Former bandmate David Foster lauded Edwards, saying that “he was, always has been and probably always will be the best ‘pop’ musician Victoria has ever produced — a one in a million.”
Born in Edmonton in 1946, Edwards moved with his family to Victoria at 15, taking up guitar and electric bass at a time when no one else was playing bass, said Valley Hennell, who represented him and Wildflower lyricist Dave Richardson. Edwards, a Vic High grad, moved to Vancouver and, within 18 months or so, was touring with the Fifth Dimension as their guitarist, appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show and opening for Frank Sinatra. That was before he joined the band Skylark with a teenage Foster.
In 1970, Edwards teamed with Dave Richardson, a Saanich police officer and friend of Foster, to write Wildflower, which became a gold record in Canada, went to No. 9 on the U.S. Billboard chart and went on to be covered by more than 75 artists, from crooner Johnny Mathis to rapper Drake.
“Wildflower is one of the most performed songs in the history of Canadian popular music,” notes the website of the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. The lyrics are a poem about Richardson’s girlfriend, written in about 30 minutes — about the same amount of time that Edwards took to write the music, Richardson said Friday.
He said the song has been used to treat female military personnel suffering from PTSD and sexual assault, and that he and Edwards had been told that the song had helped suicidal addicts recover.
“We were all blessed by that song,” said Hennell. Edwards, an unassuming self-taught bass player, was “a true pioneer of the music scene in B.C.,” she said.
Foster said there was “no instrument he couldn’t play, no chord he couldn’t access with ease, no musician he couldn’t make immediately comfortable and sound better than they were, no musical situation around the globe that he didn’t belong in — a true world-class talent before we even knew what that meant. “I don’t know where my career would be today if I couldn’t have hung my hat on that first hit that I was associated with because of Doug, Dave Richardson and B.J. Cook, who got us our record deal. It certainly sped up the process of where I was trying to get to.”
Foster recently visited Edwards in Vancouver. “It is a sad day that I knew was coming for some time but you’re still never quite prepared for it,” Foster told the Times Colonist in an email Friday.
“I have always kept in touch with Doug peripherally but of course never as much as I should have, but the last few months we spent a fair bit of time on the phone. “I had the great pleasure of visiting with him about three months ago at his home and we had an incredible afternoon where I got to hear some of his new music and we showered each other with our mutual admiration for each other.
“Writing a hit song puts you in rare air. Writing a standard puts you in even rarer air — Wildflower will live long after all of us are gone. “To say that I admired him would be an understatement,” Foster said. “To say that I always wanted to be as good a musician as him is completely true and was never accomplished. His soft demeanour just made him even more appealing to everyone — he was a gentleman and a gentle man.” Edwards recorded or performed with Ann Mortifee and Olivia Newton-John, and on TV shows with Tom Jones, Paul Anka and Wolfman Jack.
A session musician for six decades, Edwards also worked with Paul Horn, Valdy, Rick Scott, The Hometown Band, Wildroot Orchestra, Roy Forbes, Terry Jacks and the Poppy Family, and Glass Tiger.
For the past two decades, until this year, Edwards performed with the classic rock band Chilliwack, Hennell said. “Doug was a true sideman and made everybody’s music sound great,” she said. But he never wanted to draw any attention to himself. “He was the humblest of the great.”
Edwards underwent triple bypass heart surgery on Feb. 1 and then went into cancer treatment.
He is survived by his wife, Mary, daughter, Jennifer, and sister, Carol.