‘Poor Boys’ rocking pubs–and parties

Put two mill workers, a construction worker, and an Internet provider on stage in a local bar with instruments, surround them with crowds, and what do you get?
The Poor Boys.
The group, which officially formed in 1995 as Willie and the Poor Boys, has made a name for itself by playing popular hits at clubs and private bashes on both sides of the border over the past six years.
“We just keep doing what we’re doing, we really enjoy it,” said band member Dave Ashworth. “We don’t take anything too seriously. It’s no different than going out and playing baseball on the weekend or hockey.
The band is made up of Todd Summer, who plays keyboard, sings, and often picks up other instruments, Mike Lowes on drums and vocals, Craig “Woody” Wood on bass and vocals, and Ashworth on guitar and vocals.
“All four guys are actually integral parts of the band. We all have our own responsibilities,” noted Ashworth.
The group began as Willy and the Poor Boys in 1995 after asking patrons at the Roadhouse over in International Falls to enter possible names.
The winner, who actually suggested the name Free Willy and the Poor Boys, received a cash prize and some door prizes. The band later dropped Willy and have been the Poor Boys since.
Playing weekend gigs in local bars, the band has begun to build up a bit of a following, especially in northwestern Minnesota.
“Probably our biggest following is in Warroad,” noted Ashworth. “Once you get out of your ‘local town,’ people don’t seem to have any pre-conceived idea about what you’re all about.
“We’re treated so well in the northwestern Minnesota area that we really enjoy going back there.”
The Poor Boys play hits from the 1960s to the 90s, and are always adding to their repertoire.
“We’ve got a little harder edge than we had in the past mostly due to the influence of our drummer. Before Mike joined, we were all 40ish and he was in his 30s,” said Ashworth.
“We try to play something that will please everybody.”
Ashworth and Summer have been playing on and off together for more than 25 years and all four band members–recently joined by Wood on the bass–work well together.
“The chemistry is excellent, especially now with our new bass player, Woody. All four of us get along very well on and off the stage,” Ashworth said.
The Poor Boys are one of only a handful of local bands who play for profit, and own all of their own sound and lighting equipment.
The band’s members all made financial investments and loans to start out, most of which already have been re-paid.
“In ’96 we purchased a trailer, two separate sound and light systems, and we’re very close to being debt-free,” said Ashworth. “We actually run this band as a business but enjoy it like our favourite hobby.
“We’re all married, have kids and commitments, so this is the relaxation part of our lives but, at the same time, there’s a fair amount of hard work you have to put into it.
“It’s a lot of fun,” he enthused. “The biggest enjoyment we get out of it is seeing other people feeding off your music and what you’re playing.
“We feed off them and they feed off us.”
The band is so busy, their work schedules only allow them to play about every seventh and eight weekend. Last week they played at the Emo Inn’s Back Alley Bar and they are scheduled to perform again June 29-30 at the Roadhouse.
Future shows, bios, and other information are listed on the band’s Web site www.poorboys.ca.
The Poor Boys are all about a good time for themselves as well as their audience.
“This is as far as we’re going, there’s no illusion of grandeur,” noted Ashworth.
“We also enjoy having a few drinks,” he added. “We’re sort of associated with tequila, we play the ‘tequila song’ every night . . . the Sunday morning tear-downs aren’t always that enjoyable.”