STILL GOING STRONG
Matt Minglewood turns 70 — and releases a new album
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
He may have just turned 70 but that’s not stopping Matt Minglewood from doing what he loves best – making music.