“Bobby, what you don’t say can’t be used against you.”
It was an odd thing for a quiet, conservative man to say to his son, but young Bobby Bossin took it at face value. His father was, he knew, a man who kept quiet in social situations, but opened up as a wonderful storyteller when he was with those he trusted. It wasn’t until after his father’s death in 1963, however, that Bossin learned his dad hadn’t just been a man who booked acts into Ontario nightclubs. His father had had another identity: “Davy the Punk”, a name given to him by members of the Toronto gambling underworld in the 1920s and 1930s.
Bossin began doing some research. Davy the Punk wasn’t the type to keep a diary; but his son soon found that the Attorney General of Ontario and the police, who had unsuccessfully pursued him from the late 1930s on, had written volumes about Davy. Bossin was soon hot on the trail, talking to old bookies, cops, judges, and pals who provided information not only about Davy, but about the dark side of Toronto and its shadowy underbelly.
Along the way Bossin uncovered outrageous stories and scams perpetrated by colorful characters who seemed to have come straight out of a Damon Runyon story. Right from the start of his search, Bossin knew he eventually wanted to write about Davy the Punk and the world he inhabited; but it was only within the last year that everything came together, and Songs and Stories of Davy the Punk became a reality.
The show features original songs from Bossin, one of Canada’s most acclaimed folk singers and songwriters, including “Scatter My Ashes on the Racetrack” – one of Davy’s requests before he died – and “All Horse Players Die Broke”. “My father taught me that the track is the one place the window cleans you,” recalls Bossin.
Davy the Punk also includes stories – some humorous, some touching – about Bossin’s father: a man who stayed one step ahead of the police and amassed a fortune, then gave up gambling in order to raise his son. There are also electrifying tales about a long-vanished side to Toronto the Good that the history books rarely mention.
The Winding Rivers Arts and Performance Society is proud to bring Bob Bossin and Songs and Stories of Davy the Punk to Ashcroft on Sat. Oct. 11. The show starts at 7pm at St. Alban’s Hall; tickets are available at the Ashcroft Bakery, Nature’s Gifts, and the Jade Shop. For more information visit windingriversarts.ca .
As Davy might say, odds are 5 to 7 on that you’ll be glad you met Davy the Punk.