Tom Johnson was born in Sackville, NB and at 18, during military service, started playing guitar. His musical talents increased rapidly after he and some army buddies formed a country band, The Melody Ramblers, while stationed at Oromocto.
In 1967, he joined The York County Boys to play bass and sing harmony with 1985 Hall of Fame inductee Allan Sherwood.
Back home in Sackville, he joined Ivan Hicks and his Old Time Band, which soon became known as Maritime Express. In the past 25 years, this band has continuously performed throughout the Maritimes and eastern USA, and in this millennium has already done two multi-concert cross-Canada tours. Along with being part of the show’s musical core, Tom and Del Wheaton, his brother-in-law, soon developed a side-splitting hillbilly act, The Grubb Brothers, that by fan demand became a regular part of band concerts.
Tom also is helmsman of an annual Shepody Bay Old-Time and Bluegrass Music Festival and has raised thousands of dollars for local charities. Since 1990, he’s played and sung with a country gospel act Diamonds In The Rough as well, and they’ve released several CDs.
Tom also currently is part of a band, the Hardly Herd, and plays backup for The Sussex Avenue Fiddlers.
He now has his own recording studio and spends much of his time recording young entertainers, as well as entertaining at many nursing homes and charitable events; his most cherished of these being Sackville’s annual Christmas At Home concert.
He has been honoured for his musical contributions by surrounding communities and was chosen Sackville’s Citizen of the Year in 1995. Tom has unselfishly devoted 48 years to the music he loves.
Del was born in Midgic, NB in 1933, and started strumming guitar when he was eight. He was soon playing for school sing-alongs and shortly afterwards was proficient enough to join old-time fiddler Albert Throop playing house parties, and form a band called The Midgic Pioneers while still in his teens.
His first new guitar, an S.S. Stewart, was a Christmas gift from his parents. Before long he was playing dances with Hall of Famers, Curtis Hicks and his son, Ivan. In 1954, he joined Ivan in forming The Golden Valley Boys to broadcast on radio, record two albums and play many concerts and dances across the Maritimes.
In 1979, he became part of a bluegrass band Ivan Hicks and Maritime Express that played, on occasion, as far away as Florida and backing such international legends as Chubby Wise, Mac Wiseman, John Hartford and Roni Stoneman. Del and a brother-in-law, Tom Johnson, eventually evolved an act, The Grubb Brothers, to add comedy to certain Express shows but it quickly became a regular highlight of the band’s concerts.
He is heard on the many records, tapes and CDs released by Maritime Express over the years. Del has also been involved with the Sackville Citizens Band, the Hussars Militia Band and Marshwinds dance band and has played mandolin with Rustic Harmony and fiddle and mandolin with Tom Johnson in backing the popular Diamonds In The Rough duo. Del has also often backed the Sussex Avenue Fiddlers over the years on guitar.
He has been honoured as Citizen of the Year by Sackville, his home town for many years, and has been publicly lauded by other nearby communities.
Robert ‘Bob’ Henry was born in Charlottetown, PEI in 1942. Raised on an Island farm, he joined the RCAF in 1959 and began his long career as a country radio personality in 1963 over KOLD while serving at Station Armstrong, Ontario, over an LPRT located on that base.
Commercially, his first ‘on air’ radio stint came at CFCY, Charlottetown in 1964. He went from there to CKDH, Amherst and then to CKCL, Truro, where he started his first Weekend Jamboree featuring ‘older artists’ in 1967. Broadcast live, it was carried on both CKCL and CKDH. From there he moved to CFAN, Newcastle to become their PD/Morning Man, then to CHER in Sydney.
In 1975, he returned to Charlottetown, becoming Sports Director of a new station CHTN. He moved back to Sydney in 1978 to help start a new country FM station, CKPE. In 1980 he came to Saint John’s CHSJ as PD/Morning man and in 1984 started the station’s first Weekend Jamboree on Saturday nights, from 7 to 9 PM that he hosted for 11 years until the station ‘modified staff’ in 1995.
Wishing to stay in Saint John, Bob began a new career with the Canadian Blood Service. In 2002, however, he was asked by new management at CHSJ to return as host of their Weekend Jamboree, now airing on Sunday nights from 6 to 9 PM on Country 94.1 FM, and re-focused to not only feature international artists of various eras, but to serve as a showcase for the wealth of old and new NB country singers and instrumentalists, now recording in great numbers.
Johnny was born Jean Paul Bourque, one of 13 children, in the Acadian community of Rosaireville NB.
In the early 1960’s, Johnny moved to Toronto and played in a country rock band, Johnny and the Bees, then in the mid-60s with the Blue Valley Boys, his first professional job. During that time he also landed a gig at Toronto’s famous Horseshoe Tavern that turned into a four year stint, backing such legends as Lefty Frizzell, Tex Ritter, Loretta Lynn, Red Foley, Charley Pride, Mel Tillis, Conway Twitty, Waylon Jennings, Glen Campbell, Bobby Bare, others.
When Carl Smith’s Country Music Hall became a feature on CTV’s national network, Johnny was chosen to play bass with the show’s Maple River Boys.
He recorded his first single, Loving You, for Columbia Records in 1966. He formed the Caribou Showband a year later and from 1968 to 1975 hosted a CTV show, At The Caribou. In 1972, the band changed its name to Eastwind, and were regulars on the syndicated TV show Opry North, releasing several albums. Later they became the house band for the CTV network’s Funny Farm.
In 1985, focusing on a solo career he recorded an album, Gold In His Mind, for the Acclaim label and in 1992 a single, Judge My Soul Again, written by Maritimer, Bardon Yorke, stayed on the Ottawa Valley’s Top Ten for 12 weeks. A compilation CD released in 1998 includes 18 of Johnny’s best songs. A duet CD recorded with Harold MacIntyre was released to critical acclaim in 2001 and he began releasing his music in Europe and Australia.
Still active he tours and plays festivals with MacIntyre and Myrna Lorrie.
Erna Beer & Nade Price
Erna Beer & Nada Price were born in Havelock, NB, the seventh and ninth children in a family of ten. Their parents, Walter and Mary Perry, played twin violins for old time dances. Erna’s involvement in music began when a brother Raymond brought home a borrowed guitar for her to learn to play. Soon most of her siblings were learning to play instruments as well. She later added omnichord and keyboard.
When Erna married in 1941, her husband Charles Beer brought the steel guitar into the family and they began performing as a band at local events; then, later with the Ray Little Gang and Lone Pine & His Mountaineers on CKCW Radio, and on various Saint John radio shows.
In the 40’s Erna played and was lead vocalist with the Rainbow Ranch band led by posthumous Hall of Famer, Roy M. Alward. They performed at concerts throughout southern NB, including the Hillsborough and Amherst Winter Fairs. This group was involved in many charities and fundraisers around the Havelock area.
Then, moving to Petitcodiac, Erna formed another band, Slim & His Melody Boys and Girls. This group included her sister Nada, Webber Acheson, Addie Perry, Carl Bannister and Sherman Gammon. Nada played rhythm guitar and harmonized with Erna for the first time publicly with the Slim band, which played for dances every Thursday night at Stoney Creek. The Bunkhouse Boys, 1984 NBCM Hall of Fame inductees, played that venue Saturday nights. Erna and Nada continued performing as a duo at parties and fundraisers after this band split up.
Nada passed away in 2000, but today, their talents live on in memories of many fans and in their family’s carefully preserved tapes. Nada and Erna were New Brunswick pioneers of real old-time country music.