Western Swing Music Society

Vancouver, BC Canada

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Newsletter: Spring 2009 Volume 17 No 1 & 2

Profile: Tony Rees & Kat Wahamaa
by Tony & Kat

WSMS members, Tony Rees and Kat Wahamaa  have been playing regularly at the Western Swing Music Society showcases since 2001.

Tony  Rees was born in England and had not heard of Western Swing music until late one night in 1999 while flipping the T V channels he came across a black and white video of a band playing the Tampa Red song, No Matter How She Done It.  This was Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys. 

Tony had been playing Blues from the '30's and '40's for about ten years after he had gotten access to a friend's vast old Blues collection of LPs and tapes.   Tampa Red was among his favourite Blues players, along with Memphis Minnie, Blind Willie McTell and Bog Bill Broonzy.

Back Door SlamWanting to hear more of Bob Wills and Tommy Duncan, Tony went to the local record store and bought one of the series of Tiffany Transcriptions which the Bob Wills band had recorded in the late 1940's.  These recordings were made to play on radio and were largely unheard until they were released on vinyl in the early 1980's.  After learning Lonesome Hearted Blues and a couple of others from that CD, Tony bought more until he had the entire 13 CD collection.

Tony also bought a book: The King of Western Swing: Bob Wills Remembered written by Bob Wills' daughter, Rosetta Wills.   In the back of the book was a listing of  western swing societies which included a listing for John York and the Western Swing Music Society in Vancouver.  Tony called and John told him there was a WSMS showcase coming up...so Tony made sure he was there.

After meeting some WSMS members there Tony was determined to get a band together and to start playing western swing music.
A few months later,  Kat Wahamaa and Gaydene Bergen showed up at a gig of Tony's Blues band, Blues Caboose.     Both women were keen on Country and Western Swing music. 

Tony recruited Gaydene as a bass player and after rehearsing with her for a few weeks  the Shiny Buckle Band was ready to play the WSMS showcase in Maple Ridge.   After their set, steel guitarist Pat Gerow asked where Tony had come up with the songs and he told Pat they were all Bob Wills' tunes.  Not knowing much about which were Bob Wills' hits, Tony had picked the songs he liked from the Tiffany Transcriptions and some were relatively obscure, so even Pat Gerow had not heard them before.

At their next performance at the Billy Miner Pub, Kat showed up and sat in on a few tunes.   Her vocals, percussion, mandolin and guitar were soon incorporated permanently into the band's sound.

Tony has included Western Swing into the music he has played ever since.  “The guitar style of Eldon Shamblin  is lurking in all the music I play,” says Tony.

Kat and Tony's interest in Western Swing led to an interest in the steel guitar.   Unable to recruit a steel guitarist, Tony took steel guitar lessons from a couple of local players and then Kat introduced Tony to steel guitarist, Mike Flunkert who joined the Shiny Buckle Band.

Kat and Tony came up with the idea of having a Steel Guitar Festival and for the next three years they held a festival each year featuring many great local players.

Kat has been a fan of Country music and Jazz since her childhood when her parents played the old Jazz and Swing tunes and her three older sisters played Country and early Rock and Roll.

Kat's main instrument has always been her  voice, with which she has wowed audiences throughout her life.  She has played in Country bands, Rock bands and Folk groups.   Unlike Tony, she was well acquainted with Western Swing and she was keen to start playing the music when the opportunity presented itself.

She and Tony work as a duo and have performed together in various groups in the last eight years.

They have recently released a CD with Back Door Slam which features Kat and Tony with Jennie Bice on fiddle and Joe Samorodin on bass.

The CD opens with Blues in My Swing, a swing tune written by Tony.   The title of the album is,  I'll Get Mine which is a traditional tune from the Tiffany Transcriptions and includes the line ... “when I left I heard the back door slam,”  from which the band took its name.

Tony has been a member of the WSMS Board of Directors since 2003.

Back Door Slam: MySpace page (with music clips)
Purchase Back Door Slam's I'll Get Mine CD from CDBaby

V5K 1M3                

Contact – John York  email or phone: 604-299-2301