The Dixie Flyers Receive JRMA Hall Of Fame Honours
Canadian bluegrass band the Dixie Flyers were honoured at the Ninth Annual Jack Richardson Awards (JRMAs) Sunday, Apr. 14 at the London Music Hall in downtown London. Formed in 1974, London’s Dixie Flyers were inducted into the JRMA Hall of Fame after an impressive career that includes nine recordings on Boot, Stony Plain and their own Flat-top label. The Flyers’ alumni list reads like a who’s who of the Canadian music scene: “I think over the 37 years, the band has consisted of only about 20 different members” said JRMA steering committee member Darin Addison. “Even though the band is not active now and everyone in the band is getting older, I think it’s the right time to recognize the Dixie Flyers.”
Co-founders Bert Baumbach (guitar) Canadian Bluegrass Entertainer of the Year, and Ken Palmer (mandolin), former CBC Radio host of “the Country Music Perspective”, have been the backbone of the band over the years, along with various combinations of these players:
On fiddle: Gordon Stobbe, host and fiddle guru of ATV’s ”Up Home Tonight”, Peter Robertson and 7-time Juno winner John P. Allen of Prairie Oyster. Handling the bass duties were: David Zdriluk, Brian Abbey, Luke Maynard, Rick Thompson and Chris Ingram. On banjo were: Canadian banjo legend Denis Lepage, David Jack, two time Grammy nominee David Talbot of Grascals/Dolly Parton fame, former Ontario banjo champion, the late Walter Maynard and Paul Hurdle. Dobro players: Allan Widmeyer (the Old Houndog) of Stompin Tom Connors’ band and Darin Parise. And at various times, legendary songwriter/Juno winner Willie P. Bennett and Mike Ethelston filled out the band on harmonica. But all the Flyers’ alumni will tell you – it was a team effort, and always a lot of laughs!
Back in the day, The Dixie Flyers impressed bluegrass legend Bill Monroe.
Says Palmer: “We thought nothing would ever happen with this thing. All of a sudden, Bert got us on the Carlisle Bluegrass Canada (festival). That was by 1975. We had a year to practice for that. We met Bill Monroe (there).”
The band came off the stage and there was Monroe – not a man who was easily impressed. “He said: ‘You boys are pretty good,’ ” Palmer recalled. “Here’s the guy that invented the music, and he’s there waiting for us when we come off the stage.”
Later, Monroe invited the young band to the famous Bean Blossom Festival in Indiana. “The Dixie Flyers play good bluegrass; they play it the right way,” Monroe said of the band.
Recordings, TV and radio appearances, and hundreds of gigs with top- flight lineups followed before the band went on hiatus in recent years. In their 37 years, the Dixie Flyers have enjoyed traveling and touring Canada in their own custom-fitted highway coach, their own live radio show on BX93 (CJBX-FM) -”Live From the Wellington”, a syndicated TV series, Canadian and US tours, many appearances on national radio and television (CBC Radio’s “Morningside” with Peter Gzowski – always a favourite) – being included in “Canadian Encyclopedia of Music in Canada” – and producing a consistent, high quality show with top notch players and singers along with their own bluegrass festival.
Congratulations to this most respected, Ontario-based, legendary band!