The late George Allain was born April 27, 1959 in Miramichi, the youngest of six children. His interest in music began when he was four by watching Don Messer's Jubilee on CBC-TV. The featured instrumental showmen Cecil McEachern, Duke Neilson, Vic Mullin and Don himself impressed George so much that when he was nine, a sister Leona, bought him a guitar and his mother arranged music lessons for him. His progress with the instrument was so rapid that at age 12 he began playing professionally at The Pines, a popular local dance hall.
The complex finger-picking side of the guitar once conquered, George soon began learning other instruments that fascinated him, a dozen in fact. A professional mastery of these made him much in demand to fill in with many bands which, for some reason would come up short a regular band member no matter what instrument was missing and needed a replacement. At the same time, he was a regular with such bands as Caravan, Apollo 6, Dusty Roads, Authority, Connie and Paul and in recent years Amy Jardine’s Goodtime Band which is famous for the charity work they do for the local seniors and anyone who needs a helping hand. He was also affiliated with the band, Second Chance, with Bill Hachey and Ross Wilson.
George in his lifetime was a well-organized professional who was already set up and ready to go by show time. Even at an “off the cuff “ gig at last minute notice, he was famous for being able to pull it off and was always ready to lend a helping hand.
George, sadly, passed away at the age of 55, January 12, 2015 after a two year battle with cancer. It was an incalculable loss to the Miramichi music community. Instrumentally multi talents like his do not happen often.
BRENDA BEST - was born in Campbellton, the youngest of nine children of Elizabeth and Clifton Best. There were musicians on her mother's side of the family and her grandfather, Jean-Charles Robichaud, was an old-time fiddler. She is skilled in both French and English. Her grandmother, Alvina Robichaud, played accordion at family gatherings.
After graduation from Sugarloaf Senior High, she attended college courses and night school at UNB essential to a job she had with the provincial government from 1984 to 1989. She moved to western Canada in 1989 and in 1994 to Virginia USA. After a year’s long bout with ulcerativa colitis and three surgeries in 1999 she moved to Nashville, TN to work as a songwriter. It wasn't long before this energetic little Canadian was making a name for herself at the Nashville Palace, Nashville Nightlife, Tootsies and the Bluebird Cafe which led to her recording.
In 2011, Brenda Best won an ASCAP Award for writing “Golden Years” in recognition of her creative songwriting contribution to American music. In 2012, she was presented with three NIMA, Nashville Independent Music Awards, at their 6th Annual ceremonies. Of the many genres of music; rock, rhythm and blues, gospel, country, folk, jazz...it was the first year a country artist won “Album of the Year”. That was for Brenda's album “Facebook Friend”. She also received awards for Best Country Performer and Best Country Solo Artist.
In 2013, NIMA again awarded Brenda their Best Country Female Solo Artist at the 7th Annual Nashville Independent Music Awards. This year, 2015, the 57th Grammy Awards (NARAS) gave consideration to a song written by Brenda titled “Checking Up On Your Behaviour”. Brenda considers being elected to the New Brunswick Country Music Hall of Fame induction a great honour and proudly accepted the nomination, even as honoured internationally as she has been in recent years.
Since settling in Nashville, Brenda, however, has felt herself at home at last and never hung her hat anywhere else since 1999.
JAMES (JIMMY) CUNNINGHAM - was born in 1935 in Loggieville, N.B. on the Miramichi. As far back as he can remember, he sang and was always learning new country songs even as a child. He taught himself to play the guitar at an early age and had a deep love for the traditional country music played on the radio at that time; Wilf Carter, Jimmy Rodgers, Hank Snow, Roy Acuff and Hank Williams.
Through the years he formed and played with many country bands including Jimmy and Janitors, the Blue Tones, The In Crowd, River Men, Two and One, Just Four, Tumbleweed and now a country gospel group New Creation.
Jimmy has also composed songs such as “Pioneer Days”, the theme for the Chatham homecoming event, and a local original hit called “Never Again,” along with many others. Early in his musical career he fell in love with the sound of Ray Price and the Cherokee Cowboys, a fascination which led him to hire the first pedal steel guitar player to come to Miramichi, the late Brendon Hall, who was originally from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
Jimmy toured extensively in Quebec, New Brunswick, Newfoundland as well as the Magdelin Islands. He also helped many singers and instrumentalists get a start in music by inviting them to “sit in” with his band. Jimmy has played with local Hall of Fame members, Billy Brideau, Susan Butler, the late Douglas Fitzpatrick, Nigel Mullin, Bill Mullin, Matilda Murdock, Jimmy Lawlor and the late Joe MacDonald. He is still very active in country and gospel music and is currently part of the fabulous New Creation gospel group.
He continues to help others in times of trouble and a friend to all who come his way, whether musical or not, and is a credit to the community of Miramichi.
TAMMY MORRIS - was born to Jack (another Hall of Fame member) and Joy McAffee in Woodstock, NB, 1963. She began piano lessons at age 6, receiving training in classical music. However, she soon discovered that it was much more fun to learn the songs from the radio, so armed with her trusty cassette recorder, she taught herself John Denver and Glen Campbell hits. Unlike the music of Beethoven or Mozart, she was able to sing along with these songs!
Her first ventures into the world of performing were the many school variety shows, beauty pageants and recitals. She also travelled to Saint John to appear on a talent show which was broadcast on CHSJ and hosted by Jeannie Wood. Singing and playing in church also provided many opportunities to grow as a musician and she joined a country-gospel group called “The Happy Sounds” in the late 70’s, which toured many New Brunswick churches.
While in university, she sang and played keyboard in her father’s group, “The Fourth Edition”, taking the long bus ride from Mount Allison to play regular engagements at the Woodstock Legion as well as other venues. After finishing her university education, she accepted a teaching job in Sussex as a travelling music teacher. In the 90’s, she joined “Gary Morris and Crossroads” and continues to perform with this popular dance band. In 1999, she became a member of the “Sussex Valley Jamboree” band, where she learned finally how to accompany fiddle tunes.
She has played and sung back-ground vocals on many recording projects, including those of Mavis O’Donnell, Jack McAffee, Allison Inch, Cheryl Ellis and more. She currently teaches music in the public school system and gives private lessons as well. Several of her young students have appeared on the Sussex Valley Jamboree. She and her husband, Gary, continue to be very active in the music scene of southern New Brunswick.
DAVID PALMER - was born in Summerside, PE in 1953. He started playing guitar in 1966 and shortly after that sat in with his brother's band to play a Bandorama contest. Their band won and he was hooked on playing music.
His first foray into a regular job in Country music came with a band called Freightliner in 1974. During his time with them, he became fascinated with the pedal steel guitar so he bought one and began playing it.
When that band broke up, he was recommended to RCA recording artist, Bob Murphy. Bob headed a band called Big Buffalo who was making recordings as well as playing live performances. At a studio recording session, Dave met Al Brisco, a first-rate "steeler" from Ontario. In 1980, Al facilitated a move to Mississauga, Ontario so that Dave could go on the road with Grant Carson. Dave toured nearly every province in Canada, several states in the USA, and played in England, Scotland and Wales before leaving the band and returning to Fredericton in 1984.
After a hiatus from playing, Dave sat down behind the steel guitar again in 1990. He began picking up country and gospel recording sessions around the Maritimes, and played for both the NB Country Showcase and the Valley Jamboree shows. Eventually he joined Crossfire in the mid-nineties and backed up Joan Kennedy as a member of the band. Dave was also a member of the worship band at Smythe Street Cathedral for 16 years and played guitar with The LaPointes for several years.
Currently, Dave is playing pedal steel for the East Coast Opry Show and is a member of Sleepy Driver, a roots/Americana band from Fredericton that has received several ECMA award nominations and was awarded the Music New Brunswick Award for Rock Album of the Year in 2012. He also still enjoys sitting in with "Matchstick" Mike Bidlake to play the blues on guitar and has performed at the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival often since 2006.