Larry Mercey is no stranger to the Commercial Tavern, that Maryhill bastion of traditional country music. Likewise, fans of that sound are no stranger to Mercey and his six decades of performing.
Mercey got his start in 1956, performing with the CKNX barn dance broadcast from Wingham. The following year, he and his brother Ray founded the Mercey Brothers. The duo was joined by brother Lloyd in 1966, and the Mercey Brothers continued to record and perform until 1989. During that time, they issued 17 albums and some 50 singles, many of which went to number-one on the charts. The brothers have been inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame.
His brothers eventually moving on to other pursuits, Mercey went solo in 1990, the albums and hits continuing. His “new” band – The Larry Mercey Trio, with George Lonsbury (guitar and vocals) and Al Alderson (bass and vocals) – has been together since 2004, putting together a polished show that will be pleasing the crowd Sunday afternoon.
That show will be all about the classic country music the Commercial Tavern is known for.
“It’s just a great place. The audience there know traditional country music,” he said, noting he expects to see many of the regulars out on Sunday.
“It’s kind of like old home week … at shows these days. There are people who keep coming back for years and years.”
Though he’s playing fewer shows these days, and it’s been a long time since he made arduous tours across the country, there are still fans who keep in touch.
“You make so many friends out on the road,” he said of his years of performing.
Take, for instance, a Saskatchewan couple who, starting in 1960, became such fans of the band that they had two bedrooms and extra space built into their new house in order to accommodate the band on its western tours.
“That became our home in the west,” said Mercey, noting he stayed in touch with them even after those touring days were done. “They’ve passed now, but they were such great friends.
“You miss that,” he added of the upside of touring.
Mercey has many such stories from his decades in the music industry, and he’s been diligently recalling and writing them down for some years now with an eye towards finishing a book on those experiences.
“It’s been fun reminiscing about those days,” he said of writing the book.
“Sometimes I call my brothers and ask what they remember. Sometimes it’s the opposite of what I remember,” he laughed.
In writing the book, he draws on some 22 scrapbooks of clippings, tour schedules and agendas that date back to the early days.
“I’ve got a lot to help my memory along.”
He’s been going through the history, starting in 1956. As of today, he’s chronicled through 1982.
“It’s just like living my life over,” he said.
On Sunday in Maryhill, however, he’ll be adding to his long experience as a performer. There’s no time for storytelling on stage, as the trio’s shows are all about the music.
Mercey says they’ll be doing the hits and the classics from The Mercey Brothers days on through.
“That’s the stuff that people want to hear. Some of them I’ve been doing since 1966, and I still enjoy playing them.”
While he’s scaled back the performance schedule, he insists on practicing regularly to stay sharp and to keep the fingers in shape for playing the guitar.
“You have to keep those calluses on the end of your fingers,” he laughed, adding his weekly to-do list always starts with “sing, sing, sing.”
“The voice is like a muscle, and you have to exercise the muscle.”
He also leads a regular Thursday night jam session in the 55-plus community where he lives.
“Two of the regulars are 91, which gives me hope that I can keep playing for a little while longer,” he said with a chuckle.
The Larry Mercey Trio performs November 11 starting at 3 p.m. at the Commercial Tavern. Tickets are available at the venue, 1303 Maryhill Rd., or by calling 519-648-3644. Click here for more information.