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Western swing music society honours Nanaimo musician

Howie James is being inducted into the Western Swing Music Hall of Fame this weekend in Washington state. - Deddeda photo
Howie James is being inducted into the Western Swing Music Hall of Fame this weekend in Washington state.
— image credit: Deddeda photo

A Nanaimo musician is being recognized for his efforts to keep a genre of music alive.

Howie James is being inducted into the Western Swing Music Hall of Fame this weekend in Washington state.

“It was quite a surprise to me the way it happened,” he said.

Western swing music is a combination of jazz, cowboy, polka, folk and more. It’s similar to big band swing music, except it’s driven by fiddles and steel guitar rather than brass and sax.

“It’s a sub-genre of American country music,” James said. “It’s essentially dance music.”

In the 1960s, James played with Danny Romanuk, who is also being inducted, although posthumously.

Romanuk was a great influence on James, teaching him more than the four chords James could play on the guitar. They recorded the album Western Swing from Canada’s West in 1962.

“He made me learn to read music,” James said. “We go back a long way.”

James became a staple on the club and lounge scene in Vancouver, and performed on television and radio regularly. He released his first album of original music in 2008 on an album called Don’t Be Ashamed. After he was nominated, the Northwest Western Swing Music Society, based in Auburn, Wash., which operates the hall of fame, researched James’s career to ensure he was worthy of the honour.

“They really check you out and make sure you contributed to the genre,” he said.

James and his wife head to Washington today (Aug. 11) to meet the other dozen inductees for an informal jam session. The following three nights will see James perform 45 minute to one-hour sets prior to the Sunday induction ceremony.

“I’ll get to meet some really great musicians,” James said.

James plays regularly in Nanaimo, including Royal Canadian Legion branches and the Front Street Grill. For more information, please visit www.howiejames.com.

arts@nanaimobulletin.com

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