A number of years ago, the members of Grateful We’re Not Dead were fortunate to become acquainted with Walter Cameron through our lead vocalist, Don White.
Don originally met Walter in 1947 and then worked with Walter in Ed White’s country music dance band, Mississippi River Boys, for 17 years during the 60s and the 70s. They maintained a lifelong friendship. It was our pleasure to have Walter sit in with us for a number of shows and he always kept everyone in stitches with his fantastic sense of humour. Unfortunately, Walter passed away on May 16, 2021. Following is Don’s Eulogy for Walter which he delivered at the interment on June 5, 2021 at Crawford Cemetery, McDonalds Corners.
and some extra memories
We are gathered here today to remember and pay tribute to Walter Cameron.
Walter was born on January 29, 1936 in Canonto, Frontenac County to Murvel and Melissa Cameron, the younger brother of Arthur and Jean. He spent his formative years in Canonto
Walter had many roles in life. He was a caring father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, a respected uncle, a loving partner, a loyal friend, a talented musician, a trusted employee.
Each of you have your own history with and memories of Walter, so I will tell you some of mine.
I first met Walter in 1947 when his sister, Jean, took my parents and myself to Canonto to meet her family. Apparently, we all went to a country dance on Saturday night and it was Walter’s task to look after me while the adults were up dancing. However, Walter showed a distinct lack of appreciation for my vocal skills at the time and expressed his displeasure with the comment that he “wasn’t going to look after that squalling little bugger anymore.”
Thus ended the first phase of our relationship.
Seeing as there was no school bus from Canonto to Sharbot Lake, Walter originally started High School in Napanee and lived with his sister and her husband, Jack Dafoe. Jean gave Walter his first guitar when he was 14 and Walter took to the guitar like a duck to water.
When his parents moved from Canonto to Snow Road Walter transferred to Sharbot Lake HS. Neville Wells also travelled on the same school bus from Snow Road to Sharbot Lake with Walter and Neville has told me that Walter was his inspiration to get involved in music.
Once Walter had the singing and playing down pat, there was no holding him back. He played with The Perry Orchestra which included Neil Perry (fiddle), Flora Perry (hawaiian guitar), Walter Cameron (lead singer, guitar), Gilbert Dunham (piano, bass, ﬁddle, accordion), and Hartsel White (caller). They played every Saturday night in Ompah and Friday nights in Plevna when they needed a band.
He worked with Bill Hannah and His Nightingales, as well as Jimmy Miller and his Ramblers.
In 1959 Walter and I re-established our relationship when he joined the Mississippi River Boys. During that period, we worked together in country dance halls throughout Lanark, Renfrew, and Carleton counties for 10 years and at the same time built a lasting friendship.
Walter then moved on to the Country Gentlemen which consisted of the late Johnny Foster, Frank Coleman, Earl Foster, Arnie Foster and, of course, Walter
In 1971 he saw the light and returned to the Mississippi River Boys and we worked together again until 1977.
Now Walter met and associated with many interesting people over his lifetime. I guess the most interesting ones he met during his years with the Mississippi River Boys were two of Canada’s governors-general. Between 1965 and 1967 we played at Rideau Hall for three Christmas parties. Walter had the pleasure of meeting and entertaining Governor-General Georges P. Vanier and Madame Vanier and Governor-General Roland Mitchener and Mrs. Mitchener.
In 1977, Walter joined The Ron McMunn Mississippi Country Road Show. Up until 1980 he toured from Corner Brook, Nfld to the Calgary Stampede playing in every country bar in between. He also did some recording work with Ron in Nashville on sessions produced by the late Josh Graves.
When he decided to get off the road in 1980, Walter played with my uncle, Jim White and the Country Pals, a mainstay at the Perth Legion. When Jim’s health deteriorated he asked Walter to form a new band and take over the contract with the Legion.
That gave birth to Wally and Wildwood. Walter kept that band going from 1982 to the early 2000s. Members of his band were Walter (lead vocals, guitar) Mac Knowles (lead guitar), Tom Gardiner (bass, vocals), Wayne Monroe (drums), and the late Ray Donaldson (peddle steel).
The last band that Walter played with on a regular basis was Country 4 which consisted of Eric Labelle, Mark Hannah, Jim Dix and Walter.
Now one of Walter’s endearing traits was his sense of humour. I imagine all of you were exposed to that over the years.
For all the gigs we worked together, and any other place I saw him perform, Walter was never at a loss for a joke or a story. He usually kept the audience and the band in stitches.
In October 1964, Walter was my best man when Helen and I were married. After the wedding and the wedding dinner, the bridal party returned to the Ireton farm so the chores could be done before the wedding reception at Ferguson Falls. While we were there Walter wandered out to the barn to see what was happening. Seems innocent enough, but Walter had a wee trick up his sleeve.
About half way through the reception, Walter called Helen on stage and presented her with a large, nicely decorated box. He asked her to open it so everyone could see his gift to her to start her married life. She unwrapped and opened the box, reached in and pulled out… a set of kicking chains. For those that don’t know, kicking chains keep cows from kicking while being milked. I must admit I had a much more colourful description of the possible use for kicking chains but Helen insisted that I keep it simple and factual. Helen’s father Joe was quite willing to lend the kicking chains to Walter as long as they were back in the barn the next morning.
Even after Walter gave up playing regular gigs, he stayed involved in music. On occasion I had the pleasure of having Walter sit in with my band, Grateful We’re Not Dead, and he was always the hit of the show.
It seems that every time I saw an article about some musical event up around McDonalds Corners, Snow Road, Plevna, Sharbot Lake, there was usually a reference to Walter performing and quite frequently there would be a picture of Walter in front of a microphone singing and playing. He was like the Energizer Bunny… he just kept on going, and going, and going.
In 2015 Walter convinced me to go to Jack’s Jam in Plevna where I met a number of my cousins for the first time and ended up playing in the House Band whenever I could get to the Jam. One of the best things about this is that it gave me the chance to be on stage with Walter again and occasionally sing harmony with him on songs we did together back in the day. Those are cherished memories.
In 2018, Walter was inducted into the Land O’ Lakes Traditional Music Hall Of Fame at the Flinton Jamboree. I was quite overwhelmed when Walter asked me to write and deliver the speech regarding his musical career. You can check out a video of his Induction at Walter Cameron Induction 2018
Now this was just a brief remembrance of my friendship with Walter and his involvement in Country Music. I’ve purposely left out all the juicy bits from his years with the Mississippi River Boys because a lot of them would likely incriminate me as well.
It has been a great honour knowing and working with Walter for all these years… even if we did get off to a rocky start.
So Walter, no matter what stage you’re on out there in the universe and no matter whom you’re entertaining, you’re being remembered and truly missed by all your extended family and friends back here on Earth.
Rest In Peace, old friend.
While I was preparing this eulogy, I was wondering how to end it. Then I remembered the song he sang at his induction in 2018. Before we part, I think Walter should sing us One More Country Song
Wally And Wildwood
Walter’s daughter Wanda hosted a 75th Birthday Party for her dad and the main entertainment for the evening was Wally and Wildwood. Don was a guest and managed to grab the following two video clips on his cell phone.