Who is P.J. Mack?

P.J. Mack is the professional name of Ontario Bruce County resident Pat McNinch.
He is a veteran entertainer with over forty years’ experience fronting different bands in Europe and Canada.

In 1970, with less than half a dozen guitar chords to his name, he began busking in the subways of London, England.
With four or five Dylanesque folk songs, he could make enough for rent, supper and maybe a beer at his local pub.

By 1972 Pat was married and living in Brussels, Belgium.
At a local folk club he met another folk singer/guitarist, Doug Jenks.
Doug was playing with a Belgian group called ‘The Pelgrims’, led by Jean ‘Grizzly’ Straetmans who played guitar and 5-string banjo. The 5 man group played old-time American folk, Appalachian music, and early bluegrass.
Pat was intrigued by their music, followed them for a while until they invited him to join.
It was partly his musical ability at the time but also his English accent when singing.

Soon after, with other work and life commitments, the group was reduced to a trio.
Pat (guitar, vocals), ‘Grizzly’ (banjo, guitar, vocals), and George Antoine (double bass, vocals).
In folk clubs, youth clubs, pubs, and other venues ‘The Pilgryms’ (being bi-lingual) drew a vivid picture of early American history through their songs and anecdotes.
They dressed the part as early American cowboys.

There was also a slight name change.
The group became ‘The Pilgryms’ and embarked on an eleven-year career that found them playing in Belgium, Holland, France, Luxemburg, and Kentucky, USA.

In 1976, Pat bought his Harmony guitar at Hill’s Music in Brussels, Belgium.
It was one of the last American-built Harmony guitars before the company was bought up by a Japanese company.
He still has that guitar today and until recently, has often performed with it.
He still uses it in his studio when songwriting.

In 1977, the group began playing regularly at a country bar owned by Mike La Salle called the Montana Feed & Fuel Co.
One night they met Jamie Denny from the Kentucky Tourism Office (the first of its kind outside the continental US).
Impressed by the music and stage presence, he hired them to represent Kentucky at trade fairs and events throughout northern Europe.
They performed at tourism events in Antwerp, Amsterdam, Brussels, Liege, Paris, and Luxembourg.
In July 1976, the group performed at the American Embassy in Brussels as part of the bi-centennial celebrations.

In 1979, the group embarked on a one-month tour of Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana, USA.
The four-week tour included performances at the Lexington Hilton, the Rodeway Inn, Louisville, and the Holiday Inn, Owensboro as well as appearances at the Renfro Valley Barndance, the Windy Hollow Country Music Jamboree, the Banks of the Ohio Festival, and the Great Ohio River Flatboat Race where the group was presented with the Kentucky state flag on live TV.
During their tour, they gave TV, radio, and newspaper interviews and had many opportunities to meet with local musicians.

For their contributions to Kentucky tourism, each member of the group was commissioned a “Kentucky Colonel” an organization that counts Sir Winston Churchill and astronaut Neil Armstrong among their alumni.

In 1982, Pat made the decision to leave the group to emigrate to Canada with his family. Before leaving, the group put together a farewell concert attended by more than 300 fans. “The last round-up”, as the concert was called, brought back some of the early group members for guest appearances.

The next musical chapter of his life was to begin in a different country.

December 18th, 1982, he arrived in Toronto with his wife Terri and their two young daughters, Catherine and Virginia. They spent six months in Toronto at the home of his wife’s second cousin before moving to Bruce County where they purchased the King Edward Tavern in Chepstow.

It was there that most of the songs from the album “Songs From A Hotel” were written, and originally recorded on cassette. Two albums were produced. “Emmett – Home Brewed” and “The Great Groundhog Adventure & Other Stories”.

 In 1984, Pat met Jim Beech, a singer/guitarist from Paisley, Ontario.
They began working together as a duo. Tim Duncan, from Mildmay, Ontario joined them as their drummer and it was at that time that the band adopted the name “Yesterday’s Wine.”
Next to join the band was another Paisley resident, Don Maxwell on bass and harmony vocals.
Willie Mulholland, an accomplished fiddle player from Southampton, Ontario, sat in with us for one gig and stayed for the next six years.

The band became very popular and had lots of work, but still found time to record an album at Ernie King Studio in Wingham, Ontario.
Pat wrote three songs for the album and continued writing songs for the band’s subsequent albums.
The band recorded six albums in total.
“Red, White Or Rose”, “Where Did The Trains Go?”, “Yesterday’s Wine” (affectionately called the ‘white album’) “More Grapes From The vine”, “LIVE” and “A Christmas Gift”.
Pat wrote (or co-wrote) 22 of the album songs.

The band performed at festivals, radio telethons, concerts, and shows from Manitoulin Island to Allegheny, New York.
In 1990, the band visited Nashville, where they performed at the Nashville Palace, the Ramada Inn and on the stage of The Grand Ol’ Opry.

Over the years, there were some personnel changes.
Tim Duncan left the band and was replaced by Don McAngus, from Paisley, Ontario.
Willie Mulholland left to be replaced by multi-instrumentalist Gord Cottrill, also from Paisley, Ontario.
Don Maxwell left, to be replaced by Pete Myles from Wiarton, Ontario.

The band had a very successful ten-year run and eventually disbanded in 1994 as each member left to pursue other musical careers. They were to reunite in 2019 after 25 years to headline at the “Pickin’ By The Pond” festival in Cargill, ON. Their 90-minute performance turned into more than two hours as the audience wouldn’t let them leave.

In 2017, after working with several other bands, Pat started a solo career as a singer/songwriter and solo performer. In 2019, he began performing in retirement homes and nursing homes throughout Bruce, Grey, Huron, and Wellington County. He performs in Legions, the occasional  bar and at local festivals and Canada Day celebrations.

 In 2020, Pat (who is also a Canadian Forces veteran) met with fellow CF veteran Tom Traversy to begin a songwriting partnership and a commitment to support homeless veterans. They produced a 4 song CD entitled “The Message” to raize funds for a charity called “Homes For Heroes Foundation” dedicated to house and support homeless veterans.

Since 2021, Pat has produced seven albums. He wrote all the songs for the albums “Still Crazy”, Whiskey Blues” and “Child Of The Sixties.”  He re-released his early albums from the hotel days under the title “Songs From A Hotel”.  For the retirement home market, he produced two albums entitled “Country Classics” and “Country Classics 2”. His most recent album is a collection of Merle Haggard songs entitled “MACK sings MERLE”.

Pat continues to juggle a very busy schedule between country music shows, presentations with Tom Traversy to Service Clubs and Legions, raising awareness and support for Canada’s homeless veterans, and two new albums.