by Charlie Hansen
In the beginning there was “The Old Rattler” and his hand-written column that sparked an interest in the country music scene in PEI. Unfortunately, not too long into his journalistic career “The Old Rattler” (Manning Paul Myers), passed away after a long career in country music that spanned many years, many miles, and many bars.
Paul had a drive in him that also lives in those who become mega stars. He lived and breathed country music and travelled across Canada many times in a search for whatever it is that satisfies the urge to perform. I asked Paul one time what made him want to travel and chase a dream that in most cases is unattainable. He said, “the same thing that makes Willie Nelson do it.” I believe that even at the time of his passing he was still looking for that something.
He was a dyed in the wool fan of country music and let everyone know that there was no other music in the world quite like it. I wonder what Paul would think of country music if he were still around today?
Just to show that talent is deep in the Myers family Paul’s many siblings also played music at a professional or semi-professional level and to carry on the legacy Meaghan Blanchard’s grand mother is Paul’s sister.
After Paul passed I tried to carry on his legacy with The Buzz but I don't think that I ever quite captured the raw emotion that he felt when he talked about country music.
Over the years country music content has become harder and harder to find on PEI so I've turned to bluegrass which, oddly enough, is not hard to find on PEI. There are at least five festivals on PEI each year and each one brings a great deal of talent to the Island. When this influx of bluegrass talent collides with local talent it makes writing about bluegrass music easy.
Many of my writings originate from Florida where there is music of all sorts around every corner which makes the job even easier.
I’m one of the fortunate ones that have been writing a monthly column for The Buzz for many years. It’s given me an opportunity to get out and see concerts and events that I probably wouldn’t attend and see up and coming as well as over the hill artists who you wish would just pack up their guitar and put the bus in the garage before they do themselves more disservice.
There have been many changes in country and bluegrass music in my tenure with The Buzz, some for the better but most for the worst. Since the emergence of the Gaylord group in Nashville, country veterans have been made to conform or get out. The music has been hammer and molded to satisfy an ever younger demographic. Even with all the hammering and molding traditional country music will never succumb to the pressure to get out of the way and let the young guys in.
Artists like the recently-departed George Jones, Merle Haggard, Ray Price and Willie Nelson have staying power. I read an article on staying power the other day and it said that the average life span of a career in country music in the twenty-first century is three years. Can you name a country song that was recorded three years ago that you can hum? Probably not but I bet you can hum Mansion On The Hill, which was recorded in January of 1949.
There are still pockets of traditional country music alive and well in parts of the United States and western Canada. Texas is the traditional country music capitol of the universe with it’s honky tonkin’, beer drinkin’, line dancin’ traditions. There are a number of country artists in Texas that can hold their own with the best artists of the 60s and 70s. Justin Trevino, Bobby Flores, Amber Digby and Ron Williams, although unheard of in our part of the world are super stars in Texas.
There is a petition being circulated on the internet by a group of country music fans that is asking the movers and shakers in contemporary country music to re-brand the music and call it something more in keeping with what it is. I suppose when it all shakes down it isn’t what the music is, it’s what it’s called.
Bluegrass folk should take heed as well and make sure that their music stays true to its roots. It’s easier to find traditional bluegrass music because the roots of this music are harder to kill. The absence of real traditional country has driven the country fans to bluegrass but be aware that someone wanting to turn your music into mush by filing off the rough edges that make it great is waiting just around the corner with money—which to musicians is what candy is to a child.
Before I go I’d like to thank Peter, Nancy and the staff at The Buzz for allowing me to sometimes vent, sometimes congratulate, sometimes cajole, but always just have fun writing about the many types of music that I love, but especially country and bluegrass.
As usual don’t forget to support live country and bluegrass music and listen to Bluegrass Island every Sunday evening at 9:00 on CFCY 95.2 in Charlottetown or on the web at cfcy.fm.
Charlie Hansen is…
Charlie Hansen began playing music at the age of nine when his brother bought a guitar from Eaton’s catalogue. “I played in the neighborhood with some of the older guys to learn chords and some of the old songs. My first paying job was at twelve years of age and from then on I was hooked by the music bug. In 1961 some friends and I started a rock n’ roll band called the Thunderbolts which was the first group in Kings County.” In 1969 Charlie moved to Toronto and had the opportunity to play with some of the finest country players and singers of that era. He was carving out a good career for himself as a studio drummer until he came home on holiday in 1977 and decided that he liked the quiet life on PEI better than the rush of the big city. Charlie was first president of the PEI Music Awards Association, now Music PEI, one of the organizers of the first PEI Bluegrass and Old Time Music Festival which is still in place after twenty eight years, and has been a member of the board of directors of the PEI Bluegrass and Old Time Music Society for most of the twenty eight years of its existence. Charlie’s accomplishments have been recognized with the Chesley MacDougall Award, East Coast Bluegrass Music Awards Bluegrass DJ of the year, PEI Music Awards Weekend Warrior, East Coast Music Awards Stompin’ Award, and Music PEI’s Lifetime Achievement Award. His CDs are Cabin In The Hills 2005, Goodbye City Lights 2006, Favourites w/Glenda Johnston 2008, and Simply Acoustic 2011.