Formed in April 1974 in London, Ont., the founding members were Bert Baumbach (guitar), Dennis LePage (banjo), and Ken Palmer (mandolin), Brian Abbey (bass),and Willie P. Bennett (harmonica) joined soon after, taking the place of the requisite violinist, and remained until 1979.
Baumbach and Palmer, who have been among the group’s lead vocalists, remained constant to the Flyers in 1991; personnel has otherwise included, in turn, Gordon Stobbe, Peter Robinson, J.P. (John) Allen, and again Robinson (violin), David Zdriluk, Abbey, and again Zdriluk (double bass)Luke Maynard(bass), and David Jack, David Talbot, and Walter Maynard (banjo)plus Allan Widmeyer(the Old Houndog)dobro and Darren Parisse(dobro) plus Mike Ethelston (harmonica).
By their longevity, versatility, and what Palmer has described as an evolutionary rather then revolutionary approach to the idiom, the Flyers have been Canada’s most prominent bluegrass band, performing at festivals (Mariposa, Winnipeg, Bluegrass Canada, Festival of Friends, etc), fairs, nightclubs and universities across the country. They were the host band in 1985 for CFPL-TV’s ‘Bluegrass Express’ and have appeared on ‘The Tommy Hunter Show’ and many other Canadian country TV series. In 1989 they took over direction of the Back 40 Bluegrass Festival at Woodstock, Ont. They also have performed in the USA – eg, at Bill Monroe’s Bean Blossom (Ind) Festival in 1983 and on several occasions at the Flint (Mich) Folk and Bluegrass Festival.
Here are some of the great music festivals that have featured the Flyers:
Bill Monroe’s Bean Blossom Festival
Nova Scotia Old-Time Bluegrass Festival
Flint Folk Bluegrass Festival
Mariposa Folk Festival
Winnipeg Folk Festival
Waterford Bluegrass Festival
Blackfalds Bluegrass Festival-Alberta
Havelock Country Jamboree
Chilliwack Bluegrass Festival-British Columbia
and their own festival, Back 40 Bluegrass Festival in Woodstock, Ontario.
The Flyers hosted their own television series for CFPL TV’s “Bluegrass Express”, hosted live weekly radio broadcasts on CJBX-FM “Live at the Wellington”plus guest appearances on the “Tommy Hunter Show”, “the Ronnie Prophet Show”, ” Sunparlour Country” ,”George Hamilton IV Show”,and all of theCanadian TV networks.
Some of the major venues where you may have been entertained by the Flyers
National Gallery of Canada-Ottawa
The International Plowing Match-Ontario
The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair
CBC Radio’s “Morningside”
The El Macombo-Toronto
from the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada