MacDonald, Joe

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                                                    JOE MACDONALD

CHATHAM – A Joe MacDonald appreciation night was held recently at the Royal Canadian Legion, Chatham.

Presentations were made by the following people:

Village of Douglastown, Agnes Keoughan; Town of Chatham, Joan Cripps; Town of Newcastle, Peter Murphy; Miramichi Heritage, Agnes Keoughan; roses from Miramichi Heritage, Florence Currie; Citizens of Miramichi Community, Bob Murdock; certificate of merit, R.C.L. Davis; Beaver Lumber, Bob McCullum; certificates of recognition, maritime fiddlers, Rick Trevors;

Letters were received from Frank McKenna, and Ivan and Vivian Hicks. He also received a phone call from Marv Mills, Halifax, an old friend and guitar player.

A plaque from the Miramichi citizens reads: Joe MacDonald, the man who doesn’t know the definition of “no”.

A plaque he was presented from Miramichi Heritage reads:

Your faithful service can’t be valued, it is true. But your contributions are recognized/appreciated too. And if sometime you pause to think of all the ways you’ve served. I hope you will remember to this tribute much deserved.

There were at least 50 musicians in attendance. There were old, new, and former band colleagues who played all types of music.

Many people could not get in, as the crowd was too great. Hundreds signed the guest books.

The master of ceremonies was Mike Davis, a good friend and fellow band member.

He’s been playing since he was eight: Davis

Mike Davis was the master of ceremonies at the appreciation night held for Joe MacDonald.

                                        Following are some excerpts from his speech.

“On behalf of the president of the Chatham Legion Branch and all its members, and the community of Chatham, I would like to welcome and thank all of you for coming tonight to honor and thank Joe MacDonald for all he has done throughout the community over the last forty-plus years.”

“Joe has been playing music since he was eight years old, when his father, Mont, would have him play for dances and parties. Joe played guitar, but also banjo, fiddle, bass guitar, mandolin, and any other instrument that was needed on that particular night.

While in the army, Joe played in bands in the Ottawa Valley. He also played in the Fredericton area with Earl Mitton and the Valley Rhythm Boys. Joe has played with the Irvings Orchestra for a few years, and then played with the Sanatoria Club for many years.

While he was with the Sanatoria Club, he and Bobby Murdock, started the band called the Bee Jays.

Joe’s played with just about every musician in the Maritimes at one time or another. He has played for pay and he has never, to my knowledge, refused to play for free, when a need or worthy cause required him.

You can also hear Joe’s music on many cassettes of different artists around New Brunswick, which he has played back-up music on.

Many of the area’s musicians got their feet wet in the music business with Joe MacDonald’s bands.

Joe not only played music with his band members, he was also their friend for life.”

Source: Miramichi Leader – June 14, 1994


                                                     MIRAMICHI’S COUNTRY JOE
                                       Joseph MacDonald Joins NB’s Country Music Hall of Fame 
                                                       by Kirsten Murphy

Joseph MacDonald drew a muscular hand across his century old banjo and picked out a tune. After five decades of entertaining local audiences, the retired building maintenance supervisor is being inducted to New Brunswick Country Music Hall of Fame. "It's an honor," said the accomplished but modest fiddle, banjo, mandolin and guitar player. MacDonald will travel to Saint John to pick up his award this weekend. "It feels good to know people have noticed what you've been doing all these years," MacDonald said.

He credits his family with introducing him to music when he was a child. "It goes back a long way - 50 some years" he chuckled softly. "I was nine-years-old when I first played the mandolin with my father (Mont) at a high school dance." While he was growing up, there were no radios or televisions to distract or delight the boy. "My father showed me how to play a tune and I leaned from there. It was the only entertainment we had, really."

Although he never played full time, he's played countless concerts, festivals and benefits throughout the Miramichi. He is also a co-founder of the Miramichi-Fiddlers Association. He owns more than a dozen stringed instruments but his fiddles are his favorite. "I have a saxophone. My granddaughter has it. She's gone to take lessons. "It was the first one Paul Rigley played with. I just bought it for a keepsake." MacDonald down plays his dedication to music.

In the 1960's, he formed the country western band The B.J's. Fifteen years later the band, with the same five members, renamed themselves Black Diamond. Although billed as a guitar player, MacDonald always found time to slip in the mandolin, fiddle and banjo.

In 1993 he left the Black Diamond but continues to play with Jimmy Lawlor (another Hall of Fame inductee) at weddings, anniversaries and at the Seamen's hospital. MacDonald shies away from the limelight.

Instead, he prefers strumming to singing and admits he's been blessed with an ear for music. "It means you play but you don't read music," he said. Not being able to read sheet music hasn't kept MacDonald from developing an astounding repertoire. Once he commits a tune to memory, he can quickly pick it out on whatever instrument he's playing.

MacDonald doesn't know who nominated him to the Country Music Hall of Fame but admits he's curious. MacDonald is the fifth Miramichier to be inducted into the New Brunswick Country Music Hall of Fame. He is preceded by Jimmy Lawlor, Jimmy Morrison, Matilda Murdoch and Susan Butler

MacDonald has no plans to learn another instrument. Instead, he's going to stick with what he knows and does best. "I just play," he said. "Country music is from the heart music. If (people) appreciate the music fine, and if they don't they don't have to listen to it."

                                                             On Stage

You can catch Hall of Famers Joseph MacDonald and Jimmy Lawlor's toe-tappin' country tunes every Saturday night at the Seamen's Hospital from 9 p.m. to midnight.

Source: Miramichi Leader – October 14, 1997


                                                          By Joanne Cadogan

Friends attending Joe MacDonald’s funeral remarked that if all the musicians who had ever played with him had been at the service, it would have had to be held at the Civic Centre. As it was Joe MacDonald’s funeral – held at St. Andrew’s United Church on Friday, the day after his death at age 71 – drew so many mourners the parked cars lined both sides of the street for three city blocks. And many of MacDonald’s friends didn’t learn of his death until after the funeral.

Mike Davis was among those in attendance to pay their final respects to Joe MacDonald, a man who gave generations of Miramichi musicians – young and old – the courage to pursue their dreams. Davis said he was drafted to Joe’s band “Black Diamond” in the late ‘70s when the group’s lead singer left the area. His brothers, Andy and Richard Davis, were already in the band and approached Mike to step in to lead the vocals.

                                               Joe a Father Figure to Many Musicians

Mike wasn’t sure if he was up to the challenge, but Joe encouraged him and helped him start a long and successful run with the band. “Joe was a father figure, a big brother and a best friend,” Davis said. “A lot of people are going to miss him.”

Black Diamond was just one of many bands MacDonald played with over the years, including the Sanatoria Club which raised money for a variety of charities province wide in the 1960s. That spirit of charity followed Joe in every band he played with, Davis said. “We played a lot of benefits every year. Joe was always calling saying someone got burned out, or had a medical problem or had a child who was sick and we should do a benefit for them. “We always played to packed houses every time we played for charity. Joe probably gave more to people in need than most people know,” Davis said.

Davis said Joe MacDonald encouraged anyone who showed an interest in music no matter how young or old, and because he was so young at heart he kept pace with a lot of music trends. “Joe could play Lancers and all kinds of formal dances. The last time he played with us he did some Colin James. He could pretty much fill in on any style of music because he appreciated them all. “He loved every kind of music and everyone who made music. He was an incredible guy.”

In terms of Joe MacDonald’s contribution to the Miramichi music community, Davis said he thought Carmen Williston, who delivered Joe’s eulogy, summed it up best. “He said almost everybody doing anything in music on the river owes it to Joe.”

Joe MacDonald is survived by his wife, one daughter and two sons, and also six brothers and sisters, eight grandchildren, one great-grandchild and many nieces and nephews.

Source: Miramichi Leader May 14, 2002

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