Edgar Barry was born in St. Stephen in 1929 and started playing guitar at eleven, practicing on his brother’s guitar without his brother knowing. It was a Lone Ranger guitar sold by Eaton's mail order for $6.99 in those days of average $18 a month family earnings. His bio states he only knew two chords, C and F at first but he was persistent, reading every article he could find on “how to play a guitar” and taught himself until he got more advanced instructions. He also listened and learned every Wilf Carter song he could find and played them over and over until he learned all the words and notes. But when he began to yodel his father drew the line, much as Wilf's father had done. He told his son that if he was determined to practice the art of yodeling he would have to build a cabin in the woods and he did learn yodel quite professionally...some distance from the house.
His first public appearance at age 12 was in an old barn where the crowd encouraged him to sing. But they wanted to hear him sing The Alphabet Song as recorded by Hank Snow, which he also knew, and his life as an entertainer began. This led in turn to his playing with fiddle legend Ned Landry. Next he was invited by Aubrey Hanson, founder of the NBCMHF to play for him and Aubrey was so impressed he recorded him at the CFNB Fredericton radio studios and played the tapes he made on his early morning radio shows. Edgar also appeared on Curley O'Brien's radio show over a Bangor, Maine station.
Edgar entertained on the Summer Singalongs in St. Stephen in the early 80s, the McGaw Ski Hill opening at Loon Bay Lodge, Oak Hill, the Fredericton Playhouse, The Manor in McAdam and he was a regular at many local venues during his active years. He was a promoter and organized many shows. He had his own band, Edgar Barry & Friends, which featured Colie Pierce (another favourite of Dick Stacey's) and was on six tape albums including Colie Pierce & Friends.
Bill Casey was born in Rogersville, a community that has given birth to many country singers, musicians and bluegrassers (perhaps something in the water?). Born in 1926, his family moved to Rolling Dam in 1928 and later moved to Charlotte County where he lived for the last 89 years of his life. His first education years were spent at Milltown's Catholic School. But it was only a short while before his parents took him to the Piskahegan lumber camps where his father was employed for seven years and his mother home schooled him. She also taught him to play accordion, harmonica and mouth harp. By age eight he was accomplished enough to entertain camp crews and soon was playing at Rolling Dam dance halls and for Old Ridge square dances.
“I played venues on the Miramichi, too” Bill remembered. He also played many benefits, socials and jamborees over his long career including performances on the Don Messer Radio and TV shows and Dick Stacey's Country Jamborees on Bangor Channel 7 TV. Even in his early 90's he would play two or three jams most weeks plus local parties, benefits and weddings - his own daughter's among them-and sometimes built his own stage. He still tutored students on accordion and played with a family group, Casey Family Tree, who have a CD Branching Out. “His vitality was always contagious!” his son said of him. “He just couldn't say “no” to anyone who asked him to play and he was always so well received anywhere he appeared.
Bill loved life - his wife Christine, five children, eight grandchildren, friends, music, horseshoes, bowling, curling and golf. He led a very active lifestyle up to his final days.
Bill passed away unexpectedly in June of this year, 2017 but not before being notified that he had been elected to the New Brunswick Country Music Hall of Fame. He was thrilled with being inducted and was looking forward to the ceremonies.
CLAUDETTE NORMAN - born in Rogersville has been involved in country music for the past 45 years. She began playing guitar and singing at age 12, three years after her family relocated to Black's Harbour. It was during this time that she wrote her first songs. During her teenage years she entered and won various school and community talent shows as well as the talent section of community and school beauty pageants and later local bar contests.
Although her career activities were curtailed by family and a job she continued to entertain at the local legions, family gatherings, parties and funerals. But in the 1990s with her family grown her career really took off. She has been a regular performer for the past two decades at venues from Sussex to St. Stephen, McAdam to Deer Island. In 2003 she was commissioned by the Town of St George to write and perform a Town Centennial Anniversary song that resulted in “I Love This Town” which won her that town's Citizen of the Year award. Also during this time she wrote an elongated comedic version of the Australian song “I've Been Everywhere” popularized by Hank Snow in North America with US names substituted. Claudette added NB place names to the Snow version to perform and record it. This gained her a new legion of fans and it still remains her most requested song at concerts. A dozen years ago she developed and implemented a Summer Concert Series for the Town of St George.
In recent years she has been a lead singer in many groups: Rev4 with Tom Noel & Crew; Passin' Thru with Gerard Comeau and Glenn Vautour; Claudette & The Players; WeB3 with Margaret Mawhinney and Allen Scott as well as WeB2 with Margaret. She has performed multiple times for the Sussex Balloon Festival, Fundy Trail Sundays, jamborees with Gary Morris, Steve Lyons, Reg Gallant and Bob Burgess, at Summer Concert series in Rothesay, Quispamsis, Campobello Fog Fest, Head Harbour Lighthouse Festival, St. Andrews Seafood Festival, the Saint John Exhibition and Fredericton Playhouse's NB Country Showcase...and many other venues. And while maintaining this hectic schedule she has found time to record seven CD albums that are simply terrific.
ADAM OLMSTEAD - is one of those gifted musicians and singers that just seems to spring out of nowhere so accomplished you feel they must have spent a couple of decades half a world away. Yet they were developing right under our noses, suddenly bursting their boundaries and being heard on CBC. That is the way with Adam Olmstead - like the original Jimmy Rodgers bursting on the scene at the RCA try outs where Harold Peer discovered both Rodgers and the Carter Family one 1927 afternoon in Bristol, Tennessee. Adam sounded like a northern Jimmy Rodgers when he was heard on his first recording, a CD album and on CBC.
Born in Halifax, September 14, 1974, Adam grew up in St. Stephen. When he was 15, his parents moved with him to Northfield, Massachusetts where he finished high school. His mother had started him on piano lessons when he was five but in his teens he switched his instrument of choice to guitar. Then according to his own brief bio, in his late teens and early 20's he travelled and performed throughout North America and parts of Europe. He then suddenly turned his sights on home again settling down in a little cabin in Canoose that he still calls home. To date he has recorded three CD albums, mostly originals, many of them based on his life in Charlotte County, his camp on the St. Croix River and other land marks like the Chickahominy Mountain in Bocabec near St. Andrews. The albums he has recorded were backed by Nashville musicians.
Adam's musical roots include his grand-uncle Donald McLeod of St. Stephen, who is the author of “The Land of New Brunswick”. His mother's family were all pickers and singers and their genes have clearly been passed on to Adam. He is a multi-instrumentalist and teacher. His music is dedicated to keeping New Brunswick country and bluegrass traditions alive. Adam has been featured on CBC Radio and continues to entertain on stages in Canada and abroad. The late Stan Carew said of him on his CBC Radio Weekend Mornings that “Adam Olmstead is the best new musical talent to come out of New Brunswick in decades.”
RANDY RUSSELL - was inspired by the sounds of country music at a very young age. At home his father, Rick Russell, a very popular performer, was already performing on many local jamborees that sometimes included all his family as they did frequently on the Art Marr Jamborees at Lily Lake Pavilion in Saint John. Soon Randy and a neighbour Bob Miller formed a duo to play jam sessions. One of Randy's early inspirations was Merle Haggard and he sang one of Haggard's songs at his first paid gig at a Rothesay venue. At the age of 15 Randy joined his first band Vintage Wine, a quartet that included Mark Durrelle, Donnie Gautreau, Chuck Gillis and Randy. After that he toured and appeared on recordings with the band Morning Sun for four years where he was lead singer and played electric bass guitar. He then joined Johnny Burke & East Wind to tour Canada for eight years and won a Canadian Country Music “Best Instrumentalist of the Year “Award during that time.
Randy had the thrill of accompanying Mel Tillis during a Fredericton concert appearance and often played on stage at the legendary Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto. Shortly after, Canadian recording artist Smiley Bates invited Randy to join his band performing State side and to join him at recording sessions. He also was greatly honoured to appear in a country show at the prestigious Massey Hall in Toronto where his voice and bass guitar drew applause from an appreciative audience, one that wasn't typically country music oriented. Randy continues to play on a weekly show in northern NB that can often be viewed on Rogers TV.
Randy has played bass and provided backing vocals for many Nashville stars including Don Gibson, Justin Tubb, Johnny Russell, Dave Dudley, Mel Tillis, David Frizzell, Johnny Paycheck, Dan Seals and such famous Canadian recording stars as Wilf Carter, Carroll Baker, Myrna Lorrie and opened for such acts as George Jones, Ricky Skaggs, Dutch Mason, Ritchie Oakley, Sylvia Tyson, Johnny Lee and Matt Minglewood. Randy's father Rick Russell was a 1996 inductee to the New Brunswick Country Music Hall of Fame.