William "Billy" Brideau
William(Billy)Brideau Billy Brideau, whose love of music can be traced back to early childhood, was born February 26, 1927 in Chatham, NB. His first expression of that love was when he taught himself to play chromatic harmonica at seven. Since then he has been sharing his love of that instrument’s infectious sound with all who would listen, family, friends and audiences who just never seem to get enough of the musical magic he so effortlessly invokes with it.
Billy’s long and influential musical career began in 1945 when he joined his first band, The Campfire Boys, to perform on an Edmundston to Tracadie circuit. When that band broke up after three hectic years of performances and travel, Billy performed with several other bands based at various NB centres.
From 1949 to 1953 he played with the Miramichi Jamboree roster of regulars over CKMR Radio and backed such popular NB performers as Susan Butler, Vincent Hickey, Matilda Murdoch, Jim Morrison, Jimmy Lawlor, Bob Murdoch, Alex Milson, Joe MacDonald and Paul Parent, the Sussex Avenue Fiddlers, Ivan and Vivian Hicks. Billy has also played for many year with The Legionaires entertaining at seniors homes, hootenannies and the Campbellton Veteran’s Hospital. His moody harmonica, which can be so cheerful and, in the next instant, invoke such nostalgic memories, is always a source of joy for shut-ins.
For over 20 years he’s been a main-stay of the Miramichi Folksong Festival and in 1984 was featured on their live recording, A Night at the Miramichi Folksong Festival, playing The Lumberman’s Jig. Billy served as coordinator of the North Shore Fiddling Contest from 1982 to 1990, eight years and was, also, their Master of Ceremonies during that time.
He has been a judge at many fiddling contests and performed on concert stages throughout NB. In recent years he had numerous articles written about him in provincial newspapers and periodicals. During his years as a competitive and concert artist he has received many acknowledgements of appreciation, awards, plaques, citations and has raised over $70,000 for charities.
Billy is still active on the NB music scene playing dances, fund-raisers and concerts whenever an opportunity arises and is a regular accompanist with the Miramichi Fiddlers.
His love of performing before an audience has never diminished and as long as he has breath left to play, he’ll continue to do so simply for the love of it.
Eloi "Fiddlin' Cy" LeBlanc
The late Eloi LeBlanc, was born in 1925 in College Bridge, is this year’s posthumous inductee. One of five children, Eloi better known as Fiddlin’ Cy, was very young when he first heard a fiddle played by a family friend and fell in love with the sound. That love led him to improvise imaginary violins and emulate vocally tunes he heard on crystal radios of the day. His grandfather moved by this interest in fiddling, bought him a toy violin on which, in spite of its limitations, he immediately played recognizable tunes. His maternal grandfather and an uncle both played fiddle so that talent ran in the family.
When he was eight, his father bought and restored an old violin for him. He quickly taught himself to play by ear listening to fiddlers popular on early radio. He played his first public engagement at ten, a wedding dance.
In his teens he entered many talent contests and won many awards. This gained him such renown that throughout his life he was known as The Fiddle Player of Memramcook Valley. Before long he was composing jigs and reels, some of which at times he quickly forgot how to play himself. It isn’t surprising therefore, that he entitled one, “The Forgotten Waltz”.
Although his genius for tune writing was widely acclaimed, his memory at times was embarrassing; like when he won a Shediac competition with a tune he called The Train from Boutouche, although the audience instantly recognized it as the Orange Blossom Special. His quirky memory however, endeared him to a multitude of fans.
In his early 20’s, Eloi joined Bob White’s Moncton based Canadian Plough Boys. When that band broke up two years later he moved to Saint John to play with the Maritime Farmers and stayed long enough to compose The Maritime Farmers Reel, which became a great favorite with the band’s radio listeners. Soon however, he had a call from Kidd Baker asking him to join his Pine Ridge Mountain Boys in Ontario and was on his way to Kitchener. He was with Kidd’s entourage for over 12 years.
Eloi, who lived with his sister Laura in later years, recorded only one album Eloi and His Fiddle, Acadian Productions LPA-101 in 1977 but it’s a classic album with a number of his own compositions including Anne Marie Reel, a great favourite of Don Messer’s, Le Reel de l’Hiver (Winter Reel), Reel des Maritime Farmers and other favourites.
He taught his style of fiddling, made violins and guitars all with perfect pitch. To read about The Leblanc Legacy, its project and listen to Eloi's music visit www.leblanclegacy.weebly.com
Wayne Hachey Born and raised in Blackville, NB, Wayne gave his first public stage performance at age ten playing guitar and singing a solo spot at a St. Patrick’s Day Concert. It was the beginning of a life-long love affair with music during which he would master a number of instruments. His career as a dance and concert musician began at 17 when he joined a local band, “The Arrows”. Later he might be a drummer with one band, lead guitarist with another or electric bass player with yet another. It was bass, however with which he would become closely identified.
After moving to Fredericton, Wayne’s musical involvements became even more hectic. He played the NB college-university circuit with the Beau Hunks; the entire Maritimes with the Rocky Mountain Rangers, then Al Sherwood’s York County Boys, later, Al’s New Horizon Band, was a regular on Earl Mitton’s weekly CBC radio show. In 1967, he toured the Atlantic provinces with Wilf Carter and Hank Snow and then joined Jim and Jesse’s Maritime touring band. Over the years he has also backed such international stars as Tex Ritter, Gordie Tapp, Ann Murray, Tommy Common, Joan Kennedy, Larry Mattson, Freddy McKenna, Johnny Burke and, more recently, JR Vautour, Chris Cummings, Mavis O’Donnell, Bob Cleghorn and the Stone Ridge Band.
In 1999 Wayne made his movie debut as a guitar player in a CBC movie, The Dance, which was telecast throughout Canada on the full CBC network. Wayne’s musical career has spanned over 50 years, running the entire gamut of dancehalls, concerts and festival settings, recording studio work, and he has cheerfully contributed countless hours to charitable causes, playing many benefits and fund-raisers, yearly. Wherever in Canada Wayne’s name is mentioned, there is bound to be someone who has shared a stage with him from the Atlantic to Ontario, westward. He has played country, folk, rock, done jazz and Classical stints.
Besides these instrumental abilities he sings harmony and has an uncanny knack of remembering song lyrics. His ability to instantly recall tunes makes him an integral part of any group with whom he performs. Wayne is always learning new music but still loves the old-time ballads and tunes. He regards his work with Mavis O’Donnell and Aubrey Hanson in recent years as highlights of his career.
In recent years, he’s backed Mavis, Al Sherwood and Charlie Russell at recording sessions and regularly plays the Fredericton area’s Country Junction.
Nigel Mullin, born in England in 1940, came to the Miramichi as a child, and while still a youngster fell in love with the lonesome wail of a steel guitar listening to Hank Williams and his Drifting Cowboys recordings. But, although he loved the sound he had no idea what sort of instrument made it. It was not until the mid-fifties, a few years after Hank Williams death that he found out. A Johnny Cash concert he attended featured a pedal steel guitar player in the band. He was utterly amazed to learn it was the same instrumentalist that had thrilled hi on Hank’s records, Don Helms. From that night on, if the early recordings had been the bait, it was the Cash concert and that instrument’s live vibrations that set the hook. He was hopelessly caught up in the sound but although he learned to play himself it was not until he was 14 that he could afford to make that rather sizeable investment.
Once the instrument was his, he quickly arranged for lessons from a local master of steel techniques, the late Brendan Hall. The when secure in his ability to play well, band employment was not hard to find. Even though at the time the steel guitar was a favoured staple of Nashville producers, good steel guitarists were hard to find in NB so he soon was playing with The Sanatoria Club band which, during that period, received noticed in Maclean’s, Time and a citation from Prime Minister Trudeau. This led to him to play on Carl O’Donnell’s Music for The Good Folks cassette taping and further renown as an instrumentalist. Stints followed with Joe MacDonald’s Black Diamond Band, The Good Ole Boys, Ernie Taylor’s Band and Gene O’Connor’s entourage. He also played with a number of US and Canadian touring acts and often with Miramichiers Donna McLean, Jimmy Lawlor and Jim Morrison.
A musician who has devoted much of his life to performing country music, Nigel, who lives at Red Bank, volunteers a lot of time to his community, playing fund-raisers and charity events, for the sheer love of it. His devotion to the steel guitar, he says sincerely, has greatly enriched his life. A fine rhythm guitarist and an outstanding pedal steel player, music has given him a sense of achievement and made him life-long friendships among musicians and fans.
He is also a very good stand-up comedian.
Born at Upper Derry, in 1948, Norman Young is a journeyman barber by trade, a Miramichi Fiddler at heart. During the sixties Norman became a familiar figure at variety shows and house parties along the river, singing and playing guitar.
In the early 1970’s he moved with his wife Joanne to Charlottetown, PEI and joined a band, the Music Makers as a guitar picker. They often played the Benevolent Irish Society Club as Don Messer and His Islanders had before them. He also played with Pius Blacket and Ginger Mckay and the Blue Water bands.
A strong fiddle tradition existed on the Island and when Norman spoke about wanting to learn that instrument his wife bought him one. Soon he was playing with the PEI Fiddlers, as well, a group founded by Bishop Faber MacDonald.
In 1980 Norman and his family moved back to the Miramichi and he joined his brother’s band, Satellite on bass guitar. In 1991 he became a founding member of the Miramichi Fiddlers and helped write their constitution. In 1995 he became their lead fiddler and, shortly after, their music director. A year later he arranged the music for the first of their two recordings, Miramichi Fiddlers, Volumes One and Two, and led that elite group of fiddlers at the subsequent studio sessions.
In 1997, he became active in the NB Old Tyme Fiddle Orchestra during its creation, was elected to its board of directors and chosen to lead one of the six platoons of 50 musicians each that comprised it in the beginning. He felt it a great honour to perform with such a vast assemblage on one stage.
But an even greater honour was accorded him in 1999 when he was asked to join the Saint John Fiddlers and Natalie MacMaster to play at the installation of his friend Faber MacDonald as Bishop of the Diocese of Saint John.
Between his stints with local bands, Norman has travelled widely in Canada sharing the wide repertoire of New Brunswick fiddlers with audiences in Edmonton, Yellowknife, Fort Smith, the Northwest Territories, Inuvik, Hay River, Norman Wells, Tuktuyuktuk. Norman has also composed many fiddle tunes including the title track of his new recording Fiddlenium.
He has given freely of his time to play benefits for many causes; weddings, funerals, church functions. Since 1997, Norman has been teaching fiddle to students from 12 to 60, doing his part to keep that Miramichi tradition alive and growing.