Featuring: David Essig, Rick Taylor, Jenny Whiteley, Pat Temple & the Hi LO Players, Barry James Payne/String Bone, Russell deCarle with Steve Briggs, Liam Russell, Pat Temple and the Hi-LO Players, Lynne Hanson and Linda McRae.
Born in Toronto, Bennett was part of the 1970’s folk music scene in Canada, alongside such figures as Bruce Cockburn, Stan Rogers and David Wiffen. He released his first single (“White Line“) in 1969 and his final solo album (the Juno Award-winning Heartstrings) in 1998, which subsequently won a 1999 Juno Award for Best Roots and Traditional Album – Solo.
Bennett joined Fred Eaglesmith’s band and toured the world as Eaglesmith’s sideman on mandolin, harmonica and background vocals for 16 years. In 2007, while doing a solo gig, Bennett suffered a heart attack on stage, finished the show, but had to leaving touring for several months. As he was preparing to head back on the road for a solo tour around Ontario, Bennett suffered a fatal heart attack on Feb. 15th, 2008.
While commonly regarded as a major talent amongst his peers and the Ontario folk community, Bennett did not become as famous as his contemporaries until 1996, when Stephen Fearing, Colin Linden and Tom Wilson formed Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, a supergroup named for Bennett’s 1978 album, and recorded a tribute album featuring Bennett’s songs. On September 10, 2010 in Edmonton, Alberta, Bennett was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame during the Canadian Country Music Awards.
Willie’s guitar player, Londoner and blues man extraordinaire, Rick Taylor and Barry James Payne (String Bone, Rant Maggie Rant), who perform together as Payne & Taylor, teamed up to create this show celebrating the legendary folk hero Bennett. As well as performing some Willie P. Bennett songs themselves, they are bringing in Bennett’s first record producer, guitar virtuoso David Essig, Juno Award winners Russell deCarle and Jenny Whiteley to top the list of artists, which also include Hamilton’s Ginger St. James, one of Willie’s best friends and musical compadres Pat Temple and the Hi-LO Players; versatile folk-rock success Liam Russell; rock, blues and roots singer/songwriter marvel Lynne Hansen; and captivating folk-roots musician and facilitator of positive change through community music workshops Linda McRae.
This show marks ten years since Willie’s passing and Payne and Taylor felt that it was important to keep Willie’s legacy alive in a celebration of his life and songs. “It’s been said that Willie probably wouldn’t want any of this fanfare, but his legacy is too important to ignore. He was one of the most respected songwriters to ever come out of Canada. A songwriter’s songwriter. One of the all time best. We can’t let his memory fade.” ~ Rick Taylor