Bissonette ~ Fiddle
Doc Gage ~ Drums
Ken McLachlan ~ Piano
Norm "Hank" Merkel ~ Guitar
Len Ryder ~ Steel Guitar
Ernie Straiton ~ Guitar
In Memory of
Norm "Hank" Merkel
They played around 1953 to 1959. Hank's real name was Norm Merkel. He called Richmond his home. He passed away in 1986. A great entertainer who also get dressed up as a clown who looked a lot like Red Skelton's Freddy the Freeloader.
On steel was Len Ryder who performed later with Danny Romanuk and was considered one of the top steel players around. He presently resides in Princeton.
His cousin Ernie Straiton was on guitar and still owns that 1956 orange Gretsch that he played in those days. Ernie is in Abbotsford and still cuts hair at his own shop with his brother Bert. Seriously those are their real names and the barbershop is the Bert and Ernie barbershop.
The drummer was Doc Gage who I believe still lives in Kamloops.
My dad, Dan Bissonette, played fiddle. He came to this band after playing with Hank Snow for a couple of years. He resided in New Westminster and passed away in 2000.
Ken McGlauchlin was the piano player and I believe that he still lives in Vancouver.
Dan Bissonette, January 2005
"Hank The Hobo", as Norm was called dressed as a hobo not as a clown; hence the stage name of "Hank The Hobo". I don't know the exact date but the band was formed before 1953 and was kept very busy doing shows and dances. In the early days, dancing was not allowed at the Legions so we only did shows in those venues.
Ken McLaughlin did a soldier routine dressed in a W.W.1 uniform. As you stated, he's still living in Vancouver.
Doc Gage had an instrument called a "Tootin'-Nanny" which he played during our Hillbilly act. Doc died recently after many years retired at Hefley Lake near Kamloops.
I worked with Taller Oshea & Evan Kemp before joining Hank's group. Later I worked with Danny Romaniuk. After many years residing in Whistler, B.C. I retired to Allison Lake near Princeton. We spend the summers there and the winters in Yuma, Arizona.
Len Ryder, July 2006
The piano player, Ken MacLachlan, passed away April 20, 2006. He was 88 yrs old . Doc Gage passed away Feb 8, 2006. He was 88 yrs old.
My guitar is a 1958 model.
Ernie Straiton, September 2006