Rita MacNeil, first inductee into the Cape Breton Music Industry Hall of Fame

GLACE BAY, NS — Cape Breton’s First Lady of Song, a coal miners’ choir and a blues-rock legend will be the first artists inducted into the Cape Breton Music Industry Cooperative Hall of Fame.

At an event at the Savoy Theater on Wednesday night, nonprofit co-op board members named Rita MacNeil, the Men of the Deeps and Matt Minglewood, along with Buddy MacDonald’s classic ‘It’s Getting Dark Again”. as the first inductees into the Cape Breton Music Industry Hall of Fame. A gala ceremony is scheduled for May 2023 at Center 200.

Singer-songwriter Rita MacNeil.  Contributed - Contributed
Singer-songwriter Rita MacNeil. Contributed – Contributed

“Great Ambassador”

It is not by mistake that MacNeil, who died in 2013 at the age of 68, will enter the Hall of Fame first.

Calling the Big Pond singers a “great ambassador for Cape Breton,” Duane Nardocchio, director of operations for the Cape Breton Music Industry Cooperative, listed accomplishments which include 26 studio albums, numerous songs hit and a hit TV variety show.

“It is with great pleasure that CBMiC and I announce that Rita will be the first inductee into the Cape Breton Music Industry Hall of Fame,” said Nardocchio, who toured with MacNeil as manager and technician for six years.

The men of the depths.  DAVID JALA/CAPE BRETON POST - David Jala
The men of the depths. DAVID JALA/CAPE BRETON POST – David Jala

musical minors

Frequent MacNeil’s collaborators, the Men of the Deeps were announced next.

Aaron Lewis, award-winning musician and CBMiC board member, said the band started singing about the Cape Breton miner’s work and way of life for more than 55 years. During this time, he toured the world, made eight albums and numerous television appearances, and was the subject of a Gemini Award-winning documentary.

“It’s more than a group of singers, it’s a social institution. There is a camaraderie between the members that reverberates to their audience wherever they perform,” Lewis said.

Matt Minglewood.  Contribution - SaltWire Network
Matt Minglewood. Contribution – SaltWire Network

Rock the blues

Rounding out the first three inductees, 75-year-old Minglewood has been rocking the blues since he was a teenager.

Board Chairman Nigel Kearns described how the man born Roy Batherson in Moncton, New Brunswick, moved to Cape Breton and after playing piano and violin before joining his first band, the Rockin’ Saints, before adopting his famous stage name as part of Sam Moon, Matt Minglewood and Universal Power. After playing in a few other bands, he eventually formed the Minglewood Band, making his mark in the music industry with the release of the album Red.

“His writing is definitely storytelling, basically about himself, his life, his island,” Kearns said.

“We are absolutely thrilled and honored to announce that Matt Minglewood is also inducted into the new Cape Breton Music Industry Hall of Fame.”

Chris Connors is a multimedia journalist at the Cape Breton Post.

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