He’s appeared on radio and television, been a member of a variety of bands, performed with the symphony and contributed to piles of albums. But fiddler Mike Slauenwhite had never made a record of his own. Now, at 74, he’s done just that.
Mixing It Up came at the impetus of Floradale music producer Lynn Russwurm, a longtime collaborator who calls Slauenwhite a gem of a player who never sought the limelight.
Unheralded, perhaps, but not unknown to aficionados. A Kitchener native, he’s spent his life playing in the area. Those who saw the Westernaires years ago have heard his fiddle work. Having evolved into the Silver Bar Ranch Boys, the band spent three seasons on CKCO-TV, beginning in 1954 – one of the station’s earliest shows. The show aired every Saturday evening from 7-7:30 p.m.
Slauenwhite also appeared on CBC, radio and television. Many nights of the week, you’d find him performing with Clarence Petrie and The Nighthawks. Later, he was part of the Barn Dance Band, an outfit with a long history, and ties to Russwurm.
He wasn’t always decked out for a hoedown, however, having spent almost 20 years in the string section of the K-W Symphony Orchestra.
Through it all, he’s maintained a love of music and the instrument he began playing at the age of eight. Even now, being treated for cancer, he still gets out to play. That includes dropping in to jam at the Commercial Tavern in Maryhill, which will host his CD release party Apr. 11.
“I still enjoy playing, for sure. I’ve always enjoyed playing. I never pursued it solely as a profession, but it’s been a very good part-time job,” he laughed.
Modesty and the drive to keep a day job in support of a wife and four children kept Slauenwhite from getting the kind of recognition he deserves, suggested Russwurm. The two first played together back in the 1950s.
“Mike is suffering from cancer, and we thought we’d record this for him – he’s never had an album for himself,” Russwurm said of the Mixing It Up. “It’s something to record his great playing; something for his kids, his family.”
The CD features 14 songs – including “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You,” “San Antonio Rose” and “Lady Be Good” – that Slauenwhite and Russwurm felt would be indicative of his country fiddling.
“These are tunes that I’ve played for a long time,” said Slauenwhite.
“I have to give credit for this to Lynn – he’s really been pushing this. I guess I’m not a great self-promoter,” he added, again laughing.
In recording the album, Slauenwhite also enjoyed something of a walk down memory lane. Russwurm played bass and rhythm guitar. On Dobro and guitar was Robert Tremblay, who first joined him on stage in the mid-1950s (they were both with the Silver Bar Ranch Boys as teenagers). Another collaborator of many years, Ron Coulthard, contributed piano and guitar. Wellesley’s Grant Heywood, of the celebrated Heywood Family, played drums. The only newcomer was Darin Parise on banjo and flat top.
“I’m really happy with how it turned out,” Slauenwhite said of the album. “I’ve been getting some nice comments about it.”
The CD release party for Mixing It Up is set for Apr. 11, 2-5 p.m., at the Commercial Tavern in Maryhill. Along with Mike and some of those from the CD, other guess acts will be performing that day.