A few years back, Lynn Russwurm’s bandmates decided it was time to put down their instruments and retire, but Russwurm wasn’t ready to sit in the audience just yet.
“They knew when to quit; I didn’t,” he chuckled.
Russwurm got word that a bluegrass band called Crossover Junction was looking for a bass player and joined the group. Now, at 78, he’s producing the band’s self-titled debut album.
Russwurm grew up listening to his father’s collection of old 78s and started playing guitar when his was in his teens. At 19, he moved from the family farm near Hanover to Kitchener, where he got a job at B.F. Goodrich. He formed his first band, the Pine River Troubadors, and played the local bar circuit. At 21, he had his own program on a Kitchener radio station.
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In the 60 years Russwurm has been making music, he’s seen a lot of changes in the business. Back in the 1950s and ’60s, he used to correspond directly with artists; that was how his songs ended up on the albums of country stars like the Mercey Brothers, the Lewis Family, Carl Smith and Hank Thompson.
“You can’t get to artists personally any more like you could back then,” he said. “You could knock on doors and go somewhere.”
These days you need connections, the kind of connections Russwurm has built up over the years. When the band decided they wanted to cut an album, Russwurm knew the people to get it done.
His favourite song from the album is one he wrote many years ago called “I Do Not Know You.” Russwurm used to teach Sunday school back in the 1960s, and he wrote the song for one of his classes.
Five of the 18 songs on the album are Russwurm’s, and another was written by singer Kathy Kirker. The remainder are old gospel standards.
Russwurm started writing his own songs when he was in his teens, and guesses he’s written more than 600 over the years. Dozens of them have been recorded by country artists, and one, “I Cast a Lonesome Shadow,” was covered by Depeche Mode guitarist Martin Gore on his 2003 solo album.
In 1985, Russwurm retired from B.F. Goodrich and devoted his attention to music full-time. Along with songwriting and playing guitar and bass, he collects and sells rare country albums. The two upstairs rooms of his house on Floradale Road are stacked floor to ceiling with shelves and crates of old 78s, some 6,000 of them.
Russwurm has collected records since he was a teen, and had 30,000 of them at one point. Around 1980, he sold them all and started collecting again, focusing on old Canadian country artists. He sells records through the mail, and also has booths at both antique markets in St. Jacobs and another at the antique market in Stratford.
Russwurm also produces compilations of country music out of his collection for a company in England. The last 78 record was produced in 1959, 50 years ago, so all of that music is now part of the public domain. The second volume of Lynn Russwurm’s Canadian Country is due out in a few months. At the same time, 14 albums he produced in the late 1980s that were released on cassette are being remastered for CD.
“I’ve got so many things on the go, I can’t keep them all straight,” Russwurm said.
This is the group’s first album, but probably not their last. Russworm said they’ve already talked about doing another one.
“When you just play, when you’re done playing, it’s gone. When you create something like this, you’ve created something that will be left behind,” Russwurm said.
The band is promoting the album with a mini-concert at Market Road Antiques in St. Jacobs at 2 p.m. today (Saturday) with copies of the album for sale. Crossover Junction is also available by calling Russwurm at 519-669-2386.