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Interview with Maritime Blues Legend Dutch Mason



Dutch Mason is notably one of Atlantic Canada's finest Blues performers, B.B King once called Dutch, Canada's Prime Minister of the Blues, a name that has stuck with him ever since. Throughout his career, Dutch has performed with such blues greats as not only King, but James Cotton, Big Mamma Thornton, John Lee Hooker, Clifton Chenier and Oscar Peterson, among others. He is also the only touring act to hold down back-to-back weekly engagements at Toronto's Albert's Hall. Peter Goddard, music critic at the Toronto Star once wrote "The Dutch Mason Blues Band is the best bar band I have ever seen. "Within the last few years, due to chronic arthritis, Dutch has been forced to leave the guitar work to his eighteen year old son Garret, who now performs with the band. However, Dutch's voice is still as strong as ever. Sadly for local blues fans, Dutch will be limiting his touring, as he recently had a stroke and is now having problems with his knees. I did this interview with him in March of 2001.

GB - I understand your not going to be touring anymore, is that so?

DM - I don't know. My knee is all screwed up. I'm supposed to have a knee operation, but I smoke so much they are afraid I will have another stroke. I can't go anywhere with my knee like this. Right now I got to pick and choose and not go too far away from home. There is all kinds of work out there. I could be playing all the time, but I don't want to go too far away as it tires me out.

GB- Who's is your band members now?

DM - There is always a change but it usually is Ashley Jardine (AJ), Charlie Phillips, Craig Rude, Carter Chaplin, my son Garret and sometime Rick Jeffery. We've played together for years and years but he's sick too. He's got bad lungs. We're all fu** up.

GB - Any plans on making any more recordings?

DM - I'd like to make a couple of more recording. You don't have to go anywhere to do that, Halifax or somewhere. You can do them pretty near anywhere. I think everybody in the world got a studio now. There is all that digital stuff now, and you don't got to fu** around cutting tape or anything. They just rewind it and away you go.

GB - How do you think the Maritime music scene has changed in the last couple of decades?

DM - Well people are accepting Blues now more than they did before. When I first started playing, people around here didn't even know what Blues was and neither did I. I just knew I liked it and wanted to play it. It's changed now and people are accepting it.

GB- Do you think the Celtic scene has been overblown?

DM- They just had a run-on for that stuff . Celtic music is starting to die down now. It's like anything they have a big- run on for it and bingo it starts to go down. There is a certain crowd for that and a certain crowd for Blues. Blues people are dedicated to that stuff. If you get a Blues crowd they have to really like Blues.

GB - Do you find the East Cost Music Awards favor Celtic too much?

DM - Well it all depends on where they have them. If they have them in Cape Breton then you see Celtic music all the time, but if they are in Halifax it's not as much. In Moncton you get the french thing with the Zydico and Cajun music.

GB - I agree, and next year they are in Saint John and it's rumored they will be more county oriented. If they ever had them here in Fredericton you would get mostly Blues.

DM - Yes that's right, that makes sense. Fredericton is more of a Blues type place.

GB - What do you recall from your days playing the outdoor festivals in the 70's?

DM - We were the first electric band to play the folk festivals in Nova Scotia when they first started. We were in there with Will Miller of the Irish Rovers, and Shirley Eikhard when she was just a kid. I never saw her again till few years ago when I was at the ECMA'S in Newfoundland.

GB- Did you have much success in other areas outside Atlantic Canada?

DM -I started playing in Toronto way back in the late 50's and early 60's. When I went up there I was so stupid. I went up there thinking I'll be a big star. Then I heard all these other bands and I figured I'll just come home for a while. Everybody has that in their mind. Everybody who is playing says they want to get out of here and go to Toronto. I figure I'm making thirty or forty dollars a night so may as well stay here. That's if you got a job. If your gonna waste your time, you may as well got right to New York City. Go down there and waste your time.

GB - Of course you got to open for BB King!

DM - Yea we opened for BB King two or three times. I played with everybody. I played with Johnny Lee Hooker, of course he doesn't even remember the thing now because he is so old. We did one show there with Eddy (Clean head) Vincent, Big Mamma Thornton, Lighting Hopkins, BB King, Oscar Peterson. As a matter of fact we were the only white guys in the show. Also Clifton Chenier. He was the big king of the Zydico stuff. That was in Montreal in 1976 or 77. We were there making a record for London Records. That's how we got hooked up with that show. Now I just want to play around here. Maybe I'll get my knee fixed up or have my leg taken off or both legs taken off. Next time you see me I'll be about four and a half feet tall.(laughs).

GB - How did you first get started performing?

DM - I was fourteen years old and started playing drums in a dixieland band. My mother was playing in the band, and my father was playing in another dixieland band, and then we had a trio. My mother, father and then myself. My father played stand up bass and my mother played piano and I played drums. Then I went from that to starting my own rockabilly band and then to blues.

Dutch and son Garret

GB - What do you think if all the new younger Blues players like Colin James?

DM - All these guys are good for me. As long as young people are playing, it keeps me playing. I'm the original thing anyway. A lot of these guys are playing stuff now that I played years ago, and they've up-tempoed it. They made it into their new way of playing it.

GB- Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me.

DM - Thank you.

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