Stringband

Stringband. The folk group formed in 1971 in Toronto by the singer-songwriters Marie-Lynn Hammond and Bob Bossin. Hammond's place was taken 1978-80 by Nancy Ahern. Bossin assumed, and would retain, sole direction of Stringband on Hammond's return.

Stringband

Stringband. The folk group formed in 1971 in Toronto by the singer-songwriters Marie-Lynn Hammond and Bob Bossin. Hammond's place was taken 1978-80 by Nancy Ahern. Bossin assumed, and would retain, sole direction of Stringband on Hammond's return. Between them Hammond and Bossin played a variety of instruments (guitar, banjo, autoharp, percussion). In turn, Stringband was joined by fiddlers Jerry Lewycky, Ben Mink, Terry King, Zeke Mazurek, and Calvin Cairns - and in 1976, by various bass players until Dennis Nichol (bass) completed the quartet permanently in 1978. Various other instrumentalists have assisted Stringband with recordings.

Stringband's own Nick label, named for the philanthropist and Stringband benefactor Nicholas Laidlaw, was one of the first successful, musician-run, independent record companies in Canada. Five LPs were issued 1974-80 by Nick: Canadian Sunset (with Lewycky), National Melodies (Mink), Thanks to the Following (King), Maple Leaf Dog (King, and Ahern), Stringband Live (Mazurek, and Hammond). A cassette, Across Russia by Stage (Cairns) followed in 1984, documenting a month-long tour of the USSR the previous year. From 1986-1994 Nick released four more albums, and in 2001 Stringband fans raised $25,000 to preserve The Indispensable Stringband, a thirtieth anniversary CD.

During its heyday - the 1970s and early 1980s - Stringband was one of Canada's leading and most determinedly nationalistic contemporary folk groups. It worked initially in Ontario coffeehouses and universities, moved at mid-decade to the national club and festival circuit, and also appeared in the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. It also toured in Mexico in 1977 and performed in Japan at Expo 85. Stringband has organized concerts in Toronto for various occasions such as May Day and New Year's Eve. On Canada Day 1981, in celebration of its 10th anniversary, the trio mounted an all-Canadian folk festival (Ferron, Pied Pear, Stan Rogers, etc) at Harbourfront. Hammond and Bossin pursued solo careers after Stringband but appeared together at Expo 86, undertook a brief 20th-anniversary reunion in 1991 and later toured Western Canada together in 2003.

Stringband's repertoire included original songs in English and French, titles from other Canadians (eg, Angèle Arsenault, Wade Hemsworth, Connie Kaldor, Stan Rogers), as well as traditional material, fiddle tunes, jazz pieces and satirical and novelty items. Bossin's 'Dief Will Be the Chief Again' was a minor hit on radio in 1975. Other Stringband originals of note included Hammond's 'I Don't Sleep with Strangers Anymore,' and Bossin's 'Daddy Was a Ball Player' and 'Maple Leaf Dog'.

Bossin (b Toronto 5 Jan 1946), based in Vancouver, has toured the country in the one-man revues Home Remedy for Nuclear War ('guaranteed to prevent nuclear war or your money back') and Sandinistas for Star Wars, sustaining the tradition of irreverent, leftist political satire that he had started in Stringband.

See Fiddling; Folk Music


Further Reading

  • 'Stringband's music is home-made and friendly,' CanComp, 89, Mar 1974

    Fetherling, Doug. 'Stringband's search for a Canadian style,' SatN, Jun 1976

    Ross, Val. 'Between the notes,' Weekend Magazine, 19 Jan 1977

    Lacey, Liam. 'Soviets give folkies the grand tour,' Toronto Globe and Mail, 21 Apr 1984

    - 'On the road with a Home Remedy for Nuclear War,' Toronto Globe and Mail, 9 Nov 1990

    Ross, Val. 'Can Stringband heal the rifts?' Toronto Globe and Mail, 1 Jul 1991