“All I wanted to do was play music,” said the veteran singer-guitarist Dave Doucet. “I went where the music was.”
He even married the piano player. Laurel Doucet has been Dave’s life and musical partner for 38 years. Together they have traveled to five continents, 62 countries and all 50 states, going where the music was.
“Well, except Maine,” Dave said. “But we may have driven through it.”
Back in Spokane after a lengthy cruise ship tour, the duo – now billed as Into the Drift – will mark their return with an appearance at the Jackson St. Bar & Grill on Friday.
“We’ve done a lot of rebuilding (since we returned),” Dave said. “We are almost back to normal living.”
Seeing the country
Mead High School 1979 graduate Dave met Seattle native Laurel at Edmonds Community College, as members of Soundsation, the school’s vocal jazz ensemble.
“We started dating the first week of school, and it just clicked,” Laurel said. “I figured this is it; we got that part covered.”
They have been separated just once since; Dave left school early to travel with a show band while Laurel took a year to finish her degree. “I gave Laurel an engagement ring, and said, ‘I gotta go play,’” he said.
After graduation, Laurel joined Dave in the Sloopy’s Hot Stuff Band. “We came home (to Spokane) three times in eight years,” Dave said. “One was to get married.”
Based out of Las Vegas, the band worked hotels, resorts and nightspots across the country.
“It was just a big circus,” Dave said.
Work wasn’t always steady, and the couple was often stranded, thousands of miles from home. “We’d have to stay on hotels, and spend money,” Dave said, “or we’d go camping.”
“We always had all our camping gear with us,” Laurel said.
Searching for roots
The Doucets came off the road in 1989, settling in Spokane and buying a house. They spent the next 23 years working locally; their bands were, in order; 10 ’til 2, Straight Up, Lost & Found, Misfit Toys, Deep Six and Bluefire Down.
“We had the ability to get gigs,” Dave said. “That’s how we managed to stay alive in Spokane and keep our players.”
Frustrated by a lethargic local music scene, the couple began to get antsy again. “Laurel and I both thought it,” Dave said. “There’s got to be something better than this.”
A little bit of luck and a whole lot of paperwork later, the couple found themselves standing on a long dock, staring up at the P&O Ventura.
“We were scared out of our minds,” Laurel said. “We took 18 bags of luggage, flew them across the country and stood at the gangway of a ship and went, ‘What happens now?’”
Seeing the world
They soon acclimated to their new life. “We felt really comfortable,” Dave said.” “We were becoming a part of the ship.”
Over the next six and a half years, Into the Drift traveled the high seas, entertaining shipboard audiences large and small. The worked on seven cruise ships –the biggest had 7,800 passengers, he said.
They hosted game shows and karaoke nights, but mostly they played their own, painstakingly crafted shows. “In our Fleetwood Mac show, I slowly turn into Stevie Nicks,” Laurel said. “I never leave the stage; I just keep putting stuff on.”
The Shellback ceremony is a time-honored rite of passage, honored by military and civilian crews alike, to mark a freshly salted pollywog’s first trip across the equator.
“We had never heard of that ceremony,” Laurel said. “We thought somebody was making something up.”
The Doucets earned their shellback cards after a spirited initiation ceremony in front of the passengers. “It was intense,” Laurel said. “We had to kiss the fish.”
They were the only Americans onboard when they first joined the Ventura, based in Southampton, England. The cultural differences weren’t as dramatic as Laurel expected they might be.
“Here we have Dollar Tree, there they have Pound Land,” she said. “But I never once heard a British person say, ‘Cheerio.’”
The couple’s favorite homeport was on the Mediterranean coast. “We have a pizza place in Venice,” Dave said. “Who can say that?”
“We were home ported in Venice for six months,” Laurel said. “It’s an amazing place, like no other place on earth.”
One cruise took them into the Arctic Ocean north of Iceland; their ship, surrounded by a massive pod of orcas, had to cut the engines and drift. “It was unreal,” Dave said.
Said Laurel: “It was late at night, but it was bright as day outside, because it was Iceland in the summer. For 45 minutes, we just drifted; there were whales as far as the eye could see, on both sides of us. They’d come right up to the ship.”
A certified diver, Dave once swam with the sharks off the coast of St. Martin. He didn’t know about the sharks until he was already in the boat. “There were a lot of people with me,” he said, laughing. “I trusted that they weren’t going to let them eat me.”
“We were always … out doing things, and out exploring and doing tours and swimming … always swimming. It seemed like this was just going to go on and on.”
But it couldn’t. Dave’s surgically repaired knees made the many shipboard ladders increasingly difficult to navigate, and in 2017 he lost his medical clearance. The Doucets decided to return to Spokane, the only real home they’d ever had.
“We knew that we (could) rebuild here,” Dave said.
The Doucets are set to perform at Arbor Crest Wine Cellars in April and as part of the Lounging at the Loft concert series in Prosser, Washington, this summer. One of their former bands, Misfit Toys, is in rehearsals for a reunion show. The band will play on.
“No matter what happened to my legs, my fingers always worked,” Dave said. “If I can turn and burn and stand on my head and light myself on fire, and 40 people go, ‘Holy cow, that was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen!’ … then I’m glad.”
“And they can go home and tell their friends,” he said, laughing. “And then they can come see us, too.”
You can take the band off the road, but you can’t take the road out of the band. “We never got to Tahiti … or French Polynesia,” Dave said. “And the Maldives are on my bucket list.”
“But our next trip will be as passengers,” he said.
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