A native of North Sydney, Cape Breton Island, Matt Minglewood joined his first band shortly after graduating from High School, The Rocking Saints. He soon graduated from playing organ to landing a gig as guitarist for Sam Moon and The New Moon in the summer of 1968. The band paid its proverbial dues doing the club scene up and down both borders of the east coast and into Ontario, going through several lineup and name changes along the way. They finally settled on The Moon-Minglewood Band by ’73. The band broke up and Matt formed his own group, called The Minglewood Band later that same year.
He peddled some demo tapes to the major labels for the next year or so but got nowhere. Deciding an independant release was the way to go, they financed some recording time and released their first record, also known as THE RED ALBUM, on the indie label, Solar Records in the summer of ’76. His early love for the blues was evident, with a cover of the Fleecy Moore classic “Caledonia” and Don Nix’s “Same Old Blues”. Also featured were the nearly 8-minute long “Swing Low Sweet Cadillac”, co-penned by Moon and the tongue in cheek lead off track “Door To Door Salesman”. The record would go on to sell 15,000 units, quite the accomplishment considering it was an indie – with very little promotion to back it.
His early penchant for mixing the blues with the eclectic country sound dominant in the Maritimes and gained notoriety, as did the band’s energetic live shows, and were rewarded with a contract from RCA in 1978. They spent the next few months locked up in a London, Ontario studio and released a self-titled album in ’79, instantly catching the critics’ attention. Produced by Claire Lawrence of Chilliwack fame and evidenced by the first single “Ain’t What It Used To Be”, the album had a distinctive pop feel to it, with 2 of the tracks co-written by fellow Chilliwackian, Bill Henderson, including the raucous “Rocking The Blues”. Also featured were the Irish traditional “Patriot Game”, “Whiz Kids”, an anti-drug song about some groupies, “Long Way From Texas”, a song about Nova Scotia’s economic problems, and his biggest hit to date ”Can’t You See?”, originally intended for the first record, written by The Marshall Tucker’s Band’s Tom Caldwell. As well as producing, Lawrence lent his talents on the saxaphone on the record, which also featured cameos by Nancy Nash and Shari Ulrich. It went on to sell over 50,000 copies, earning the band its first gold record.
Eager to follow-up on their initial success, the band recruited Lawrence again for their next album, recorded at the famed Le Studio in Morin Heights, Quebec. MOVIN’ was released in the summer of 1980 and spawned three singles, including the revved-up blues smash “Rocket Fuel”. Along with “Me and My Baby”, written by Roy Forbes, later of UHF fame with Ulrich & Henderson – and “Counting On You” penned by keyboardist Paul Dunn, The Minglewood Band’s stock continued to rise. Also included were “East Coast Blues”, a moving reminesence of growing up in the Maritimes, “Dorchester”, dedicated to the band’s fans they won over playing Dorchester Prison on a regular basis and “Price He Pays”, a number by harmonica player/singer Enver Sampson Jr.
In an effort to broaden the band’s appeal south of the border, RCA decided to take Matt and the boys to Memphis to record the next record. ‘Duck’ Dunn was brought in as producer and the band spent the spring of ’81 working on the next album. The result was OUT ON A LIMB, released that summer. The lead single was “Highway To Your Heart”, written by guitarist Mark MacMillan, followed shortly thereafter by “I’m Gonna Forgive You Again”, penned by local songwriter Larry Raspberry. Despite the obvious country influences on the record, including the quirky “Hank Williams Said It”, Minglewood’s other early influences still shone through with “Nicholson Blues”.
Though happy with the direction the band was going, Minglewood felt RCA wasn’t getting the band to the destination fast enough, and left the label the next year. RCA released SMOKERS – THE BEST OF THE MINGLEWOOD BAND in ’84, nicely summing up the first half of one of Canadian music’s most unique artists’ career. During this period, the band pretty much stayed out of the scene and were working on new material.
They landed a deal that same year with Epic Records, a subsidiary of CBS and cut M5 in 1985. Produced by Stacy Heydon, the album contained “Long Hard Road To The Bottom”, Matt’s account of life as a musician, the lead off track “Crossfire” and “Runaway”. The record was in many ways more of a ‘band collaberation’ than the others, evidenced by Minglewood only writing half of the 10 tracks. But despite the strong writing, CBS failed to properly support the album, arguing it simply wasn’t what they were expecting. Unhappy with the record execs, and vice-versa, the band chose to leave the label, rather than be dumped the next year.
Sensing he needed a fresh start, Minglewood decided to go solo, spawned in part by the horrific motorcycle accident in ’85 that killed founding band member and longtime friend Enver Sampson. He recruited Bill Ferriman to co-produce ME AND THE BOYS in 1986. Released on Savannah Records, the second phase of his career had begun and was an instant success. “Living Outside The Law” hit the charts and Matt hit the road. Non-stop touring across the country and several dates in the States followed. Next on the charts was the title track, later covered by Charlie Daniels. His version of “Georgia On A Fast Train”, written by country outlaw legend Billy Joe Shaver soon followed. His new-found solo success earned him a nomination for album of the year with the Country Music Association. His fourth single, “The Far Side Of Town” had been released and he rounded out the year by being voted as country male vocalist of the year by CARAS (Canadian Association of Recording Arts & Sciences).
After taking a much-deserved break from the hectic rigors of touring, he went back home to work on the next project. Produced by Mike Francis, the result was 1988’s THE PROMISE, featuring a virtual who’s who of Canadian rock, including cameos by Jeff Healey, Minglewood Bandmate Ron Dunn, Peter Cardinali of The Boomers and Jorn Andersen, who made his name in the early ’70’s as the drummer for Fludd. The album contained only three original tunes, and embraced practically every facet of Matt’s roots and influences, with covers of Bob Cleghorn’s “Cajun Stars”, Hank Williams’ “You Win Again” and fellow Maritimer Rita MacNeil’s “Working Man”. He also recorded one of Charlie Major‘s first published songs with “Some Day I’m Gonna Ride In A Cadillac” and also did “Last Chance Highway”, written by Eddie Schwartz, whose songs have been covered by such diverse artists as Pat Benatar and Helix.
ONE CAPER AFTER ANOTHER came out in the spring of ’92, a strong showing of 12 of Matt’s biggest hits, spawning his solo career, as well as the songs that first hit the airwaves while with The Minglewood Band. His next new album wouldn’t see the light of day until 1999, when DRIVIN’ WHEEL hit the shelves. His return was long overdue and eagerly anticipated. From the lead single “How High Is High Enough”, Matt made it perfectly clear that not only was he back – he was as strong as ever. “Lost My Drivin’ Wheel”, written by David Whiffen, Lennie Gallant‘s “Black Spruce River” and the Sonny Boy Williamson blues classic “Somebody help Me” also showed he hadn’t forgotten his roots.
During a career that has spanned over 30 years, as a solo artist or part of the Maritimes’ greatest contribution to Canadian music, Matt Minglewood has sold more than 350,000 records here alone and has earned three gold records, two Juno nominations, been nominated twice for Canadian Country Music Assocication honours, plus countless other awards from various blues, country, and East Coast music societies.