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A Tribute to
Don Messer and His Islanders

Donald Charld Frederick Messer was born on May 9, 1909 in Tweedside, New Brunswick - the youngest of eleven children. Don Messer's musical talent became evident when he was little more than a toddler, so it was no surprise to his family when he made his debut at age seven, playing the fiddle at a barn dance.  This proved to be the beginning of a lifelong career of making toe-tapping music.  His first group, was called the Backwoods Trio, which later became the New Brunswick Lumberjacks. In 1939 Don Messer and His Islanders got their first big break on radio.  But it was the incredible overnight success of "Don Messer's Jubilee" in 1959 that made his name a household word across Canada.  On March 21, 1969 marked Don Messer's 35th anniversary in broadcasting.  He passed away in 1972, after 38 years of combined broadcasting in radio and television.
 
 
 

Marg Osburne joined the Islanders in 1947, after Don had heard her sing on a Moncton radio station.  Her naturalness, warmth, and simplicity won the hearts of thousands of Canadians who tuned into the show every week.  Charlie Chamberlain, the singing lumberjack left the the bush camps far behind when he joined Don Messer's band in 1935.  Charlie had a twinkle in his eye and loved to kick up his heels in front of a mike or a camera, but he could also bring a tear to the eye when he joined Marg for a hymn sung in gentle harmony.
Johnny Forrest with his Scottish burr, his accordion, and his kilt brought the traditional tunes of his native land to the Don Messer show.  The songs he sang and the music he played contributed to the distinct flavour that audiences loved. Don Tremaine came to Canada at an early age, attended school in Halifax, and after a stint with the Mounties became one of the busiest and most well known personalities on Maritime radio and television.
Warren MacRae began his musical career at an early age: at ten he was playing drums with the Charlottetown West Kent School Band and the local Salvation Army Band.  He progressed to dance band work when he was twelve. Julius "Duke" Neilsen could play practically every instrument; he was cornetist in a Salvation Army Band and boy bugler in the Navy.  He won a contest to play cornet in Benny Goodman's band and travelled with him for a while - but turned down an offer from Arthur Fieldler to play bass in the Boston Pops Orchestra. 
Rae Simmons was born in Nova Scotia and started playing the clarinet and the saxaphone when he was fourteen.  After joining Don Messer in 1940 he doubled as announcer for the group for many years. Cecil MacEachern was equally at home on the mandolin, bass fiddle, or guitar.  whether his violin joined Don for a lively reel or his guitar accompanied Marg in a plaintive folk song, P.E.I. born Cec played the music he loved.
Waldo Munro started playing piano at age nine, and went on to play in dance bands and on radio before joining the Islanders in 1951.  They say that Pictou County lost one of its best baseball pitchers when Waldo chose to make music his career. Vic Mullen who hails from Yarmouth, N.S., auditioned with his own band for the Messer show, and Don liked the way he played the banjo so much that he hired him. His nimble fingers and happy grin contributed to the infectious spirit that characterized "Jubilee".
Gunter Buchta took up dancing as physiotherapy after suffering a leg injury in WWII.  This led to his becoming a superb professional dancer, and after coming to Canada, he joined Messer's show.  The swirling, twirling, fast-stepping routines of the Buchta Dancers proved him an imaginative interpreter of square dancing. Bill Langstroth was born in New Brunswick, and graduated from Mount Allison University as Bachelor of Fine Arts.  He spent the first dozen years of his working life as producer, writer, director of the half-hour "Don Messer's Jubilee"

Dons Family Photos
Band Photo's

"Don Messer's Violin"

Acknowledgements:
Photo's and extracts from "CANADA'S DON MESSER" by Lester B. Sellick (1969)
and various album jackets, Public Archives of Nova Scotia, Don Messer Jubilee Video (1985)

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