By Henry McGuirk
It was a bright sunny Sunday afternoon as country music fans lined up waiting for the doors of the Commercial Tavern in Maryhill to open. The big attraction was a Country Hall of Fame show featuring country legends Larry Mercey and Johnny Burke.
This venue is billed as the home of country music and when one sets foot inside it is evident that “yes country music lives here.”
The walls are adorned with photos, western style painting and posters along with various artifacts some of which date back to a time when horses were used to till the local fertile soil and harvest its bounty.
The Commercial Tavern is located in the Maryhill Hotel a historic landmark built in 1865.
This late summer concert was a tonic for the packed house of fans who showed their appreciation with enthusiastic applause and a standing ovation.
The show is opened by the Webers, Paul Weber with his sister Sue, brother Mike and accompanied by Shane Guse.
Soon after, the main attraction took to the stage and presented some of the songs that were major hits for them.
The Mercey Brothers were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1989 and the group included Larry and his brothers Lloyd and Ray. Larry told stories about some of their songs like “Hello Mom,” “Uncle Tom,” “Who Wrote the Words” and “Still in These Crazy Arms of Mine.”
The Mercey Brothers were a mainstay in the industry for three decades. They were an inspiration and a compass point for many new and upcoming artists. Over the years they released more than 20 albums and had a parade of hit songs on the charts and received 6 Juno awards. The group no longer performs but Larry continues to work as a solo act.
Johnny Burke was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012 and on this day he showed this crowd why. He has been a star for some five decades and he displayed the talent that earned him that status. His signature song “Wild Honey” was voted Song of the Year in 1978.
He released 14 albums over his career and still records and produces more material.
He formed the Caribou Show Band in the 60’s and the band became his backup band “East Wind.”
Johnny was band leader for many T.V. and radio shows and he spent a long stint at the famous Horseshoe in Toronto. A special guest Harold MacIntyre sang two of his hit songs “Run Before You Crawl” and “That Don’t Mean I Love You Less.”
Paul Weber, host for the day was raised on country music and was a member of the family band with his dad Howard Smoky Weber.
Paul spent eight years as a member of Joe Firth’s band The Promised Land. He formed his own band Top Hand and toured all over Canada in the 80’s and early 90’s.
He released five albums and had hit songs like “Two Bits Worth of Hurtin’,” “Under the Influence,” “Holding on to You,” and “She’s No Lady.”
The Commercial Tavern in Maryhill is a Mecca for traditional country music and the upcoming show “Hank Williams Live” will be a treat for country fans.
Note: Henry McGuirk was a staff writer for Country Music News Canada’s National country music magazine.