Willie P. Bennett

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Willie P. Bennett
Willie P. Bennett at the Roots of Heaven festival at Patronaat in Haarlem, Netherlands (2006)
Willie P. Bennett at the Roots of Heaven festival at Patronaat in Haarlem, Netherlands (2006)
Background information
Birth nameWilliam Patrick Bennett
Born(1951-10-26)26 October 1951
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
OriginToronto, Ontario, Canada
Died15 February 2008(2008-02-15) (aged 56)
Peterborough, Ontario
GenresFolk, country, alternative country, bluegrass
Occupation(s)singer/songwriter, mandolinist, harmonica player
Years active1971–2007
LabelsWoodshed, Duke Street, BNatural, independent.

William Patrick "Willie P." Bennett (26 October 1951 – 15 February 2008) was a Canadian folk-music singer-songwriter,[1] harmonica player, and mandolinist. Bennett was part of the 1970s folk music scene in Canada, and wrote and recorded many original songs.[2] As well as performing as a solo artist, he was part of several well-known Ontario bands.

Life and career[edit]

Born in Toronto, Bennett was first recorded by folksinger David Wiffen, who released a cover of "White Lines" in 1973.[3] Bennett released his first album, including his own recording of the song, the following year.

As solo performer, he recorded seven albums.[3] Early in his career, he also formed and fronted a newgrass group, the Bone China Band, touring through Ontario.

Throughout his career, Bennett kept busy as a sideman in bands fronted by other artists. From 1974 to 1979 he toured and recorded with the Dixie Flyers, playing harmonica, while continuing to perform as a solo artist.[4] In the early 1990s, Bennett was a member of Toronto-based Pat Temple's band, the High Lonesome Players, playing live and appearing on their albums. In 1991 he joined Fred Eaglesmith's band, the Flying Squirrels, with whom he toured and recorded,[5] playing chiefly mandolin and harmonica and singing backup vocals, also serving as road manager, until shortly before his death.[6]

Bennett also played harmonica live and on recordings with Joe Hall, Doug McArthur, Sneezy Waters and many other country and folk artists.

Bennett co-wrote the song "Goodbye, So Long, Hello" with Russell deCarle. The song was recorded by deCarle's band Prairie Oyster, released as a single in 1990.

Bennett returned to prominence in 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.[6] Bennett's first subsequent album of new material, Heartstrings, won a 1999 Juno Award for Best Roots and Traditional Album – Solo.[5]

During a 2007 Victoria Day weekend concert in Midland, Ontario, Bennett suffered an on-stage heart attack; he continued playing to the end of the concert, but after that was forced to stop touring.

He died of another heart attack on 15 February 2008, at his home in Peterborough, Ontario.[7] At the time of his death, he was recording an album and was planning on rejoining Fred Eaglesmith on tour. His sister inherited his music rights.[8]


David Essig, producer of Bennett's first three albums, paid tribute to him in the song "Willie P", released on the 2009 album Double Vision (with Rick Scott). Canadian country singer Corb Lund wrote a song for Bennett on his 2009 album Losin' Lately Gambler, entitled "It's Hard to Keep a White Shirt Clean". Canadian songwriter Ian Tamblyn's 2009 album Gyre included a song he wrote for Willie called "Hurricane Heart". Americana songwriter Kenny Butterill wrote a song for Willie, "Wille We Miss Ya", released on his 2014 release Troubadour Tales.

In 2010, Bennett was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Association's Canadian Country Music Hall of Honour[9] during the Canadian Country Music Awards. The award was accepted by his mother, sister and nephew.

The annual Fred Eaglesmith Charity Picnic in Aylmer, Ontario has hosted an annual Willie P. Bennett Memorial Hangover Run every year since 2010.[10]

In 2014, the "Willie P. Bennett Legacy Project" was launched online, providing a space to share stories and new versions of Bennett's songs and to start a memorial award in his honour.




Year Single CAN Country Album
1979 "Lace And Pretty Flowers" / "This Lonesome Feelin' " Blackie and the Rodeo King
1989 "The Lucky Ones" / "Ain't Got No Notion" 19 The Lucky Ones
"Train Tracks" / "Goodbye So Long Hello"


Year Album Label
1975 Tryin' to Start Out Clean Woodshed Records
1977 Hobo's Taunt Woodshed Records
1979 Blackie and the Rodeo King Woodshed Records
1985 The Lucky Ones Self-Released
1989 The Lucky Ones Duke Street Records
1991 Collectibles (Anthology) Dark Light Records
1993 Take My Own Advice Dark Light Records
1998 Heartstrings Bnatural Records


Year Album Label Details
1979 Collage Bytown BFFTF 1 Includes "White Line" (from Tryin' to Start Out Clean)
1979 Live at the Nervous Breakdown Nervous Breakdown Productions NB001 Includes "Has Anyone Seen My Baby Here Tonight" recorded live in London, Ontario, with Mendelson Joe, (mislabeled "Storm Clouds" on LP cover)
1981 Touch the Earth CBC LM 473 Includes "My Pie", recorded live in CBC Studio 4S in Toronto, 1974
2001 Festival to Go: All Canadian Sampler Vol. 2 Festival Distribution FDI 003 Includes "Restless Wind" (from Heartstrings)
2006 Hope: The Design Hope Songwriters Project Design Hope Includes the original song "Solitaire"
2014 Live From Dollar Bill's: Bootlegger's Legacy Not on label Includes "Tryin' To Start Out Clean", "Come on Train", "It's Not The Love You Give Me", recorded live in Kingston, Ontario

With The Dixie Flyers[edit]

Willie was a full time member of this bluegrass band, playing on harmonica what would generally be considered the fiddle part.

Year Album
1975 Light Medium Heavy
1976 Cheaper to Lease
1977 Just Pickin

Pat Temple and the High Lonesome Players[edit]

Primarily on harmonica, but also mandolin and harmony vocals.

Year Album
1990 Stone Boat
1991 Connecting Lines
1994 Cold Cuts

With Fred Eaglesmith[edit]

Willie played with Fred for 23 years, live & in the studio, playing acoustic & electric mandolin, harmonica, and singing backup & harmony. He was a full time member of Fred's backing band through various iterations and also worked as road manager.

Year Album
1987 Indiana Road (as Fred J. Eaglesmith)
1990 Wooden Wheels in Hagersville (single-only release, as Fred J. Eaglesmith & The Flying Squirrels)
1991 There Ain't No Easy Road (as Fred J. Eaglesmith & The Flying Squirrels)
1993 Things Is Changin' (as Fred J. Eaglesmith & The Flying Squirrels)
1994 From the Paradise Motel (live, as Fred J. Eaglesmith & The Flying Squirrels)
1996 Drive in Movie
1997 Lipstick, Lies and Gasoline
1999 50 Odd Dollars
2001 Ralph's Last Show (live, as Fred Eaglesmith & The Flying Squirrels)
2002 Falling Stars and Broken Hearts
2003 Balin (as Fred Eaglesmith & The Flathead Noodlers)
2003 The Official Bootleg Series, Vol. 2 (live, with The Smokin' Losers & The Flathead Noodlers)
2005 There Ain't No Easy Road (DVD release of documentary film, includes four tracks performed live by Fred Eaglesmith and The Flying Squirrels)
2006 Milly's Cafe
2006 Pickin' In The Pines: Live At The 2005 Great Northern Picnic (live concert DVD, as Fred Eaglesmith And The Flying Squirrels)
2007 Live Below Sea Level (live concert DVD, as Fred Eagelsmith and band)
2008 Tinderbox

Other contributions[edit]

Year Album Artist Details
1976 Sisteron Doug McArthur Harmonica
1977 Sad Songs & Waltzes Bob Webb, Dougie Trineer, Frank Penner, Ross J. Allen Harmonica on "Long Distance Call (Free Beer)", "Sad Songs And Waltzes", "Midnight Rider" (with Bob Webb)
1977 Larger Than Life Denis LePage Lead vocal & additional lyrics ("John Henry, The Gambler"), harmonica
1978 The Doctor Is In Denis LePage Harmonica ("Dalrymple", "Gravel Run", "Over The Rainbow")
1978 Hard Rock Miner Glen Reid Harmonica, band member
1979 Denis Lepage & Station Road Denis Lepage & Station Road Harmonica
197? Musician at Large Richard Knechtel Harmonica
1980 It's High Time Coyote Harmonica
1981 Sings Hank Williams Sneezy Waters Harmonica
1985 Fire in the Snow Terry Christenson Harmonica
1986 The Immortals Colin Linden Backing vocals
1987 Summer Heart Terry Christenson Harmonica
1990 Different Kind of Fire Prairie Oyster Co-wrote "Goodbye, So Long, Hello" with Russel deCarle
1990 Violet And Black Scott Merritt Harmonica
1993 Drinking with the Poet Scott B. Sympathy Harmonica
1994 Antarctica Ian Tamblyn Harmonica on "The Penguin Came From Pittsburgh" & "The Bloodvein"
1995 Straight Line Katherine Wheatley Mandolin, harmonica on "Main Street"
1995 Hear Them Callin' Kevin Head
1995 The Stars Above Tim Harrison Harmonica
1996 High or Hurtin' Blackie & the Rodeo Kings Vocals, harmony vocals, harmonica, mandolin
1996 Slightly Haunted Lynn Miles Harmonica on "I Always Told You The Truth", "Long Time Coming", harmonica & mandolin on "The Ghost of Deadlock"
1996 She & She & She Bird Sisters Harmonica
1997 Blue Plate Special Prairie Oyster Harmony Vocals "She Won't Be Lonely Long", "In The Summertime"; Co-wrote "One Way Track" with Russell deCarle
1997 Flying Jenny Linda McRae Harmonica
1997 Industrial Lullaby Stephen Fearing Co-wrote "Coryanna", Harmonica on "So Many Miles Away", "Dog on a Chain"
1998 Painter Passing Through Gordon Lightfoot Harmonica on "Uncle Toad Said"
1999 Handle with Care Paul McKay & the Perfect Strangers Lead vocals ("Bless This World'", "Back to the Country", "Maybe It's Crazy", "Wildwood Lullaby"), harmonica ("Back to the Country")
1999 Kings Of Love Blackie & the Rodeo Kings Harmonica & vocals ("Patience Of A Working Man"), mandolin ("Lean On Your Peers", "Red Dress"), harmonica ("If You Have To Choose")
2000 Rough but Honest Miner Richard Wright Harmonica (member of Wake Up Jacob Band)
2001 Walk On Terry Tufts Harmonica, Jew's harp
2002 Jazz: All Over The Map Paul McKay vocals on "Maybe It's Crazy", "Wildwood Lullaby"
2003 Dirty Rotten Shame Stephen Hogg Backing Vocals, Harmonica, Mandolin, Jew's Harp
2003 Just a Songwriter Kenny Butterill Mandolin
2005 The Canadian F̶i̶d̶d̶l̶e̶ Violin John P. Allen Guitar & harmonica on "Lace and Pretty Flowers"
2005 Roger Marin Jr Roger Marin Jr Harmonica; Co-wrote "It Breaks My Heart" with Roger Marin Jr.
2006 I'm a Mountain Sarah Harmer Harmonica on "How Deep in the Valley"
2006 Hope: The Design Hope Songwriters Project Various Artists Mandolin on Linda Duemo track "Circus Life", harmonica on Dan Medakovic track "Fine Line'"
2007 Lovers Find Reasons Lindsay Jane
2007 Anywhere Paul O'Toole Mandolin on "Creepy Coated Love Song"
2007 High Roads Roger Marin Harmonica
2007 Redneck Lullaby J.P. Riemens & the Bar Flies Harmonica ("Indian Girl", "Small Town Inertia"), backup vocals ("Redneck Lullaby")
2007 I Dreamt I Had a Recurring Dream Wally High and the Non-Prophets Co-wrote "Angels in Prison (Biting at Angels)"; mandolin, harmonica, guitar, backing vocals on multiple tracks
2008 Evening Bird Paul McKay & the Perfect Strangers Lead vocals on "Just Another Kid in Graceland"
2015 Day For Day Pat Temple Co-wrote "Back In Style" with Pat Temple

Cover versions[edit]

Song Artist Album Year
Andrew's Waltz Blackie & the Rodeo Kings Kings of Love (also on the 2009 compilation Swinging From The Chains of Love) 1999
Claire Lynch North By South 2016
Blackie & the Rodeo King Blackie & the Rodeo Kings High or Hurtin' 1996
Caney Fork River Old Man Luedecke My Hands Are on Fire and Other Love Songs 2010
Come on Train Blackie & the Rodeo Kings High or Hurtin' 1996
Country Squall Blackie & the Rodeo Kings High or Hurtin' 1996
Crying The Blues Audrey Auld Tonk 2013
Don't Blame Your Blues On Me Blackie & the Rodeo Kings Let's Frolic Again 2007
Don't Have Much to Say Sneezy Waters You've Got Sawdust on the Floor of Your Heart 1978
Driftin' Snow Blackie & the Rodeo Kings High or Hurtin' 1996
Faces Blackie & the Rodeo Kings High or Hurtin' 1996
For the Sake of a Dollar Blackie & the Rodeo Kings with Russell deCarle High or Hurtin' 1996
Goodbye, So Long, Hello Prairie Oyster Different Kind of Fire (also released as a single, 1990) 1990
Has Anyone Seen My Baby Here Tonight Blackie & the Rodeo Kings High or Hurtin' 1996
If I Could Take My Own Advice Prairie Oyster Different Kind of Fire (CD versions only, also b-side to US single release of Goodbye, So Long, Hello, 1990) 1990
Pat Temple Day For Day 2015
If You Have to Choose Blackie & the Rodeo Kings Kings of Love 1999
Job Disorder Scott B. Sympathy Neil Young Street 1990
Blackie & the Rodeo Kings High or Hurtin' 1996
John Henry The Gambler Tom Wilson Live at the Acoustic Grill 2010
Lace and Pretty Flowers Binder Brothers Binder Nation 2006
Blackie & the Rodeo Kings High or Hurtin' 1996
John P. Allen Canadian Fiddle (violin) 2005
Sneezy Waters You've Got Sawdust on the Floor of Your Heart 1978
Music in Your Eyes Colleen Peterson Beginning to Feel Like Home (also on a 1976 CBC Radio Canada International broadcast LP – cat no. LM 410) 1973
Garnet Rogers Garnet Rogers 1984
Blackie & the Rodeo Kings High or Hurtin' 1996
Stan Rogers From Coffee House to Concert Hall 1999
My Pie Washboard Hank Human Beans 2016
Patience of a Working Man Blackie & the Rodeo Kings Kings of Love 1999
Rains on Me Blackie & the Rodeo Kings High or Hurtin' 1996
Red Dress Blackie & the Rodeo Kings Kings of Love 1999
Sometimes it Comes So Easy Blackie & the Rodeo Kings Let's Frolic Again (also on the 2009 compilation Swinging From The Chains of Love) 2007
Stealin' Away Colleen Peterson Colleen 1977
Blackie & the Rodeo Kings High or Hurtin' 1996
Step Away Blackie & the Rodeo Kings with Emmylou Harris Kings & Queens 2011
The Lucky Ones Blackie & the Rodeo Kings Kings of Love 1999
This Lonesome Feelin' Blackie & the Rodeo Kings with Vince Gill Kings And Kings 2016
Denis Lepage & Station Road At the Cowboy Arms Hotel 1980
Tryin' to Start Out Clean Colleen Peterson Colleen (also on the 1994 compilation What Goes Around Comes Around) 1977
Turnkey Blackie & the Rodeo Kings High or Hurtin' 1996
White Line Blackie & the Rodeo Kings High or Hurtin' (also on the 2009 compilation Swinging From The Chains of Love) 1996
Billie Hughes Horton, Bates & Best – The Last Catch 1981
David Wiffen Coast to Coast Fever (also released as a single in 1974) 1973
Doug Seegers A Story I Got To Tell 2019
John Starling Long Time Gone 1993
Jonathan Edwards Rockin' Chair (also b-side of the single Favourite Song 1976) 1975
Peter Pringle Peter Pringle 1976
Pure Prairie League Can't Hold Back 1979
The Seldom Scene Live at the Cellar Door 1974
Willie's Diamond Joe Blackie & the Rodeo Kings BARK 2003
Matt Andersen Coal Mining Blues 2011
Russell deCarle Trio Live at Loud Mouse Studios 2014
You Care Kenny Neal One Step Closer 2001

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Heeley, James. "Death of an icon". Peterborough Examiner, 19 February 2008.
  2. ^ Finkelstein, Bernie (2012). True North: A Life Inside the Music Business. McClelland & Stewart. pp. 269–. ISBN 978-0-7710-4793-0.
  3. ^ a b Schneider, Jason (15 December 2010). Whispering Pines: The Northern Roots of American Music... from Hank Snow to the Band. ECW Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-1-55490-552-2.
  4. ^ "Great Coffee Houses Without FED Support". The Chevron, 13 January 1978
  5. ^ a b Rellinger, Paul. "Music community singing sad note with death of local folk music icon". Peterborough This Week, 20 February 2008.
  6. ^ a b "Willie P. Bennett: Squirrel of the Radio". No Depression. Vol. Issues 13–16. No Depression. 1998. p. 32.
  7. ^ "Canadian folk singer Willie P. Bennett dead". Canwest News Service. 21 February 2008. Archived from the original on 5 November 2012. Retrieved 30 September 2010.
  8. ^ Quill, Greg (18 February 2008). "Willie P. Bennett, 57: A '70s folk pioneer". Toronto Star. Retrieved 23 April 2013.
  9. ^ "Willie P. Bennett". Canadian Country Music Association. List of Hall of Honour inductees.
  10. ^ "February 15th 2020 marked 12 years since we lost our beloved Willie P., and this year’s running of the Willie P. Bennett Memorial Hangover Run will be the tenth time that we have run through the Carolinian forest around Catfish Creek in his memory... Willie loved this Picnic and these trails and somewhere around 4.5 kilos there’s a plaque telling you about the flying squirrel. Stop and say hello to the spirit of Willie P., it’s strong in these woods and in the music and friends that fill this park on Picnic weekends." https://fredeaglesmith.com/charity-picnic/
  11. ^ "Willie P. Bennett". CCMA Hall of Fame. Canadian Country Music Association. Retrieved 23 April 2013.
  12. ^ https://kawarthanow.com/2015/03/02/russell-decarle-trio/ This references "Song of the Year" in the year 2008, but Billboard 5 December 1998 (retrieved via google search) lists it as "Most Played Country Songs" for 1997, awarded in 1998
  13. ^ Bruce Farley Mowat. "Willie P. Bennett". Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. Retrieved 25 August 2019.
  14. ^ https://www.ccma.org/cgi/page.cgi/hall_of_fame_inductees.html?log=view&log_id=78, Archived 18 June 2018 at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]