Welcome to “Musicians of the Midnight Sun”! This website is a collection of audio/transcribed interviews and visual media profiling some of the music makers from the Northwest Territories, (NWT) in the 1960s and 1970s. The musicians featured here are only the beginning of this collection. “Musicians of the Midnight Sun” vision is to create a living archive where the musical lives and stories of northern musicians of this time can be documented, easily accessed and most importantly, celebrated.
The interviews and photos paint a picture of these musicians in the prime of their lives, with instrument in hand, sitting in front of the radio or the turntable, gently lifting the stylus arm up and down, back and forth, trying to figure out that one tricky guitar lick; of sitting at the feet of master fiddlers, burning up the bow with sweat pouring off of their foreheads at a late night house party then running home to play those songs on their own fiddles before they forgot them. These were their schools of music. They had little desire to hit the road to the south or to pursue music as a career. Their only desire was to entertain their family and friends who made for a ready audience in their home communities, some without road access, running water or electricity in the early 1960s. For some, the music faded slowly from their lives as they moved on to work full time jobs and raise families. Others kept the music playing at a low volume while working their full time jobs and raising families then plugging into their amplifiers for the weekend gig. Today, all of them still point to the smiling faces on the dance floor and hum the melodies of their favorite songs while holding a black and white snapshot in their hand.
Their stories demonstrate how they embraced the new technologies which were revolutionizing the process of music making everywhere. Electric guitars and Basses had only been available to consumers from the early 1950s yet were in the hands of northern musicians by the mid 1960s along with public address systems, amplifiers, reel to reel and later on, portable cassette recorders. The musicians talk about the many styles of music they listened to, learned and played and how quickly those styles changed. They might have learned their first chords or lead lines from the songs of Hank Williams or Roy Acuff, then moved on to Rockabilly, Blues or Rock and Roll. Some of the Métis and mixed blood musicians played the traditional Métis Fiddle music imprinted in their DNA. Ultimately, they all found the music that spoke to them and filled the dance floors in the bars and community halls or the bare dirt floors of the local arenas for festivals, carnivals and jamborees.
The “Musicians of the Midnight Sun” collection was created to acknowledge and to celebrate these early northern musicians for their contribution to music making in the north. Hearing their stories, told in their own voice, will entertain, enlighten and encourage generations of musicians. These stories are pure Canadiana and form part of our country’s musical heritage yet unheard. “Musicians of the Midnight Sun” gives voice to these musicians, the place and time they lived, the stories they hold and the music they played.
Your suggestions of other northern musicians you would like to see profiled here are welcome. If you would like to contribute stories, photos, audio or video recordings of these musicians to this website or see any errors in need of correction, please send a note on the contact page.