Dixie Flyers

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Dixie Flyers

Dixie Flyers

Inductee

April is a good month in Dixie Flyers country. The band was founded in London in April, 1974, 40 years ago this month. Founding members were Bert Baumbach (guitar), Dennis LePage (banjo), and Ken Palmer (mandolin). Brian Abbey (bass) and the late Willie P. Bennett (harmonica) joined soon after. Bennett stayed a Flyer until 1979. Baumbach and Palmer, who have been among the group’s lead vocalists, remained constant to the Flyers into this decade. Joining them over the years have been such fiddlers as Gordon Stobbe, Peter Robinson, and J.P. (John) Allen. On bass, there have been David Zdriluk,Donald Christopher Ingram, Luke Maynard and Rick Thompson. On banjo, the Flyers have looked to such players as David Jack, David Talbot, and the late Walter Maynard. Dobro players Allan Widmeyer (aka The Old Houndog) and Darren Parisse and harmonica player Mike Ethelston have been in the lineup, too, as in recent years have banjo player Paul Hurdle and multi-instrumentalist Blair Heddle. “We thought nothing will ever happen with this thing,” Palmer once told The Free Press. “All of a sudden, Bert got us on the Carlisle Bluegrass Canada(festival). That was by 1975. We had a year to practise for that. We met Bill Monroe (there).” The late “father of bluegrass”, Bill Monroe made it clear: “The Dixie Flyers play good bluegrass, they play it the right way.” Later, Monroe invited the young band to the famous Bean Blossom fest in Indiana. By adopting what Palmer has described as an evolutionary rather then revolutionary approach, the Flyers have been Canada’s most prominent bluegrass band, performing at festivals (Mariposa, Winnipeg, Bluegrass Canada, Festival of Friends), fairs, nightclubs and universities across the country. They have also hosted and guested on many TV and radio shows. The Flyers albums include five for Boot Records (a label created by Stompin’ Tom Connors). Their 2007 album Right on Track parlayed three Merle Haggard covers and at least two Jean Chretien mentions into one of the top London albums of the year. The Dixie Flyers join such other great London musicmakers as the Lombardo Family, Jack Richardson, Marie Bottrell and Tommy Hunter in the London Music Hall of Family, a virtual pantheon maintained at fclma.ca.

Mario Circelli

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