Arts

Blues Rockin' In The Hammer

By Ryan McGreal
Published January 12, 2007

Doug Carter

This week I chanced upon Blues Rockin' In The Hammer, a fascinating blog by Doug Carter, a blues musician and Hamilton native (he now lives in the Niagara region). It's an ongoing series of memoirs, images, and audio clips from Hamilton's early rhythm 'n' blues scene.

When I first moved to the Hammer, it was the local music that started me on my love affair with the city, so I was delighted to discover this chronicle - and from an actual musician, no less!

I sent Doug an email looking for more information and he was kind enough to answer my questions.

Ryan McGreal, Raise the Hammer: Why did you decide to start a blog?

Doug Carter: There is a history of electric rock 'n roll and blues bands that goes back into the late 1950s in Hamilton's past. Some of this scene I participated in as a musician and some of which I just went out to listen to and to dance.

I had been thinking of doing a website or adding a music section to my current web site, dougcarter.ca, but after I started doing a blog page, "Beyond Borders", last year for the Hamilton Spectator at jamilton.com I began to look at blogs as a way to record the past for future reference.

I have material of mine own, photos, tape recordings and videos that I wanted to preserve and I also hope that through the blog a history of Hamilton music in the rock 'n' roll / r 'n' b / blues genres would emerge if I could get people that were there or their children or grandchildren who might have inherited stuff to participate if indeed much was documented back then and has survived.

It's a pretty interesting line of musical development just to look what came out the two bands I first participated in, Son Richard and The Chessmen, and "The Bishops", a band I occasionally helped out and loved to go to see and dance to.

Son Richard (Newell) becomes King Biscuit Boy and has two very successful rockin' blues records with "Crowbar" and Harrison Kennedy goes off to Detroit and early soul stardom with "The Chairmen of the Board".

So what else is out there, is there anyone left who remembers? I was able to get in touch with Russell Carter from "The Bishops" who kindly sent me everything he had, photos, posters, etc. And I've been in touch with the "Friends of King Biscuit Boy" committee and their excitement at the early material by Richard that I have has inspired me to keep going.

I've started with the period from 1957 to 1966 but when I exhaust that era or I don't get anymore early material to work with, I'm planning to move on to the next period from 1967 until the early '70s and then on to the next. Maybe someday there'll be a website.

'Dance, Weddings, Rhythm, Blues' Woodcut (Image Credit: Doug Carter)
'Dance, Weddings, Rhythm, Blues' Woodcut (Image Credit: Doug Carter)

RTH: Do you still follow the music scene in Hamilton?

DC: As best that I can, but it's hard to go to gigs that don't start until midnight at my age. Instead I'm following roots and blues music as it crops up in the Niagara / Haldiman / Hamilton areas, many of the Canadian musicians I see have Hamilton roots or connections.

RTH: What's the most important thing you want to get across to readers/listeners?

DC: To give young people today and down the line a sense of what went on in Hamilton and how great some of it was and give them solid Hamilton roots to build on.

I believe in looking through the past in order to step into the future.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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