Waldo Munro, longtime Messer band member, dies at 76
By BARRY DOREY Staff Reporter
Waldo Munro, best known for his two decades of work as the piano player with the famed Don Messer and His Islanders, died Saturday in Halifax. The native of Westville, Pictou County, whose unique style was considered a driving force of the popular Messer sound, was 76. He died in hospital after a lengthy illness.
"He played the piano up until a couple of weeks ago," said Mr. Munro's son Chris. "His legacy is he will be admired by so many fiddle and piano players across Canada." Mr. Munro emulated the Harlem Stride style of jazz masters of the 1920s and 1930s, in particular that of his idol Fats Waller, according to his son. He added his own touches to the style, which has been mimicked by a new generation of players who heard the Messer band on radio and saw them play on CBC on Don Messer's Jubilee. He joined the band in 1951, getting a personal invitation from the fiddle icon to replace Jackie Doyle. For the next 22 years, he was a mainstay of the band, staying with the show until the band's demise in 1973.
"Everywhere I go across Canada, there are so many people who remember the show and really miss the show," said the junior Munro, a drummer with the Irish Rovers who just returned from a 25-date tour through the United States. He said his father boasted a "very active left hand," the same one that baffled junior and senior baseball hitters in the 1940s. Mr. Munro was an accomplished baseball player, once fanning 22 batters in a Pictou-area junior game as a teenager, according to his son.
His death leaves guitarist Cecil MacEachern of Prince Edward Island as the lone survivor of the band. "I think Cecil is coming over (for the funeral)," said Mr. Munro's son. "When they were on the road, they were buddies. They stayed in touch."
Mr. Munro remained active with his music, playing regularly at the officers' mess at Windsor Park in Halifax for more than 15 years. He also contributed time to the Maritime Fiddling Contest and charity work. In an interview with The Chronicle Herald in 2004, he recalled receiving a wire from the famed band leader: "Piano job now open with Islanders. Please advise immediately. Don Messer." He had been a member of The Peerless Entertainers and later The Royal Swingsters before getting his break. He joked in the 2004 interview that he returned to Halifax and "made a fortune driving taxi."
Besides his son Chris, he is survived by Ruth, his wife of 53 years, and daughter Dinah. He was predeceased by two children: Harry in a military plane crash in the early '90s, and Glenda of illness at age 5.
Visitation is scheduled for Friday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at Atlantic Funeral Home on Bayers Road. A service will be held at the same place Saturday morning at 11 a.m.