The Travellers

The Travellers. Folk group formed in Toronto during the summer of 1953 by Jerry Gray (banjo and lead singer), Sid Dolgay (mando-cello), and the singers Helen Gray, Jerry Goodis, and Oscar Ross. In 1990 Gray recalled, "The Weavers was [sic] our model and Pete Seeger was our patron saint" (Toronto Star, 22 June).

Under Gray's leadership more than a dozen singers and instrumentalists were associated with the group. Helen Gray was replaced in 1954 by Simone Cook (m Johnston). Johnston was replaced in 1969 by Pam Fernie, and Fernie in 1974 by Aileen Ahern, who retired in 1990. Ross left in 1955, his place taken 1955-7 by Marty Meslin. Goodis continued until 1961, and Dolgay until 1965. The guitarist Ray Woodley was a member 1961-74. A second guitarist, Ted Roberts, was added in 1968. The bassist Joe Lawrence Hampson joined in 1965, and the drummer Don Vickery in 1972. The group's music directors have been, in turn, Sam Goldberg until 1961, Eugene Dolny 1961-5, and Ted Roberts, beginning in 1968. In 1991 the Travellers comprised Gray, Roberts, Hampson, and Vickery.

The Travellers made their TV debut in 1954 on the CBC's Haunted House and were finalists in 1956 on the network's Pick the Stars. The group members adapted the Woody Guthrie song "This Land Is Your Land," in 1954 and recorded it in 1957 as a single. The song was then included in their first LP Folk Songs of Canada, which was followed by Songs of North America in 1958. In 1959, The Travellers signed with Columbia Records of Canada and produced seven albums during the 1960s.

In 1961 they appeared at the first Mariposa Folk Festival and toured Canada with Jacques Labrecque. In 1962 they performed A Musical Tour of Canada in 19 concerts in the USSR. A Canadian tour in 1963 was followed in 1964 by a royal command performance in Charlottetown and a tour of Britain. The Travellers' centennial tour of Canada in 1967 involved more than 100 concerts, including performances in the Northwest Territories and northern Alberta. The group also performed during the opening of the Canadian Pavilion of Expo 70 in Osaka, Japan, and entertained on Canadian armed forces bases in Germany and Cyrpus in the early 1970s.

The Travellers performed for children in the late 1950s and gave children's concerts annually during the 1970s at the Minkler Auditorium of Seneca College, Toronto. The group was popular on university campuses during the 1960s and early 1970s, corresponding with the years of campus unrest, and its LP of labour songs, A Century of Song (1967), established the Travellers' profile in the Canadian labour movement. Reducing their itinerary in the late 1970s they continued to appear in schools, and for political events and labour rallies through the 1980s, averaging 30 performances a year. Hampson and Roberts as a duo, and Roberts and Gray also performed as solo artists, the latter specializing in Yiddish material. In 1980 the Travellers celebrated their 25th anniversary with a concert at Harbourfront that brought together many former members, and in 1990 Gray, Ahern, Hampson, Roberts and Vickery were joined by Sid Dolgay for performances at the 30th Mariposa Folk Festival.

In addition to its labour and children's material, the Travellers' repertoire included traditional Canadian and US folk songs, some First Nations songs, and contemporary titles by Wade Hemsworth, Gordon Lightfoot, and others. A compilation album of recordings from the early 1960s titled This Land is Your Land, was released in 1999, followed in 2000 by a National Film Board documentary by the same name that described the folk music in Canada during the 1960s and the early career of The Travellers.

Although never officially disbanded, since the 1980s only Gray along with other musicians have periodically performed as The Travellers.


Across Canada with the Travellers. 1958. Hallmark CS-7

The Travellers Sing Songs of North America. 1959. Hallmark CS-9

Quilting Bee. 1960. Col FS-512

Introducing the Travellers. 1961. Col BN-26013

The Travellers on Tour. 1962. Col FS-545

Something to Sing About. 1963. Col FS-610

We're on Our Way Again 1964-5. Col EL-103

The Travellers Still Travelling. Harmony HES-6003 (in part a reissue of material previously released by Columbia)

A Century of Song. 1967. Arc AS-261

This Land, the Travellers Centennial Album. 1967. Arc AS-250

The Travellers Applaud Canada. 1968. Arc AS-268

The Travellers Sing for Kids. 1970. Caedmon ML-7001

The Travellers. 1970. CBC LM-82

Merry Go Round. 1980. Elephant LFN-80-03

Also, two songs on Sea to Sea (Arc CNE-68) and one on The Children's Collection, Vol 1 (Tapestry (C-101)