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Joseph Marsh was born in New Waterford, Nova Scotia on December 19,
1919. He began his career on CJCB Sydney Radio and continued his radio
show while recording for Melotone and Apex Records during the 1940's. He
was known by many Cape Bretoner's as the Radio Ranger. Alonzo and his
father, Fred, co-wrote a number of songs together. Some of his favorite
songs were Molly Bond, An Old Castle In Scotland, Little Darlin' I'm
Here in Korea, I Know What it Means to be Lonesome and My Old Brown Coat
and Me. Alonzo married Jean Cameron of New Waterford and had seven
children. They moved to Ontario with their five children in the mid 50's
where two more children joined the family. He continued to work and
entertain on a part-time basis at many local nightclubs, which included
the Main Street Jamboree in Hamilton. Every summer vacation meant a
return to family in Cape Breton and at least one performance or show on
CJCB. Many evenings in Ontario were spent with visitors from Cape
Breton, including Hank Snow, for whom he often performed the opening act
for his shows in the Southern Ontario Region. Alonzo passed away March
24, 1973 leaving musical memories passed down to his children,
grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Earl Mitton was born in 1926. He grew up in Stewiacke, Nova Scotia where he started playing the fiddle at ten years of age. His father and two uncles were also musically talented. He joined the army in 1944 at age 18 and following his service in 1946 he moved to New Brunswick. In 1960 he married Phyllis Goodine of Fredericton and the same year started his band “The Valley Rhythm Boys”. The band was very popular and played on CFNB Radio as well as CHSJ television in Saint John. Earl also appeared on the Don Messer show and filled in as summer replacement for the Messer show on radio. He also played clarinet and saxophone and was in the Royal Canadian Regimental Band as well as the Fredericton Marching Band. He was a well known composer of fiddle tunes including Carleton County Hornpipe, The Nova Scotia Polka, Earl Mitton’s Breakdown, York County Hornpipe and many others. He recorded on the Arc and Quality labels and in the 1950’s had the very first release on the then new Rodeo label. Earl Mitton passed away in 1991.
The Downeasters came together as a working group in 1956, consisting of Warren "Rusty" Roache, acoustic guitar; Kenny Meisner, fiddle; Dave "Sonny" Fenerty, violin; mandolin, and five-string banjo; Mervin Maxwell, pedal steel guitar; and Roy Eastman, acoustic bass. It was in this format that the group made its earliest broadcast performances from the Halifax studios of CBC Radio. Thanks to enthusiastic audience reaction, the Downeasters soon had their own fifteen-minute TV Show on CBC television. The show was very popular and ran for about five years, during the heyday of black-and-white television. The band had several personnel changes. When Roy Eastman relocated, the bass fiddle slot was taken by "Red Mike" MacDonald and then Wendell Simm. Chuck Lohnes, Teddy Trutz and Hughie "Champ" Johnston each appeared during various periods on steel guitar. Dale Wood brought his mandolin to the group as their sound began to gravitate towards Bluegrass. Through all this, original members Rusty, Sonny and Kenny stayed on as a solid core of the group. And so the Downeasters remained a cohesive country band, with a repertoire that included bluegrass, southern and western style fiddle, classic ballads as well as a number of other styles. The group also kept busy with live performances throughout the Maritimes. They became one of the all-time top Maritime country acts - an attraction that local audiences knew and loved. Dave Fenerty's death in 1979 brought an end to the original trio, but his contribution has lived on in the performances of his band mates. With Wendell Simm and Dale Wood now playing regularly alongside Rusty and Kenny, the Downeasters name remains a hallmark of the best Maritime country talent, with special performances still keeping the sound alive.
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