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Fiddler Carl Kees is ready to rock in Heidelberg

He’s a little bit country. They’re a little bit rock ‘n’ roll.

After more than six decades as a traditional country fiddler, Carl Kees has discovered it’s fun to mix things up a little. That’s why he’ll be taking the stage Saturday night in Heidelberg with his nephews for a decidedly rockin’ show.

While he’s spent last few winters at his place in Florida, Kees hasn’t exactly been retired, playing shows regularly while he’s there. Some traditional stuff, but also a mix depending on who he’s performing with.

“The country that I played there wasn’t totally traditional – some western swing stuff, some blues. And I thought, ‘this is fun,’” he said Monday, having just returned home to Waterloo more than happy to keep mixing it up.

That’s why he jumped at the chance to play with Glen Affeldt Band May 6 at The Olde Heidelberg Restaurant. Glen Affeldt plays guitar and sings, while brother Larry Affeldt plays bass and provides vocals as well.

The show will be just the second time Kees has played with his nephews, and his first appearance at the venue, which brings him close to his starting out point, having grown up in St. Agatha and St. Clements.

Kees said he’s looking forward to the show, noting the first time out his nephew Glen surprised him with his command of the guitar.

“Over all my years and years of playing – and I was first on the radio at 9 years of age – I’ve seen many guitar players, and he’s a real hot player. I knew that he played, but I didn’t really know how good he was.

“I had to play like crazy just to keep up with those buggers,” he said of the previous outing.

Kees has certainly seen and played with a long list of performers since first picking up a mandolin, violin and fiddle early on his life. As with many area musicians, his first taste of performing came on the radio and its barn dance circuit, getting on the air at the age of 9. By the time he was 15, he was a regular on Tillsonburg’s CKOT, a gig that later saw the radio band open for the likes of Johnny Cash, Ray Price, Porter Wagoner and Faron Young.

In 1962, still not out of his teens, Kees joined the house band at Toronto’s Edison Hotel, commuting there six nights a week. That experience allowed him to take the stage with a who’s who of Nashville stars of the day, including Mel Tillis, Willie Nelson, Tammy Wynette, Tex Ritter and Roy Clarke.

Later, as a fiddler for The Good Brothers – no strangers to local country music audiences – Kees opened for a diverse range of acts, including the likes of Gordon Lightfoot, Doobie Brothers, Foriegner,  Little River Band and Carlos Santana.

His career has seen him travel the globe, pick up Juno awards and play on gold records. The hectic touring pace he once kept – and now being kept by his nephews – isn’t on the list anymore, but he’s keeping busy with the likes of the Heidelberg show, with its blues-tinged rock and, later this month, traditional country at Maryhill’s Commercial Tavern (May 19 and 20).

“We’ll playing flat out rock ‘n’ roll – all authentic stuff – on Saturday night,” he said. “At the end of May, it’ll be the country stuff, for sure.”

Saturday’s show will be his first in Heidelberg, but he’s no stranger to Paul Weber’s venue in Maryhill.

“It’s a great place for country music.”

The Glen Affeldt Band featuring Carl Kees takes to the stage at The Olde Heidelberg Restaurant May 6 at 9 p.m. The cover charge for the evening is $5.

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