Donald Charles Frederick Messer was born in Tweedside , NB , on May 9, 1909 , the youngest of 11 children.
He began playing the fiddle when he was five and started playing for dances when he was seven.
At the age of 16, Don moved to Boston where he worked at various jobs and studied music for a time. When he returned to New Brunswick he played at dances and parties in private homes.
He played his first radio show on May 19, 1929 over the then Canadian Radio Commission. This later became the CBC station CFBO, later changed to CHSJ. The group was called The New Brunswick Lumberjacks and their fame quickly spread. In 1938, renamed the “Backwoods Breakdown”, they started broadcasting coast-to-coast from Saint John.
The following year they moved to Charlottetown, PE, where they broadcast their “down east” music three nights a week over CFCY, transmitted all across Canada . Here the name was changed to “Don Messer and his Islanders”.
In 1958 the Don Messer Jubilee Show from Halifax began on CBC-TV nationwide. It soon became Canada 's most popular TV show. The show's cancellation by the CBC Network in 1969 aroused such a furor that many people protested at the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa . The show was continued in syndication from Ontario until Don Messer's death in 1972.
His music lives on in his many compositions and recordings which will continue to be enjoyed for many years to come.
(Don has passed away since the time of this bio)
Ned Landry was born in Saint John February 2, 1921 the third eldest in a family of seven.
He got his start on George Martin's Kiddies Review as a dancer when he was twelve years old. He started playing the fiddle when he was fourteen.
In 1939 he joined Don Messer at the Eastern Sportsmen Show in New York and Boston . He played with Don Messer for many years and was the original leader of The Maritime Farmers.
Ned was already famous before he signed his first recording contract in 1952. Along with his singles, he has recorded 30 LP's. His records are preserved in the official archives of the Nashville Hall of Fame and the National Library of Canada. He has written over 300 tunes.
He won the North American Fiddle Championship three times – in 1956, 1957 and 1962. He also won the Burns Chuckwagon Show Contest in 1951.He has appeared on Don Messer's Jubilee, Country Hoedown, Up Home Tonight and Radio Canada.
He has been married for 13 years to the former Celina LeBlanc and they have 6 children and 19 grand-children.
Ned still lives in Saint John and is kept busy providing his wonderful music through personal appearances and recordings.
Kidd Baker Ransford Lawrence “Kidd” Baker was born in North Tilley in 1917. When he was about ten years old, he learned a tune on his father's fiddle. By the time he was 15 years old, he was playing the banjo, mandolin, guitar and fiddle.
In 1934 he entered an Amateur Show at the Capital Theatre in Millinocket , Maine . After he had won first prize, the emcee called him “the Yodelling Kid”. The name stuck, and “Kidd” Baker became well known across Canada and United States .
In 1938 he had his first radio show over Station CFNB in Fredericton each Saturday night.
In 1940 he started a show called The Maritime Ranch Boys. They played shows and dances several nights a week while Kidd continued working in a bakery during the day. After the war, he left the bakery and went into show business full time. The show was changed to “The Kidd Baker Show”, and with three trailers, a seven passenger car and a sound truck, they toured all over New Brunswick the first year.
The show made its headquarters in Kitchener , Ontario until 1953, then moved to Victoria , BC for a time. In 1954 he moved back to the Maritimes with a show on CHSJ, and later back to CFNB and The Saturday Night Jamboree. Kidd made records for Gavotte and Quality labels and published a number of song books.
In 1953 Kidd bought a restaurant in Woodstock , NB which he operated for 15 years before retiring.
(Kidd has passed away since the time of this bio)
George Hector was born in Gagetown in 1911. He became interested in the banjo at the age of 15 and has stuck with it ever since. He made his first banjo himself and when his father, Lebaron Hector, saw how eager George was to learn, he made a trip to Fredericton and bought him a banjo.
George has played in many dance halls over the years – one of his first was the hall at Jones Creek, where he started in 1936.
George joined the Maritime Farmers in 1945 and played with them on radio, TV and in concerts over the next 15 years. With the Maritime Farmers he played all over New Brunswick and traveled to Nova Scotia and Maine.
In 1937 he married Etta Murphy of Jones Creek. Etta’s grandfather was a mason and he taught George the trade. For many years he worked as a mason and in the woods in the winter until he took a job with the CPR in 1947. He worked at the winter port until his retirement in 1976.
He has recorded an album, “George Hector, The Singing Banjoman”, a limited collector’s edition.
In 1982, George was invited to represent New Brunswick at the Mariposa Folk Festival. Although he was unable to go at that time, he continues to bring enjoyment to many, many, people with his banjo picking.
(George has passed away since the time of this bio)
Duke Nielsen was born in Woodstock, NB. Duke’s father was a cornet virtuoso with the John Philip Sousa Band and his mother was a Salvation Army Bandswoman.
Duke can play 16 instruments and spent three years with a circus appearing as a musician, magician-escape artist, fire eater and bear wrestler.
He won the Benny Goodman Award for Canada in 1937, appeared on the Major Bowes Show, and his band was the first from Canada to be televised in the US, in Boston in 1940.
He is best known as the bass fiddle played with Don Messer and his Islanders. He was with Don Messer from the beginning when he began on radio in Saint John. He moved to Prince Edward Island with Don and stayed with him for his entire career, a total of forty-one years.
As well as playing the bass fiddle on their broadcasts and personal appearances, Duke also supplied comedy with his character, the banjo playing “Uncle Luke”.
Along with his other accomplishments. Duke is an expert piano and organ technician. He was four children, and his hobbies include hunting, fishing and cooking.
Duke now lives in Montague, Prince Edward Island.
(Duke has passed away since the time of this bio)