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 Playing Advice: Bluegrass (Scruggs) Styles

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Randolpho - Posted - 04/16/2010:  08:33:11

Does anyone know if Brian Pickel is in the group? He used to play with the Humber River Valley Boys out ot Toronto. He could play Scuggs and old timey equally as well. They were the first band I ever heard that combined Bluegrass with Traditional Fiddle tunes. Good Band! Randy

gkella - Posted - 04/16/2010:  13:16:52

What group are you referring to?
You sure brought back a lot of memories with that name.
I first got interested in banjo in the 70's and saw the Humber River Valley Boys a lot.
I thought Brian ended up with a debilitating nerve problem in his hand and had to quit playing.
I could be totally wrong on that.
Here's another one for you.. John Saunders with Big Red Ford.
I think John was the best banjo play this country ever produced.
He was amazing.

Randolpho - Posted - 04/16/2010:  15:12:13

A guy that new John Saunders told me that he used to sit in an empty closet with just a light on and practice for hours a day. I prefer to play while I watch the garbage on TV. I used to play in a band with the guys from The East Mountain Boys and Randy Hill was on Mandolin. Wow could he play that thing. Years later I did some jobs with Niagara Blue. The fiddler, Wally Knash, and I are still great friends. I filled in with the band from London, whose name I can't remember. I think the singers name was Bert Baumbach. Can anyone remember the band's name? Randy

lazyarcher - Posted - 04/17/2010:  07:42:47

Bluegrass Canadiana ... we should compile some sort of collection!

Brian Pickel was indeed with the Humber River Valley Boys (or as we called them The Humble Liver Volley Balls) back in the 70s. One of the most eclectic banjo players of the time incorporating both clawhammer and 3 finger styles into the bands material. I believe he did develope some tendon type problems in his wrists, and he disappeared from the banjo scene to focus on photography and alternate music playing guitar, mandolin. He has been more active in the last number of years, playing celtic style music with The Brian Pickel Band...and they are very very good! They have a number of dates around Ontario over the next couple of months...check them out.

John Saunders was IMO one of the finest avante' guard players of his time in the 70s...following the Bela Fleck/Pat Cloud approach to banjo...and guitar, and anything else you gave him. he could play Django flawlessly, switch to Duke Ellington, back to Chick Chorea, then go note for note with any Scruggs song written. Never used a capo--we were at a friends house jamming and he played Foggy Mt Breakdown note for note origional...except in F. Unfortunately, he would forget to eat or change his clothes without direction. He still plays..but in a Rennissance Celtic kind of duo with his wife Silent Lion..?

Randy is still playing..presently with his brother Rocky Hill in The Hill Brothers.

Bert Baumbach is the leader of The Dixie Flyers, probably the most influential bluegrass band in Canadian bluegrass history. They are still very active in the summer and around the London area.

Brian J - Posted - 04/19/2010:  18:32:47

Bert and the Flyers spun off a lot of talent over the years. Denis Lepage was the original banjo player. He was a very fine player. Haven't heard of him in many years. Gordon Stobbe played fiddle with them for a time. Very well known east coast fiddler now. There were others; David Zdrilick on bass, Kenny Palmer on mandolin. The band also profiled the late Willy P. Bennett on vocals and harmonica. Willy wrote some great tunes. Seldom Scene picked up a couple. Several other big names did too. Blacky and Rodeo Kings are a Willy tribute band. Check them out if you have a chance.

Brian Pickel is pretty active these days. Writes beautiful tunes. Check out his "Fresh Canadian Fiddle Tunes" cd. Really lovely music, well produced.

Big Red Ford was an interesting band. Really progressive. Besides Saunders there was Lou Moore on guitar - unbelievable picker. Crazy as hell. I remember seeing him and Marty Stewart sit one on one for an hour or so one time. It was really something. Then there was a guy on electric base that used to play with the Good Brothers - think his name was Love or something. Jerry Douglas played with them on at least one of their albums. Don Bird produced it I think.

Bluegrass was really big up here in those days. Lots of the big US acts making the circuit. Several good festivals and everybody and their brother getting Martins and Mastertones and going at it. Boy I miss those days.

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