After more than five decades writing country music, Lynn Russwurm has amassed a catalogue of some 600 songs.Now in his 80s, he still performs regularly with his band, Two Plus Who.
But much of Russwurm’s music remained unheard, tucked away in a drawer at his home on Floradale Road.
Two years ago, he decided to change that.
“I wanted to leave something of myself behind,” Russwurm said. “I feel like all the playing you do all through the years when you’re playing at night at a dance, once the night is over the music is gone. Every musician should record to leave something behind to show that he was here.”
So he set about creating a “greatest hits” of sorts.
“I went back and went through all my songs and decided which ones I could (still) sing,” Russwurm explained. “I can’t sing just any song. Certain songs I have to stay away from. Some people can sing any song, but I can’t. I went for as much variety as I could get: some slow songs, some fast songs, some ballads and some story songs and some sing-alongs.”
The result was “Singing my Songs,” and it was a hit.
“Lynn is not an out and out superstar singer, he’s a songwriter, and most of the songs presented here reflect that,” states a review by the Rural Roots Music Commission (RRMC). “I was captivated by a couple of the songs simply because of the incredibly good story they told.”
Enamored with the record, the RRMC awarded “Singing my Songs” its CD of the year award and will honor Russwurm at the 39th Annual National Old-Time Country, Bluegrass and Folk Music Festival in Le Mars, Iowa.
Russworm and his son Lance will head down to the event August 25-31.
“At first I wasn’t sure if I would go, but my kids said that I had to,” Russworm said. “Something like this only comes around once.”
He’ll even get the chance to do some “picking and singing” at the show, which will be “a lot of fun.”
“I enjoy being on stage; when you’re up on stage and you have a good crowd and they’re with you, that’s a good feeling. It’s a high.”
The recognition is a fitting culmination to Russworm’s musical career, which was marked by a passion for not only writing and performing, but also preserving music.
Indeed, Russwurm spent his retirement buying and selling records.
At its peak, he owned 30,000 records, including 6,000 Canadian country music albums that are now with Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa.
A kind of unofficial country music historian, Russwurm also compiles rare Canadian country classics, sending them to enthusiasts locally and as far afield as Europe.
Music is meant to be shared, he says.
“I recorded (Singing my Songs) to try to get my songs out there so that other people might want to record them. It happens, where a song is recorded by one person and another will pick it up and they’ll record it too.”
Hank Thompson, for example, covered four of Russworms songs, leading to a rather unexpected tribute.
“After (Thompson recorded “I Cast a Lonesome Shadow”), the lead singer of Depeche Mode (Martin Gore) picked it up and recorded it. That was really a surprise.”
It’s a real thrill to inspire other artists he said, much the way Hank Williams and Eddy Arnold got him started in the early 50s.