Lussiers leave the Craftsbury Vibrations after 40 years

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Bernie and Linda Lussier of the Craftsbury Vibrations in front of their music library. They will perform in Hyde Park on April 11 at 1:30 p.m. for the last time — probably.  Photo by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph
Bernie and Linda Lussier of the Craftsbury Vibrations in front of their music library. They will perform in Hyde Park on April 12 at 1:30 p.m. for the last time — probably. Photo by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

copyright the Chronicle April 8, 2015 

by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

CRAFTSBURY — Bernie Lussier and his wife, Linda, have been playing and singing together as members of the Craftsbury Vibrations for over 40 years, but after their gig on Sunday, April 12, at 1:30 p.m. in Hyde Park, they will call a halt to their professional careers. The name of the band will depart with them.

In a recent interview, Mr. Lussier explained that a single show could take eight hours with four hours spent setting up and packing, and another four hours standing up singing and playing.

“I’m 74,” Mr. Lussier said. “Now, your back and legs don’t take that any more.”

“And we both have arthritis,” Ms. Lussier added.

She showed the calluses on her fingers from playing continuously, and Mr. Lussier showed how worn out his own finger pads were.

“I could rob a bank,” he said about how faded his fingerprints are.

When they weren’t performing, Mr. Lussier was a logger and Ms. Lussier cleaned people’s houses for a living.

They both play guitar. Ms. Lussier also plays keyboards.

“There’s no big money in music anymore,” Mr. Lussier said. “We came out all right. We didn’t do it for the money.”

The Craftsbury Vibrations have always been highly in demand. Over Easter weekend alone they played four events.

In a single show they could play up to 50 songs, with 12 to 14 songs in each set, Mr. Lussier said.

Sitting at their dining room table they went through a few albums and photos, reminiscing about all the talented musicians they have worked with through the years, many of whom will be at the show on April 11.

Mr. Lussier raved about Dave Miclette’s triple lead guitar solo on a song called “Maiden’s Prayer,” which is on the band’s fortieth anniversary album.

He talked about the power and range singers like Brian LaMonda, Sergio Torres and Larry Beaudry displayed on tracks like “God Bless the U.S.A.,” “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” and Amazing Grace.”

The Craftsbury Vibrations’ version of “Jackson,” by Johnny Cash, is most popular and is often played on the radio, Mr. Lussier said.

“He’s bragging again,” Ms. Lussier said, laughing when her husband said she sang June Carter Cash’s part better.

“No, it’s true,” he insisted.

The Lussiers smiled as they recalled other crowd favorites, including “Bony Fingers,” where people would stick their hands in the air and shake their fingers as they played, and how veterans would dance in a big circle to The Craftsbury Vibrations’ rendition of “God Bless the U.S.A.”

“They devised their own little dance to that song,” Ms. Lussier said.

Because of their popularity, finding musical talent was no problem.

“They all wanted to play with us,” Mr. Lussier said.

Their drummer for the past 35 years, Gary Potter, taught himself to play the drums from the Craftsbury Vibrations’ album Something for Everyone and started performing with them when he was 16, according to Ms. Lussier.

“He drove his mom absolutely crazy,” she said, laughing.

Their fellow musicians were all locals. The Lussiers attributed the wealth of talent around Craftsbury to kitchen junkets.

Growing up without TV or computers, kids learned to play instruments, and people met in a neighbor’s kitchen to play music together, Ms. Lussier said.

The Craftsbury Vibrations’ specialty was to cover songs. In fact, in a time without VHS, their covers are what made them popular, Mr. Lussier said.

“The only secret was when ‘Pretty Woman’ came out and wasn’t released yet, we had it the following Saturday,” Mr. Lussier said. “‘Killing Me Softly,’ all those songs.”

They taped popular songs off the radio then spent hours learning them by ear so they could play them at their next show.

“If you liked the song and you couldn’t dance to it, we’d fix it so you could,” Ms. Lussier said.

Their huge repertoire meant that anyone with a request could usually get their song played, including a 100-year-old man who was surprised they even knew the song he wanted, “Waltz Across Texas,” and swayed and danced in his wheelchair when they played it for him, they recalled.

“We do everybody,” Mr. Lussier said about the types of songs they played. “We got the talent to do it.”

Over the years they have performed at proms, weddings, funerals, festivals, dances, and other events, and their followers have been faithful.

Bill Peters of Albany started following them in 1966 and still comes out to dance and hear them play at 95 years of age, Mr. Lussier said.

“We didn’t expect to go more than a year,” Ms. Lussier said about their lengthy and successful career.

The Lussiers performed separately long before they became the Craftsbury Vibrations.

Ms. Lussier and four other girls formed a band in high school. During sock hops at school they would go to the middle of the gymnasium and sing songs in harmony together, Ms. Lussier said.

Her aunt Beryl Darling even organized for the girls to go on WCAX TV to perform on an afternoon show.

“We had fun,” she said.

Mr. Lussier’s older brother bought him his first guitar, a Silvertone ordered from the Sears Roebuck catalogue, when he was ten.

He taught himself to play, although he said he taught himself all wrong. He started playing for family, and for nothing, he joked.

In fact, the Craftsbury Vibrations performed regularly at the American Legion in Hardwick in exchange for beer. The performances helped the Legion raise money.

“That’s how we started, and that’s how we’re ending,” Mr. Lussier said.

They will continue to play in St. Norbert’s Church in Hardwick and Our Lady of Fatima in Craftsbury in the summer, but booking gigs two years ahead of time like they used to is over for them.

“We don’t have anything planned,” Ms. Lussier said. “If there’s an emergency we’ll go help out for sure.”

The Vibrations, as opposed to the Craftsbury Vibrations, which included the Lussiers, will continue to perform. If they are ever short a few musicians, the Lussiers will fill in.

The Lussiers passed on their musical talent to their great-granddaughter Natalie Allen, who will perform this Sunday, too. She’s been singing with her great-grandparents since she was six.

“She’s going to be something,” said Mr. Lussier, her manager. “You watch.”

contact Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph at [email protected]

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