Notes on Graham Townsend’s career.

Graham Townsend

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Graham Townsend

Birth name

Graham Craig Townsend


June 16, 1942

Toronto, Ontario, Canada


December 3, 1998 (aged 56)

Barrie, Ontario, Canada


Canadian Fiddling


Multi-instrumentalist, composer


Fiddle, mandolin, piano

Years active


Associated acts

Don Messer

Graham Townsend (June 16, 1942 – December 3, 1998) was a Canadian fiddler, mandolin player, pianist and composer active from the 1950s through the 1990s.


Townsend grew up in East York, Ontario. He was visually impaired from an early age. He started playing fiddle as a child and was winning competitions as early as nine years old. Among his important and early influences was Don Messer, for whom Townsend’s father Fred was his square dance caller. He was also influenced by Irish fiddlers Tom McQuestion and Billy Crawford. Beginning in his teens, Townsend began to perform on tour[1] and on radio and television, often with Messer. He toured extensively throughout Europe and in Australia for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and the Canadian government, and gave a command performance for Queen Elizabeth II.[2] He performed often with his wife Eleanor whom he married in 1973 and among the many performers he worked with were Wilf Carter, Tommy Hunter, the McGarrigle sisters, Ronnie Prophet and Stan Rogers. Townsend also performed in a tribute show to Don Messer and in many festivals.

Townsend’s style was steeped in Canada’s fiddling traditions and his many recording for Banff, Rodeo, Rounder Records, Silver Eagle, Springwater and other labels have received significant acclaim. He helped to establish the Ontario Old Time Fiddlers Association.[3]


From an early age, he was very successful in a number of fiddling competitions, including the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) Fiddle Championship (1951, 52, 53), the Shelburne Canadian Open Fiddle Championship (1963, '68, '69, '70),[4] the Simcoe Fiddle Championship (1957, 58), the Southern Ontario Fiddle Championship (1958, 59), the Kitchener Fiddle Championship (1959), the Peterborough Fiddle Championship (1959), the Northern Ontario Fiddle Championship (1959, 60), and the Pembroke International Championship (1965).

Townsend was inducted into the United States Fiddlers Hall of Fame in 1982, the Ottawa Valley Country Music Hall of Fame in 1990, and the Canadian National Fiddling Hall of Fame in 1998 and was nominated for a Juno award for instrumental artist of the year in 1991. He also received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Canadian Grandmasters Fiddling Championships in 1998.


Graham performed at the Tottenham Bluegrass Festival in June, 1995, and at the Pineridge Bluegrass Folklore Society show in Oshawa, Ontario in March, 1996.[5]


  1. Championship Fiddle Favourites, Banff Rodeo GA 1006 (also released as London EBX 4128)

  2. Famous Canadian Fiddlers Vol 1: Graham Townsend, Banff Rodeo RBS 1083

  3. Fiddling Favourites with Graham Townsend, Banff Rodeo RBS 1116

  4. International Fiddling Championship 1963 - Introducing Graham Townsend, Banff Rodeo RBS 1163

  5. The Inimitable Graham Townsend, Banff Rodeo RBS 1239

  6. Graham Townsend Salutes Canada’s Centennial, Banff Rodeo RBS 1258

  7. Graham Townsend Salutes Canada’s Prime Ministers 1867-1967, Banff Rodeo RBS 1275

  8. Graham Townsend and His Fiddle, Banff Rodeo RBS 1284 & SBS 5284

  9. The Inimitable Graham Townsend, Banff Rodeo SBS 5239

  10. Graham Townsend & His Country Fiddle, Banff SBS 5296

  11. I Like Don Messer, Banff Rodeo SBS 5306

  12. World Champion Folk Fiddler, Banff Rodeo SBS 5406

  13. North American Fiddle Champion, Arc AS 817

  14. Swing Your Partner - Graham Townsend & His Backwoodsmen - Dance Calls by Fred Townsend, Point Records PS 368

  15. Old Time Fiddle Favourites of Ward Allen - played by Graham Townsend, MCA CB-30017[6]

  16. Mandolin Favourites, Cheyenne Records 89003

  17. Mr. Country Fiddle, Marathon Music MMS-76046

  18. The Superb Fiddling of Graham Townsend, Audat Records 477-9079

  19. Le Violon - The Fiddle, Rounder Records 7002

  20. House Party, Rodeo Records RLP 8015

  21. Harvest Home, Point Records PS 357

  22. Down Home Fiddlin', Audat 477-9048

  23. Still Going Strong, Rodeo RLPCD 8044

  24. Country Licks & All That Jazz, CBC / Margaree 6397201


Townsend died from cancer on December 3, 1998 in Barrie, Ontario, Canada.[7]


"17000 Enjoy Star Bandshell Concert", Toronto Daily Star, 1955-08-29

[1] The Canadian Encyclopedia

[2] The Canadian Encyclopedia

Canadian Open Fiddling Championship Champions List, Shelburne, Ontario

Strings, newsletter of the Pineridge Bluegrass Folklore Society, February and April issues, 2006

"Canadian News Report", Billboard, 29 Aug 1970

  1. 1.[3] The Canadian Encyclopedia

  2. The Canadian Encyclopedia: Graham Townsend

  3. Ottawa Valley Country Music Hall of Fame

  4. The Canadian Fiddlers - Graham Townsend

External links

  1. The Fiddlers

  2. The Graham and Eleanor Townsend Show, Peterborough, Ontario, Stockford Productions, 1990

  3. Cormier, Sam. Record jacket notes for Le Violin/The Fiddler, Rounder 7002 (1975)

  4. Delaney, Larry. 'Graham Townsend: the man with the magic bow,' CMN, vol 10, Mar 1990

  5. A Tribute to Graham Townsend


  1. Canadian fiddlers

  2. Male violinists

  3. Musicians from Toronto

  4. Canadian mandolinists

  5. 1942 births

  6. 1998 deaths

  7. 20th-century violinists

  8. Canadian bluegrass mandolinists