Coney Hatch’s Carl Dixon Lucky To Be Alive


May 2, 2008

If Carl Dixon — of Guess Who and April Wine fame — were to pen a song about his recent experience it might be called Lucky To Be Alive

The numbers are dialed, via the operator on the line, and the phone finally rings at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, Australia.

It is 8 a.m., Toronto time, and 10 p.m., Down Under.

A cheerful nurse takes a portable phone down the hallway and hands it to a patient who, just a few days ago, was in a medically induced coma following a head-on collision that left him trapped in the wreckage for almost two hours until he was finally extracted and airlifted to Melbourne.


Carl Dixon provides a visual. Half a world away, his voice comes across strong but strained. “Both legs in casts,” he says, “but not suspended. Right hand broken, right eye badly damaged … probably weeks before I can even try to get on my feet. Everything will eventually heal, except the eye, which I will probably lose.

“Other than that, I feel blessed.”

Carl Dixon, lead singer in the post-Burton Cummings Guess Who, former front man for Toronto’s Coney Hatch, occasional touring player with April Wine, solo artist, etc., is lucky to be alive, and with no internal injuries.

“The most amazing thing, beyond surviving what I cannot remember, is the outpouring of goodwill, love and affection since the accident,” he says.

“It’s been truly uplifting.”

It is here, outside this small tourist town in the midst of cottage country, that Carl Dixon and his family call home, and here, at a small community radio station called Canoe-FM, that Carl Dixon volunteers as music director, and hosts a weekly show called Rock Garden.

It is a miserable weekday morning. Cold, with the whine of late-April snow. The radio is tuned to 101.9 FM.

Shirley Harrison, who retired here after 22 years with the Toronto communications firm of Marshall Fenn, finishes reading the noon news in Canoe-FM’s small studio, part of an historic building that was once the Red Cross Hospital.

“No airs and graces. That’s Carl Dixon,” she says. “A nice, gentle person. With no pretensions.”

Flash back a few weeks. Carl Dixon, 48, leaves Haliburton and Rock Garden behind, and flies to Melbourne to join his wife, Betty Ujvari, and their 12-year-old daughter, Lauren, who, following auditions in Canada, was chosen to star in an Australia-based children’s television series called The Saddle Club, already sold to 43 countries.

The Saddle Club, a co-production in association with Australia’s ABC TV and Canada’s YTV, is based on the children’s novels of American writer Bonnie Bryant.

Lauren Dixon stars as the recast lead, Stevie, described in the show’s publicity pages as “a tomboy now tired of being one of the boys, but uncomfortable with the ‘girly’ stuff that other girls her age are interested in.”

And so, according to Saddle Club publicists, “she clings to the one thing that remains constant — her love of horses.”

It is the early evening of April 14. Carl Dixon, having just recorded a new song for his daughter’s TV show, is heading back to the family’s temporary home near the spa town of Daylesford, some 100 klicks outside of Melbourne where Saddle Club is being shot.

He is driving a small Toyota. The other driver, who ended up suffering less serious injuries, is behind the wheel of a large SUV, “twice as big as my car,” says Dixon.

The collision was head-on. It was no contest.

“I have absolutely no recollection of the accident,” says Dixon. “It was obviously just one of those moments.

“I was trapped for a long time, apparently.”

Back at Canoe-FM, the news is devastating. Earlier on, and for days, it was touch-and-go if Dixon would even survive.

The timing could not have been worse.

Roxanne Casey, another station volunteer who hosts two programs, one a country-and-western show, had recently lost her mother and stepfather, both from cancer, and both within the span of 12 hours.

A few days later, her husband’s father — a World War II vet who survived 11 days on a life raft — also passed away.

“It was a rough week,” says Mike Jaycock, Canoe-FM’s president, adding in the local Echo newspaper that the station cares about Dixon “not because of (him being a rock singer) but because of what he does.

“It doesn’t matter where he is, he’s in touch with us almost on a daily basis,” says Jaycock. “This (station) isn’t a hobby for him, it’s an affection.”

Back at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, Carl Dixon is growing weary.

It is approaching 10:30 p.m.


“You have to thank all the fans for all their prayers and wishes,” he says. “My website has apparently been getting some 15,000 hits a week. It’s truly inspiring.”

The next morning, his wife calls — upset that a nurse actually took a portable phone into her husband’s room.

“He is in really bad shape, heavily medicated, and should not have been disturbed,” says Betty Ujvari.

She is relieved, however, to hear that her husband was lucid, and expressing gratitude for the outpouring of concern.

“He has a long road ahead of him,” she says.

She appears to be crying.

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