Fond memories for musician, musician’s patron and cafe proprietor shared at Sunday night open mic
By Art Van Kraft for Ashland.news
The owner of the Wild Goose Cafe, 65-year-old Dal Carver, died Saturday, May 5. He was remembered by friends and longtime customers at the restaurant/bar’s open mic night Sunday. A standing-room-only crowd heard stories of Carver’s influence, including from musicians who say he gave them their first opportunity, and dedicated patrons with memories to share.
Avram Chetron was a friend who remembers getting a hand up from Carver.
“He was a piano player and arranger and one of the best musicians you could possibly imagine. He provided a place for musicians for 20 years,” Chetron recalled. “The Wild Goose is an island of music … a profound place.”
Chetron stood in the back of the room and listened to the music on stage. He said he lamented the loss of a friend who was crucial to his ability to become a musician.
“I would have to credit Dal Carver, who owned the Goose, with creating a place where amateur musicians could feel comfortable and at home and work on their skills playing in front of other people. That’s a really important dimension of learning to play well. When I started working on the guitar, my teacher said if you are really serious about getting good, you need to play in public,” Chetron said.
Carver was renowned for his musical ability and Chetron said that ability was available to whomever needed it.
“Dal was a wonderful piano player. He had a tremendous gift for improvisation. He could sit down to somebody performing a song he’d never heard before and do something absolutely wonderful to embellish that song,” Chetron said.
Sage Meadows came for open mic night. She started her musical career here and credits her success to Carver and the Wild Goose.
Meadows said Carver gave her the confidence to sing in public and eventually offered her and two others a weekly gig as a trio.
“We didn’t have any idea what we were going to do, but we played here for three hours and figured it out, and it changed all of our lives,” Meadows said. “I’ll always be indebted to the people here, who gave me a chance.”
Melissa Fairy remembers her first nervous attempts at performing. She said Sunday open mic nights were critical in her search for confidence.
“This is one of my favorite establishments because of the type of people it attracts. People in the community, they love music and are ready to throw sound at the walls and turn up your heart strings,” Fairy said. “I feel like it sticks here. I can feel the heart that Dal has left in this place and it means something. This is not a place to get away and drink, but a place to come together.”
“I got a start from David Hampton, who runs the open mic nights. He’s been a fantastic anchor to this group and I think that he’ll really be able to carry on Dal’s message and feel the heart that Dal has left in this place,” Fairy said.
She describes Hampton as a mild-mannered man, generous in spirit, who gives emotional support to new musicians. She said Hampton was deeply saddened by the death of his mentor and would have a hard time talking about the loss. Hampton did agree to share his thoughts, if only to honor his friend and give hope to fledgling musicians. It’s a mantle that Hampton has taken up with earnest.
“I came here to the Wild Goose and played electric guitar with my friend Jeff in 2002,” Hampton said. “Dal came up to us afterwards and asked us if we wanted to play every week. I’d never gotten paid to play music before in my life, and it was weekly. We played here every Thursday for three or four years. It was life changing for me. Dal gave me my first opportunity to do what I had dreamt of doing. He did that for so many people, not just me. Now I’ve had the honor of being the open mic host for over 10 years now. I’ve seen other people and acts come through and see the same thing that happened to me.”
“Dal changed my life. I’ve been worried about him but he seemed to be doing better, so I’m shocked but not shocked (about his death). He was a really special man who will be really missed,” Hampton said.
Musicians aren’t the only people that appreciated the Wild Goose. The place has generated a clientele that ranges from diners and music lovers to people looking for a friendly face.
Brent Thompson has been coming to the Wild Goose for more than two decades. He says he’s not a musician, but comes for the music and the camaraderie.
“In the city of Ashland, this is the best representation of community in the entire town,” Thompson said. “I came in here because there was a familiarity in the place, and with great music, I just keep coming back. Dal wanted to provide an entertainment venue and an outlet for musicians. I came here for Oktoberfest in 2001 right after Dal bought the Goose. There was polka music with accordions and singing.”
Thompson said one of the things he admires about Dal and his wife, Renee, is their history of keeping the same staff for years.
“It’s one of the most stable places I know,” Thompson, a former Ashland City Council member, said. “Most staff have been here 10 or 20 years.
Carver’s early years as a musician in the late ’70s impressed the owners of Jazmin’s nightclub in downtown Ashland. Havurah Shir Hadash Rabbi David Zaslow said he and his partner Steve Sacks hired Carver when he was right out of high school. Carver had asked if they would hire him to play background music while people were dining.
“We hired Dal and people loved his music and he was a wonderful addition to the club, but also to people’s appreciation of his beautiful music,” Zaslow said.
During the early ’80s, Carver was a member of the bands Pegasus and Inflight and they played regularly at the club.
“Dal was an amazing person to be around and his music was exceptional. Many musicians went through the club, but Dal was so special just because of his kindness, humble personality and his creativity. Then he took over the Wild Goose and was running that as a very special place for musicians,” Zaslow said.
Prior to opening the Wild Goose, Dal Carver was a professional musician from Ashland. His wife, Renee, was a cook who worked in restaurants in Ashland since she was a teenager. The couple moved to Portland in the ’80s and owned a service company for home theater sound systems. Renee eventually graduated from the Portland Horst Culinary Institute and the couple moved back to Ashland in 1998 and started the Wild Goose on St. Patrick’s Day in 1999.
According to open mic manager David Hampton, the restaurant at 2365 Ashland St. will continue to operate with the same goals and legacy it has maintained for over 20 years.
A celebration of life for Carver will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, June 12, at the Ashland Elks Lodge at 255 E. Main Street in Ashland, according to an obituary posted in the Tillamook County Pioneer, which also suggested in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the newly established Dal Carver Memorial Scholarship, which will help aspiring band students at Tillamook High School, his alma mater, to achieve higher education: square.link/u/rSrB0O2P.
Art Van Kraft is an artist living in Ashland and a former broadcast journalist and news director of a Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate. Email him at email@example.com.
May 9 update: Recollections added from Rabbi David Zaslow.
May 10 update: Corrected attribution of quotes from Melissa Fairy and Sage Meadows, which had been mixed up.
May 11 note: Due to a misunderstanding, initial versions of this story misquoted two people, using one’s name for the other’s quotes and vice versa. Ashland.news regrets the error, and apologizes for any harm it caused.
May 18: Information about celebration of life and memorial donations added from an obituary appearing in the Tillamook County Pioneer.