Although it has been 45 years since Don Messer’s Jubilee variety television show was cancelled fiddler Scott Woods still see’s people swoon at the memories.
“In 1964 his show had higher ratings than Hockey Night In Canada. It was quite the phenomenon, they were the rock stars of the day,” said Woods, who is performing with his Old Time Jubilee show in honour of Messer at the Shatford Centre on June 12. “When they rolled into towns on tour the crowds would be gathered waiting for the bus to arrive to get autographs and pictures.”
Having criss-crossed the country dozens of times, Woods gets a shiver every now and then thinking about how he has retraced the steps of Messer. Playing in some of the same halls Messer did, driving the same highways (albeit they are most likely better maintained now) and even jamming alongside some of the same players. The only remaining Messer accompanist, Vic Mullin, played banjo on stage with Woods in Yorkton, and just over a year ago Messer’s bass player Cecil McEachern came to a show before he passed away.
“Cecil said, ‘If Don and the rest of the gang were still on the road playing music you are exactly what we would have sounded like.’ That was a real compliment coming from him. He would talk about life on the road and it was very similar. They travelled on a bus and worked hard,” said Woods.
The Old Time Jubilee show reunites Cape Breton Tenor Tommy Leadbeater (as Charlie Chamberlain) with Canadian grand master fiddle champion Woods (as Don Messer) and features the vocals of Lynda Lewis (as Marg Osborne) in a two-hour performance honouring the days when Messer and his Islanders ruled the airwaves. Joining the show will be ECMA Award winner Bruce Timmins (guitar, bass) and Kyle Waymouth, who is the two-time Canadian open step dancing champion. The fast-paced, uplifting show has delighted audiences of all ages across Canada with old-time fiddle music, step dancing, trick fiddling, family humour and more.
“For many people this is a trip down memory lane to an almost simpler time in life when families would gather around the radio and television and listen,” said Woods.
Memories of Messer and the show run deep in Canada, said Woods. It isn’t unusual to have people approach them after the shows with memorabilia fans have kept over the years.
“They bring us their stories, pictures, programs from concerts. One lady had a stainless shell serving tray with Don Messer’s picture on it that she got when she was just 12 years old,” said Woods. “I think people liked them so much, not only because of his fiddling, but they had this very simple approach. It was a little tongue and cheek humour and he was a Canadian icon that is the gold standard in old time fiddling now.”
Woods is a multiple Canadian Open and Canadian Grand Master Fiddle Champion. He is known affectionately throughout Canada as The Flippin’ Fiddler, a nickname earned as a result of a stunning somersault he does while playing his fiddle without missing a beat. A stunt he still has worked into his show that is coming to Penticton, plus a few other tricks up his sleeve.
Just like Messer, the Scott Woods Band likes to donate portions of their proceeds to community groups. They travel across Canada each year performing up to 150 concerts, almost all of which help to support churches, charities and other community groups. This show is no different. Woods said he will be returning some of the proceeds of the show back to the Shatford Centre.
Woods brings his show on June 12 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 for adults, $10 for kids (age six to 12) and kids five and under get in free. They can be purchased at the Shatford Centre at 760 Main St. or by calling 250-770-7668.