The Countrymen band was formed in June of 1961 with original members Glenn Toner as lead singer, Kent Smith on lead guitar, Bob Johnston on drums and Al Roach on fiddle. Within a few weeks, Al Brisco came on board on piano, then very shortly after moved to bass guitar, then to steel guitar. They played every Saturday night at the Matawatchan Dance Hall playing round and square dance music. Eventually, they moved on to playing the bar circuit on the Quebec side for a number of years. The group played in Campbell's Bay, Fort Coulonge, Bryson and Portage every Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday. Along with this heavy schedule, they were able to fit in wedding receptions for friends and relatives. Twenty-five and fifty years later they have played for anniversaries for the same couples!
Along the way, the Countrymen have donated their talent for numerous fundraisers for the Heart Institute, the Healing Garden at Renfrew Victoria Hospital, Renfrew Hospice, Heritage Radio and many other worthy causes too numerous to mention. For the last 55 years, the group has been a crowd favourite for dances all over Renfrew County, Pontiac County and Lanark County. Numerous Valley musicians have been members of the Countrymen, including Ottawa Valley Hall of Famers such as Al Brisco, Al Utronki, Dan Paul Rogers, Bob Johnston and sometimes, "fill-in" drummer, Charlie Kitts. Darrell Mooney, Guy Jamieson and Kirk Warren have contributed 52, 25 and 34 years, respectively. The three have been mainstays in the Countrymen and are present-day members. Bob Johnston is the sole original member of 55 years. Dennis Harrington and Marie Brydges also contributed close to 25 years with the group.
Tonight we have a number of other very worthy musicians with us who have been past members of the Countrymen over the decades. This evening the Countrymen would like to dedicate our induction to the following deceased members: Fiddle, steel guitar and lead guitar player, Bob Brydges; bass player, Edmund Hisko; steel guitar and lead guitar player, Al Utronki and lead singer and fiddle player, Carl Warren.
The Countrymen have very much enjoyed their 55-year tenure entertaining Country Music fans up and down the Valley.