Thanks to the generosity of their American friend, two local musicians have been honoured with their very own monuments designed to look like the Walk of Stars plaques that adorn the downtown.
Longtime Merrittonian country music singers Gary Cooper and Joe Lonsdale were honoured with the plaques mounted just outside the Adelphi Hotel — a spot where you can find them playing most nights.
It all came to fruition thanks to Millie McClatchy, who frequents Merritt each summer to visit Lonsdale and Cooper, and take in a country music festival held at the Adelphi Hotel in August, which attracts musicians from around the country.
“I’ve been coming here [for] years and I heard all the stuff about the Walk of Stars [so] I walked around and I didn’t see Joe’s and I didn’t see Gary’s,” said McClatchy.
Taking matters into her own hands, McClatchy found out who made the stars for the local organization and decided to fund the creation of two new stars herself.
The monuments boast all the same features as the other stars around town, with the handprint and signature of the country music artist pressed into a star-shaped piece of cement alongside their picture in a wooden frame.
“It’s just amazing,” Lonsdale said of McClatchy’s generosity.
Both Cooper and Lonsdale have had long and distinguished country music careers.
In 2008, Cooper was inducted into the B.C. Country Music Association (BCCMA) Hall of Fame, and Lonsdale’s music career brought him to places around Europe. He produced a solo album in 1992.
Walk of Starts president Ron Sanders said that while the Walk of Stars didn’t undertake this initiative, he’s glad to see McClatchy did.
“We’re OK with that,” said Sanders, adding that he believes the Walk of Stars took Lonsdale’s and Cooper’s handprints but didn’t have the funds to mount the stars.
Sanders said the organization has a backlog of about 50 handprints they haven’t had the money to create a star for yet, and to create one of these monuments costs about $5,000.
“They should of been the first stars out there because they’re hometown boys,” said McClatchy. “They’ve given me life. My life is music and they’ve kept me alive,” she added.
“The more the merrier,” said Sanders. “They’re real legitimate musicians.”
Lonsdale said he met Millie in 2003 while in the U.S. jamming with some country music pals of his. After meeting Millie she soon joined him on stage and before you know it they were like family.
“I can’t even tell you how much love is in my heart for these guys,” said McClatchy, who added that she met Cooper through Lonsdale when she’d visit Merritt, taking in their performances at the Adelphi Hotel.
Born in Merritt, Lonsdale first graced the stage at the age of 18, and has been entertaining his hometown fans for years. He formed a band, Rainbow Country, in 1972 and started travelling extensively. During that time he travelled to places such as the Cayman Islands, Germany and Spain.
Lonsdale’s music career has even brought him to Norway, and closer to home he’s entertained crowds around B.C., Alberta, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories.
In 1992 he released his first solo country album Cowboys and Pickup Trucks.
Cooper got his start as a professional musician in Surrey back in 1966, and his career saw him tour B.C., Yukon Territory and Alaska.
He played guitar for different musicians on several albums in the late 60s and early 70s, and from 1976 to 1979 he was the featured performer at Diamond Little’s, a music venue in Vancouver. In 1980 he moved to New Westminster for a house gig at the Windjammer Hotel, where he stayed until 1987.
After years of touring, Cooper settled in Merritt in 2004 and frequently plays at the Adelphi.