Prince County Pioneers play dance halls | Bowing Down Home
JG – John Gauthier
ID – Ivan Day
KP – Curator Ken Perlman
KP: When did you start playing for dances as a fiddler?
JG: That was probably during the war, when I was working for the phone company. As a fiddler with a group, with Tudor Baker and Keith Robinson. We played the west end of the Island.
KP: Were you playing in halls?
JG: Oh yeah, halls, potato wearhouses (laughs), you name it.
ID: Played at the Diner in Summerside, and the Bucket of Blood in Traveler's Rest.
JG: Northam Racetrack.
ID: I was never at either one of those dance halls but I heard…
JG: You were too young.
KP: So these were in the 40s you’re talking about?
JG: Yeah; mid-40s.
KP: And how much would they pay you to play for a dance?
JG: Five dollars each plus five dollars for the transportation.
KP: How did you guys get there?
JG: We bought a car, a 1929 LaSalle Limousine, owned by Rogers Hardware in Charlottetown.
ID: Is that the same Rogers people that had the radio station?
JG: Yeah. It [the car] had been up on blocks since the Crash, the Depression. Keith Robinson and I bought it in 1944, paid a whole $300 for it.
ID: A lot of money at that time.
JG: Either I was driving or Keith was driving. Most of the time I did the driving.
KP: Where did you keep the car?
JG: Where I was boarding in Charlottetown
KP: So you had moved to Charlottetown.
JG: Oh hell, yeah. I moved to Charlottetown at the beginning of the war. And I tell you this thing [car] was huge. The headlights without exaggeration were that size [holds his palms almost two feet apart]. Duke Neilson, whom you’ve heard of, came and helped me out on a couple of gigs. And with his full-sized bass bull fiddle, [we] put that in the back seat of that thing no problem at all, and room for the rest of the people as well. It was a big machine.
KP: It must have cost a lot to run.
JG: V-8 Cadillac engine. I think I was getting around 10 or 11 miles to the gallon; and about the same per quart of oil. Oh it was a monster. But it got us there and back.
KP: What were the roads like in those days?
JG: Horrible, unbelievable.
KP: Were they paved?
JG: The main road was, Highway 2. You’d get off Highway 2 and you were in mud.
KP: So what pieces did you have in your band?
JG: I’m versatile. I played fiddle, I played guitar. Keith Robinson played guitar, banjo. Tudor Baker played trumpet and piano, and I mean two-handed piano.