Friends are Passing

Paul S. Cranford

As a teenager, before I got involved in traditional music, all my friends were my contemporaries. One of the beauties of learning music from the aural tradition is the way it brings the generations together. Young musicians, out of necessity, befriend older players with experience. I certainly feel fortunate to have learned so much from so many wonderful older people. Three of the key people in my musical development passed away since the last newsletter.

Pianist Margaret MacPhee (1912-97). Both Margaret and her son Dougie welcomed me into their home, inspiring my early repertoire and interpretations of strathspeys and marches. Margaret had a wonderful sense of timing, and made me feel ever-so-solid when she accompanied me. She made both LP and 78 recordings with Johnny Wilmot (1916-93) in the '50s and '60s.

Harmonica and piano player Tommy Basker (1923-99). Tommy and I were constant companions for over twenty years. He had amazing patience, teaching me to use my ears. I remember one occasion, in June 1977, when he spent over 8 hours to teach me a single tune, not only making sure of the basic melody, but getting me to hear the subtleties of ornamentation and variation. Tommy made both LP and 78 recordings with Johnny Wilmot in the '50s and '60s. In 1994, he made his solo record, The Tin Sandwich.

Guitarist, fiddler and mandolinist Sonny Slade (1933-99). Sonny was the first Cape Breton musician I met who took me under his wing. A versatile musician, he showed me many things about rhythm, harmony and melody. We learned lots of tunes together from tapes. A tasty accompanist, he loved to work out all the chords, regardless of the time it took to find them. In the '50s, he played with both Johnny Wilmot and Winston Fitzgerald. Later, making his living from playing music, he changed idioms to rock, pop and country. In 1996, he joined me for a couple of tracks on The Lighthouse CD.

 This arrangement has also been published in The Silver Apple News  

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last upddate 11/14/99