you more than ever / baby don’t you ever go, don’t go.” 

But while it begins like a love song, “More Than Ever” by Low Budget Rock Star reveals itself as a love letter to drummer Richie Cudmore, who was diagnosed with cancer and passed away last July at the age of 58.

The band – comprised of Cudmore, singer-guitarist Kennie Henderson and bassist Harley Whitehead – released their first self-titled single in 2019. However, Henderson and Whitehead had been playing together for about 10 years. 

“Harley and I grew up on a small reserve in northern Manitoba. There’s not many musicians to interact with,” Henderson recalled of his early days. “And so, when I was 13, I started my first rock band. One day, Harley showed up on my doorstep and wanted to show me one of his songs.”

A bond – and a band – was formed immediately. 

“I said, ‘You’re pretty talented, I think you should come play for me.’ Two weeks later I gave him a 40-song playlist to learn, and we went to play our first New Year’s Eve show, two hours from the community.”

The two formed Trio Boulevard, with drummer Terry Constant, and played together for years. However, when Constant had to step away in 2017 just as the band was set to go on tour, Henderson remembered that Cudmore had approached him two weeks earlier to say he was available if the band ever needed a drummer. 

Henderson phoned Cudmore and told him that he had only six hours to decide whether he wanted to join, as the band had a show that night before heading out to Saskatchewan and then British Columbia. Cudmore accepted, and history was born. 

“On that tour, Richie kept singing this song to me: ‘I’m a low budget rock star, playing in these crazy bars.’ It captured my spirit. I said, ‘That’s really good, you should keep that’,” Henderson said. “I told him we needed a song, and we ended up writing our first one together. Shortly after, we changed the name of our band.”

That tour in 2017 happened while Cudmore was in remission from his first bout with cancer.  Then in January 2022, the band learned that he was diagnosed with cancer again. It was after this news that the band wrote “More Than Ever,” focusing on what would happen if they lost Cudmore. Sadly, he passed just before the song was released.

“With courage and faith in the higher power, the band slowly dig their way out of a dark place by realizing that life is a gift – and their journey from grief to joy is shown via the song’s lyrics and imagery in the video,” the band said of the song in a release.

“He didn’t make it. He passed on in July. However, he did get to see some part of his dreams come true,” Henderson added. “It was cut short, but I feel like the Creator gave him a chance to redeem himself in a lot of ways by contributing to what Low Budget Rock Star is today and giving us a chance to benefit from what Low Budget Rock Star is doing today.”

Cudmore was of Ukrainian and English heritage and grew up in The Pas, Manitoba, across from the Opaskwayak Cree Nation where Henderson and Whitehead hail from. 

In an obituary posted by Cudmore’s children, they talk about his passion being everything to do with music and had played in numerous bands before joining Low Budget Rock Star.

“Although dad had his health issues, he never let it stop him from doing music. He never sat around and dwelled on it. He always made something out of nothing. His dream to always come true was to top all the charts across the world, or at least some. In our eyes he was always on top of the charts. Dad loved all of his children, his bandmates,” they added.

Henderson said that Cudmore was “a talented and gifted man with words and had the ability to come up with a catchphrase and it would be catchy”.

“He was a very gifted and special guy and I’m very lucky to have met him and have that time together. We were like Lennon and McCartney writing songs together,” he added.

They ended up writing 10 songs together, but have only released three so far, partly because of the band’s commitment to releasing one song at a time. “Each song is like our baby,” Henderson explained. “If we give them time and nurture them and help them grow, they become special and take a life of their own.”

He’s still hoping to release a 10-track album “in time,” with help from another drummer they’ve brought in. “We hope that our music will help others – whether they’re going through hardship in their lives or if they’re dealing with emotions that they don’t understand. We hope it helps them in ways that bring positive impacts,” he added.

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Ben Powless is a Kanien'kehá:ka and Anishnabek writer and photographer, currently living in Ottawa. He has a degree in Human Rights, Indigenous and Environmental Studies from Carleton University.