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Let’s Eat Here

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

Mike’s SmokehouseThere isn’t a lot of music taking place around here this month so I’ve decided to be a food critic and give you an inside look at some of the eating establishments that we’ve found in this part of Florida. Some are good, some are historic and some are just so so.

Let’s start with the historic. We took a trip across the state a while back to visit some friends and decided that we’d stop for lunch at the historic Desert Inn in Yeehaw Junction (yes it’s a real place).

The place was built in the 1880s and was used as a site for a sawmill and trading post until the early 1900s when it was used as a stopping off place for cowboys on cattle drives across the state. The Desert Inn patrons at that time included Indians as well as cowboys, business people, moonshiners, traders (trading goods and lumber), and lumber men. Not much has changed over the years. The Inn has some rooms that wouldn’t be recommended as well as a restaurant that is also not recommended. The best that I can say is that the place is interesting.

If you like authentic Florida barbeque in a “casual” atmosphere then we can recommend Mike’s Smokehouse. The food is inexpensive and the beer at $1.00 a mug is cold. We had the pulled pork sandwich and it was great, tasty and moist with lots of slaw and fries. Of course we had to sample the beer to make sure it was suitable for human consumption. It was and as a matter of fact we had two. Mike’s is located on US highway 301 just above interstate 4. The interior is funky with picnic tables and lots of interesting posters and memorabilia. If you can get past the funky look of the building we recommend this place as an adventure. The wait staff are very friendly and accommodating and the beer is cold (oh, sorry I said that already, but it really is).

The final place on today’s menu is The Lucky Dill in Palm Harbour. This place is a beehive. It has about 200 or so seats and they are pretty much filled from morning until night. The restaurant and bar are in the New York style with lots of bagels, corned beef and other New York favourites. The place is divided up into burroughs. We sat in the Bronx and opted for the corned beef and cabbage. The plate was full and it was well prepared and presented and , oh yes, the beer, it's cold too. I had a Brooklyn Brown draft and it was excellent. The brew is considerably more expensive at the”Dill” but the overhead of the business is also much greater than Mike’s. All in all a very pleasant place for a meal. It must be because they serve approx. 2500 meals a day.

That’s it for this time but until next month don’t forget to support live country and bluegrass music and listen to Bluegrass Island every Sunday at 9 pm on CFCY 95.1 FM in Charlottetown and on the web at cfcy,fm.

Some of the Best

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

Cecil MacEachernFirst let’s address the PEI folks that have been granted showcases at ECMA Week. Not long ago if we had one act showcasing at the ECMAs we were considered to be lucky, but this year we have 23 per cent of the showcasing acts coming from PEI. This is a huge accomplishment for a province that has less than half the population of Halifax. This explosion in the music industry is due, in large part to the diligent efforts of Music PEI and their never ending promotion of local artists.

It isn’t a surprise to me that so many local artists have emerged from this small population. The talent was always here but before the advent of Music PEI and its predecessor, PEI Music Awards Association, the infrastructure to propel those artists into the main stream didn't exist. Congratulations to all those who continue to promote Island music and musicians.

On a sad note this month, we’ve lost one of the greatest musicians in traditional music that ever came out of PEI. Cecil MacEachern has passed away at the age of 88. Cecil was the last surviving member of The Don Messer band. He was a very humble and shy man who had a magician’s touch on the guitar and fiddle. His approach on fiddle was very delicate and subtle. He could swing from a waltz right in to a raging reel with the same masterful approach. Although Cecil didn’t play much in later years, he came to Florida for Islander Day for several years and it was my good fortune to have played bass for him on a number of occasions. His talent always came to the front when he played fiddle, usually not having played for a year and normally playing a borrowed instrument that was well below his talent level. He always made it sound like a million dollar violin. He will be missed.

We had the opportunity to go down to Skipper’s Smokehouse for some bluegrass music with The Beaumont Brothers with Mark Kreitzer and John Geurin. The Beaumont Brothers, Dave and Mike, are members of the Beaumont Family band that is mostly dormant at this time but surface occasionally. Dave and Mike are the go to guys in this part of Florida when you need guys to fill in and do a great job on bass and guitar. Mark Kreitzer who hails from Minnesota is a great fiddle and mandolin player and strong harmony singer and John Geurin is an accomplished guitarist and singer who at one time was a member of John Denver’s band. He is also a great entertainer. John Geurin has a music dealership in Naples, FL which features the best in acoustic instruments.

More bluegrass next month will come from Yeehaw Junction. Until next time don’t forget to support live country and bluegrass and listen to Bluegrass Island every Sunday evening at 9:00 on CFCY FM 95.1 in Charlottetown and on the web at

Today’s Country

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

Lorrie MorganThis month I have a bunch of things to talk about, mostly good but maybe some not so good.

First of all we’ve made the trek to the sunny south once again and we’ve had great weather with warm temperatures and sunny skies. Just to make it feel a bit more like Christmas, which isn’t easy when it’s 32 degrees, we took a trip over to the Florida Botanical Gardens to see the Christmas, or, as they call them, Holiday lights. I really wasn’t prepared for what we saw. There are 750,000 lights in all shapes and sizes as well as scenes projected on the trees and entertainment at every turn. All this covers an area of about three acres and is breath taking to say the least.

OK, enough with the lights. I guess you all know by now how I feel about contemporary country music. On our trip south I was listening to a station that was featuring country music from the 1980s. Back in the ’80s I wasn’t particularly fond of what was on the radio but I find that either myself or the music has mellowed over the years. The artists were George Strait, Joe Dee Messina, Lorrie Morgan, The Kentucky Headhunters and other artists of the like and, believe it or not, I actually enjoyed it. I came to the conclusion that going back and revisiting the music that I had an aversion to in the past isn’t a bad thing and sometimes it actually becomes palatable. Perhaps it’s a case of absence makes the ears grow fonder.

I still don’t like contemporary country because I believe as the years go by the music drifts farther and farther from it’s roots. I guess it’s all a product of blurring the lines in the music industry. For fear of being committed I’d like to say that it’s a conspiracy by the country music industry but since it’s happening throughout the music industry I guess it’s just a product of the money machine feeding a younger demographic.

Just a few words about the upcoming Music PEI awards and a couple of predictions. Well, here they are: Meaghan Blanchard; well “She’s Gonna Fly.” If Meaghan doesn’t win in every category that she’s nominated in call the cops. As much as I’d like to see my old buddy Neil Matthews win in the Country category, I’m afraid he’s in tough.

I think the Close to the Ground Concert Series deserves some support for all the work put in to it by Eddy Quinn and the guys. It’s probably the most popular event on PEI in the summer. Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys, being the Island’s most successful touring band, should come out on top in the roots traditional as well as the Spincount touring artist categories. The Trailside Café with its recent resurgence should take home venue of the year.

I’ve made the predictions— but what do I know?

Until next month don’t forget to support live country and bluegrass music and listen to Bluegrass Island on CFCY 95.1 in Charlottetown and on the web at

Making the Scene

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

This month I have a few thoughts on what makes the PEI music scene so great and what makes the PEI music scene not so great.

First the good news. The Music PEI awards are coming up early in the new year and there is certainly no scarcity of people that should or will be eligible for awards.

The growth of the PEI music industry over the last ten or so years is astounding. I remember, being involved in the early PEI Music Awards Assoc. From which Music PEI has sprung, the difficulty in trying to get enough publicity and headline acts to entice a crowd to half fill the Harbourfront Jubilee Theatre.

At this year’s awards there will be enough upper level talent to fill the newly named Eastlink Centre. Now the awards aren’t being held in the Eastlink Centre but if they were I’m sure it would be full and all this proves is if you give talented people a bit of a push, some financial assistance and encouragement they can evolve into world class performers. Good luck to all who may be nominated and to the organizers a hearty congratulations on a job well done.

And now to a part of the PEI music scene that’s not so good.

The Charlottetown city council has decided, in its wisdom that maybe it isn’t a good idea to have events in Victoria Park that charge an admission fee. It seems to me that The Jack Frost Festival charges an admission fee as well as baseball games and I’m sure there have been other events.

The push by a local company to launch a national folk festival needs the support of council to allow them to use Victoria Park as a base to present the festival. Folk festivals such as the one proposed for Victoria Park are a perfect way to enhance the cultural diversity of a community by bringing in performers from all corners of the world to give Islanders an idea of what other cultures are all about.

I remember, while living in Toronto, in the mid 70s attending the Mariposa Folk Festival, at that time, held on Toronto Island. I saw and enjoyed performers as diverse as Miriam Makeba and Ian Tyson with Odetta, Gordon Lightfoot and Doctor John thrown into the mix. Some of these people I hadn’t really enjoyed until I saw them in person and the way that they interacted with the audience. The crowds and the performers were equally as colourful and the atmosphere was one of friendship and acceptance.

The National Folk Festival needs Victoria Park so that it may showcase more than one act at a time and offer the total package to the people of PEI.

If you agree here’s a link to a petition that you can sign to show your support:

Until next time don’t forget to support live country and bluegrass music and listen to Bluegrass Island every Sunday at 9 pm on CFCF FM 95.1 and on the web at

Island Stand-outs

Gordie MacKeeman and Meaghan Blanchard

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

As autumn takes a firm grip on PEI I’d like to take some time to talk about two Island-based acts. One is a group of four top-notch musicians and the other is an extremely talented individual artist.

As Hamlet says, “the play’s the thing.” Now I’m no Shakespeare but I subscribe to the philosophy of the show’s the thing.

Both of these acts entertain the audience by, not only being extremely talented artists but by having “that thing” that is the missing element in many artists that are very good but will never be great.

The first artist I want to talk about is the most successful Island-based artist in many years or perhaps ever, Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys.

Gordie MacKeeman (photo: Moe)Gordie and his group are not only impeccably talented musicians but they are a dynamic stage act made up of tried and true, almost cliched routines based on early vaudeville along with modern hell bent for leather tunes and lots of natural comedic licks that flow naturally as the show rolls along. The Rhythm Boys; Thomas Webb, Mark Geddes, and Peter Cann are the perfect foil to Gordie’s bombastic fiddle playing and supernatural terpsichorean rampages.

Gordie and his rhythm boys have just returned from a tour in the UK, were home for about a week and left for a tour of Alberta. They are one of the most in demand groups in the country and every show they play is a guaranteed sell out and a return engagement. Gordie and His Rhythm Boys have released a new CD called Pickin’ and Clickin’.

Meaghan Blanchard (photo: ©pixpylorne)The second artist that I’d like to talk about is a talented singer, songwriter and musician who has just released a brand new CD called She’s Gonna Fly, Meaghan Blanchard. Now Meaghan doesn’t dance like Gordie or play the fiddle but she is a dynamite entertainer that, in my humble opinion is the best thing to come out of PEI since Gene MacLellan. She’s a natural entertainer. Her act isn’t a vaudeville act or anything close but she has a personality that makes you love her at first sight. There are people that just walk onto the stage and you’re entertained. Johnny Cash comes to mind. Meaghan has a natural and unassuming sense of humour that rolls out of her as effortlessly as her songs. She has “it,” whatever it is and it shines as bright as the north lights in autumn.

Meaghan has just completed a tour of the UK with Dan Walsh and is off to Ontario and Quebec for another tour. Meaghan is another PEI success story that proves that you can be successful and still live in PEI.

Until next time don’t forget to support live country and bluegrass music and listen to Bluegrass Island on CFCY 95.1 FM in Charlottetown and on the net at

Fall Musical Flavours

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

Neil MatthewsOctober brings us closer to winter and the I see the geese heading south. Other species of birds will be heading south in the not too distant future as well and I intend to be with them, but before I go I’d like to let you know what’s going on in the local music scene.

Neil Matthews has finished his CD, Back in My Country Days, and it’s on the market. This CD is a compilation of 13 songs that Neil has written and a couple of covers. The covers are “Funny How Time Slips Away” and “Wind In The Willow.” The remainder of the songs are eight songs that Neil wrote over the past winter and five songs that have been released on previous CDs. All in all this is a good effort and features many great Island musicians. The list includes George MacPhee on guitar, Freddie Arsenault on guitar, Paul Chandler on keyboards, Peter Burke on harmonica, Billy Matthews on snare drum as well as Julie Matthews and Gloria Rodgerson—Warren on vocals. This CD is well worth a listen and I know you’ll be pleased with the local flavour of Neil’s writing.

Although the regular run of ceilidhs is pretty much over for the season there is still one that is pretty much a year round event. Judy MacLean’s Sunday Night Shenanigans is still a very well received event happening at the York Hall every Sunday evening. Judy features, not only a great array of local talent, but talent from many parts of the world. The event has been going on for a number of years and let’s hope it keeps going for many years to come.

I had the opportunity to play at the lovely MacPhail Homestead in Orwell a couple of weeks ago and this is a PEI treasure not to be missed. The homestead is nestled in the woods just off the Trans-Canada highway in Orwell and well worth the left turn if you’re coming from Charlottetown. Of course turn right if you’re coming from Wood Islands.

The homestead has guided tours, a tea room as well as entertainment. Here is an excerpt from the homestead web site that can explain all this much better than I.

“Explore the grounds at the Macphail Homestead to find Dorothy’s Playhouse, the original cracked bell from the Valleyfield Church and the entrance pillars from the engineering building that burned to the ground at McGill University in 1907.

"Take a guided tour of the house, see the displays of historical artifacts and learn about the many engaging guests that visited in the early 1900’s, when the homestead was truly a destination by socialites such as Earl Grey, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Stephen Leacock, and John MacRae.”

If you get a chance, by all means do yourself a favour and visit the MacPhail Homestead before the season ends.

Until next month don’t forget to support live country and bluegrass music and listen to Bluegrass Island every Sunday evening at 9 pm on CFCY FM 95.1 in Charlottetown, PEI and on the web at

How Was Your Summer?

Country Prose
by Charlie Hansen

Malpeque By The Sea - Judee PattersonIt was a busy summer for music enthusiasts with festivals and the usual run of summer ceilidhs from one end of the island to the other.

Bluegrass festivals were quite successful this year with the St. Louis camp out leading off and again it showed some increases. Although not a large festival it has its faithful fans and does a service to the local community by donating funds to various activities.

The PEI Bluegrass and Old Time Music Festival was, again successful with a slight increase in their attendance. This festival, being the grand daddy of PEI bluegrass festivals just keeps rolling along and is a must see event every year for local bluegrass fans as well as visitors from all over North America with some special guests this year from New Zealand (not the one up by Souris, the one closer to Australia).

The Evangeline Bluegrass and     Traditional Music Festival is always a great draw for the Acadian area of PEI and this year was no exception. The camping is first rate with great facilities and the entertainment gives you a peak at many Canadian bluegrass acts which seem to be the backbone of that festival. This year’s feature was The Spinney Brothers who are making a name for themselves internationally by playing many US festivals and signing a recording contract with Mountain Fever Records in the US.

Besides all the festivals, people were putting out CDs, many for the first time. Judee Patterson wasn’t content with just one CD, she recorded two. Malpeque By The Sea is a mix of country and songs related to the Celtic genre. Close To My Heart is made up of a collection of familiar gospel favourites. These CDs are available from Judee at ceilidhs where you will find her almost every week across PEI.

Vince Savoie from Souris also recorded a CD of great fiddle tunes called Donna’s Favourites. Vince is a fine fiddler and has a great collection of tunes and includes everything from Bob Wills to Ned Landry. You can also find Vince at the ceilidhs around King’s County. I understand that he is a regular at the Georgetown ceilidhs.

There also is a new CD on the horizon from Neil Matthews. This CD is in the final stages of production and should be for sale by early September. It includes a dozen songs written by Neil and three covers. Nine of these songs are newly recorded and six are taken from earlier CDs and may include one live performance from 1968. Neil says that this is his last CD but we’ll see. I’d say it’s his last until next year.

Until next time don’t forget to support live country and bluegrass music and listen to Bluegrass Island Sunday at 9 pm on CFCY 95.1 FM in Charlottetown and on the web at

Keeping it Country

by Charlie Hansen

Country Prose

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

Charlie Hansen is…

Charlie HansenCharlie 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.

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