Frank Ludwig in the control room of his home studio. (Photo submitted)

Frank Ludwig in the control room of his home studio. (Photo submitted)

The Day They Closed The Old Mill Down in song

Former member of Trooper captures the essence of small town struggles and triumphs

A new song by a former member of the 1970s rock band Trooper, Frank Ludwig, who grew up on Vancouver Island, captures a moment in Chemainus history that’s relatable to many communities across the country.

The Day They Closed The Old Mill Down is destined to become a piece of Canadiana, much like the storytelling in well-known songs like The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot or The Tragically Hip’s Fifty-Mission Cap and Babcaygeon.

The complete lyrics to the song can be found here.

Ludwig, now 73 and living in Tsawwassen with his wife Lorraine, is best known for his time as the keyboardist for Trooper from 1975-79 but has a long and storied career as a musician and music teacher. He’s worked alongside some of the best in the business, including Randy Bachman and Fred Turner and music promoter/manager Bruce Allen, and has been part of numerous bands, the best known being Trooper.

Ludwig was born in Port Alberni and lived in Alberni before his family moved to Vancouver during his Grade 4 and 5 years.

“We moved to Chemainus for Grade 6 and 7 which were in the old up-on-the-hill elementary school,” he recalls.

Ludwig went through high school at Chemainus Secondary School and graduated in 1965.

“I spent the year after graduation in Chemainus because I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” he said.

Ludwig wound up working for Island Shipping Ltd. doing customs paperwork for deep sea vessels in Crofton and Chemainus. He loved doing that, but after a year decided to attend the University of B.C.’s music school.

The rest, as they say, is history with a lifelong career in music, highlighted by his time with Trooper.

“When I joined, they had already put one album out,” said Ludwig. “They were like a power trio and a singer.”

Almost immediately after Ludwig joined Trooper, they went into the studio with producer Randy Bachman and recorded the Two For the Show album that went gold.

Over the years, Ludwig sang lead on two Trooper hits: Round, Round, We Go, which he wrote, and Moment That It Takes.

Trooper wasn’t all glamour, however.

“I remember one Maritimes tour where we did 86 different towns in 90 days,” Ludwig indicated. “And the four days off were at the end and needed to drive to Toronto. In those days there were no video games or music/videos on cell phones or tablets and trying to read in a moving vehicle is a great way to make yourself sick, so driving was mind-numbing boredom.

“I used to like to do a lot of the driving so that at least I had something to do. Usually, we drove through the night so we could get into the next town early enough to get at least some sleep in a bed, as opposed to a bouncing vehicle. We’d then head to the venue for 4 p.m. sound check, then head back to the hotel for dinner and shave and shower, before heading to the concert. The show itself would be all-out energy for that hour and a quarter and I guess that’s what we lived for on the road.”

For many years, Ludwig continued to create music for films, commercials, animations, etc. Upon retirement from teaching, he put together a compilation of his previously unreleased songs titled, It’s About Time.

He’s been gradually releasing new material with videos online, including I Been Consumed and You’re Scaring Me America in the fall of 2020, Talk To Me, Not At Me in January of 2021 and now as of April 6 The Day They Closed the Old Mill Down.

His recent material has stayed true to his roots and he’s not trying to emulate any of today’s styles.

“The new stuff, there are some good artists out there,” Ludwig said. “Most of what makes the big show is just rubbish.”

In the mill song, he incorporates different aspects of the forest industry in Alberni and Chemainus, as well as the burgeoning mural project in Chemainus when the mill shut down. Ludwig also pays tribute to his friend Leslie Knowles who died after getting his arm caught in a conveyor belt while working at the pulp mill in Alberni, just two weeks after graduation.

He knows all about small town life and the importance of the mills to the communities and wanted to reflect that in the song.

“It’s not a depressing song,” Ludwig said. “It’s really about the spirit of a Vancouver Island town, specifically Chemainus and Alberni.”

The Chemainus sawmill closed on May 15, 1982. A new smaller-scale mill opened in January of 1985, the fifth mill on the site.

The actual date of the closure isn’t important, Ludwig said, it’s more about the impact on the communities.

“Once I come up with a title, the songs usually progress quickly,” noted Ludwig. “I had wanted to write a song that captures the struggles and triumphs of small industrial towns, in this case those of Vancouver Island.”

He’s always been a fan of songs like those performed by the Cape Breton Miners Choir, Lightfoot’s classic and, more recently, Sting’s The Last Ship, that depict the lives of real working people.

“Musically, I was influenced by Peter Gabriel’s Don’t Give Up,” Ludwig added. “It gave me a starting point feel-wise. Once I had the opening figure, the story essentially told itself and was simply bringing back memories, especially of the death of my friend Leslie. I didn’t want the song to be too painful, so the choruses became essentially a drinking song where we toast the town and our friends.”

When writing a song, Ludwig said he finds one important step helpful in fine-tuning the lyrics. “I read them out loud to myself when I’ve written them.”

The release of the song coincides with a YouTube video that features a variety of photos Ludwig collected to set the scene.

“I had the song and I thought this would make a really good historical video,” he said.

The process started for Ludwig by going through some old photos which included family and pictures of his first band playing in the St. Michael’s Church Hall in Chemainus.

“In then searching online for Chemainus historical images, I eventually came across the wonderful collection of the Chemainus Museum archives,” he noted. “My son Chris made contact with the various owners of images and in many cases was able to get better quality ones than what I initially found. With the help of the Festival of Murals Society, we were able gain access to the mural photos I had chosen to match the lyrics.”

Further contact with the principal and librarian of Port Alberni District Secondary School brought a successful search for a yearbook picture of Leslie. And he was pleased to find a photo of Dale Henderson, who had lived across the street from him on Pine Street in Chemainus and at one point was the world belly flop champion, to complete the project.

“It was fun to put these images together along with some really good shots,” said Ludwig.

Find out more about the song and Ludwig’s career at frankludwig.ca.

Business and IndustrialhistoryMusic

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Front cover of Frank Ludwig’s CD It’s About Time that featured some of his previously unreleased songs. (Photo submitted)

Front cover of Frank Ludwig’s CD It’s About Time that featured some of his previously unreleased songs. (Photo submitted)

The wreck of the old Chemainus sawmill planer mill was practically as dramatic as The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. (Photo submitted)

The wreck of the old Chemainus sawmill planer mill was practically as dramatic as The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. (Photo submitted)

The entrance to the previous Chemainus sawmill during its prime operating years. (Photo submitted)

The entrance to the previous Chemainus sawmill during its prime operating years. (Photo submitted)

Frank Ludwig in a forklift with his long hair during Trooper’s heyday. (Photo submitted)

Frank Ludwig in a forklift with his long hair during Trooper’s heyday. (Photo submitted)

Just Posted

The small fire was in the Big Eddy. (Contributed)
Revelstoke grass fire extinguished

The blaze is the first of the season in our area

Twin falls in Yoho National Park. Yoho is one of the mountain parks whose draft management plan is now available for review. (Claire Palmer photo)
Local input sought to shape future of mountain national parks

Banff, Yoho, Kootenay, Mount Revelstoke and Glacier national parks are amongst those seeking input

The city has decided to apply to have the Jordan River area withdrawn from Crown Land disposition, which would put the decision on how the land is used and protected in the hands of the city. (File photo)
City of Revelstoke applying to withdraw Jordan River from Crown Land

At the moment the province has control over what is developed in the area

(Natalia Cuevas-Huaico - Kelowna Capital News)
Titanic was the largest and most luxurious ship in the world. Photo provided and colourized by Jiri Ferdinand.
QUIZ: How much do you know about the world’s most famous shipwreck?

Titanic sank 109 years ago today, after hitting an iceberg

Arlene Howe holds up a picture of her son, Steven, at a memorial event for drug overdose victims and their families at Kelowna’s Rotary Beach Park on April 14. Steven died of an overdose at the age of 32 on Jan. 31, 2015. (Aaron Hemens - Kelowna Capital News)
Moms Stop the Harm members placed crosses Wednesday morning, April 14, on Rotary Beach in memory of children lost to drug overdoses. (Aaron Hemens - Capital News)
Kelowna mothers remember children lost to the opioid crisis

It has been five years since illicit drug deaths was announced a public health emergency

Commercial trucks head south towards the Pacific Highway border crossing Wednesday (April 14, 2021). The union representing Canadian border officers wants its members to be included on the frontline priority list for the COVID-19 vaccine. (Aaron Hinks photo)
CBSA officers’ union calls for vaccine priority in B.C.

Border officers at ports including, YVR and land crossings should ‘not be left behind’

A still from the video taken of a violent arrest on May 30, 2020 in downtown Kelowna. (File)
Kelowna Mountie charged with assault for caught-on-camera violent arrest

Const. Siggy Pietrzak was filmed punching a suspected impaired driver at least 10 times during an arrest

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Missy MacKintosh, founder of MisMacK Clean Cosmetics, smiles broadly beneath her mask as she is thrilled to have opened her new storefront location at 231 Alexander St. in Salmon Arm on April 10, 2021. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)
Downtown Salmon Arm store ‘a dream come true’ for clean cosmetics owner

Missy MacKintosh’s MisMack Clean Cosmetics moves from home basement to storefront

(Pexels photo)
Okanagan film boom owes to industry’s strong pandemic response: Sandhu

Vernon-Monashee MLA Harwinder Sandhu lauded the local film industry’s adaptation to the pandemic

A member of the Oliver Fire Department works on the wildfire near the Cottages at Osoyoos Lake on Tuesday night. The fire is believed to have been caused by a human. (Oliver Fire Department Facebook)
UPDATE: Osoyoos wildfire believed to be human-caused

The Oliver Fire department also responded to another fire along the hike and bike trail on Saturday

(Amandalina Letterio - Capital News)
Kelowna demonstrators show support for Vancouver Island logging activists

Two Kelowna men stood atop a pedestrian bridge on Harvey Avenue to raise awareness about old-growth forests

desert hills estate winery grapes
Osoyoos winery back in business after clean bill of health

Desert Hills chose to temporarily close after a close contact tested positive for COVID

Most Read