Sneezy Waters

Sneezy (b Peter) Waters (b Hodgson). Singer, guitarist, actor, b Ottawa 1 Mar 1945. He began performing in Ottawa coffeehouses in his late teens and was a member of several local rock bands, including The Children and Rosewood Dream, appearing with the latter at Expo 70, Osaka, Japan.

Waters, Sneezy

Sneezy (b Peter) Waters (b Hodgson). Singer, guitarist, actor, b Ottawa 1 Mar 1945. He began performing in Ottawa coffeehouses in his late teens and was a member of several local rock bands, including The Children and Rosewood Dream, appearing with the latter at Expo 70, Osaka, Japan. Taking the stagename Sneezy Waters he performed during the 1970s as street musician in Ottawa and appeared as a soloist and with his Excellent Band at folk festivals and nightclubs elsewhere in the country. He has also worked intermittently as a stagehand at the NAC for much of his career.

Waters came to national notice in the lead role of Maynard Collins' musical revue Hank Williams: The Show He Never Gave. An 'imaginary concert' that the legendary US country singer might have given New Year's Eve 1952 in Canton, Ohio, had he not died en route, it was premiered in November 1977 at the Beacon Arms Hotel, Ottawa, and then presented on tour throughout Canada and in the USA until 1982. It was staged at the OKanada cultural exhibition in Berlin in 1983. Waters gave some 300 performances as Williams and appeared in a film adaptation of the show in 1981.

Waters made two LPs in this period: You've Got Sawdust on the Floor of Your Heart (Sneezy Waters Records SW-5, issued in 1978), and Sneezy Waters Sings Hank Williams (Sawdust SW-6, issued in 1981). He subsequently took dramatic roles on TV (eg, in the CBC's Blind Faith and Backstretch) and continued to tour in Canada, latterly with the more modest Very Fine Band. He was regular at Ontario folk festivals during the 1980s (Mariposa, Summerfolk, Festival of Friends, etc) and also performed on occasion in remote communities - eg, on Baffin Island in 1988, and in the North West Territories in 1989.

Though typecast by his success in the Williams role, Waters is also known for his interpretive powers in a variety of other styles. 'Voices like his aren't pretty,' wrote Liam Lacey, 'but they're a rarity: Waters' timbre and phrasing suggest the homespun roughness of Woody Guthrie, Jerry Jeff Walker and Bob Dylan more than they do the rubber-band warble of Hank Williams. Waters' full-throated, buzz-saw voice is almost as convincing on the blues, as on the country and western swing music he prefers' (Toronto Globe and Mail, 18 Mar 1982).


Further Reading

  • James, Donald. 'Sneezy Waters scores again with the show Hank never gave,' PfAC, Spring 1980

    Beyer, Susan. 'Sneezy Waters: is this man for real?' CMN, vol 2, Feb 1982

    Bateman, Jeff. 'Sneezy Waters: the singer picks the songs,' MSc, 361, May-Jun 1988