GRAHAM TOWNSEND (1990 Inductee)

Born in Toronto, Graham, legally blind from birth, grew up in Buckingham, Quebec where he absorbed the rich culture of the Irish, French and Scottish music of the Ottawa Valley that would later mold him into a prolific composer of over 400 songs and a musician with a repertoire of close to 4,000 fiddle tunes. Graham’s father, Fred, worked as a square dance caller for Don Messer and, through this connection, he and Graham became close friends in the early 1950’s, a friendship that continued until Messer’s death in the early 1970’s. Don Messer was instrumental in igniting the spark in Graham which would lead to him becoming one of the most innovative fiddlers in Canada.

Throughout his career, Graham won many fiddling championships. At age 11, he placed third against 85 competitors in the Shelburne Old Time Fiddlers Contest Open Division, going on to win that competition four times. He won the Canadian National Exhibition Fiddlers Contest three consecutive years, the Simcoe Fiddle Championship twice, the Southern Ontario Championship twice, the Northern Ontario Championship twice, the Shelburne Novelty Championship, and the Pembroke Old Time Fiddling Contest, along with numerous second and third place wins.

Over the years, Graham shared the stage and worked in the studio with many well known entertainers: Hank Snow, Johnny Cash, Porter Wagoner, Buck Owens, Bill Monroe, Sonny James, Roy Acuff, George Jones, Anne Murray, Dolly Parton, Charley Pride, Dick Damron, and John Allen Cameron among them. He gave two command performances for Queen Elizabeth - on Parliament Hill for Expo 67 with Gilles Roy, Donny Gilchrist and Phillippe Bruneau, and at the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Australia, and he toured all over the world. Graham worked extensively with the CBC for many years, and his other television appearances included the Tommy Hunter Show, the Alan Thicke Show, Canada AM, the Grand Ole Opry, the WWVA Jamboree in Wheeling, West Virginia, and Star Route, a 35-week series produced in Hollywood, California.

Induction into the North American Fiddlers Hall of Fame was one of the many highlights of Graham’s career as was his appearance on Parliament Hill for the 1996 CBC Canada Day Show and his invitation to appear as a guest performer at the Grand Masters Fiddle Contest in 1998. Sadly, Graham passed away in 1998, but his music lives on for all to enjoy through the works of young artists like The Schryer Triplets, Natalie MacMaster, April Verch, and many others.

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