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Music Row featuring Lew Skinner

Lew Skinner is a founding member of The Ducats. – Submitted photo

By Jaymie White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Lew Skinner is one of Newfoundland and Labrador’s rock and roll pioneers and has been so for decades. As the lead guitarist for Port aux Basques band ‘The Ducats’, which formed in 1959, Skinner has been woven into the vast musical landscape of the province. The Ducats consisted of Lew Skinner on lead guitar, Jim Crewe on rhythm guitar, Bob Battiste on bass guitar, Art Bragg on drums, and Winston Blackmore on vocals. The band first performed together at a benefit concert for victim’s families of the Springfield Mining disaster, and the rest, as the saying goes, is history. “Myself, Jim Crewe, and Gerald Carter got together to play Carl Perkins’ hit LPs. Then we played as the Three Teens at Orange Hall,” said Skinner. “The Ducats first formed about 1960 and we played the Orange on a regular basis. Then we played Gillis Dance Hall, then on to Chignic Lodge. Bob Battiste was added with his new Fender bass, Art Bragg on drums and Wince Blackmore as our singer. Gerald had gone away and joined the Canadian Air Force.” The Ducats almost became the first all-Canadian band to ever get signed to Motown Records. In 1965 they recorded the second rock and roll album by a Newfoundlander, and in 2008 they were honored at the East Coast Music Awards with the Stompin’ Tom Award. Skinner’s passion for music started at a young age and many of his influences were musicians that actually came to his home. “Cecil Allen, Birk Hann, Albert Bennett, Georges Hann, and Joe Willis were big influences.” Skinner will be back in his hometown to play with the Wasbeens for their charitable concert for victims of Hurricane Fiona, slated to take place around the end of July, and he can’t wait. “I’m looking forward to seeing family and friends and my hometown in July,” said Skinner. “They are a fund band and great contributors to the Port aux Basques hospital. Never thought I would see Kelvin Parsons and the boys on stage, but there are great rock and roll tunes, some country, and I really enjoy those guys. We will be working with the Wasbeens again in July this year at the Lions Club. That’s where Lion Bob McGrath gave us one of the Ducats first pro gigs. He still reminds me about that.” The Wasbeens consist of members Doug Côté on saxophone and vocals, Carol Côté on flute and vocals, Troy Ingram on drums, Roger Caissie on guitar and vocals, Kelvin Parsons on vocals, Jim Crewe on bass guitar, and Lew Skinner, once again, playing lead guitar. “I always played music of all types,” said Skinner. “Some country, Scottish, and rock and roll.” Skinner has amassed quite a collection of guitars over the course of his lifetime. “I collected the guitars that, over the years, I couldn’t afford in Port aux Basques,” said Skinner. “Some of the guitars were like the ones my heroes played, like Scotty Moore, James Burton, Danny Gatton, and Chet Atkins.” His collection may have gotten smaller, but he still has plenty left to cherish and enjoy. “I had 58 guitars at one time, but now I’ve got about 30. I sold out a lot as time went by.” Naturally he has a favourite. “I value my Fender Strat and my Fender Telecaster, but my Gretsch Country Gent guitar, I value that one the most. I have great respect for Chet (Atkins).” Chet Atkins, known as ‘Mr. Guitar’ and ‘Country Gentleman’, is known as one of the most important, if not the most important, guitarist to ever play Gretsch, and is known for his golden-era Gretsch guitars. Skinner has even sold one of his collection to none other than former Beatle Paul McCartney, who is a rock and roll legend himself. “An agent of Paul McCartney called me about the Gibson Everly Brothers Model. It was the only lefty guitar the Everly Brothers made, and that was confirmed to be by a Gibson CEO. The guitar was a 1963 black model.” Skinner didn’t agree to the sale right away. “The first time (he contacted me) in 1987, I turned him down, but then he contacted me again in 1995, offered me more money, and so I gave him from a Friday until a Monday to have the funds in my bank account, and they did.” The guitar remained in Skinner’s possession for a bit of time before it was sent to McCartney. “I had the guitar from that Monday until the following April in 1996. Due to weather they didn’t want me to ship in December. We did see the guitar in a video Paul did with him on a chair, playing the guitar, and Linda on the floor looking up at him. It was bittersweet to look at,” admitted Skinner. With a memorable career in the rearview and possibilities always on the horizon, Skinner doesn’t plan on giving up music anytime soon. “I’m going to keep playing until I get to Barachois Hill.”

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