Prince Edward Island member of Don Messer’s band dies at 88

Cecil McEachern played with the famous band for more than 25 years

Published on January 15, 2014

The last surviving member of iconic Canadian fiddler Don Messer’s band has died.

Cecil McEachern died at his home in Charlottetown Monday at the age of 88.

McEachern, who had a lifelong passion for music, played guitar and fiddle for Messer for more than 25 years as a member of his beloved Islanders.

The Canavoy, P.E.I., native, who could also play bass guitar, joined Messer’s band in 1948 when Messer was host of a popular radio show on CFCY.

Some sources list the date of his entry into the band as being 1951.

McEachern stayed with Messer all through the years of his popular national television show, Don Messer’s Jubilee, which aired on CBC from 1957 to 1969. The cancellation of that series caused an uproar across the country.

While McEachern played multiple instruments, the fiddle was his passion and he learned to play at a very young age.

Mildred McEachern, Cecil’s widow, said he was a natural born musician who grew up in a musical family.

His father and his brothers were all musical, she said.

“He could play anything,” she said. “He could hear something and just play it and he could write it down.”

McEachern took formal music lessons after the completion of his military service during the Second World War.

During the Messer years, McEachern wrote many pieces of music that were played on the show and continue to be played and recorded by other musicians here in Canada and in the United States. Several pieces he composed can be heard on YouTube.

McEachern said her husband played with Messer until Messer’s death in 1973 but did not play a great deal afterwards.

Following his music career, McEachern went to work for the provincial government in the area of hospital services. Although he played less and less in public in later years, he never lost his passion for the music.

“He was always happy when he was playing,” she said.

McEachern was awarded the commemorative medal for the 125th anniversary of the Confederation of Canada in recognition of his significant contribution to compatriots, community and to Canada.

In addition to his wife, Mildred, he is survived by two sons, David and Shane, a daughter, Cathy, and by six grandchildren. Two brothers, Martin and Paul, also survive him. He was predeceased by his parents, Aenaes and Catherine (Longaphie), and by his brother, James.

McEachern is resting at Belvedere Funeral Home. There are no visiting hours by request. A graveside service will be held in Sherwood Cemetery later.