CLAUDE CJ GALLANT
CJ was born in Bouctouche in 1957 but has lived in Lincoln, NB for some years now. A singer songwriter he began playing guitar at 15 and, by his late teens, was a part of bands in the Fredericton area. He formed his own first band, Deep Water, shortly after he began playing professionally as part of his livelihood. Then in 1976, he joined his brother, Reg Gallant, a singing songwriter and multi-instrumentalist to form a band, Lost Souls, which in a few years changed its name to Blackjack.
After Reg left the band to move to Grand Bay/Westfield, CJ headed the long lived Blackjack band for the next 32 years. He was also a regular in Joey Knight's Traveling Country Show and a regular cast singing musician on Rick Gerrior's Old Time Jamborees that filled the Imperial Theatre in Saint John on a monthly basis for several years. More recently he has been a regular with his brother Reg's Port City Jamboree house band as a featured singer and guitarist. In addition, he frequently plays with Pryme Tyme Country and his brother Reg's, Yesterday's Wine band. Claude covers many of his musical hero George Jones' hits and has a wide repertoire of other great country songs. He has a big fan following. Claude still finds time to entertain at nursing and seniors homes and on many annual fund raisers such as Christmas Daddies, Empty Stocking Fund, Crime Stoppers, Wesleyan United Church events and participates in many benefits for needy individuals.
He has released five CD's, three a tribute to George Jones called Pure Possum, Hits of George Jones, CJ’s Tribute to George Jones Show as well as Classic Country and Bonnie & Clyde, a duet CD with Candice Phillips.
CJ has worked hard recently to keep the memory of George Jones alive by using some of George’s hits in his performances and by so doing has become known as the “New Brunswick Possum”. His George Jones Tribute Shows are usually sell-out events because of his heart-felt sound-alike renditions.
RAY LEGERE - was born in Amherst, NS, and has spent most of his adult life in Moncton and Sackville NB. His father taught him mandolin basics when he was ten. Ray gained instant fame in 1982, at age 16, by winning a hurried audition to replace the Father of Bluegrass music, Bill Monroe, when Bill became suddenly ill at a Nova Scotia festival and had to be rushed to hospital in Halifax. Ray won, even though there were several older, more seasoned mandolin pickers vying for the honour, and he filled in the master's mandolin part with Bill's Blue Grass Boys that evening.
Since then, Ray’s extremely unique musical talents have opened many doors for him and he has played along side most of his early Nashville music heroes. e.g., David Grisman, Tony Rice, Jerry Douglas, Doc Watson, Bela Fleck, Sam Bush and performed on Grand Ole Opry and Carnegie Hall stages. In Canada, he has backed Roch Voisine, Terry Kelly, the Rankin Family, Rita MacNeil, the Barra MacNeils and many others. He has toured Australia, Canada and the US with Michelle Shocked and Tony Rice, as well as California with Alison Brown and her band.
He won the North American mandolin championship and other awards in the US, during a long tenure there. And now back in Sackville for over a decade has toured with Scottish born tenor John McDermott, the virtuoso violin group Bowfire, has been music director for the CBC country music TV series Fiddlehead Country and is the house band fiddler for the NB French country TV show “Pour L'Amour Du Country,” been the recipient of the ECMA Bluegrass Artist of the Year Awards twice and is a five time winner of the Eastern Division Bluegrass Awards as Mandolin/Fiddle Player of the Year and is the recipient of a Masters Award for 5 time win of best fiddle player at the Central Bluegrass Awards. He has released seven solo albums over the years and appeared as a session player on countless recordings worldwide.
Ray has been very busy locally in NB over the past few years backing such diverse acts as Tomato/Tomato, Laurie Leblanc and his own Acoustic Horizon band.
REID MERRIT - was born in Maple Grove, NB on Feb. 25, 1930. His family moved to a farm in Springfield when he was six, so it turned out he not only sang country music he lived it—milking cows, feeding chickens, pigs, planting seeds, potatoes in spring, haying and thrashing in summer, working in the woods in winter.
He began playing guitar at the age of seven and practiced yodeling in the fields. His first gig before an audience was at a yodeling contest he won when he was only 11 in 1941. By the end of the 1940's he was a well-known performer throughout NB, playing guitar and bass and singing lead with the Golden Bel-Aires, one of the most popular bands in the Fredericton area. He became their leader, manager and booking agent.
During the years 1960 to 1975, that band was extremely active, opening for such nationally known acts as Marg Osburne, Tommy Hunter & the Rhythm Pals, Catherine McKinnon, Johnny Forrest and WWVA's VanderBilt Brothers. He also played with the band, Salamanea, in the late 1970's. Reid himself, solo or with bands, performed on CFNB Radio, Fredericton; CJCJ Radio, Woodstock; CKCW Radio & TV, Moncton and CHSJ Radio & TV in Saint John. Now at 86 he continues to entertain at nursing homes, benefits and many festivals almost weekly and he has released three albums of songs He Who Made The Rain, Something Out Of Nothing and I'm Going Over. Reid has also played with such greats of NB Country music as Earl Mitton & the Valley Rhythm Boys, Art Marr, Al Sherwood, Wayne Nightingale, Joan Kennedy among many others.
Reid says the greatest prize he won in his long music career was his wife Iva. On their first date he captivated her by singing her Jimmie Osbourne's the “Tears of St. Anne” and the “Death of Little Cathy Fiscus”. As well, in those years he was often featured on Bud Brown's Capitol Co-op Jamborees over CFNB Radio.
RON VAUTOUR - Ronnie was born in Minto in 1950 and, showing signs of music talent early, had his first guitar bought for him from an Eaton's mail order catalogue. His uncle Ivan Mazerolle showed him how to play one chord and after that he was on his own.
Ronnie's first club job, when he was 12 years old, was at a small place called the Duck Inn where he played on Saturdays all day from 6:30 am until 9:00 pm., then left to cross the street and play at another club, the Casa Loma, from 9:30 pm to 1:00 am. During that time a professional guitarist recognized his talent and took him under his wing. Not only did he master acoustic guitar, but quickly went on to learn electric and bass guitar and other instruments he would need to join other bands as opportunities presented themselves: the Strike Three Trio, Silver Shadows, the Dave McNeill Band, JR Vautour's and Joey Knight's bands and eventually Bootleg.
From 1985 to 1993 Ronnie was the musical director of the NB Country Showcase at the Playhouse, Fredericton, and during that time adopted the name Ronnie Day. After that he was instrumental in forming a new band One Way Ryder with Danny Richard on drums, John Clayton on piano and his son Raymond on lead guitar.
During the years since, he has played with bands that opened for country music Nashville stars such as Gene Watson, Jason McCoy and John Conlee. His musical influences include Ray Price and Fearon Young, but his all time favourite artist is Merle Haggard.
Always having a dream of finding a way to recognize and honour musicians from the Grand Lake area, in 2001 Ron created the Minto Country Music Wall of Fame, with the assistance of Aubrey Hanson, a great friend and supporter. Since then 100 musicians from the Grand Lake area have been inducted.
STIRLING NICKERSON - is being honored posthumously, an honour he deserved in life as one of the most active country music performers in NB. Born in Saint John in 1940, he lived a decade with his family at Armstrong Corner, then spent most of his performing years as a Queenstown area resident. His mother Ethel showed him his first few guitar chords and he went on from there to play acoustic guitar, acoustic and electric bass, ukulele and trumpet. He also did a stint as a bass drummer in a Dalhousie marching band.
Over the years he played with a number of bands and music acts including: the Queenstown Trio, 3-Point Hitch, Living Water, River Singers, the Queenstown Square Dance Trio with Marjorie Howe and Allison Inch and many stage and dance bands during his active years as a solo and back up singer and instrumentalist, show organizer and promoter of many benefits and fundraisers. Loving gospel music, Stirling was thrilled when asked to join Living Water as their bassist.
At 70, he had started taking fiddle lessons from Allison Inch. His tenor voice and instrumental talents survive on three trio recordings, Queenston Heights in 2000, Hills That I Call Home in 2006 both with the Queenston Trio and a self-titled CD album with the trio 3-Point Hitch in 2010. In 1988, Stirling travelled to Australia for three weeks. While “down under”, he was introduced to some recordings by Australian country singers and became enamored by the songs of Slim Dusty, returning home with a number of them in his repertoire.
Stirling was very active in his church and local Lions Club, in which he served as president for a term and was honoured for his outstanding blood donations…177 by the time of his death.
Stirling passed away on February 7, 2014 and is greatly missed by his wife Marilyn, children Shelley, Wendy and Terry and grandchildren Kara, Cody and Rylan.