Despite the stern expression on his face when he plays, Rick Unger very much enjoys singing & playing the bass. The furrowed brow comes from his trying to avoid being distracted by shiny objects... not an uncommon occurrence. Born & raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, he has enjoyed making music for as long as he can remember.
Rick's earliest musical memory is, as a young boy, listening to his grandfather - who was partially blind & quite hard of hearing - humming quietly to himself in a deep baritone. There was no tune in particular that he hummed, just a random melody to keep himself amused. Rick seems to have inherited this habit as well, and to this day can often be heard humming or whistling nothing in particular to himself.
Eventually Rick began elementary school and started to receive some formal musical education, both in choral singing and in piano. A broken arm when he was fifteen brought an end to his piano lessons, but he continued to sing in various choirs, even well after graduating from high school.
When a praise & worship band was formed at First Mennonite Church in 1998, no one could be found to play bass. To remedy this, Rick's friend Mark von Kampen bought a used Fender Precision Bass, handed it to Rick and said, "Here, learn this." Rick had never played any kind of guitar before, but he borrowed the bass and played it in the band for the next two years.
In January 2000, Rick began a three-year position with Mennonite Voluntary Service at an inner-city after-school arts program in Evansville, Indiana. While living in Evansville, he was immersed in its vibrant acoustic music scene. Shortly after moving there, Rick bought his own bass guitar - an acoustic/electric model - which allowed him to fill a nice little niche among the banjos, guitars, & mandolins. He attended a long-running weekly jam hosted several of his friends there, and he also joined the Patchwork Central worship band, providing music for the worship service every Sunday evening. All this regular playing with other musicians provided Rick with a terrific opportunity to hone his skills on the bass.
Halfway through his time in Indiana, he was invited to join Burnt Prairie, an acoustic band that played a variety of musical styles including bluegrass, jazz, & swing. His band-mates (Tim Piazza on Mandolin, Randy Pease on guitar, and Jesse Graber on fiddle) are all very accomplished musicians. This challenged Rick to bring his own playing up to their level; exactly the kind of opportunity he loves.
On two occasions, Rick has performed with his friends Jesse Graber (fiddle & mandolin), Calvin Kimbrough (banjo & guitar), and John Cheadle (viola & harmonica) at a Mennonite music festival called Mennofolk. While playing at the festival in 2002, he met fellow musician, Ben Regier who as it turned out would be moving to Winnipeg the following year. Since Rick was going to be moving home around the same time, they discussed the possibility of getting together to jam in Winnipeg.
The following spring, Ben and Rick, along with guitarist Greg Toews, got together in Winnipeg and began a weekly jam. Having just had three amazing years of music in Evansville, Rick was thrilled to have found some other musicians to jam with now that he was back home. These weekly sessions eventually lead to the creation of The Stoney Esker Band.
When Greg moved to Taiwan to teach English, the band restructured itself, bringing onboard Luke Enns on guitar, and Curtis Wiebe on banjo & ukulele. After much deliberation, a new name for the band was selected and thus The WhizBang Shuffers were created.
Besides music, Rick's other interests include: photography, custom bicycle building, and long walks on the beach. His photography and custom bike projects can be seen at his personal website: http://www.geocities.com/wrique2001. An appointment for a long walk on the beach with Rick is best made with him in person.Back to the bios