September 30th, 2016

Memories of Messer — Scott Woods keeps a musical legacy alive

By Lethbridge Herald on June 20, 2014.

Al Beeber
Lethbridge Herald
In the 1960s, “Don Messer’s Jubilee” was a staple of Canadian television, a musical institution who would draw fans from coast to coast to watch his blend of traditional fiddle music.
Messer, along with fellow stars Charlie Chamberlain and Marg Osborne, were stars and while they have long since departed this earth, their legacy is being kept alive by Ontario fiddler Scott Woods.
Woods brings his “Old Time Jubilee” show Sunday night at 7 p.m. to Southminster United Church. Showtime is 7 p.m. and tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for children aged six to 12.
Joining Woods on stage is Cape Breton tenor Tommy Leadbetter, who stars as Chamberlain, and Lynda Lewis, who portrays Osborne.
Woods, a Canadian grand master fiddle champion, of course, stars as Messer. Known across Canada as “The Flippin’ Fiddler,” he will be performing some of the tricks he’s known for including performing while rolling on a barrel, and playing his instrument behind his back.
The Southminster show is part of a cross-country tour that’s had Woods and his fellow cast members on the road since March 21 with only about four days off, doing fundraising performances at venues from coast to coast.
And the show is still attracting legions of Messer fans while creating new ones, too.
“It’s quite amazing — in 2005 when we did our last tribute to Don Messer with the big show, I wasn’t sure what would happen,” said Woods Wednesday.
Now touring with five performers instead of a full cast like he used to do, Woods is still able to accurately recreate the weekly Messer shows.
“We can still honour the sound and the music,” said Woods.
The love fans have for Messer is shown in many ways including fans showing him autographed programs of his concerts. One woman even brought a silver serving tray with a photo of the East Coast legend to a show, a souvenir that had been clearly well taken care of over the decades.
“These guys were all rock stars of the day. Their music and the show, no matter how old-time and corny it may have been, spoke to people,” says Woods.
Woods came up with the idea for the fundraising tour after his fiddler father Merv died around Christmas in 2003. His mom, Caroline, who played piano in her husband’s band from 1956, said she wanted to go on a mission now that he was gone.
Scott, who inherited the leadership of his dad’s bad in the mid-1980s, suggested doing fundraiser tours instead.
They started out small, eventually performing as many as 160 shows a year, a schedule Woods says was a bit too busy. He’s since cut it down to about 150.
Because of the fundraising aspect, the shows are attracting people who may not have even heard of Messer, but come out to support a particular cause. And many walk away with armloads of CDs after their introduction to the world of Messer.
“The greatest compliment is when they come because they were there to work and then say they really enjoyed it. The show takes people back to a time when they were sitting on granddad’s knee. . .it’s almost a nostalgic, sentimental journey,” says Woods, speaking reverently of an era with only three channels, no social media and no smartphones.
“People long for that simplicity sometimes.”

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