The venue – Truro Nova Scotia’s Legion Hall; The event; A Music Nova Scotia industry conference showcase November 2014, a location legendary for early performances by Frank McKay and the Lincolns in the mid-Sixties, Nova Scotia’s seminal R&B revue outfit. Yet on this night, another legendary Maritime music group would reunite. After a 40 year absence, Matt Minglewood and Sam Moon were back on stage again to revive memories of 1969’s Sam Moon-Matt Minglewood & The Universal Power and (after a brief split) The Moon-Minglewood Band, a combination of Minglewood’s blues-rock guitar and Moon’s distinctive R&B/Country influences which was delivered on stage like one of those Stax/ Motown all-star reviews.
“We just felt it was time to do something together,” noted Minglewood, from his Glace Bay homestead as he and the Dartmouth-based Moon prepares to take Minglewood’s new band on the road for a series of concert festivals this summer under the banner of `Full Moon-Minglewood Rising’ “Sam had joined my band for a couple of guest spots in the past but we had not done a full set together in like 40 years, so when the Music Nova Scotia opportunity came up, with thought, let’s give it a shot and find out if people would still be interested is seeing us again.”
Minglewood’s perception couldn’t have been more prophetic. “I am told our performance was the highlight of the week, that we were the hot ticket,” he enthused. “It was also important that we played that gig at the Truro Legion Hall. This is where The Lincolns played almost every week and Sam and I spent like four hours in a car just to come up and see them. Frank McKay and The Lincolns were the real deal, a great R&B band, the horn section, covers of Wilson Pickett, James Brown and Percy Sledge, they proved to be a real inspiration for us.”Such was the reaction to Moon-Minglewood’s reunion that Maritime concert promoters have been queueing up to have the band perform this summer at a full slate of high profile festivals (Parlee Beach, Shediac, NB – July 31), Pictou Lobster Carnival (July 11) plus a couple of key jazz and blues festivals in Charlottetown and Fredericton, a high profile concert at Port Hawksbury’s Civic Centre (August 28th) plus a couple of low-key acoustic performances with just Moon, Minglewood and guitarist Bill Elliott – this on top of Minglewood’s other commitments, which include dates in Edmonton’s Century Casino and Fort McMurray’s Boomtown Casino in November with his new band comprising of veteran drummer Moon McInnis, bassist Emily Dingwall and keyboardist Jeff Stapleton.
“It’s a great chance to celebrate the fact that we’re still here,” laughed Moon on the phone from his Dartmouth home. “Music fans talk about the legacy of the Moon-Minglewood Band yet the reality is we were only together for about four years. It seemed a lot longer when we were younger, a summer can feel like a whole year.”
Forming his first band, The Rockin Saints in 1966, Roy Batherson joined Sam Moon in 1969 and earned the nickname Matt Minglewood, courtesy of Moon’s drummer Gary Stanley. “He was hanging out with Buddy Miles, Jimi Hendrix’s former Band of Gypsies’ drummer and Miles convinced Stanley everyone in his band should have stage names. So Stanley called himself Diego Diablo Gunn, Richard Boudreau became Sam Moon and keyboardist Tim O’Neill became Jinx O’Neill and when I joined the band, I became Matt Minglewood.”
Through the early Seventies, Sam Moon, Matt Minglewood and The Universal Power became a touring tour de force as they attracted ex-pat Maritimers across the country and even forged a following in Alaska. “Our show was this crazy revue,” commented Minglewood. “We’d do a few instrumentals, then I’d do a couple of blues rock numbers and then we’d have `Star Time’ and Sam would come out and do a couple of R&B/Country tunes. It was great fun but musically we were all over the place.”
A disagreement with the band’s manager forced Minglewood to leave the Universal Power and start up two new bands; Peppertree and Cold Duck, but when Moon also fell out with his manager, Moon and Minglewood reunited as the Moon-Minglewood Band. That lasted until 1973 when Moon grew tired of the band’s constant touring and decided to take a break.
“After four years I just grew tired of the road, I don’t think I was meant to handle the grind of day to day touring,” admitted Moon. “I subsequently went out touring on my own, but at that time, I guess I wasn’t road-ready.”
Minglewood concurred but also noted there was a lot of confusion over the band’s musical direction. “Sam wanted to take a break and I wanted to move towards a more blues rock direction,” he noted. “Record companies were not interested in us because musically, we were all over the place so I wanted to move in one specific direction.”
Minglewood ended up releasing his debut solo record, known as The Red Album, independently in 1974 and that received sufficient sales and industry attention to attract record deals first from RCA and then Columbia and later an indie deal with Savannah Records, allowing Matt and his band to grow in stature as a bona fide classic blues-rock artist with 11 albums to their credit.
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Moon, on the other hand, didn’t enjoyed such a public profile and his performances have been confined to the Maritimes since 1988 where he still benefits from a hard core support. Surprisingly it has been the modern-day advent of social media, especially Facebook, which has kept Moon’s legacy intact. “It’s been fabulous for staying in touch with people, communicating with people about upcoming gigs and even tracking down previously lost material and those always embarrassing old photos. A lot of my previous recordings were lost so it’s been helpful that other people are in possession of old tapes and recordings.”
So with The Full Moon-Minglewood Rising about to descend on concert venues across the Maritimes, what can old and new fans expect to witness? “Well, it’s going to be a whole lotta fun and very entertaining,” predicts Minglewood. “I’ll be doing some of my classics; “Me And The Boys”, “Long Ways From Texas”, “Cadillac” and of course “Can’t You See”, Sam will do some of his own tunes, “Kodiak Wind”, “Railroad Man”, “Girls of Neil’s Harbour and then we’ll combine together on some of the classics like “Hold On I’m Comin and a song Sam and I wrote together called “Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac” We’ll just try to do it like we did back then, have fun and hope the fans have a ball with it, I’m sure they will.”
For Minglewood, the Moon reunion is just another incentive to keep his ball rolling. “I just love to play, it’s not a chore for me, it’s a passion.” noted Minglewood. “If I ever get tired of this, I’ll become an accountant…and I can’t even add.”
As for Moon, he did record a new CD in 2011, “Never Let Me Go” and he sees the liaison with Minglewood as a way to re-introduce himself to festival audiences full of fans who might be familiar with their old material and new fans who are just discovering Moon-Minglewood’s distinctive style of R&B, rock, country and folk musical all rolled into one energetic revue.
“When you start seeing that other side of the mountain, you appreciate performing even more,” concluded Moon. “Someone told me that I should play every performance as though it’s my last one, and now I see what he means.”
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