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Canadian Heritage

Peter Appleyard


PETER APPLEYARD (vibraphonist, percussionist, composer) was born on August 26, 1928 in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, England. As a youth, he studied piano but also became a proficient self-taught drummer. It was as a drummer he kicked off his performance career with Felix Mendelson’s Hawaiian Serenaders (the first band to appear on British television) and continued to gain notice in British dance bands and RAF bands in England. It was during his service in the Roya Air Force that his lifelong association with the great Robert Farnon had its beginning.

He accepted an 18-month engagement playing drums in Bermuda in 1949, and it was on a New York stopover during that time that he caught George Shearing and Lionel Hampton’s big bands and made up his mind that his musical focus for the future was the vibraphone.

He brought his already-notable musical talents to Toronto in 1951, quickly becoming a star performer on network television specials and series, national and international tours and festivals, and featured live performances around the world. By 1956, he was leading his own quartet on tours and club dates, playing on The Andy Williams Show and the Today Show on American network television. He first came to continuing international notice as a jazz musician during the early 1970s as a member of the Benny Goodman Sextet, with whom he continued to work and tour throughout that decade, playing at Carnegie Hall no fewer than three times. After Benny Goodman’s death, he became instrumental in forming the Benny Goodman Tribute Band, touring extensively with some of the most talented alumni of the legendary Goodman ensembles and a talented contingent of Toronto players.

He performed all over North America and Europe for the past several decades, and played with an “A” list of the greats including Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Dick Hyman, Rob McConnell, Hagood Hardy, Guido Basso, Diana Krall, Anne Murray, and Oscar Peterson. Peter Appleyard was awarded the Order of Canada in 1992.

In 2012, Peter released two important recordings. The first was The Lost 1974 Sessions, featuring Hank Jones, Slam Stewart, Mel Lewis, Zoot Sims, Bobby Hackett, and Urbie Green. The second record was Sophisticated Ladies, a new studio album of jazz standards featuring vocalists Emilie-Claire Barlow, Elizabeth Shepherd, Jill Barber, Jackie Richardson, Sophie Milman, Molly Johnson, Carol Welsman, Barbra Lica, Carol McCartney and Diana Panton. Following the release of this recording, Appleyard toured numerous Canadian festivals during the summer of 2012 including Montreal, Toronto, Edmonton and Saskatoon.

Peter Appleyard passed away on July 16, 2013.


1992 - Named an Officer of the Order of Canada, the highest civilian honour given in this country, granted to Canadian citizens 'for outstanding achievement and service to the country or to humanity at large'

2005 - Winner of the inaugural JAZZ.FM91 Artist of Distinction Award. in association with the National Jazz Awards to "honour a Canadian artist who has made an important and enduring contribution to the promotion and development of excellence in the world of jazz, with a particular emphasis on Canada."