Canadian blues pioneer Dutch Mason dies

Dutch Mason, the musician from Nova Scotia who was known as "prime minister of the blues," has died.

'There isn't a blues artist in the Maritimes that hasn't cut their teeth playing with Dutch Mason.'

Dutch Mason, the musician from Nova Scotia who was known as "prime minister of the blues," has died.

The singer and guitarist — one of the country's best-known blues artists and a pioneer for many of today's musicians — died Saturday in Truro, N.S.

In the past few years, Mason has battled poor health due to chronic arthritis, which forced him tostop a busy performance schedule he hadmaintained for decades.

"There isn't a blues artist in the Maritimes that hasn't cut their teeth playing with Dutch Mason. It'strue all across Canada," New Brunswick musician David Bedford told CBC News.

"We will never have another seminal figure like Dutch in the blues world in Canada," said Bedford, Mason's former harmonica player and co-writer ofhis biography On the Road With Dutch Mason.

Born Norman Mason in Lunenburg in 1938, Mason became interested in music early in his youth, learning to play several differentinstruments.

In the 1950s, he started forminga number ofbands and musical groups, which largely played in therockabilly style. However, his focus changed after hewas introduced to the blues through therecordings of B. B. King, who soonbecame a major influence for Mason.

Through the 1970s and 1980s, Masonbuilt up his reputation and gainedrenown for his music, his colourful performances and relentless touring from coast to coast in order to build up a Canadian audience for the blues. Despite constant gigs in clubs from the West Coast to Toronto and Montreal, he always remained based in Nova Scotia.

It was King who eventually dubbed Mason "prime minister of the blues" to acknowledge his influence on the Canadian music scene.

Mason "puts out a certain vibe or energy or something. He just gives you that good feeling, the way he sings," his son, Juno Award-winning blues guitarist Garrett Mason said in an interview with CBC News.

Over the years, Mason released a host of albums, including Dutch Mason Trio at the Candlelight, Janitor of the Blues and Special Brew.

In 1998, the CBC recorded a live tribute album entitled Dutchie's 60th Birthday to honour the blues legend, who also had a eponymous summertime blues festival eachyear in Dartmouth, N.S.

Masonwas also inducted into the Canadian Jazz and Blues Hall of Fame and, in 2005, inducted into the Order of Canada.