Genre: Cartoon & Western / Cartoon Swing / Acoustic,
Members: William Lindsay - guitar, vocals, songwriter; Washboard Hank - banjo, dobro, vocals; Diamond Dave Russell - bass, vocals; Smokey Matt Watson - mandolin, guitar, vocals; John Hoffman - fiddle, vocals; former/guest members include Sean Conway, Brian Sanderson, Pineapple Frank
Year Founded: Catfish Willie has been perfoming his whole life. The Bucklebusters formed in Peterborough in 2009.
Record Label: independent
Washboard Hank and Catfish Willie
Peterborough This Week
Back in the early 1980s, they were both busy with their own bands but Washboard Hank (Fisher) and Catfish Willie (Lindsay) occasionally shared a stage and often jammed for hours at the kitchen table in Willie’s old farmhouse north of Tweed.
But they went off in different directions for most of three decades until reconnecting late last year. Peterborough’s music scene has become all the richer for their musical reunion.
Hank has been a local fixture for over 30 years. Though born into a musical East City family, his early exposure to music was limited by his parents’ religious convictions, to gospel groups like The Jordanaires and The Happy Goodmans.
“By the time I was old enough to pick what I wanted to listen to without any sort of brainwashing, I just gravitated towards the kind of music Catfish and I are playing today,” Hank says.
With his dream of becoming a professional football player over after high school, young Hank began writing song lyrics. When his pal, Ken (Reverend Ken) Ramsden put music to some of those lyrics, Hank learned to play the washboard and the pair were soon performing for audiences and loving it.
“It was very satisfying,” Washboard recalls.
“I just thought, ‘This is even better than football because it doesn’t hurt’”
A Winnipegger by birth, as a youngster, Catfish Willie traveled all over Canada with his military family before settling in Peterborough in the late 1960s. Unlike Hank, he didn’t come from a particularly musical family but took naturally to the ukulele and guitar as an adolescent.
“I really wasn’t looking to be a professional musician,” Willie says.
“But considering the family background, music was something that kept me out of jail. I was able to act out positively on a musical instrument and get the attention I required.”
Like most musicians, both men clearly remember their first paying gigs.
In Hank’s case, that came one evening in 1977 when he and Reverend Ken headed to a Yonge Street corner in Toronto with their instruments and five songs, and came home with $200 between them.
Willie’s came after 10 years of pro bono playing.
“It was 1975 in the Tweedsmuir Hotel in Tweed. I got $10 for a Saturday afternoon matinee. It’s been all downhill from there."
After their Yonge Street windfall, and playing for awhile around Peterborough, Hank and Ken went on an extended musical tour of the streets of North America. Back in Peterborough around 1980, they played a matinee at the Red Dog and were hired on the spot.
“That was the start of the big Peterborough exposure,” says Hank.
Meanwhile, Willie headed west to Vancouver in 1982 and called that city home for the next 23 years.
With the exception of occasional short junkets back to Ontario and a couple of memorable forays into Japan, Willie stayed relatively close to home, playing his special brand of western swing up and down the west coast and into the B.C. interior.
Though he’s always considered Peterborough home, Hank spent four years touring North America, 300 days a year, with Fred Eaglesmith and the Flying Squirrels. It was a brutal schedule and, sick of it all, he just up and quit one day in Seattle. But he didn’t quite become a homebody. He has since played in Ireland and Scotland, and been everywhere in Canada but Newfoundland -- an oversight he plans to rectify next fall.
Watching Hank go full bore onstage, accompanying himself on a bizarre collection of bells, licence plates, pie plates, a stainless steel sink and more, one might wonder if he’s now paying a price for all those years of football. It’s a question he’s happy to address.
“We were having a really great show the other night and this guy in the front row was saying, ‘You’re nuts. When are you going back to the nuthouse?’
"That really pissed me off because I’m just acting. When I’m onstage, I’m Washboard Hank. When I’m offstage, I’m just me. I think if people are just themselves when they go onstage, they’re not very interesting. When you go onstage, you should slip into some sort of persona. That’s what makes it interesting.”
With songs like Donut Shops of Ontario and Chompy The Headbiteroffer, it’s obvious Hank doesn’t take himself too seriously.
“A lot of people sing really serious songs but I’d rather keep things on the bright side. It’s not all about putting forth my ego and having people adore my sensitivity. It’s about letting people have fun and a good laugh”
Willie couldn’t agree more and that’s exactly what they’re doing these days via one of the area’s hottest new bands, Catfish Willie and The Buckle Busters.
Consisting of Hank on banjo, dobro and kazoo; Diamond Dave Russell on upright bass; Sean Conway on guitar and banjo; Matt Watson on mandolin and guitar; and Willie on rhythm guitar, kazoo and harmonica, The Buckle Busters came together just this past September but have hit the ground running.
“Everybody in the band sings, shouts and hollers,” laughs Willie.
With a regular gig each Wednesday at Ossia on Hunter Street West and appearances on some of the area’s most venerable stages including the Montreal House and The Pig’s Ear, the band is quickly making a name for itself. They’ve already begun work on a CD. Willie would like to take the boys on the folk festival circuit.
The life of a professional musician is not easy nor is it something most middle-class folk covet but these two road warriors are having a blast.
Still, the lifestyle can take a toll. Hank is 55 now and Willie 62. Though both have been married, neither is now.
“I don’t know too many women who are looking for a man who doesn’t have a steady job, so I just keep myself really busy enjoying life,” Willie says.
But it’s not as though they don’t have family. Hank has two daughters and it was Willie’s desire to be closer to his adult daughter that drew him back east to Madoc in 2005 and eventually to Peterborough last year.
As for the middle-class dream, Hank has his views on that.
“I think with that life there comes a lot of stress and worries,” he says.
“I’ve sort of taken a vow of poverty and I get along fine. I never know where my next dollar is coming from but I know I can make one. Plus, I have vast amounts of freedom, which is really good and not much stress.”
Willie echoes those sentiments.
“I have a lot of freedom and a lot of stress-free living. I’ll take a part-time job as long as it’s not highly stressful. I think it (my lifestyle) keeps me young and active.”
Enticed by old time swing music with a
Information Source: http://www.mykawartha.com/news-story/3717643-primetime-washboard-hank-ca...
Current Status: active (2015) - also a Trent Radio Programmer, Catfish Willie's Swing Billie Roundup
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