Home ยป The Wonder that was Alliston Roberts

It is amazing to me how some things just seem to go around and around and resurface time and again.

They go full circle, you might say, and it can be this way with people too.

Such is the case with Alliston Roberts.

Who is Alliston Roberts you might ask?

Well; the correct question should be, who was ALLISTON Roberts and why is he significant?

Al was a singer/songwriter who hailed from Hermitage Bay, Newfoundland whom I met in Carleton Place, Ontario back in 1982.

He had just released a single entitled, THE LOSS OF THE OCEAN RANGER which was receiving some air-play on CBC Radio at the time. His on stage presence/act was being worked when we met and this is why I got involved with him.

It (and he) was quite the experience.

A tall lanky fellow he was, who could charm a snake and was very likeable to all. He was smart, observant, calculating and perhaps a touch crazy to boot.
Being around him was a bit like being around a mirror because we had similar characteristics. Big different ones too.

By day, Al worked as a painter (houses, buildings) completing some major contracts in the Ottawa Valley area. By night he wrote songs which were mainly of the ballad type. On stage he became a commanding presence and his shows were more like a huge kitchen party.

He was something else.

A whole lot more than “something else” you could say. He was a wonder.

Al died in “mysterious circumstances” in 1987 at the age of thirty-five.

The cause of death was listed as suicide but many (including myself) just don’t buy that. If you knew him you would know why we don’t.

You see: Al had two basic mottos in life. One was, “we will just have to make a deal man.” And the other was, “I live to have them all.” ( referring to women)
And Al made deals and he made women.

He made deals and perhaps got too caught up in one or more (with the wrong people) and found himself in a “deal” that he couldn’t “make”

He was finally identified after, what remained of him, was confirmed to be “that” which was discovered in his burnt out van. Apparently (according to the story) he took some gasoline and poured all throughout the inside of the van (himself included) and set it on fire in front of a convenience store at the north end of Carleton Place.

Not a nice way to die!

And I don’t see him doing that.

A “suicide note” to his then girl friend is said to have been written by him just before the incident.

In the winter of 82/83 he recorded an album in Ottawa’s (then renouned) Mark Four Studios. The price tag was around $30,000.00. (a lot of cash back then)

The album was never released.

Except for the singles, THE OTTAWA WALTZ and SONG FOR YOU. Neither received much attention (1983) however impressive numbers like; DON’T PUT ME IN A HOME and FOR MOLLY remain unknown and unheard by the world.

In 2013 I recorded and released a version of,THE OTTAWA WALTZ. It remains my most played song on Ottawa Valley radio.

Somewhere I can hear Al laughing.

Being from Newfoundland, the story was that he didn’t get along too well with his family back home. Apparently the family owned a fish plant and boat building business back there but Al wanted to move to Ontario. Funny thing was that his brother came to Ottawa to supervise (and PAY) for the recording sessions. So..?

Over the years this man has haunted me.

Time and again he (or something pertaining to him) would come up and I’d be; writing a newspaper/magazine piece about him, hearing yet “another” story about him, or just start to “wonder” when thinking of him.

He’s had quite an effect on me over the years and yes, I do wonder.

Recently a radio host from Newfoundland contacted me and inquired about him. Seems they have dug up an old vinyl single of, THE LOSS OF THE OCEAN RANGER and SAILOR’S LLULABY and are going to play them again on air. After some serious and lengthy health issues I will be returning to the recording studio shortly and hope to record a version of, FOR MOLLY as one of the tunes on this session.

The thing is: he just keeps coming back.

This has happened to me before with other events and people and eventually it led to some specific information or “point of closure” that needed to be realized. Or, as a wise elderly lady stated to me once when being perplexed over a matter, “things got to be settled.”

Wonder what needs to be settled concerning him?

Maybe I will find out. Maybe not.

One thing is certain and that is; ALLISTON Roberts was sure a wonder.
Correction: is.


Lyle Dillabough (Productions)

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