|THE DALE RUSSELL INTERVIEW (Nov.1996)|
The second in a series of personal interviews with the members of THE GUESS WHO
By Nancy and Bob Steisslinger (collectively referred to as Steiss)
Steiss: I know you’re from Portage la Prairie, Manitoba - when did you get into music there?
DALE: Well in high school actually. My father played piano and my uncle Jim also played piano; he played boogie-woogie style, my dad played different kinds of songs - more pop songs on the radio and that kind of thing, and my dad sang a lot.
Steiss: Did they play professionally?
DALE: No. My uncle used to come out in my early teen years and stay with us, and we had a piano in the house. He also brought a little ukulele, a baritone ukulele, a four-string, and they would play, and I just fell in love with it. I always used to, even as a little guy, sit beside my grandma at the piano, and she would play and sing songs like “Tammy” and all those things, and I was always enamored with it. Eventually my uncle taught me how to play a few chords and I would play and sing and then I took an interest more in the guitar area and my brother Bob got interested in the drums. Then the folk music craze was hitting, so it was a natural for me just to hang around and listen to all these people play and sing, so finally my dad made a deal with me and he bought me a tenor guitar - it’s like a four-string guitar and usually you use it in a tenor tuning but you can also tune it like the bottom four strings of a guitar, D-G-B-E, so I learned the top part of guitar playing that way. So I paid for half and he paid for half and then I was in, and I started learning all the songs, you know, “Puff The Magic Dragon”...
Steiss: Did you take lessons?
DALE: I didn’t then - those days you just sort of hung out with other guys who could play and you learned what they knew. So it was actually handed down - just like the way it used to be handed down by troubadours, you know. So The Weavers and Peter, Paul and Mary and Bob Dylan and all these guys were out there. And I used to go in on the weekends, ‘cause one of my friends from Portage, Graham Jones, was going to university - he was a couple of years ahead of me, so I’d go in and hang out at his place on the weekends and drink beer and sing songs. You’d have a big circle of players and you’d go around the circle and everybody’d sing songs. And I started off writing songs - that’s how I began - music for me was kind of an escape, and I used to hide in the music and write these songs. I was always enamored with the folk tales and the stories of folk songs, and I was into literature and mathematics; those are the teachers that appealed to me most in high school. So I would use all that to create these little worlds; my literature teacher would always encourage me to read and my mother encouraged me to read, so I always had my head full of stories, and I would take a lot of my own feelings and interweave them with fantasy stories. Some of them were based on truths, half-truths, and some of them were pure flights of fantasy. But Graham Jones and the guys who were a few years