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OUR HOMETOWN: Music has been a big part of Brian Sawyer’s life

Recently Sawyer sold The Guitar Seller and will be retiring
After eyeing retirement for several years, Brian Sawyer has sold The Guitar Seller. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Williams Lake’s own music man Brian Sawyer is retiring from being in the music store business.

On Oct. 31 he sold The Guitar Seller to Carl Johnson. Matt Granlund is the new store manager.

“I’m here to help out for a couple of months, and Paul Maas, who is teaching guitar, ran the store for about 20 years,” Sawyer said.

“I will help them with the logistics of who to order from, who to pay, quantity and all that type of stuff.”

Granland’s doing a great job, he said, but noted he has never done retail before.

“He’s a musician and a very friendly guy. He’ll do really well.”

It was actually Granlund who called Sawyer in September, after he learned the store was for sale.

A few weeks later he and Johnson met with Sawyer.

“I got out of that meeting and phoned my wife Lynda and said ‘I think I might have sold the store,’ it was that fast. On Oct. 1 Carl and I made a deal and it took a month to go into effect.”

Rick Blackwood, the store manager, had told Sawyer he was retiring, but Sawyer convinced him to stay until Oct. 1.

Originally from Burnaby, Sawyer, 71, transferred with Canada Post and moved to Williams Lake in 1974 with Lynda and their son Ben, who was not quite one-year-old at the time.

In 1976, he left the post office and went to work for Tom and Helen Light who owned the Sounds of Music.

“I was always teaching guitar for Tom, while I worked at the post office. He was looking for a store manager, so I quit to manage his store.”

Sawyer worked there for two years before opening up his own store Hi-Fi Express in May 1978 near where Lo’s Florist is today on Second Avenue North.

By then their daughters Jocelyn and Jenica had been born.

Eventually he moved the store next to where BMO is today and stayed there for a number of years, before moving again to the present location of the Guitar Seller on Borland Street.

During the early 2000s the name of the business changed to Audio Video Unlimited.

They joined the franchise but were independently owned.

Inside the store there was a portion dedicated to musical instruments and in 2017 Audio Video Unlimited closed, he sold the building to Bob’s Shoes and started up The Guitar Seller in the basement.

“It was the love of my life - always the fun part of the business,” he said of The Guitar Seller. “At that point I made it from a part-time music store to a full-time music store.”

For decades he’s taught guitar lessons both privately and when Cariboo College existed in Williams Lake he taught guitar classes.

He played with Cariboo Gold Dance Band for many years, and will join the band for a Christmas concert on Saturday, Dec. 17.

On Monday, Dec. 12, he and Rick Matthews will play for the Seniors Village Christmas celebration. Matthews used to work there as a care-aid and the two have played music there for many years.

Recalling one of his favourite bands, the Hot Buttered Blues, Sawyer said it was a group of local musicians who got together to form their own version of the band in the Irish film The Commitments.

“Mike and Suzanne Butterfield were in it, Rick Matthews was in it,” he recalled. “It was an amazing band. We had saxophone players, and trumpet players, and female singers - just the whole thing.”

Dr. Peter Gooch played the piano, he added.

“He was a GP and anesthetist and was chief of staff at the hospital when he left. I still play music with him and with Mike Butterfield whenever I can. They both live in Nanaimo.”

The band played dances all over and at the time it was the local band everybody went to see, he said.

“We’d play in the upstairs at the old Bil-Nor Restaurant. We’d play at the Horsefly Hall. It was so much fun.”

Sawyer grew up in a musical family. His dad was a Shriner, led the church choir and played in bands. His older brother Wayne is a retired band teacher and his younger brother Don played in the Ambleside Orchestra in North Vancouver for many years.

He always wanted to play the guitar and started when he was 12.

“It’s time to retire,” he said, adding he is looking forward to spending more time with his wife, nine grandchildren, working in the yard and playing more music.

“That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”

READ MORE: Williams Lake music store owner receives unusually addressed letter

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Monica Lamb-Yorski

About the Author: Monica Lamb-Yorski

Monica Lamb-Yorski has covered news for the Williams Lake Tribune since November 2011.
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