Tony “Wild T” Springer isn’t worried about being pegged as a Hendrix clone any more


By Steve Newton

The first thing you see when you scan Tony “Wild T” Springer & the Spirit’s Warner Music bio isn’t a background on the Trinidad-born, Toronto-based blues-rocker, or even some over-zealous copywriter’s frothings, but a quote from Jeff Healey, who claims that guitarist Wild T plays like nothing he’s ever heard before.

And when Jeff Healey speaks, people listen.

“I definitely thank him for saying that,” says Springer, who crossed paths with Healey many times before the latter hit it big with his See the Light album. “We used to romp around on stage a lot, you know. We’ve had some really good times. And the same way I figured he felt about me, I felt about him. It’s just that he got out a little before I did, and started to spread the word.”

Like Healey, Springer owes a lot to the wild Stratifications of Jimi Hendrix. In fact, before taking the original route that led to the recent release of Wild T & the Spirit’s Love Crazy debut, he used to work as a Hendrix impersonator. And he still throws in “Hey Joe” and “Fire” during his sets, as he might possibly do when he and his power trio play the Town Pump on Monday (June 3).

But he’s not worried about being pegged as a Hendrix clone any more.

“I don’t mind bein’ in that company,” shrugs Springer, “because this guy is like…20 years later and the guy is still so alive, you know. And the thing is, I know from my heart that I never really copied him per se, ’cause there was already a definite similarity there, from way before I even heard the Hendrix stuff.”

Springer first started to hone his bluesy chops at marathon jam sessions back home in Tunapuna, Trinidad.

“It’s a whole different way of living there, man. It’s just summertime all the time, and it’s a real carefree atmosphere. Me and my buddies used to get up at nine, 10 in the morning and just start jamming—no particular song, just whoever wants to start something. Somebody might take a break, go climb up a few mango trees and eat some mango, but the jam was non-stop. At midnight we’d still be there!”

When he moved to Toronto in his teens, Springer brought his Tunapuna jam sessions to the city’s clubs and gradually made a name for himself on the local scene. He was chosen best guitarist by the Canadian Black Musicians’ Association in 1982, and toured with Carole Pope and Rough Trade briefly in the mid-’80s before joining up with former Moxy drummer Danny Bilan and bassist Brian Dickie (since replaced by a guy named Kojo) to form Wild T & the Spirit. The “Wild T” moniker just seemed right for the project.

“It’s a triple-t thing,” explains Springer. “I’m from Trinidad, my home town is Tunapuna, and my name is Tony—so people call me T. The wildness came more with the stage show. I just get up there with no limits, you know, just what flows through me, man. I take my clothes off if I feel like it!”

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