One of Canada’s top fiddle and mandolin players, Ray Legere, was inducted into the Nova Scotia Country Music Hall of Fame on September 14, 2019.
Legere shared this reaction to his honor….
“I’m truly grateful for the induction. Meeting friends through music, and hearing they enjoy what I do, is the main reason I made it my profession. With all the sadness in the world, at least the music breaks through with some happiness. This award means there are a few more smiles out there, including my own.”
Born in Amherst, Nova Scotia, on September 20, 1965, Ray Legere is one of Canada’s top fiddle and mandolin players; a household name for music lovers across the Maritimes.
A multi-talented performer, in 1986 he won the Open Mandolin Championship in Winfield, KS, and four years later he placed in the top 10 in the Grand Masters Fiddle Championships in Nashville.
Legere has won numerous Eastern Canadian Bluegrass Music Awards, including the mandolin, fiddle and guitar player of the year honors. The organization named him their Bluegrass Artist of the Year in 1996 and in 2003.
Having won their Fiddle Player of the Year title five times, Legere is recorded on the Central Canadian Bluegrass Awards’ Honor Roll.
As a youngster he heard a lot of music, as his parents listened to and played music themselves. His mother was a pianist, “and she made me start the piano,” and his father played fiddle and banjo. A year later at the age of ten, his father introduced the mandolin. Legere recalls, “[I] played old time fiddle tunes on the mandolin for three years, then started playing Louvin Brothers’ songs with some older friends.”
Later, he started listening to US bluegrass pickers, and learning about the Jimmy Gaudreau and Ricky Skaggs mandolin styles.
In 1979 Legere attended his first bluegrass festival (Nine Mile River, Nova Scotia); he recalls …
“My uncle, Ronald Legere, took me and met up with Mr. Bluegrass of the Maritimes, Wilson Moore, and played a few tunes on the mandolin for his camping pals. It sparked me to continue learning lots of tunes and to learn other instruments, mainly guitar and fiddle. Wilson has promoted my music ever since, especially on his bluegrass radio show.”
It was the following year that he began on guitar, learning from listening to Tony Rice’s Manzanita LP and the Bluegrass Album Band, practicing as much as he could at the time.
When he was 16 years old Legere picked up what has become his primary instrument – the fiddle – listening, “to a lot of Mark O’Connor’s and Kenny Baker. I got hooked … and kept at that the most.” He continued, “While in the states I hooked up with Jim Buchanan who tried to straighten out some bad habits it my fiddle technique. [Also, I] listened to classical violinists and Stéphane Grappelli, and more O’Connor.”
While in high school he learned to read music, took saxophone, and began listening to Charlie Parker, adapting his be-bop licks to bluegrass music.
During July 1982 he was called unexpectedly to fill in for Bill Monroe when he became ill before a concert.
This is what Legere remembers of the occasion that took place in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, …..
“I remember rushing to a near-by campground to grab my mandolin for a quick audition with the Blue Grass Boys. There was a mandolin player already there with them when we got back, but they let me try-out anyway and I was accepted. Standing beside my fiddle idol Kenny Baker was the absolute best. That’s how I wanted to play the fiddle, for at that time, I couldn’t play it.
After Bill Monroe’s surgery, escorted by his nurses, they allowed him to perform. I got introduced to him on stage on the final show. He certainly is a giant in the music business and the Father of this Bluegrass music.
The most important lesson I took from the experience was ‘the show must go on.’ Bill did not want to disappoint his audience, even when his surgery was only hours old.
It was a once in a lifetime experience. I believe I’m one of two people that got to play mandolin with the Blue Grass Boys. Joe Stuart, I believe was the other.”
At the age of 21 while Legere was visiting a friend in Nashville, Rhonda Vincent asked him to step in and perform with her on the stage at the Grand Ole Opry. He didn’t even have a fiddle with him, so borrowed one from her.
Another favorite moment in Legere’s career was performing at Carnegie Hall with banjo ace Alison Brown while he was on tour with Michelle Shocked, with whom, in 1992, he played dates throughout Australia, and Canada as well as the USA.
In 1987 he briefly replaced Jeff Midkiff in the Lonesome River Band.
Early in 1989 Legere toured Maine with Tony Rice, and later that same year Legere started his own group, Acoustic Horizon, along with his recording studio and record label with the same brand name.
In this video from their Rogersville Bluegrass Festival, Rogersville, New Brunswick appearance, in 2013, Ray Legere & Acoustic Horizon offer a rendition of Ragtime Annie …..
Then in 1990 he returned to Canada, and settled in Sackville, New Brunswick, upon which – until about 1996 – Legere began touring with the Scottish-Canadian tenor John McDermott. Legere was a member of the Celtic folk rock group Brakin’ Tradition, with whom he recorded three albums.
While with McDermott, Legere recorded two albums.
Despite his very busy schedule, in October 1991, Legere found the time to make another visit to Europe with White Mountain Bluegrass, having toured with them in Europe during 1986.
Knowing of Legere’s credits and television experience, CBC hired him as the musical director for a country music TV series called Fiddlehead Country (1997). A countrified version of his tune Back Against the Wind was used as the instrumental theme for the program.
Over the years he has been a special guest on several other French CBC music shows.
During the Winter of 1992/1993, Legere, with the help of pianist Kimberley Holmes, recorded several medleys consisting of what are mostly traditional tunes from the region; released on the cassette Maritime Fiddle Session (Acoustic Horizon AHM 1017). These were re-released on the CD Squirrely Moves, along with a handful of fiddle numbers well known to bluegrass fans and a few of Legere’s own compositions.
In 2002 he asked to perform on the highly-rated French language TV show, Pour L’Amour du Country (For the Love of Country), in the beginning 2002 for specific shows requiring fiddle. After a few years of that they decided to have Legere on full time playing mandolin and guitar when the song did not require fiddle. Beginning in December 2017 through to February 2018 he became a member of the band on the program.
This past year Legere, as part of the same band as on Pour L’Amour du Country, started a new show dedicated to country music, Tout Simplement Country, (All Simply Country) for Radio-Canada and ARTV.
From 1994 to as recently as July 2018 he worked with the Dick Smith/Mike O’Reilly Band. Legere commented, we “were basically just a couple of gigs a year and a recording band.” Periodically, Legere and O’Reilly have appeared together as a duo and they have just recorded some original tunes.
From 2014 through to 2016 – the year in which he was inducted into the New Brunswick Country Music Hall of Fame – Legere performed with the band Grasstic Measures.
During a near 40-year career he has been a continuing performer of many styles, working with Dave Harvey; Kayton Roberts; Prairie Oyster Band; Melanie & Creighton Doan; The Rankin Family; Joan Kennedy; Scott Coney; Zachary Richard; Rita McNeil; Roch Voisin; Shirley Meyers; and Jason McCoy, among others.
Also, he has performed with many bluegrass greats … including the Tony Rice Unit, Andrea Zonn, Pam Perry Combs, Del McCoury, JD Crowe & The New South, Wyatt Rice, David Grisman, Doc Watson, Alison Krauss, Dan Tyminski, Bill Keith, Bela Fleck, Michael Cleveland, Jim VanCleve, The Grascals, Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Tony Trischka, and Roland White … and is well respected amongst them.
In this clip from Winterhawk in 1990 Legere plays mandolin with the Tony Rice Unit on a hot rendition of Dusty Miller.
That respect has extended to Legere recording on albums by Tom Adams; Wyatt Rice; The Lynn Morris Band; Yoshihiro Arita; Emory Lester; The Gibson Brothers; The Travelers; LeRoy Mack; Bill Emerson and The Sweet Dixie Band; Darren Beachley and The Legends of the Potomac; The Bluegrass Unit; Stan Tyminski & Rustic Blue; and Windy Creek.
He is featured in Greg Hemmings’ documentary East Coast Breakdown (2004).
Established to develop and promote public interest in old-time fiddling, country and bluegrass music in Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia Country Music Hall of Fame (NSCMHF) inducts members each year who have made a significant impact on the country music industry.
Others inducted in 2019 are fiddler and keyboard player Kimberley Holmes of Carroll’s Corner, Halifax County; Cape Breton born and veteran of the Canadian country music scene Harold MacIntyre of Brampton, Ontario; and radio program host Wilson Moore of Amherst. Two others, Springhill fiddler Johnny Mooring and eastern shore songwriter Ted Germain, were inducted posthumously.
The all joined the ranks of music greats such as Anne Murray and Hank Snow.
The NSCMHF is located in the Hank Snow Hometown Museum in Liverpool.
Multi-talented Mike O’Reilly has been voted Entertainer of the Year eight times by the Canadian Bluegrass Society, DJ of the Year five times and Composer of the Year four times….
“Ray Legere is one of my musical heroes! He is the consummate musician!
He is one of the best (there is no such thing as best) fiddlers I have ever heard.
He has a style all his own. No matter what genre he is playing you can easily say ‘that’s Ray Legere.’ His mandolin playing doesn’t take a back seat to anyone, he is lyrical and inventive and always exciting. To top this off he’s also a great guitar player! The best part of Ray is his genuine down to earth personality. I have toured with him many times and he is generous to a fault. Long may he reign!”
Eric Gibson remembers Legere played several shows with the Gibson Brothers through the years …
“He pulls such beautiful tone on the fiddle, and the notes coming from his mandolin are so fat, even when he is picking at breakneck speed. He is a master of so many styles yet has his own sound. We were lucky enough to have him play some gigs with us in 1990s not far from home, and he stayed for a few days with us on the farm. Years later, he stopped by to visit with our parents when passing through. Even now when I see him, he always asks how our mom is doing. He is a true talent, a great guy, and so deserving of this honor.”
Roger Williams, “one of bluegrass music’s most colorful and innovative resophonic guitarists” and currently with Amy Gallatin and Stillwaters, was a member of White Mountain Bluegrass with Legere during their visit to Europe in 1986 …..
“Ray and I go back nearly 40 years. Ray is certainly one of the finest musicians I’ve ever heard and have had the privilege of playing music with. The fact that he has shared the stage with some the biggest names in bluegrass and acoustic music is a testament to that fact. He is just one of those musicians with an over-abundance of talent that inspires others to play at a higher level. I know that I am a better musician today due to my association with him over the years.”
In this recording of Cincinnati Rag from his 2015 CD Southern Fiddling in the Kenny Baker style Ray Legere demonstrates his considerable skills on fiddle, mandolin and guitar ….
Legere has recorded seven solo albums and appears on as many as 500 recordings as a session player. A small sample of those include Pat Moore; Rita MacNeil; John McDermott; Just Plain Folk; Jason Fowler; Bernie Leblanc; Jared Lutes; Jim Dorrie; The Cooper Brothers; and The Ennis Sisters.
Last month (November) Legere was among three honorees as a 2019 Laureate for the Lieutenant-Governor Award for High Achievement in Performing Arts, a program designed to recognize the outstanding contribution of artists to the arts in New Brunswick, Canada.
- The Common Denominator (Acoustic Horizon AHM 1015, released in 1991)
- Back Against the Wind (Acoustic Horizon AHM 1016, released in 1993)
- Squirrely Moves (EMI Canada E21Y 20091, 1999)
- Bluegrass in the Backwoods (Acoustic Horizon AHM 1019, 2002)
- Southern Fiddling in The Kenny Baker Style (Acoustic Horizon, 2015)
- Ready To Jam (Acoustic Horizon, 2006)
Raymond/Ray Legere & Roger Williams
- A Decade Later (Acoustic Horizon 1018, 1994)
- River of No Return (Strictly Country SCR 47, released in The Netherlands in 1997)
Ray Legere & Mike O’Reilly
- Story Songs and Toe-tapping Tunes
Dick Smith-Mike O’Reilly Band
- Dick Smith, Mike O’Reilly Band (New Era NE-CD 100, 1998)
- A Honky-Tonk Frame of Mind (New Era NE-CD 200, 2004)
- Life’s Road (New Era NE-CD 300, 2005)
- Music Man (Brakin’ BTCD 001)
- Powerfolk (Brakin’ BTCD 002, 1992)
- Presence in the Past (Brakin’ BTCD 003)
- Bowfire (Marquis Records, 2001)
- Square Dance Town (GM 2016-1, 2016)
- The Young Mando Monsters (Mandolin Artistry, Vol. 1) (VMP-CD0100, 1995) / Raymond Legere –Puddle Jumper and Cruisin’ the Autobahn.
- Gonna Paint the Town, from the album The Stanley Tradition: Tribute to A Bluegrass Legacy (Doobie Shea Records – DS-CD-1001, 1996). James King sings lead.