Ricky Russell was born in Neguac and started singing in the choir at age 7. Six years later when he moved to Saint John he bought his first guitar for $1.25. He practiced in King Square and on doorsteps in his neighborhood and won first prize in a talent contest at Saint John Vocational School. In 1950 he went to sea as a merchant seaman and continued to entertain his shipmates. He returned and married the former Shirley Merrick.
In 1955, Rickey and the late Butch Roy started the R & B Ranch Gang Show on CFBC Radio. He began playing at dance halls with fiddler Ned Landry, George Hector and later joined Joe Hachey, Art Marr and the Westernaires on CHSJ TV sponsored by GWG Western Garment Company which also included road trips to the Maritimes and Maine.
He was also a member of The Maritime Farmers Show on CHSJ Radio and CHSJ TV and stayed with the group until they disbanded in 1960. He then formed his own band, the R &B Bluegrass Special. Rickey played dance halls and benefits until he decided to “take a vacation to look after his family”, but ended up playing at Keddy’s Hotel for five years. He then retired until he went to the Urban Corral and decided to form his own group called Rickey Russell and Friends which included Marvin McGrath, Linda Gibbon, Paul Owens, Jamie Speight and Rickey’s daughter Cheryl Russell.
Rickey has also played tour dates with Decca recording star Texas Bill Hilton and Everett Lilley and the Clear Creek Crossing Bluegrass Band from Virginia.
Since his retirement Rickey just plays for benefits and special appearances.
Lionel Poirier was born in 1934 at East Bathurst and moved to Saint John in 1939. He got his first fiddle at the age of 5 and played for his first dance at the age of 12.
He played with numerous groups in the late 40’s and early 50’s including Vance Patterson, Rickey Russell, among others. Lionel played on television with a very popular American star “Curly O’Brien and the Top Hands” in the fifties. He also toured the Maritimes with great Country Music stars Carl and Pearl Butler of “Don’t Let Me Cross Over” fame as well as Grand Ole Opry Star Grandpa Jones.
Lionel then played with Don Messer’s Jubilee on CBC from Halifax. He joined the “Maritime Farmers” television show on CHSJ and played with them for many years. In the later 60’s and the early 70’s he played at the Art Marr Country Music Jamboree at Lily Lake.
He retired from playing due to illness and passed away at the young age of 36. He will always be remembered as one of the great fiddlers.
Vivian (Webb) Hicks
Vivian was born in Gagetown, New Brunswick in 1945 and lived her first six years in New Jerusalem. In the early 1950’s her family moved to Lower Millstream, NB. She took piano lessons at an early age but was not seriously interested in piano accompaniment until she met her husband, Ivan Hicks, whom she met while teaching elementary school in Salisbury, New Brunswick.
They married in 1970 and in 1974 moved to their present home in Riverview, NB. In 1976, Ivan competed in the Maritime Old Time Fiddling Contest in Dartmouth, NS and Vivian accompanied him on guitar. The following year she accompanied him on piano and has been an accompanist on all Ivan’s recordings and on numerous other recordings by other artists. Also, Vivian has assisted Ivan in teaching the art of old time fiddling and piano to youngsters and adults, and has encouraged many to take up the piano or fiddle.
During the 1970’s and 80’s, Vivian looked after the sound and lighting for the “Marshwinds” dance band and did a few vocals. Since 1980, she has been a member of the Maritime Express old-time and bluegrass band in which she plays piano, does some vocals and looks after their sound and lighting.
Vivian has also been an official house piano accompanist at various fiddle contests including the Maritime Old Time Fiddling Contest since 1985. She is a free lance writer for several Canadian and American music publications and is actively involved in concert performance and production throughout Canada and the United States. She instructs at piano seminars, promotes and markets old-time fiddle music and has made several radio and television appearances and continued to be involved in recording projects. She is also involved with many community groups and events such as: “ATV’s Christmas Daddies”, Safe Grad, TADD, entertaining seniors and numerous benefits and fundraisers.
Jimmy Lawlor was born on September 26, 1940 into a musical family at Red Bank, New Brunswick. Jim started singing in the 1950’s while attending school and then started his own band in 1957 playing with is brothers and other local musicians.
In 1962 Jim joined the Bee Jays, a band out of Chatham under the leadership of Joe MacDonald, and has continued with this group until the present time.
During the years he has been involved with church music, singing at weddings and funerals, and has been a regular member of his church choir. He also entertains at hospitals and benefits through the province with the famed Miramichi Sanitoria Club, a volunteer organization.
Throughout the years Jim has released his own cassettes, performed and backed up Nashville musicians, and various other performers.
Jim and his band hand regular dances at The Seamans’ Hospital in Douglastown in support of Miramichi Heritage Inc., a volunteer group dedicated to maintaining the building as a cultural centre. Jim doesn’t know the meaning of the word “no” when it comes to volunteering his talent to help community efforts and to promote country music.
He also performs annually at the Miramichi Irish Festival, Miramichi Folksong Festival and both the National and Provincial political leadership conventions.
Gerry Myers got the urge to sing early in life but because he was one of 16 brothers and sisters, when the desire to sing met the need of a guitar there simply was not enough to go around. Since he had to have a guitar, but could not afford one, he made one!
That is the creative style of Gerry Myers, a Maritime legend, who for the past 40 years has been touching the hearts of its people through his songs. When a song such as “Ou est Mama,” the “French Song” or “Ta Decision” is performed in the Maritimes, everyone knows the words – his songs are part of the Maritime tradition.
In the early 1950’s Gerry and his brothers formed the group “Bunkhouse Boys”. After many years of weekly radio broadcasts at CKCW in Moncton, they hosted the first TV musical variety show in New Brunswick. The notoriety they received from continuous exposure through radio and television, always ensured a packed house whenever or wherever they performed.
Gerry was inducted into the New Brunswick Hall of Fame as part of the Bunkhouse Boys in 1984. When the group disbanded, he continued to write songs and record first as a solo act and then with his daughters, Debbie and Shirley. He has certainly paved the way for his daughters as they both have received international attention for their singing talents.
He continues today to perform and write music that reflects the feelings and experiences of his life and those around him.