Newsletter: Spring 2009 Volume 17 No 1
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
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.
Wanting 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
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
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
WESTERN SWING MUSIC SOCIETY
3565 CAMBRIDGE STREET
Contact – John York email
or phone: 604-299-2301