BILL SHEPHERD (1988 Inductee)

Born in Smiths Falls, Ontario, Bill Shepherd moved to Pembroke with his family as an infant. An asthmatic condition that would plague him all his life terminated his formal education at Grade 3. Confined to his home with much free time, young Bill taught himself to play guitar. Not content to learn only the basics, over the next few years, he became an accomplished musician who, by the age of 16, was adept at guitar, bass and fiddle. Only his asthma kept him from mastering wind instruments.

Bill first performed live on CJOV radio in Pembroke. In his late teens, he and his young wife, Blanche, moved to Ottawa where he joined his brother, Rex, in the Happy Harvesters band which soon had radio shows on CKCH Hull and CKOY Ottawa. The group disbanded after a year and reformed as The Happy Homesteaders. Following World War II, the group got back together for a short time but soon disbanded. Bill joined Fiddler’s Fling and played daily on CFRA. Travel demands as a result of their popularity contributed to the breakup of that group in 1950.

Bill and his brother-in-law, Harry Costello, then formed a booking agency, which handled the great talents of the time, including Eddy Arnold, Doc Williams and local favorite, Orval Prophet. Many of the bookings required Bill to tour, and he often played with the various talents. During his period, he also released a number of 78-rpm records and began a new career as a studio musician.

Mac Beattie and the Ottawa Valley Melodiers were contracted by CJOH Television to host the Haylofter series, and Bill joined the Melodiers in this new medium. Tiring of the travel involved with being a member of this immensely popular group, Bill subsequently opened the Bill Shepherd School of Music in his home, where he could be close to his family. Weakened by his lifelong struggle with Asthma, Bill passed away of a heart attack in August 1983.


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