Skip to main content

Sneezy Waters: A 'Very Fine' folk music legend


Perched on a park bench in Ottawa’s core, Peter Hodgson stares skyward at a canopy of crimson and burnt orange overhead.

“Man, I love this time of year.  Everything’s so pretty,” he says.

At Hodgson’s feet is something equally pretty, at least in his eyes.

He reaches down and snaps the latches of a guitar case, hoisting from its velvet-lined interior a worn, but beloved, 1952 Martin acoustic.

Its finish, though scratched and dull, still reflects decades of play and travel; an instrument of a road warrior with stories to tell.

“I get so much pleasure and joy out of life,” Hodgson says with a smile.

“It’s a gift.  Everything’s a gift.”

The man who feels so much joy has been spreading it for a lifetime.  

It’s his gift to us.

“My joy is music.  It always has been.

“I’m a folk musician and I grew up on folk music.”

Peter Hodgson is known by his folk-music-adoring fans as “Sneezy Waters”. He’s a legendary singer, musician, storyteller and actor. (Photo: Peter Lamb)

Many consider Hodgson to be folk music royalty.

“Maybe occasionally the court jester, but definitely folk royalty,” says musician Ann Downey.

“He has a talent to take a large audience and make them all feel like they’re in their living room,” says musician Ken Kanwisher.

“I’ve rarely experienced that with artists, how he holds an audience,” says drummer Peter Beaudoin.

And his audiences know him, not as Peter Hodgson, but another, more colourful name.

“Sneezy Waters,” Hodgson says with a smile.

“Some like to say Snoozy Farters, but what do they know, eh?”

Sneezy performing on the Sparks St. Mall in Ottawa circa 1977. (Supplied)

Music has been at the centre of Sneezy Waters’ life for as long as he can remember.  

“I betcha I sang in my mother’s arms.”

Sneezy’s mother played piano, and his father sang in glee clubs.

“I play by ear. And by there,” he quips.

A choir boy at St. Luke’s Church, young Peter was delivering singing telegrams at age 12.

“So, I knocked on the door and I sang ‘bon voyage to you, we’ll really miss you, when you’re travelling in Paris, have fun for us too’.”

“It was great and I made some money,” he laughs.

By his late teens, Sneezy was a popular performer in Ottawa coffee houses. 

In the late 1960s, he played in local bands like “The Children”, along with another Ottawa musician, Bruce Cockburn.

“There was so much camaraderie and so much fun,” he says.

In the 1970s, he toured extensively, captivating audiences at folk festivals. 

“Well, you got a party going and you need someone there to play, I’ll be there you know,” Sneezy says.

Sneezy has just released “Sneezy Waters: A Very Fine Biography”, available at (Supplied)

A fixture on the Sparks Street Mall, Sneezy was a favourite street performer mesmerizing large and loyal crowds.

“He was this hippie-beatnik guy, playing Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie, so it was very entertaining, and he made a lot of money. His guitar case was always full,” said musician Vince Halfhide.

And the singer is also an award-winning actor, perhaps best known for his acclaimed stage and film work as a country music legend in “Hank Williams: The Show He Never Gave”.  Sneezy performed it more than 300 times worldwide.

“All these great places.  They were just stoned on it, you know?”

Sneezy’s colourful and extraordinary story is told in his new book, fittingly titled, “Sneezy Waters, A Very Fine Biography”.

“And they’re all stories of life, you know.”

Sneezy Waters as country music legend, Hank Williams Sr. in “Hank Williams: The Show He Never Gave.” Sneezy gave more than 300 performances on stage in Canada and the US. (Photo: Peter Lamb)

Today, Sneezy is still performing, rehearsing with long-time friends who form the band, The Marvellous.

Irene’s Pub in Ottawa is the stage for the band’s next gig this Saturday Nov. 12, when Sneezy will also launch his book. The biography is also available at

At 77, Sneezy admits to slowing down a bit and living life more gently than he used to.

“It’s been a while since I was naughty,” he chuckles.

For now, Ottawa’s legendary troubadour will play on.  He still has plenty of songs in his heart, and so many stories to share.

“They’re all stories of life, you know, and I’ll continue that until I can’t do it no more.” Top Stories

Stay Connected