Don Messer’s fiddling style | Bowing Down Home

Transcript

File: cheveriecharles-oh-donmesser_M.mp3


Speakers:

CC – Fr. Charles Cheverie


CC Then in 1939 or 1940, Don Messer came. Don Messer was a big, big name in fiddling. But Don Messer was a fiddler who came from New Bruns-wick, he had some classical training himself, was able to read from the fiddle books, but had his own style of playing. And he came on the scene during the war years where there were all kinds of military people on the Island and we had that base up in Summerside. But Don Messer had a big, big influence on fiddling. But Don Messer was very – He shortcutted a lot of the tunes: played the melodies and that was it. But to get back to this question of dancing. He started playing on the radio, over at CFCY, but also formed a dance band. He was the principle fiddler. Later on Cec MacEachern played the fiddle with him. But he would have a clarinet in his band, a piano player who could play tunes in terms of chording and also picking up some of the tunes, a drummer, a guitar player and then a singer. And that was the basis of his band. But during the War years, I stand to be corrected on this, but normally playing some of the major spots in Charlottetown, it became quite lucrative for him to split his band up and sometimes half the band would play one place and the other half would play the other place. And still it's Don Messer's band, and of course name was the big [draw]. And I guess the big thing that really supported Don Messer even after the war years was he had tagged his band Don Messer and the Islanders. And so he was identifying with being an Islander, which he really was not. And then he got on – television came along, and he became quite popular on television, and he moved from Charlottetown to Halifax, and got nation wide coverage for a couple of decades after that. He did a lot of touring, going right across the country. But he had a peculiar style, and even a number of communities in the Atlantic region still have the Don Messer style of playing. Ned Landry, Ivan Hicks: these are big name fiddlers in the Atlantic region, but they would go back to Don Messer style of fiddling. The Ottawa Valley style of fiddling is much like Don Messer's style. On the Island here, you’d have some fiddlers who would have copied that Don Messer style of fiddling and even to this day will play Don Messer style of fiddling, and will not touch any of the Celtic type of music.