Guitarist and singer Chuck Dingée can be seen around Bellingham hosting open mics, and playing with his longtime musical companion Joe Young and with his current pop-rock band, The Walrus.
He turns 60 on Sunday, Sept. 15, and he's throwing a Virgo Party (open to anyone 21 and older, regardless of Zodiac sign), from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, at Wild Buffalo. For more on The Walrus, go to tusktusk.com.
Question: What has been your musical journey?
Answer: I was quite smitten with the Beatles and all I wanted when I was 12 was to play Beatles songs. I saw the Beatles in Chicago that year and got a guitar for Christmas. I took some lessons, but the teacher didn't want to teach me Beatles, so I quit and learned on my own.
I also liked Simon and Garfunkel and, later, Pink Floyd. After I graduated from high school, I saw a couple of my friends playing acoustic guitars at a party and I (naively) thought that maybe I could actually play for a living. I had scholarships (in math) for college, and I tried being a student for a while.
But then I dropped out and started traveling around the country with friends playing music for tips, meals, beer and whatever else .We called ourselves the Obscure Travelling Band. We landed in Bellingham in 1975 and fell in love with it. After a couple of years, people started asking, "When are you going to either change the band name or leave town?"
In 1977 we got an old school bus and traveled to Colorado and New Mexico, then visited Indiana, where most of us grew up. We went to Gainesville, Fla., for a few years (going back to Colorado for summers).
When the band broke up I moved right back to Bellingham, where I played for many years with Guy Mulford, a fun violinist who died in 2000. I've also played in other duos and trios and performed a lot of solo gigs. The Walrus was formed in 1995 (Full disclosure from Margaret: that was at my house).
Q: What have been some of your jobs/careers not of a musical nature?
A: I followed my dad into his business for a while, packaging and selling small items (combs, pens, key rings, etc.) to stores. That supplemented my music income for a few years in Milwaukee, and later in Bellingham.
In the early 1980s I got engrossed in reading books by and about Buckminster Fuller. I wrote a song for Bucky's 88th birthday, but he died the day after I wrote it, and I never got to send it to him.
In 1986 I moved to Philadelphia to work with the World Game, an offshoot of his office. I travelled all over the world with that organization from 1986 to 1993. I decided then to move back to Bellingham.
I met Kathy Sheehan in Philadelphia and wrote her a song. (Fortunately, she's still alive.) We were married in Philadelphia in 1994 and moved to Bellingham. I started a web design business and still dabble with that, and Kathy and I occasionally do some photography work, too.
Q: What is your take on live music in Bellingham and how does a musician make a living in this town?
A: There are many budding musicians in Bellingham, and that is wonderful. Unfortunately, the pay for musicians in clubs today is about the same as it was in 1975, so if you want to make a living with it, you'll have to play a lot, and especially private parties. And don't play for free, unless it's on your terms.
Open mics are great for getting your feet wet, or for trying out new songs, etc. I hosted an open mic at the Fairhaven Pub for eight years, and I really enjoy helping musicians get started.
Q: What are your plans?
A: I love playing music, and playing with the Walrus is always a blast. We plan to keep playing as long as we still have a pulse (and a voice.) I've led a charmed life and see no reason why that should change.
Q: What else is fun for you besides music?
A: I love sailing and hiking around the Northwest, and I enjoy photography, bicycling and hunting wild mushrooms. I am also a big fan of Scrabble and backgammon.