The Travellers to be Inducted into the Mariposa Hall of Fame

The Travellers to be Inducted into the Mariposa Hall of Fame

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If you are a Canadian, you know our version of Woody Guthrie’s classic This Land is Your Land – where Vancouver Island, Bonavista and the Arctic Circle are cited instead of the New York Island, California and the Gulfstream waters. We can thank the Travellers for that national treasure of a song, which they altered and made into a genuine Canadian folk song (and a hit record.)

The Travellers grew out of folk singing sessions at Camp Naivelt, a Jewish socialist vacation community west of Brampton in the 1950s. Modeling themselves after Pete Seeger’s group The Weavers, the band had tremendous success in a nation that seemed reluctant to promote home-grown talent. Led over the years by banjo player Jerry Grey, the group has had many members come and go over the years. Sid Dolgay, one of the founders of the Mariposa Folk Festival, played the mandicello in the group for a number of years. Joe Hampson, husband of Sharon Hampson of Sharon, Lois and Bram fame, was another key member.

The group produced several popular records in the fifties and sixties and toured extensively across Canada. In 1962 they were part of a cultural exchange with the Soviet Union and toured parts of Russia. They played for Queen Elizabeth during her 1964 tour of Canada. In 1967 they played at Expo 67 in Montreal and in 1970 represented Canada  at Expo 70 in Osaka Japan. They entertained Canadian military units in Germany and Cypress and were equally at home on university campuses. The group made numerous radio and television appearances over the years on shows such as Haunted Studio, Pick the Stars, and had five television specials of their own. They received a Juno nomination for their children’s record Merry-Go-Round in 1980. In 200, a National Film Board documentary chronicled the band’s history.

When the Mariposa Folk Festival began in 1961, The Travellers were the headline act and they repeatedly appeared over the next several years: 1962, 1963, 1968, 1990, 1993, 1995, and of course in 2000 at the first festival back in Orillia in over 37 years. Over their long career, the group has sung about and promoted values related to labour solidarity, peace, civil rights and social justice – values also espoused by the Mariposa Folk Festival. Therefore it is fitting to finally see The Travellers inducted into the festival’s Hall of Fame in 2019 alongside Sharon, Lois and Bram and Owen McBride.

By Mike Hill

In 2010, Jerry Gray of The Travellers conducted the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s unique rendition of This Land Is Your Land.