STILL GO­ING STRONG

Matt Min­gle­wood turns 70 — and re­leases a new al­bum

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY EL­IZ­A­BETH PAT­TER­SON epat­ter­son@cb­post.com

Matt Min­gle­wood re­leases new al­bum at age 70.

Leg­endary Cana­dian rock and blues per­former Matt Min­gle­wood learned early in his mu­sic ca­reer that fol­low­ing your heart could lit­er­ally save your life.

“We were on the road in Fred­er­ic­ton,” said Min­gle­wood on Wed­nes­day, talk­ing about when he was per­form­ing with Sam Moon and the Univer­sal Power back in 1970. “It was right about then that I de­cided this is what I want to do be­cause my fa­ther called and he had got a job for me on the Pa­trick Mor­ris.”

The Pa­trick Mor­ris was a ferry that op­er­ated be­tween North Syd­ney and Port aux Basques, New­found­land. It re­sponded to a may­day call on April 19 from a her­ring seiner in trou­ble.

“I was an ap­pren­tice elec­tri­cian with Lynk Elec­tric. I had three years in work­ing on that field and he got me a job as a fifth elec­tri­cian on the boat. But I told him that wasn’t what I wanted to do and it was hard to tell him that be­cause I knew that he didn’t want to hear that. Any­way, I said this is what I wanted to do and it’s kind of a good thing be­cause a few weeks later that boat sank with four lives lost and guess where this fifth elec­tri­cian would be — down in the boiler room where most of them per­ished.”

The Pa­trick Mor­ris was re­spond­ing to a dis­tress call from the New­found­land her­ring seiner FV En­ter­prise. In to­tal, 12 lives were lost be­tween the two ves­sels when they both sank off Cape Breton on April 20, 1970.

“My fa­ther af­ter that never asked me to do any­thing — he said ‘go ahead, play mu­sic.’”

With a ca­reer span­ning more than 55 years, the 70-year-old has done just that. He’s played for the troops in Afghanistan and recorded at Jimi Hen­drix’s Elec­tric Lady Stu­dios in New York. He’s had ma­jor hits and three gold records. And al­though there were the oc­ca­sional rough wa­ters, he’s never had too much trou­ble keep­ing his ca­reer afloat. Even his first mu­si­cal ex­pe­ri­ence at age four has an al­most sto­ry­book qual­ity to it.

“My first live per­for­mance was a Scot­tish con­cert in Port Hood when I was four,” Min­gle­wood re­called. “I sang a cou­ple of Gaelic songs that my grand­fa­ther taught me pho­net­i­cally how to sing them.

“I was go­ing to go out and sing th­ese songs by my­self but I was scared to death and I think I was cry­ing. Genevieve MacMaster, which would be Natalie’s aunt, came over and gave me a big hug and I think she was 16 at the time. She said ‘I’ll go out and play piano for you.’ She did and it got me through it.”

Af­ter that, he kept on singing and took up the fid­dle at age six, later giv­ing it up to play hockey. But he didn’t stay away from mu­sic for long, sign­ing up for piano lessons at age eight with Pro­fes­sor Jim Mac­Don­ald in North Syd­ney.

“He al­ways scolded me for not hav­ing it right — he used to say ‘you’re not play­ing some­thing wrong — it just isn’t what’s on the pa­per.’ Even then I was mak­ing up melodies my­self.”

He later joined his first band, The Rockin’ Saints, play­ing gui­tar and or­gan, still known as Roy Bather­son, his real name. Then he hooked up with Sam Moon and the Univer­sal Power and Matt Min­gle­wood was born.

Since then, he’s toured around the world, mak­ing thou­sands of fans. He’s played to the troops in war-torn places like Afghanistan and has dealt with un­der­world crooks who have tried to not pay his band af­ter a per­for­mance. There have been highs and lows and he wouldn’t try to change any of it.

“No re­grets — can’t change any­thing,” he says. “When you change one thing in your life, it changes ev­ery­thing else with it.”

One thing he def­i­nitely wouldn’t change is his present band who helped him record his lat­est al­bum, “Fly Like Des­per­a­dos,” which was recorded in Cape Breton at Lakewind Sound Stu­dios in Point Aconi.

“They’re all Cape Bre­ton­ers. The al­bum wouldn’t have turned out as good as it did if it wasn’t for my band­mates be­cause they put a lot of work into it and their tal­ent was a big part of it. “

The lineup for Min­gle­wood’s 14th record­ing in­cludes drum­mer Moon McInnis, Moon’s 17-year-old son Nick McInnis on gui­tar, Emily Ding­wall on bass and Jeff Sta­ple­ton on key­boards. Min­gle­wood played lead gui­tar. Mike Lit­tle on Ham­mond B3 or­gan and Rol­lie Platt on har­mon­ica also con­trib­uted to the al­bum.

The al­bum was re­leased last week­end with two sold-out shows at Casino Nova Sco­tia in Hal­i­fax. Min­gle­wood and his band will be per­form­ing at the Mem­ber­tou Trade and Con­ven­tion Cen­tre on Fri­day and Satur­day of this week for the Cape Breton re­lease of the al­bum. Al­though both shows have been ad­ver­tised as be­ing sold out, Min­gle­wood says some new tick­ets have be­come avail­able for last-minute ticket buy­ers. Those who at­tend can meet Min­gle­wood after­wards and pick up a copy of the lat­est CD. For those who can’t make the con­cert, the CDs are also for sale at Syd­ney’s Cape Breton Cu­rios­ity Shop.

In a ca­reer that’s seen him per­form in ev­ery­thing from con­cert halls, large gath­er­ings and cozy clubs, Min­gle­wood says there is still noth­ing else he would rather be do­ing.

“I’m happy. There have been many high­lights over the years but the bot­tom line for me is just to be 70 years old and still do­ing it and still en­joy­ing it.

“That’s the high­light for me.”

“My first live per­for­mance was a Scot­tish con­cert in Port Hood when I was four. I sang a cou­ple of Gaelic songs that my grand­fa­ther taught me pho­net­i­cally how to sing them. Matt Min­gle­wood

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

He may have just turned 70 but that’s not stop­ping Matt Min­gle­wood from do­ing what he loves best – mak­ing mu­sic.

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