Dutch Mason

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Dutch Mason

Dutch Mason, famed N.S. blues artist, Order of Canada recipient, dead at 68

Melanie Patten, Canadian Press Published: Sunday, December 24, 2006 Article tools

HALIFAX (CP) - Norman (Dutch) Mason, the legendary Nova Scotia musician heralded by friends and fans alike as the Prime Minister of the Blues, has died at the age of 68.

Mason died Saturday at his home in Truro, N.S., after suffering from a number of ailments, including diabetes and severe arthritis.

The Lunenburg, N.S., native made his name in the late 60s and 70s while touring Canada with the Dutch Mason Trio, along with bassist Ronnie Miller and drummer Ken Clattenburg.

His talents even caught the attention of blues icon B.B. King, who dubbed Mason the King of the Blues. But a band member - thinking it would sound more Canadian - soon changed the moniker to the Prime Minister of the Blues.

Mason was nominated for Best Blues Album at the 1994 Juno awards, and in 2005 was inducted into the Order of Canada for his achievements in music.

"He was just the real thing," Matt Minglewood, a Nova Scotia rock-blues musician, said Saturday from Glace Bay, N.S. "There was nothing fake or phoney about Dutch and the blues. He lived it like he sang it."

Minglewood is among a generation of musicians influenced by Mason's style. Mason's son, Garrett, picked up a 2005 Juno for his debut blues album.

But during a career spanning more than 50 years, Mason was known as much for his colourful personality as his guitar skills and distinctive voice.

"I've seen him come on stage practically naked, with just a towel around him," said a chuckling Minglewood. "On a whim, he would do that. He was just very funny."

Minglewood said Mason retained his sense of humour and passion for music even as his health deteriorated.

Wade Brown, who played guitar alongside Mason and served as his live-in caretaker, said arthritis crippled Mason's fingers more than 15 years ago and prevented him from playing guitar.

In recent years, Mason used a wheelchair and singing performances became scarce.

In 2005, the annual Dutch Mason Blues Festival was launched. Mason - who spent most of his time in bed - was too ill to attend this year's event, held in Dartmouth, N.S.

Still, Brown said Mason had a love for music and his fans, although his talents never landed him on Top 40 radio.

"He knew he wasn't the best singer in the world. . . . He freely admitted that," said Brown.

"You had to love him. People just loved him. He was so comfortable with a crowd of people, no matter how many there were, as if he was in his own living room and they were just dropping in for tea."

In 2005, after being named to the Order of Canada, Mason was too sick to travel to the ceremony in Ottawa. Myra Freeman, then Nova Scotia's lieutenant-governor, held a special ceremony in Mason's honour a few months later in Halifax.

It's "the biggest thing that has ever happened to me," Mason said at the time.