Pappy Weston was born on July 7, 1911. He learned to play the fiddle as a teenager and began playing for the regular Saturday night dances at Dennis Beach and Armstrong’s Dance Hall in the late 1920’s. These dances continued until 1955 when the halls closed. Also in the mid-fifties, his son Victor and daughter Freda started playing guitar and they formed a group called the Fundy Trailers. At the time, Pappy was the lighthouse keeper on Grindstone Island in Shepody Bay. Much of the music played there was for guests and for their own entertainment. Later on in the sixties, his son Ken and daughter Betty joined the group and they performed on radio and television as well as at various concerts and benefits in the area.
Through the sixties, Pappy and family appeared several times on CKCW-TV as guests on the Bunkhouse Boys Show as well as with Doug LaValley (from WWVA radio). Besides having his own twice-weekly radio show on CKDH Amherst radio, he made a guest appearance on Ben Colder’s Network Radio Show and the Maritime Farmers TV show in Saint John. He made several personal appearances with Val Surrette and the Nighthawks and made one appearance on CFCY Charlottetown radio, also one appearance at Mount Allison University. He played for a large benefit concert to raise money to start the Albert County Hospital in Albert, NB. For several years, he played regularly at the Albert County Exhibition and appeared one year at the Sussex Exhibition.
During this time there were not many old-time fiddle players in this area, so Pappy and his family were kept quite busy at local functions and shows until fiddling again became quite popular in the 1980’s. He can, therefore, be credited with keeping fiddling alive in the area for a long period of time.
Bobby "Bob" Rowan DeCourcey
Bob was born in Minto. He started picking guitar at an early age. Because of economic conditions in the late 1940’s, he left school to work in the local coal mines. Later he switched to driving truck and then to bell hopping. During these year he became a part-time musician and eventually became a regular on the Earl Mitton Radio Show over CFNB Fredericton and the Art Marr Show on CHSJ Saint John. In 1956 he won a Gibson guitar in a talent contest. In 1957 he moved to Toronto to work day jobs while playing various clubs at nights and on weekends.
His deep impressive voice attracted the attention of a recording studio entrepreneur resulting in a LP release “Johnny Cash Song Hits Sung by Bobby Rowan” and a 2nd album “Songs Made Famous by Johnny Cash” a couple of years later. Four of the selections on the 2nd album were written by Rowan. A 3rd album, “Johnny Cash Hits” was released, followed in 1972 by a 4th, “Rowan Country”. One song from the 4th album entitled, One More Favor, went to No. 1 on Canadian charts. During this time he also composed the music for the Canadian movie, “Going Down the Road” which later became a cult classic.
A dry period followed these successes and Bob took day work again. On the morning of December 4, 1982 he picked up a ringing phone at the transit office where he was employed. He was intrigued by the voice of the caller, Mary Morwood. She had dialed a wrong number. They met subsequent to that. Both were suffering despondency form the recent breakup of longtime marriages. He found that Mary had a beautiful singing voice and they formed a duo- Rowan and Mary – and billed as a “real country class act” were soon playing clubs all over southern Ontario and fronting for such famous US acts as Ferlin Husky and Dave Dudley. They released a cassette, “The Way We Met” which resulted in a chart hit for the pair. This success let to an appearance on You Can Be a Star over the Nashville Television Network.
Later they continued working day jobs and performed on nights and weekends. They always dreamed of an international break, but it never came. Music, however, was Rowan’s life…he loved it. He never thought of giving it up.
His death several years ago came as a shock to his wife and singing partner, Mary, and their musical friends – a group that included recording artists Johnny Burke and Ray Penny.
The River Valley Boys
The River Valley Boys was a group formed by Eugene (Gene) Morris, Ken Harrison and Art Merritt which played for dances along the Southern Valley of the Saint John River in the early 40’s and into the 1950’s. For nearly a decade, the famous “White Elephant” in Hampstead was home base to this popular trio and their legion of loyal fans and friends.
Each member of the trio is an accomplished musician with a great wealth of experience in his own right. Eugene – himself an early inductee of the Hall of Fame – was taught to play the violin by his parents, one of whom taught him to read music and the other to play by ear. Ken Harrison played the guitar with the group. Ken was an experienced musician, having played for dances with a number of groups in his area before he joined The River Valley Boys. The third member, Art Merritt, began his musical career by playing the button accordion, later switching to the piano accordion. This instrument was one which Art earned by cutting four truckloads of pulp.
For a number of years, The River Valley Boys provided the music for dances at George Thompson’s hall at Hampstead, NB called The White Elephant. They drew people from many surrounding communities to their dances. They also played at concerts, house parties, fairs, exhibitions, and for a time played at CFBC Radio. They did dances in Queenstown, Hampstead, Gagetown or The Narrows.
For nearly a decade, Art, Gene and Ken enjoyed playing together until Gene was transferred to another location, but they remained friends over the years, fondly recalling the time when they would kick off another Saturday night of fun with their “Silver Bells”, an opening theme that would some fifty years later unite them forever on the wall of New Brunswick’s Country Music Hall of Fame.
Clayton Magee was born on his grandfather’s (Henry Magee) farm at Butternut Ridge near Havelock on May 16, 1937 and is married to Joyce (MacLeod). They have two daughters, Chonya and Tracy, and a son, Nevin.
Music has played an important part in Clayton’s life. As a youngster, he learned to play his mom’s guitar and the harmonica. He later graduated to the accordion which he played at parties and dances. When Clayton was fifteen years old, his grandfather bought him a fiddle for helping him on the farm. He worked his heart out trying to learn to play like Don Messer. This was the beginning of a lifetime of fun and enjoyment. Soon after, he began playing the fiddle for parties and square dances, including the Ranch in Petitcodiac.
Over the years, he has played in and won his share of contests around the province. He placed first in the first fiddle contest he entered in 1956 at Springfield. In the early 60’s he won several contests in Fredericton where, as winner, he appeared on the Capital Co-op Radio Jamboree. He has also judged contests. He has appeared on George’s Jamboree on cable TV out of Moncton and Cable TV in Amherst, NS, Christmas Daddies TV - Moncton, Strawberry Festival – Woodstock, Super Fiddle Show – Riverview and Valley Jamboree – Sussex. Clayton was the fiddler for the Mountain Meadow bluegrass band that played out of the Moncton area in the 1970’s and 80’s. After this group disbanded, he became a member of the Downeast Partners, a band that played festivals and concerts and recorded an album, “Bluegrass Country”. For the past 15 years, he has teamed with Vesta Goddard as his piano accompaniment. They can be heard at various parties, dances, festivals and concerts in the Maritimes. Presently, he is the backup fiddler for C Company band from Petitcodiac.
He has recorded two albums at Prime Time Studios in Sussex. The first in 1987 “Clayton Magee and His Old-Time Fiddle”, and the second in 1991, “Fiddling for You.” Clayton owns a handcrafted MacCleave fiddle. The tone of that fiddle inspired him to learn to make fiddles, using his fiddle as a pattern. He has now finished his 13th fiddle and has orders for more.
Clayton believes that “music is one of the best hobbies anyone could have”, and he has played on the knowledge of fiddling to many others.
Patrick John White
Patrick John White was born at Goshen in Albert Country on October 28, 1923. In 1944 he moved to Sussex where he later met and married Catherine Cogger. They raised two children, Anne Marie and John.
During his early school years at Mechanic Settlement, he became friends with Marg Osborne with whom he shared a great love for music. Their friendship continued throughout their lives, with Pat transposing some of her musical arrangements as she rose to the top of Canadian country music. Pat’s early piano training with Mrs. Robert Bustard also sparked an interest in harmonica, violin and guitar. As a teenager he often provided music for dances and other local functions. As his proficiency grew, he became a member of Raleigh Keith’s Orchestra –which later became Pat White’s Orchestra after the death of Mr. Keith. It was during this time that Pat learned to play the saxophone with the helpful teaching of Cedric Gass. Pat added the saxophone to his repertoire as he went on to form and lead The First Impressions and Strawberry Jam. Pat was a charter member of the Sussex Community Concert Band and Generously gave of his time to share his knowledge of music and mentor younger musicians, taking great joy in their musical development.
Pat White passed away on February 16, 1998 after a long and courageous battle with cancer. He is remembered for his love and promotion of country music in the King’s County area.