“How long have you two known each other?” I ask local country musicians Lynn Russwurm and Bob Tremblay, who collaborate in the band The Two Plus Who.
“Oh, gee,” says Tremblay. “A number of years. How many years? Goes back to…”
“Bob played for me one time back in 1958, I think it was,” says Russwurm. “ ‘57 or ’58…”
“I must’ve been real young. I remember that one, but… I did play, as a matter of fact, they were playing at one of the pubs at the station…”
“That was in the ‘70s, I think…”
“…I knew him before that, but I walked in to hear their band…”
“The Jamboree Reunion Band.”
“Yeah, I walked in to hear their band. He said, ‘You gotta hear us some time.’ I say, ‘Yeah, OK,’ so I walked in. Well, lo and behold, his drummer got sick and he had no drummer! So I’m sittin’ there lookin’ and thinking, well, this doesn’t sound right without the drums, y’know? So he said to me, ‘You play drums?’ And I said, ‘Well…I keep a beat’….” – Tremblay rhythmically taps the table – “… ‘I can do that.’ So I got up and played drums for him – never played drums before!”
Russwurm and Tremblay were in the same orbit, and collaborated occasionally over the years, but never at a sustained level until forming The Two Plus Who. Now entering their fourth year as a band, Russwurm (on bass) and Tremblay (on Dobro guitar) join a guest performer (usually on rhythm guitar) to perform traditional country music. Their new monthly concert series, beginning Sunday at the WMC, will attempt to sustain the momentum of Russwurm’s popular Elmira summer concert series.
“I was in a gospel group called The Crossover Junction,” says Russwurm, “and we got Bob in with us a few times to do a recording …”
“That’s where I first got started with Lynn I think, when we started with that Cross Road…”
“…Yeah, Crossover Junction, and…”
How, then, did this lead to The Two Plus Who?
“Well, we started playing up there in Neustadt, and we kept getting new singers,” said Tremblay. “Lynn would turn around and get ahold of different people, I would get ahold of people. … We’re playing up in Neustadt, and we started to think, ‘We have to have a name.”
“Bob just said it off the cuff one time, ‘Two Plus Who’…”
“Yeah, I figured, ‘Two Plus Who’… whoever we get, y’know, that’ll be the ‘Who.’”
“It works well ‘cause every time we go we have a new singer, and we just follow them.”
“We want nothing but good frontmen where we can back ‘em up, enhance what they’re doing, and that’s our main purpose. Every person that comes up there will do different songs, and that puts us on the edge.” Tremblay laughs. “We gotta make sure we’re backin’ ‘em properly!”
Two Plus Who’s season at the WMC will see the group collaborating with such musicians as the Muir Family and Russwurm’s son Lance, as well as artists from as far away as Sarnia and Simcoe. Key to the appeal of the series, they believe, will be its mystery.
“The Two Plus Who, that’s kind of a new concept,” says Tremblay. “When we go into a pub and play there, they know we’re gonna be back on a certain date … but they don’t know who we’re gonna have for a singer. And they know it’ll be good.”
A pause. Tremblay adds, “I think it’s going to be a continuing of what we saw at the (Gore Park) bandstand on Sunday nights.”
“At the bandstand we were averaging 600 people on a Sunday night,” says Russwurm, “so if 600 people come out … capacity is 160. We’re gonna be in trouble!”
The Two Plus Who will perform with Grant Hayward, Harry Busby, and Lance Russwurm for their first monthly concert on September 29, 2-4 p.m., at the Woolwich Memorial Centre. Admission is $5.