Larry Mercey’s autobiography packed with Canadian country music memories

·3 min read

Have Mercey: My First Sixty Years Making Music is a work that celebrates Canadian music icon Larry Mercey.

Filled with photos, amusing anecdotes and experiences of the country music world he loves, Mercey said he hopes it brings back memories to the people who read it.

In certain circles, The Mercey Brothers are still considered the epitome of what’s great about Canadian country music. The group – Larry, Ray and Lloyd – had a series of hits from the late 1950s to 1989.

They toured extensively in Canada, shunning the hard-drinking, brawling image of so many of their peers for their own unique brand of music – honest, romantic and melodious.

They were no strangers to Nashville, and had many hit singles and award-winning albums.

The Mercey Brothers were seven-time Juno Award winners and received the CCMA Big Country Awards as group of the year in 1985 and ’86. They were inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame in 1989.

Larry said the Mercey Brothers won the award as the Top Country Group when the first Juno Awards (actually the precursor to the Junos) were presented in 1970. Initially known as the Gold Leaf Awards, the name changed the next year to honour Pierre Juneau, the first president of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), who started the 30 per cent Canadian content rule.

“I can’t believe it’s 50 (actually, 51) years,” he said, noting, “When you start playing, it isn’t to win awards but because you love what you do … the awards come from hard work.”

The Mercey Brothers’ story began in Hanover when Larry, the eldest of the three, was born in 1939. He performed quite a bit in his home town and in neighbouring communities.

Larry was a member of the Junior Farmers in Walkerton – the group he hung around with were all members, so he joined. Small town roots run deep.

Larry began singing on the CKNX Barn Dance in 1956. The Mercey Brothers (at that point Larry and Ray) began performing in 1957. Lloyd joined his brothers in 1966.

Ray left the group in 1980. Larry and Lloyd continued until 1989, after which Larry went solo – quite successfully.

Larry said he started writing the book mostly for his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He knew he had plenty of material – his mother started scrapbooks of news clippings, photos and programs. When she passed away, he took over the scrapbooks – 22 of them. And he has the date books that record every performance.

The book includes 102 of those carefully collected photos, and stories of the people he met along the way. If he felt any regrets going through the collection and putting the book together, it was about the people he met and got to know, not realizing it would be the last time he’d see them.

Times change, and so did the music world. Larry mused that it was RIDE checks that put an end to the Mercey Brothers. Not that he has a problem with getting impaired drivers off the road. “People shouldn’t drink and drive,” he said. But the bars and small venues where he and his brothers played shut down – people didn’t go out for an evening of drinks and musical entertainment any more.

He’s never left the music business. For a brief time he managed the Old Town Hall Theatre in Wingham, and has enjoyed a successful solo career. He notes there’s a lot of Wingham’s CKNX Barn Dance in the book.

The book, now in its second printing, is carried at a number of local outlets including Fincher’s in Kincardine, Holst Office Supplies in Walkerton and Hanover, and A&R Music in Walkerton. Or contact Larry Mercey directly, at larrymercey40@gmail.com.

Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times