Mac Beattie

and the Ottawa Valley Melodiers

Copyright © Steve Fruitman, 1995. Reprinted with permission

Music & Lyrics Copyright © Mac Beattie Music 1982

The Brand New Mac Beattie CD
released February, 2004

See Albums Below for more information


Contents


Introduction

John MacNab Beattie (Mac) was born where the Madawaska and Ottawa Rivers converge at the town of Arnprior, Ontario, in the year 1916. His father, Jim, was away at war in Europe and would not see him until it was ended. When Jim Beattie returned home the family moved a few miles upstream to the village of Braeside where he would take a job with the Gillies Lumber Company.

Jim Beattie, a harmonica and bugle player, ventriloquist and jokester, would spend his winters in the shanty camps of the Gatineau Hills in Pontiac County, Quebec. It was at these camps that Jimmie would hear the songs and stories of shantymen from all over the valley. They'd sing Irish songs, Scottish songs, French songs and songs of the shanty life. They'd dance the reels and entertain themselves to pass the monotony of daily life in the winter camps.

When Jimmie came home each spring, he'd bring back those songs and stories that would fascinate his family. It was in this atmosphere that Mac grew up. It was in this folklore of the valley that he would dedicate his life. His love of the stories, the lives of the people, of the gentle times, the hard times, it all hit home by the time he was a teen-ager. Mac Beattie utilized these spiritual forces to forge ahead during those very interesting times.

Listening to Mac Beattie's lyrics now, you could not fail to notice his frequent mention of the people and places of the Ottawa Valley. You would also probably notice the strange way he used his voice to enunciate his words, the old-style inflections he utilized in his poetic ballads. I have not heard anyone else sing like this, and even now in the Valley with its distinct Irish/Scotts accent, Mac's accent remains unique.

Mac Beattie never played a melodic instrument other than a bit of harmonica. Instead, he chose the washboard to accompany his songs. Along with friends Gaetan Fairfield and Garnie Scheel, he formed a band called the Melodiers in the early 1930s to mimic the sounds of the big dance bands of that era.

It is probably because his songs were either learned or composed without the accompaniment of a melodic instrument that Mac's vocal patterns remained in theold traditional style. He didn't have a wonderful voice, but what he had he used well. He sang a cappella, using the syllables of words in the traditional way of Celtic melodies. He'd teach these songs to his friends who would then work out arrangements to fit around his singing style.

In time, Mac Beattie would go on to become Mr. Ottawa Valley with his Melodiers, riding the ups and downs of the music business for over 5 decades. During that time he would be heard and seen on national television and radio; he would associate his show with step-dancing great Don Gilchrist; he would make lifelong friends with important cultural leaders of both sides of the Ottawa River. And lastly, he would be inducted into the Ottawa Valley Country Music Hall of Fame as its second inductee (at Mac's insistance, his late fiddler, Reg Hill, received the honour of being the first to be inducted). He would also leave us with 90 tracks of music spanning 9 LPs recorded between the years of 1960 to 1975.

And Now there is great news! Peter Beattie has just released The Best of Mac Beattie and the Ottawas Valley Melodiers CD - this means that you can now purchase Mac's wonderful music for the first time in years. Contact Peter at p.beattie@sympatico.ca

[Contents]


Hockey and The Melodiers

"There were great 'old tyme' fiddlers, Mr. Robertson and his son Tommy, and the boy could whistle any breakdown you might want to mention. Gaetan Fairfield sometimes sat in as did Stewarty Smith, who played a good banjo. Del Hudson and his Cornhuskers kept us stomping our feet as well. Delly Sang and played the old tyme fiddle, with Alec Staye and Colin Glen on the guitar. I can still hear Delly singing 'The Old Spinning Wheel' and 'Lamplighting Time In The Valley'."

Mac got involved in a harmonica band in 1929. They'd practice and eventually got invited to perform at church suppers and local events. A couple of years later he formed the Melodiers, a band that would perform between hockey seasons.

Hockey was just as important to Mac as music. He was a pretty good goal tender and played for the Braeside team. He was later recruited to play for the Arnprior Greenshirts and the Carleton Place Red Wings. His platooning with the Melodiers lasted until he was asked to play for the brand new team on the west coast: The Nanaimo Clippers on Vancouver Island in 1940.

It was in Nanaimo that Mac got to play with future Maple Leaf great Red Carr. The team went on to the western finals where they were beaten by the Swift Current Indians. This was unheard of for an expansion team in its first year and after a summer back home in the Valley, Mac returned to play for the Clippers again. This time his stint only lasted till December when he decided to enlist for military service.

The war would have a devastating effect on Mac Beattie. Besides the fact that he would be away from home in Canada for a few years, it broke up a marriage to a Vancouver Island girl, and basically ruined his hockey career. He returned home a lost soul. He suffered depression, that post-war syndrome, not knowing what he should do with his life.

[Contents]

The Ottawa Valley Melodiers

Mac just didn't know what he should do. He had no job, no wife, no money, no band, and furthermore, his hockey reflexes were well below par. He decided to take a job in the silver mines in Mayo, Yukon, as far away from his Ottawa Valley as could be.

In 1948 Mac returned to the valley just in time to catch the Renfrew Lions in the Allen Cup playoffs. It was then that he chanced to run into his old pal Garnie Scheel who was also just visiting from his new home in Kitchener, Ontario. It wasn't long before they settled down to reforming the old Melodiers.

They recruited their old pal Gaetan Fairfield, fiddler Horace Blanchette, and were soon playing gigs again. Garnie purchased a beat up old jalopy and this would serve as their mode of transport. They approached radio station CHOV in Pembroke about doing a live radio show to be aired every Saturday night; they thought that this way they could promote their gigs. The program was so successful, the audience response so great that the Melodiers would continue doing this for 25 more years.

1948 was also the year that they impressed Frank Ryan, owner of the Ottawa radio station CFRA which is still on the air. Ryan, who was born near Arnprior, would hire the Melodiers on numerous occasions during the 1950s. In fact, when they played such gigs they would call themselves the CFRA Melodiers combining live on-air radio broadcasts and Friday night dances in Ottawa.

It wasn't until October of '48 that the Melodiers would make the most important deal of their career with Frank Martin of Lake Dore (pronounced doree) just north of Eganville. Martin had just erected a dance hall on his farm called Sunnydale Acres, on the eastern shore of the lake. The Melodiers would play weekly shows there every summer until 1959.

[Contents]


Big Dance Band

Things improved for the Melodiers and their association with Sunnydale Acres until the winter of 1950. With their mix of country songs, square dance tunes and general entertainment, the crowds began packing into the hall. The CHOV shows were as popular as ever and the Melodiers were fast rising to the status of number one local heroes.

With the quiet of winter, jobs were needed to support the various families of band members. The Melodiers disbanded and it wasn't until late summer of '51 that they would be reunited.

Mac was working on the Hydro dam at Portage du Fort when a phone call came from Frank Ryan in Ottawa. Ryan wanted Mac to perform in Ottawa and that lead to a weekly radio broadcast at his station to promote those Friday night gigs. The Martins also wanted the Melodiers back at Lake Dore so they resumed their CHOV broadcasts to support those Saturday night gigs as well.

The band grew bigger and better than before. Complete with MC, caller, step-dancers, and special guest Little Maisie Billings in her cowgirl gear, Mac fashioned his nine piece orchestra in the way of the Bob Wills band.

These were the years before the Ontario Government changed the liquor laws permitting dancing at licensed bars. At the dance hall pavilions, liquor wasn't allowed but that didn't stop the drinking in the bushes. The halls were big with amplified stages, springy floor boards and waxed surface. These were the years of Hank Williams, the Opry, the CKNX Barndance from Wingham, Ontario, and the big dance bands of the ball room era.

[Contents]


End of an Era

The fifties were glorious for the Melodiers. Not only did they do their broadcasts and dances, they were also the band of choice to perform at country fairs and special events. In years 1953 to 58 they played up and down the valley, making friendships with step-dancing great Donnie Gilchrist and MC Lester Lye. They performed a lot on the Pontiac side, especially in Chapeau on Allumette Island in the middle of the Ottawa where they became the favourites of local bar owner Freddie Meilleur who married into the Gavan family. Other friends of the Melodiers included Allan Kluke from Otter Lake; Lornie and Joseph Neville of Douglas; Lennox Gavin from Quyon; these became lifelong friends and supporters. Meanwhile Reg Hill of Oshawa moved to the valley and became the permanent fiddler of the band.

In his book, 'This Ottawa Valley of Mine', Mac reports on the way the era of the dance halls ended:

"As the 50s ended, so did an era. Things were never to be the same again. Country music was being crowded and found itself forced to share the stage with a new sound called rock and roll which was sweeping the continent. Ontario was retreating from the blue laws and would soon allow dancing and entertainment in the province's hotels. The end of the dance halls was assured and one by one they faded like ghosts from the past."

From his song 'Deserted Dance Hall':

The golden era of the dance halls began in the 1930s. Pavilions were built in exotic places, over lakes and next to barns. Of that era few are left: the still used Key To Bala is typical of the heyday of the dance hall era.

All over Ontario the dance halls closed up down. They could no longer compete with the drinking halls of town where liquor ran from the taps and the bands played to seated customers.

One of he first dance halls in the Valley was built just near Arnprior on the Mississippi River. Others like the Rustic Inn in Carleton Place, The Cedars in Almonte, featured the hottest performing bands in the area. This was the true world of Mac Beattie and the Ottawa Valley Melodiers.

With the death of Frank Martin in 1959 (his wife Lillian died the year before) Sunnydale Acres, on the shores of Lake Dore, closed its doors for good. The hall stood testament to the Martins, Mac Beattie and the great dance hall era until it was demolished in 1994.

[Contents]


National Exposure

With the 1960s the Melodiers grew even stronger. Even without the dance halls they forged ahead. With their radio shows - 3 a week - still going strong, records being cut with Rodeo's Banff label (distributed by London Canada), the Melodiers came to the attention of the CBC. The Dominion Network - one of two CBC radio networks operating at the time - had 40 stations coast to coast and the Melodiers were hired to make 13 weeks of half-hour shows for five years. These were also heard on Armed Forces Radio overseas.

Don Messer first heard the Melodiers on the CBC and was very impressed with their sound. He hired them to perform on his new TV show, "The Don Messer Jubilee". Mac had to make his own way to Halifax and decided to take only the core of his band: Reg Hill on fiddle and Gaetan Fairfield on guitar. When Bill Langstroth - then producer of the show and now Anne Murray's husband - first saw them he cringed. (Mac is sure that it was the washboard that did it but it might have been their red lumber shirts.) But the show was such an overwhelming success that it would ensure the Melodiers many more appearances on the program in future years.

One important friend that they made that year was the legendary Charlie Chamberlain who thought that the Melodiers were 'my kind of people'. The well loved Chamberlain would make trips to the Valley and look them up whenever he was around.

Meanwhile CHOH-TV in Pembroke started to broadcast and hired the Melodiers for a weekly TV show. This would be a variety show which would showcase Valley talent. Mac and Donnie Gilchrist were in charge of providing the very best in Valley entertainment. Charlie Chamberlain guested on the show as well.

Things lead to a guest-hosting spot on the new CTV television network's 'Cross-Canada Barndance'. The show would be recorded in Halifax, Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Ottawa using local hosts: Mac was to be their Ottawa man. The other local hosts, just to give an indication of this stature, were country great Evan Kemp from Vancouver; bandleader Gaby Haas from Edmonton and Vic Mullen from the Messer band in Halifax. Frank Ryan, in Ottawa, signed the band up for a 13 week TV show on his new TV station as well.

Peter Jennings was working for CHOH at the time and of course is now known as the anchorman for the ABC television news out of New York City. (Mac Beattie's son John works for him now as special assignment producer although he commutes to work weekly from his home in Arnprior.) Jennings loved to step-dance and spread the word of the Melodiers around. Great to have friends in high places.

So the Melodiers were doing 5 TV shows and 3 weekly radio broadcasts in the early sixties! But what goes up has got to come down and sometimes with a mighty crash.

[Contents]


The Sudden Downturn

Things definitely come in bunches. Nothing, it seems, is totally independent, but dependant upon - and influencing - other strange occurrences.

With the death of Frank Ryan in 1961 came the end of country music on CFRA. CTV blew a wad on Cross-Canada Barndance and didn't renew it for 62. Live radio shows were going the way of the great dance hall, quickly becoming a thing of the past. Mac Beattie and the Ottawa Valley Melodiers were suddenly left without a radio or TV show.

Times got rough for the Melodiers. Marie, Mac's wife, was working in Renfrew for RCA Victor and shortly after the family moved there she was laid off. Without the weekly dance hall shows it was hard to get gigs for a large dance band so members were let go.

In the spring of 63 Mac got back on track with CHOV and CHOH in Pembroke. Their television show was called 'The North Star Jamboree'. The show would run for the next 5 years.

While continuing to record and promote themselves, the Melodiers were able to keep one step ahead of the grave. While others bands of their era were dying off, The Melodiers just kept on going. Mac had to pull out all his cards; his friendships of the past started to pay off big time. Charlie Chamberlain and Marg Osborne along with Catherine MacKinnon - 'Farewell to Nova Scotia' and Singalong Jubilee fame - guested on his show. So did step-dancing great Buster Brown, Donnie Gilchrist and his child protégé Donnie Poirier. Things like this ensured more appearances for the Melodiers on the Messer show.

The band was still very popular in the valley and packed them into hotels. Labine's Hotel at Fort Coulonge was a big Mac Beattie place. So were the Chapeau Hotel and Gavin's Hotel at Quyon, Quebec.

As I said, when trouble strikes...

The year 1968 was unkind to the Melodiers. Just when things were going great at the Hotel Renfrew, fire struck and burned the place to the ground. Along with the destruction of the hotel was the band's gear. Without insurance, they were screwed. It would not be possible to continue without a recess of sorts so Mac took a job with the LCBO (liquor store).

They seemed to be making it back again, having made contracts to perform regularly, this time at the Madawaska Hotel in Arnprior. Now just a quartet consisting of Gaetan Fairfield, Reg Hill, and young pianist Jimmy Mayhew, they found it tough to keep things together. Hotels weren't paying big bucks for entertainment so musicians had to take what choice jobs they could get. But in 1970 it happened again: fire destroyed the Madawaska and with it all their uninsured instruments.

"I guess you could say we were a really hot band, too hot for the likes of most hotel keepers," said Reg Hill in a later interview aired over the CBO Ottawa station.

[Contents]


The Modern Melodiers

That basically spelled the end of the old Melodiers. Although they would continue to perform and record into the 1970s, the heyday of the band was clearly over. The band would remain popular probably due to its longevity if nothing else. They'd mostly do their performing at old age homes, county fairs, exhibitions and benefit shows.

By 1975 Mac had recorded an album with his daughter, Bonnie, and she was now a regular performer with the show. Reg Hill passed away in the late 70s and things would never be the same for Mac Beattie again. What a great fiddler he was! With four of his own albums to his credit, including many of his own compositions, this was a loss far greater than any other that the Melodiers had to endure over the years.

Mac Beattie last performed with Lennox Gavan in 1981. By the month of June of the following year he was dead, the victim of cancer. The Ottawa Valley was in shock and mourning. According to his wife, Marie, he remained joyful 'til the end. A community man, a youthful man who spent a lot of his time working with younger people, a patriotic citizen, a Valley man first and foremost, his loss was felt by an entire generation of people.

With the loss of greats like Mac Beattie, Don Messer, Charlie Chamberlain, Marg Osborne, Frank Ryan and others, a void was left that could only be filled with the recordings and memories of those fondest of times. Truly, these are treasures that can bring back a bit of the past, if only for brief minutes while the record albums play.

When I first heard Mac Beattie sing it was the gentle simplicity of his songs, of his fervent feelings in their lyrics, and of his age-old connection to the Valley tradition that grabbed me. I never met him but I wish I had. Being friends with Marie Beattie, I visit with her and listen to her talk of Mac as if he were listening to her every word. Her grandchildren run around the room, the legacy of Jimmie Beattie the lumberjack. Bonnie works at the Home Hardware in Arnprior and I can't help but feel their loss of the good old days. Nothing can replace Mac Beattie because he represented a time that died long before he did. Since his death, others have joined him: Donnie Gilchrist, Donnie Poirier, Lennox and Loy Gavan, Helen Meilleur, Garney Scheel, Gaetan Fairfield and many, many others. Jimmy Mayhew, the last of the Melodiers, performs at a Piano Bar in Pembroke.
 
 


[Contents]


Albums by Mac Beattie and The Melodiers

In 2002 Peter Beattie, Mac's youngest son, informed me that he wished to release a "Best Of..." CD of Mac Beattie and the Ottawa Valley Melodiers. This meant digitally remastering the chosen tracks and producing a CD in cottage industry fashion. No big record label. Just the great music of the Melodiers. There were so many great songs, however, that Peter decided to release two CDs with 16 tracks each, the first of which debuted in February, 2004.

This Ottawa Valley of Mine - Vol. No. 1 - Mac Beattie Music - P04-01-06
 

This Ottawa Valley of Mine
Bonechere Waltz
My Renfrew County Home
Maple sugar Blues
Fiddle, Guitar and Washboard
Log Driver's Song
Northern Ontario Blues
A Canadian Song of Thanks
Lake Dore Waltz
Swinging At The Hotel Renfrew
Bank Robbery at Cobden
Moonshine Mac
Saturday Night Up The Gatineau
Take Me Back To The Madawaska Valley
Train Wreck at Almonte
Back in the Pakenham Hills
To Order: Email p.beattie@sympatico.ca 


The Following is the complete list of long playing record albums featuring the Melodiers. The Melodiers also recorded singles in the form of 78 rpms for the London (Canada) label in the 1950s.

The earliest Melodiers albums were also released on the London label but the catalogue was sold to smaller Canadian labels towards the end of the 1950s. Rodeo Records which featured Country and Western artists with the emphasis on 'Western' purchased the catalogues of several of these labels: Aragon in western Canada; Banff as their folk and Country label; Celtic which looked after the Celtic artists, mainly from Cape Breton.

The Liner Notes that follow are not very accurate, especially when it comes to dates, but I have included them as they appeared on the various albums. Only spelling mistakes are corrected here. Otherwise, I have left what was said as is.

(All Songs By Mac Beattie unless otherwise indicated)

Mac Beattie and The Ottawa Valley Melodiers

A Visit To The Ottawa Valley (Rodeo RLP 64 or RLP 1170) - June 1, 1960
Featuring: Mac Beattie, drums, vocals & novelty washboard; Reg Hill, violin, piano, guitar & sax; Garnet Scheel, steel guitar, electric spanish guitar, fiddle & piano; Gaetan Fairfield, rhythm man, spanish guitar, bass & piano; Bob Whitney, sax, clarinet & violin; Bill Inglis, guitar & vocals.
The Ottawa Valley Melodiers consist of Mac Beattie - vocals, drums and novelty washboard; Reg Hill - Violin, also plays piano, guitar ad sax; Garnet Scheel - steel guitar, electric spanish guitar and also plays the fiddle and piano; Gaetan Fairfield - rhythm guitar, spanish guitar, bass and piano; Bob Price - piano; Bob Whitney - sax, clarinet and violin; Bill Inglis - guitar and vocalist.
This group make their headquarters in Arnprior, Ontario and their leader Mac Beattie had originally organized the unit in 1938 but had to disband in 1940 due to the war. They were reorganized again in 1948 and since then have had local radio shows over Radio Stations CHOV, Pembroke, CKOY, Ottawa, CJET, Smith Falls, and this year makes the second for them to be on the CBC Dominion Network.
Log Driver's Song
Moonlight Memories
Moonshine Mac
Blue Laurentians of the Valley
My Renfrew County Home
The Arnprior Centennial Song
The Lake Dore Waltz
Tribute To Frank Ryan
Little Stubby Toes
Such Is The Life Of A Band
Canadian Country And Folk Songs (Banff RBS 1185) - 1964

Featuring: Mac Beattie, Reg Hill, Bob Whitney, Toni Miseferi & Gordie Summers
 
The Good Old Maritimes
Vancouver Island
Miner's Holiday
Red Headed Girl From Quebec
Paddy Daley
Washboard Polka
Madawaska Valley
Little Shack Up The Pontiac
Ross Township, My Home
Bonnechere Waltz
 
This Ottawa Valley of Mine (Banff RBS 1211) - June 16, 1966
Reg Hill, fiddle; Gaetan Fairfield, rhythm guitar; Bob Whitney, alto sax; Bob Price, piano; Tony Miseferi, bass; Gordie Summers, electric guitar; Mac Beattie, educated washboard, drums & vocals.
Making Arnprior, Ontario their home base, Mac and His Melodiers work out of CHOV-TV and Radio in Pembroke, Ont., and CJOH-TV and local radio stations in Ottawa, Ont. They are well known across Canada having represented Ottawa on the CTV Cross Canada Barndance Show and from their personal appearances on Don Messer's Jubilee. They have also made several shows with CBC radio.
Mac writes all his songs and more will follow on another L.P. in the near future.
Members of the group are - Reg Hill on fiddle - Gaetan Fairfield on rhythm guitar - Bob Whitney Alto Sax - Bob Price on piano - Tony Miseferi on bass - Gordie Summers on Electric guitar and Mac Beattie with his educated washboard, drums and vocals.
This Ottawa Valley of Mine

Sing A Swingy Lullaby
Carleton County
Saturday Night Up The Gatineau
Delta, My Leeds County Home
Train Wreck At Almonte
Bank Robbery At Cobden
The Lanark Fire
My Renfrew County Home
St Patrick's Day At Neville's
Sing A Song (Banff RBS 1242) (1965)
Mac Beattie, vocals, drums; Al Utronki, electric guitar & steel; Reg Hill, bass & fiddle; Jimmy Mayhew, piano; Bob Whitney, also sax & bass; Gaetan Fairfield, rhythm guitar
 
Sing A Song
Just A Little While Ago
The Turkey's End
Could It Have Been Heaven
Rock-a-Bye Waltz
Maple Sugar Blues
The Old Tyme Fiddlers' Dream
To-night At My Table All Alone
Swinging At The Hotel Renfrew
The Stone Outside Dan Murphy's Door
Instrumental Favourites (Banff RBS 1261) 1966
Mac Beattie, vocals, drums; Al Utronki, electric guitar & steel; Reg Hill, bass & fiddle; Jimmy Mayhew, piano; Bob Whitney, also sax & bass; Gaetan Fairfield, rhythm guitar
Allan Utronki was born and raised in Renfrew, Ontario, a small town north west of Ottawa. He plays steel and spanish guitar equally well, resulting in a great variety - his spectrum ranges from the classical finger style to Hawaiian.
In addition to his musical abilities Allan is also an Electronic and Recording enthusiast. With the assistance of his father "Bunny", they have engineered many recordings together.
Pianist Jim Mayhew is a resident of Renfrew and has had a great deal of training on the piano in Toronto. Jim teaches piano and has had choir experience in different centres including Owen Sound.
He joined the Ottawa Valley Melodiers in October of 1965 and made his debut on Television over Channel 5.
Jim has a fine touch on the piano and will gather many fans as a result of the release of this album.
Both Jim and Allan have a fine future ahead in music.
Side One - Featuring Al Utronki
Alley Cat
Wheels
Jessie
Sleep Walk
Steel Strike
May You Always
Side Two - Featuring Jim Mayhew
In The Palm of Your Hand
Bye, Bye Blues
Autumn Leaves
When You're All Alone
Rose of San Antone
He'll Have To Go
Thru The Years (Banff RBS 1282) - 1967

Featuring: Mac Beattie, Al Utronki, Gaetan Fairfield, Bob Whitney, Reg Hill and Jimmy Mayhew
 
Put On An Old Pair Of Shoes (M/M Billy Hill)
Have You Ever Been Lonely (Brown-Derose)
A Shanty In An Old Shanty Town (Little Siras-Young)
Four Walls (Moore & Campbell)
Tiny Bubbles (L. Pober)
Snow Flakes (Bogle Edwards & Taylor Wilson)
Blue Canadian Rockies (Cindy Walker)
Love Letters In The Sand (N. Kenny / C. Kenny / JK Coots)
Bye, Bye Blackbird (Henderson & Dixon)
Red Sails In The Sunset (Williams & Kennedy)
25th Anniversary (Banff RBS 1299) - 1968
Mac Beattie, washboard, drums & vocals; Gaetan Fairfield, rhythm guitar; Reg Hill, fiddle; Al Utronki, steel & spanish guitars; Jim Mayhew, piano; Ralph Carlson, bass.
1968 marks 25 years of entertaining the public for Mac Beattie and his Ottawa Valley Melodiers. Although it was way back in 1937 that Mac formed his first group, this unit was disbanded when World War II came along. Mac spent three years overseas in action with the Canadian Army and, on returning home, reformed the Melodiers and in 1948 they began their radio career at CHOV in Pembroke, Ontario.
With Mac in 1937 and still with him today is Gaetan Fairfield who is, without a doubt, one of the greatest rhythm guitarists in the business.
Mac and his Melodiers spent five years at CFRA in Ottawa with the late Frank Ryan and then branched out to a Network Show with CBC Dominion network. Public appearances have been many through the years, Mac and his boys having appeared many times on TV with Don Messer's Jubilee, CJOH TV in Ottawa, and CTV Network with the Haylofters and Cross Country Barndance where they starred on both the latter shows.
Known far and wide for his Ottawa Valley Songs and other fine compositions, Mac has composed ten new songs to commemorate his 25 years of show business. Assisting him is Gaetan Fairfield, rhythm guitar; Reg Hill, fiddle; Al Utronki, steel and spanish guitars; Jim Mayhew, piano, and Ralph Carlson, bass.
For his many friends Mac's Anniversary Album will be a welcome addition to their collection
A Fiddle, Gee-tar And Washboard

Misery Loves Company
Country Music Man Chuck Davis
The Beaches of Dieppe
A Canadian Song Of Thanks
On The Banks of the Ottawa
Northern Ontario Blues
Mister Charlie Chamberlain
Dream Island
Moonlight Memories
Mac Beattie in Stereo by Request (Banff SBS 5312) - 1969
Riding Down To Santa Fe (Unknown)
Madawaska Valley

Lake Dore Waltz
Squaws Along The Yukon (G.C. Smith)
Log Driver's Song

Little Shack Up The Pontiac
Tonight At My Table All Alone
Red Headed Girl From Quebec
Northern Ontario Blues
Saturday Night Up The Gatineau
Mr Ottawa Valley (Banff SBS 5333) 1970
Mac Beattie, vocals, drums; Reg Hill, fiddle; Gaetan Fairfield, rhythm guitar; Jim Mayhew, piano; Gordon Summers, electric guitar; George Courschesne, bass
This new album is number eight for Mac and his Melodiers and features seven new songs composed by him, plus three most requested old favourites.
Mac and his boys from Arnprior, Ontario, are going into their twenty-seventh year in show biz, making many appearances on National Television, Radio and Stage. As a Dance Band they are highly rated in Ontario and Quebec.
The band has been through two disastrous fires in the past three years. One at the famous old Hotel Renfrew in Renfrew, Ontario and the other at the Hotel Madawaska in Arnprior, Ontario. On both occasions they lost all their equipment and instruments but each time Mac reformed the group and they are back in business stronger than ever with veterans Reg Hill on fiddle, Gaetan Fairfield rhythm guitar and Jim Mayhew on piano. Gordon Summers from Cornwall, Ontario is on lead guitar and newcomer George Courschesne of Arnprior on Electric Bass.
Mac sings about the valley and the valley people in this new album. His tribute to the late Frank Ryan is a collector's item; "Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater" was composed for his little son and "Gavan's Hotel" for his Quebec friends. "Snowmobiles" is a hit with his outdoor pals. The sound effects for the latter song were done by his "drummer" friend Ron Sparling of the "Family Brown" group.
Mac and his Melodiers hope their many fans and friends will enjoy their new effort in Stereo.
Recorded at Carlsound Studios - Ottawa, Ontario
Produced by Ralph Carlson.
Snowmobile

A Tribute to Frank Ryan
Back in the Pakenham Hills
Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater
My Happiness (Betty Peterson & Borgy Bergantine)
Gavan's Hotel At Quyon, Quebec
Michael Patrick from the Mountain, Mary Ellen FromThe Bay
Lamplighting Time In The Valley (Trad)
Autumn Memories
Pretty As A Queen
Mac Beattie's Ottawa Valley Memories (Canadian Cavalcade CCLP 2015)
This album was a part of a special Rodeo Series called Canadian Cavalcade (see below)
 
This Ottawa Valley of Mine

The Lanark Fire
Train Wreck At Almonte
Delta, My Leeds County Home
Saturday Night Up The Gatineau
My Renfrew County Home
Blue Laurentians
Lake Dore Waltz
Arnprior Centennial Song
Little Shack Up The Pontiac


(Canadian Cavalcade was a re-issue label owned by Rodeo Records. Other artists released on this project were: Omar Blondahl (Famous Songs of Newfoundland), Winston (Scotty) Fitzgerald (The Music of Cape Breton), The Don Messer Family (Down East), Waldo Munro (Honky Tonk - Down East), The Early Stu Phillips (Folk Songs (From Unreleased Masters)), Paul Gurry (Country Gospel), Country Canada (Various Artists), Terry Parker (Yodelling Favourites), Canadian Pipe Bands, Graham Townsend (Fiddling Favourites), Diane Oxner (Sings traditional Folk Songs of Nova Scotia - From The Helen Creighton Collection), Wilf Doyle & His Orchestra (The Music Of Newfoundland), Olaf Sveen (Plays Western Canadian Polkas).

Compilations:

Saga of Canadian Country and Folk Music* (Rodeo 7121) 1970s
 * Mac had some trouble with Rodeo head George Taylor concerning royalties and other publishing rights. This lead to the termination of their relationship shortly before Mac died. It is for this reason that the Mac Beattie collection is now unavailable. Reg Hill's fiddle albums, which feature the Melodiers, are still available, now distributed widely by the Holborne Distributing Company Limited.

Marie Beattie persued this matter after Mac's death and partly due to the inclusion of The Log Driver's Song on the above compilation album, won total control over the publishing rights. It seems that the Beattie's never gave permission to Taylor to use this song and thus never received any royalties.

 The Saga of Canadian Country and Folk Music - Late 1940s through the Fifties, is a fantastic collection nonetheless. It was conceived of by Taylor, utilizing recordings in the London, Aragon, Celtic, Banff and Rodeo collections. They used the services of Sunshine Sean Eyre of CHEX Radio in Peterborough, Ontario as commentator. Some of the artists included on the double LP collection are: Don Messer, Charlie MacKinnon, Jim Magil, Omar Blondahl, Juliette & The Rhythm Pals, Ed McCurdy, Winston Fitzgerald, Hal Lone Pine, Andy De Jarlis and Don Murphy.

 The album was used to pay tribute to industry personalities such as Harold Moon of BMI Canada, Walt Grealis (RPM Magazine and originator of the Juno Awards), Ray Sonin (CFRB's Calling All Britons show), and others.

According to Taylor, Marie Beattie claims that this album was never meant to be sold commercially. (I purchased mine at Sam The RecordMan's main store, downtown Toronto.)
 

Mac and Bonnie Beattie and The Ottawa Valley Melodiers

This was the last album The Melodiers recorded. Daughter Bonnie Beattie was all of 15 years of age when it was recorded. She became a regular part of the Mac Beattie Show for the next several years. After the passing of Reg Hill, Peter Dawson joined the band until its end in 1981.

While this album is certainly not a gem, it does have a couple of fine songs. It was always Mac's dream to do an album with one of his offspring, and while 15 year old Bonnie wasn't a bad singer, it certainly detracted from the usual Mac Beattie fare. Still, it was something that he was proud to have done.

Father & Daughter (SBS 5419) - January 22, 1975
Bonnie Beattie, vocals; Mac Beattie, vocals; Garney Scheel, steel guitar; Reg Hill, fiddle & bass; Merv Wilson, flat top guitar; Jimmy Mayhew, piano; Bob Whitney, clarinet; Peter Clements, drums.
Hi there friends - Greetings from the Ottawa Valley. It's been two years since I recorded an Album and it's great to be back with this one - our ninth. I want you to meet my daughter "Bonnie" who is seventeen years of age and has been singing with the group since she was a wee thing. Besides singing Bonnie has a talent for composing and her first two efforts are included on this album. They are - "What Is Love" and "It's only Girls Like Me". She joins me on three other songs and goes solo on "Tonight At My Table All Alone". We are very proud of her and hope you will be too.
As for me - well I've composed six new numbers for this album and re-arranged two of my old ones. The new ones are "We'll Remember Don Messer's Jubilee", our tribute for two very dear friends, the late Don Messer and Charlie Chamberlain. Bob Whitney assists me with the vocal parts and adds Clarinet background along with the great fiddling of Reg Hill in "Pizza Polka" for our polka loving fans.
"A Dog Called Billy Joe" is a true story of a little canine friend of the family. The title song "Dad and Daughter" and "Don't Go Near The Water, Dear" is for bonnie and I, because we like to sing together. "Wear A Little Sunshine" for everyone and we hope we will bring a wee bit into your life with this album. Bonnie and I live at 86 Daniel Street N., Arnprior, Ont. and would love to hear from you.
A special hello to you from all the Group who supplied the great backup music for us. Garney Scheel on steel guitar, Reg Hill on fiddle and bass, Merv Wilson on flat top guitar, Jimmy Mayhew at the piano, Bob Whitney on Clarinet and Peter Clements on drums. I give special praise to my good friend Ralph Carlson who recorded and produced this album.
Best wishes to you All,
Sincerely
Mac Beattie
P.S. Bonnie sends her love.
Dad and Daughter

What Is Love (Bonnie Beattie)
Pizza Polka
Tonight At My Table All Alone
Wear a Little Sunshine
We'll Remember Don Messer's Jubilee
It's Only Girls Like Me
Sing A Song
A Dog Called Billy Joe
Don't Go Near The Water Dear (Bonnie Beattie)

Reg Hill and The Ottawa Valley Melodiers

Reg Hill was considered to be a very fine fiddler in the Ottawa Valley. Originally from Oshawa, Ontario, he moved to Arnprior in the early 1950s and promptly joined Mac Beattie's band. He was influenced by the likes of Ward Allen and began composing some unique fiddle tunes dedicated to people or places in the Ottawa Valley. He recorded several lps for Rodeo featuring the Melodiers and Mac Beattie's washboarding. He died in 1978 and is buried in the Braeside Cemetary.
Ottawa Valley Hoedown (Banff SBS 5190)  c.a. 1964 - re-released 1967
The Road To Fort Coulonge

Renfrew County Centennial Breakdown
Peek-a-boo Waltz
Leo Carrol's Hornpipe
The Short Grass
Granny's Breakdown
The Logger's Jig
The Arnprior Centennial Breakdown
The Helicopter Polka
The Buck Fever Rag
The Dancing Waters Waltz
Reg Hill's Breakdown
Ottawa Valley Hoedown #2 (Banff SBS5-1221) 1965
The Kiddy Car Reel

The Timber Raft Jig
Avonmore Breakdown
Waltz Promenade
Bonnechere Point Strathspey
Dad's Breakdown
The Long Sault Hornpipe
Clayton Poirier Two-Step
The Hangman's Waltz
Scrambled Eggs
Musty Muldoon's Irish Jig
The Broadaxe Breakdown
 14 Great Fiddle Favourites (Banff SBS5-5244) 1966

          Money Musk

My Love Is But A Lassie-O
Westphalia Waltz
The Headlight Reel
The Road To The Isles
Shamus O'Brien
Cock O' The North
Haste To The Wedding
The Golden Stream Waltz
The Devil's Dream
The Soldier's Joy
The Chateauguay Reel
Bonnie Dundee
To Daunton Me
Country Hoedown Coast To Coast In Canada (Rodeo RLP 65) 1959
Pembroke Centennial Breakdown

 (Released under the name MacBeattie (sp) & The Ottawa Valley Melodiers.)
(Note: Other Reg Hill pieces appear on the many compilations of fiddle music released on the Banff label.
See Great Canadian Fiddle Liner Notes - Reg Hill for a more complete listing)

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The Songs

The following are a list of songs written by Mac Beattie and performed by the Melodiers.
All songs are Copyright © Mac Beattie Music 1982
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Selected Lyrics
Mac Beattie's music and songs are published by Mac Beattie Music 1982. For further information regarding publishing rights contact Peter Beattie, 7 Old Orchard Lane, Arnprior, Ontario K7S 3T5
or email: p.beattie@sympatico.ca 

[Contents]



 

Past Members of the Melodiers

The Pre-Melodiers: Bill Coburn, Eric Burton, Maurice Clouthier, Ken Gilmore, Mac Beattie.

Founding Melodiers 1931: Mac Beattie, Gaetan Fairfield, Mervyn Leitch, Harold Mosley, Lloyd Mosley

Melodiers in the 30s: Mac Beattie, Gaetan Fairfield, Garnie Scheels, Harold Mosley, Louis Cheal, Fred Robillard, Horace Blanchette, Johnny Lavoie.

1950s Melodiers: Mac Beattie, Gaetan Fairfield, Garnie Scheel, Horace Blanchette, Karen Shaw, Joe Watson, Harold McClinton, Rene Desormeaux, Maisy Billings, Bill Loney, Les Lye, Hal Horsey, Maurice Charron, Billy Shepherd, Long John Corrigan, Reg Hill, Ernie Levesque, Bill Inglis, Champ Johnson.

Melodiers of the 60s & 70s: Mac Beattie, Gaetan Fairfield, Pat Leonard, Gordie Sommer, Bob Whitney, Reg Hill, Bob Price, Charlie McVeigh, Mary Dick, Tony Miseferi, Jim Mayhew, Al Utronki, Johnny Price, Jim Spence, Bonnie Beattie & Peter Dawson.
 


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Friends of the Melodiers

Lennox Gavan of Quyon, Quebec: Bar owner and traditional singer; brother to Loy Gavin of Chapeau and Helen Meilleur of Chapeau. Father of Gail Gavan.

Donnie Gilchrist, Fort Coulonge, Quebec: Premier step dancer of the Ottawa Valley. Teacher to Buster Brown and Donnie Poirier.

Max Keeping, Ottawa: Newscaster

Peter Jennings, New York: ABC News Anchorman from Ottawa (Mac's son John currently works for him)

Frank Martin, Lake Dore: Owner of Sunnydale Acres Dance Hall

Frank Ryan, Ottawa: Owner of CFRA

Charlie Chamberlain, New Brunswick: King of the Lumberjacks, longtime accomplice of Don Messer; one of the original New Brunswick Lumberjacks with Messer, Duke Neilson and Ned Landry.

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Melodier Songs Recorded or Performed by Other Entertainters

Ian Bell and his Dawnbreakers: Little Shack Up The Pontiac, Saturday Night Up The Gatineau+ & Log Driver's Song (all unrecorded)

the blackflies: Northern Ontario Blues  - 'Poutine' CD - 1997;  other songs in repertoire: Little Shack Up The Pontiac, On The Banks of the Ottawa

Board of Directors of Sudbury's Northern Lights Festival Boréal: Northern Ontario Blues - sung to open up their annual event.

Carlton Showband: Log Driver (sp) - Any Dream Will Do - RCA 1975

Freddy Dixon: Log Driver's Song - Legends & Tales of the Ottawa Valley - Rodeo - 1995

Flapjack (formerlyGarrison Creek): Little Shack Up the Pontiac - Flapjack - Independent release - 2001

Gail Gavan: Blue Laurentians, Log Driver's Song, True North Polka, Saturday Night Up The Gatineau & Gavan's Hotel at Quyon, Quebec - on her two cassettes: For the Love of the Valley Vols 1 and 2

Grievous Angels: Saturday Night Up The Gatineau (unrecorded)

Heartwood: Log Driver's Song - Heartwood - Ind. HWCD - 2000

Max Keeping: Recites two poems of Mac Beattie - Legends & Tales of the Ottawa Valley - Rodeo - 1995

Barry Luft & Tim Rogers: Train Wreck at Almonte - Songs of the Iron Rail - 1983

Barney McCaffery of Wilno: Lake Dore Waltz, Madawaska Valley, My Renfrew County Home, Michael Patrick from the Mountain, Mary Ellen FromThe Bay on cassette tour of the Opeongo Line

Glen Reid: Log Driver's Song & Little Shack Up The Pontiac - Heritage River CD - 1996

Tamarack: Saturday Night Up The Gatineau, 15th Anniversary Concert CD - 1994
(Note: if you know of any other recordings or performers who play Mac Beattie songs, please feel free to contact me for inclusion on this list)

[Contents]


Books

This Ottawa Valley of Mine by Mac Beattie. Burnstown Press, Burnstown, Ontario, 1982 (ISBN 0-9691355-0-5).
 
This is the official autobiography of Mac Beattie
For Singing and Dancing and All Sorts of Fun: The Story of the Chapeau Boys by I. Sheldon Posen. Deneau Publishers & Co Ltd., 1988. (ISBN 0-88879-178-X) Address: 760 Bathurst Street, Toronto, Ontario M5S 2R6.
This is an in depth look at the lore behind the legendary shantyboy song Chapeau Boys. The book includes a photo of the Melodiers (p. 99). Also looks into the Gavan/Meilleur families, plus makes mention of many of the Ottawa Valley's who's who.
Stompin' Tom: Before The Flame by Stompin' Tom Connors. Viking published by Penguin Books of Canada Ltd., 1995. (ISBN 0-670-86488-9). Address: 10 Alcorn Ave., Toronto, Ontario M4V 3B2.
On page 506 of this, Connors' autobiography, he mentions playing in a room at the Renfrew Hotel before he was well known, while the Melodiers were performing in another lounge. At one point the Melodiers invited Connors up to perform with them.
[Contents]

Publishing Rights

Mac Beattie's music and songs are published by Mac Beattie Music 1982. For further information regarding publishing rights contact: Peter Beattie, 7 Old Orchard Lane, Arnprior, Ontario K7S 3T5

or email: p.beattie@sympatico.ca 

Author

Steve Fruitman
producer / host of
Back To The Sugar Camp
CIUT-FM 89.5 Toronto

Originally published Nov 8, 1995
Revised May, 2004


[Contents]

[The Sugarcamp Index Page]