The promotional tour for their newest musical venture got off to a rocky start on Feb. 16, but by the time the Hunter brothers arrived in Estevan on Feb. 18, the laughs were loud and long as they described their latest road warrior ordeal.
Just one day into their Canada-wide tour to promote their latest country and western single El Dorado, the five brothers and tour manager found themselves stranded on a broken down bus between Saskatoon and Yorkton.
But, having spent countless hours on suspect buses in the past as junior and professional hockey players and as members of touring gospel-singing groups, the brothers took their temporary misplay in stride.
The bus breakdown near Yorkton, prompted a call to a friend who lived nearby, who drove to the rescue, while another call to Dusty Hunter’s wife back in Shaunavon, Sask., resulted in a replacement bus … eventually. But then the wives who had contracted the new bus out of Regina, had their truck’s transmission breakdown on their way home after delivering the bus. Phone calls were made from the stranded bus to the Yorkton media outlets who were waiting for the group.
“We didn’t lose much time at all it seems. Our friend jammed us into his vehicle(s) and we were only a little late getting into Yorkton,” said J.J. Hunter, the unofficial spokesman for the hockey-farming-singing troupe.
From Yorkton to Estevan, Weyburn and Moose Jaw and then home to Shaunavon for two days of seeding preparations, the Hunter brothers will be on the road again in Alberta and British Columbia. There will be another break, and then it will be off to Eastern Canada.
Shifting from farming to hockey and music came naturally, they said in near echo form while chatting in the Mercury office late Thursday morning.
“Our grandfather played multiple instruments and Dad (Lorne) was part of a harmony group and Mom (Norma) was part of a five-sibling family; and she sang in choirs and choral groups. So when they discovered we could sing and even harmonize easily, we started singing in church,” said J.J. with interjections from Ty and Brock.
“Dad got us into hockey,” said Luke. That also led them all down interesting paths, too.
“Ya, our time was booked pretty solid,” said J.J. “Between hockey and training for hockey (in Calgary), booked concerts, and farming, which is still a big part of it, there wasn’t much time in between.”
The brothers first ventured out into the gospel singing tours, encountering the well-known Daae Family from Bromhead, along the way.
“They’re great and doing well, and that life was good to us, too,” said J.J.
Gospel festivals cater to a certain listening demographic and more often than not, the boys were being asked if they were actually a country and western group doing gospel songs. That sort of reaction led them to the stage now where they are spreading their wings and testing the C&W waters with their first rousing entry being El Dorado that has been nursed out of the gate by Brad Rempel of High Valley fame who came aboard as co-producer and writer for the project. Rempel said he was totally impressed with the Hunters who not only sang with perfect pitch and range, but were also professional hockey players.
The Hunter brothers are preparing for their first performance at the Country Radio Seminar in Nashville later this spring, organized by their promotion team at Open Road and RGK.
“High Valley has been a huge influence and we have no difficulty identifying with country and western music because we’re living it. Some C&W singers haven’t had that advantage. We know the rural life and it’s genuine, ” added J.J.
So who is the toughest brother?
“Luke,” the four sing out in unison, recalling boyhood disagreements that may have led to arguments and perhaps even a few wrestling matches.
“Dad told us that life was going to beat us up enough, so we didn’t need to beat up each other,” said Brock. So he would put the boxing gloves on the combatants and let them settle the issue, and then they could return to being brothers again.
“Ya, we got each other’s backs, no doubt about that,” said J.J., the oldest sibling, nodding at Ty, the youngest. Brock, on the other hand “was the clown in the family, still is, and always will be.”
Right now they are clearly advocates for one another, and they’ve already had a lot thrown at them and they’ve been able to either field it, or throw it back, whatever has been necessary, and doing it in a way that pays tribute to a Christian upbringing, they said.
“At the heart of it, we are a collective and we are individuals,” said Luke.
They love singing a cappella which also fits the C&W mould.
“We hope to get some traction with this tour and we still have a lot of acres to farm back home. We’re pretty open to what happens next. Our plan right now is to spread those wings in 2016 and do some serious country and western singing, and be ready to punch out an album by 2017,” said J.J.
This is a fun-loving, brother combo seeking traction on a musical career that is taking them into a whole new musical genre they find exciting. And when they get off the road and back to the reality space, they have no problem finding traction with a tractor because that’s who and what they are.
By the way, they only exited the Mercury building after providing an impromptu version of El Dorado for the benefit of the newspaper’s staff, with some of it caught on video that is posted on the Mercury’s website.
The Hunter Brothers as Hockey Players
Luke – Five years in the WHL playing for the Swift Current Broncos and Calgary Hitmen and a professional hockey career in Las Vegas and then Wichita.
Brock – Played his junior hockey in Drumheller and Fort McMurray with a final year with the Kindersley Klippers in the SJHL. He then got interested in aviation and earned his pilot’s license and does the crop spraying for their farm and others.
Ty – Three years in recreation and junior hockey circles before breaking his femur and wrenching a back that chased him back to the farm and the world of music.
Dusty – Three years with the Melville Millionaires in the SJHL and then American Hockey League (AHL) tryouts and a career in the Central Hockey League with Oklahoma and San Angelo. An eye injury that didn’t heal properly hastened his departure from the game.
J.J. – Three years in the WHL with the Kelowna Rockets and Prince Albert Raiders then a professional tryout with the Detroit Red Wings and later the Edmonton Oilers. That led to some pre-season games with both teams over six seasons, before being assigned to their AHL affiliates in Hamilton, Toronto, Edmonton, back to Hamilton and finally ending as a member of the Manitoba Moose after a brief stint with the Toronto Marlboros.