Gavin Watt began life as a child. His first choice of careers was to be a garbage man, a fire truck or a brown cow. Despite this fantastic setback, he went on to learn recorder in grade 3 and then went on to attempt the clarinet in Grade 4 (Kettleby Public School). Ignoring his less-than-stellar career playing the clarinet, he optimistically began learning the fife at the age of 10 and almost simultaneously entered a long career in re-enacting at age 11. At 12 years of age he met Peter Alexander at a re-enactment at Fort Niagara. Given Gavin’s uncanny ability to identify which way up a fife went, he was hired on at Fort York in 1980, a job that provided loose change for french fries through his high school years at Aurora High School.
In 1986, when Ken Purvis came to work at Fort York they met for the first time. Recognizing Ken’s superior talent Gavin left fort York a year later. In 1987, Gavin shifted from Fort York to Fort George and began working with Peter Alexander, starting up the 41st regiment fife and Drum Corps at Fort George. In the same year, he began a degree at York University which no amount of subsequent drinking could erase from his memory. In 1991, he went to Memorial University of Newfoundland to earn an Education Degree. In 1993 he was one of the three founding members of the trio “The Three Big Dummies”. In 1996, he returned to Fort York for two years, but exhaust from the traffic jams [due to construction on the Gardiner Expressway] inspired him to return to the halcyon shores of the Niagara River (and Fort George) in 1998.
He currently serves as the education coordinator and drill sergeant at Fort George. It is his opinion that he has spent more time in period costume than in 20th century clothes.
If you are seriously intending to be a groupie, you will need to know that Gavin is a Cancer (there will be a quiz!)
Ken Purvis – Unlike Gavin, Ken began life as an adult and has been slowly regressing ever since. Fortunately, he has reached middle age. Ken’s musical career began at the age of seven when he learned to play stand-up bass for the family blue-grass band. At one gig in the town of Tamworth Ontario, Ken delighted the audience by standing on a crate in order to reach all the way up the neck. Those were heady days. Since then Ken’s epidermis – an organ – has completely regenerated
During his high school years, Ken excelled in music and even became President of the concert band. By this time he had switched to the tuba but he was about to rediscover the instrument of his youth. Meanwhile, a summer job at Fort Henry introduced him to a little, high pitched transverse instrument called a “fife”. Little did Ken realise at the time that the past would figure so prominently in his present future, and more importantly his recent and not-so-recent past. Trading in the stand-up bass for electric, Ken soon embarked on a short but inspirational career as a rock star. After attending Fanshawe College’s Music Industry Arts program, he and some classmates formed a band called Big Huge People and made the move to the thriving metropolis of Toronto, where the past would catch up with him.
1986 marked a return to the history biz when Ken was hired at Historic Fort York. Here, he was introduced to fifer extraordinaire, Gavin Watt. Through a series of clever conceits, Ken managed to convince Gavin of his
musical superiority which forced Gavin into exile. “Able was I ere I saw Niagara,” muttered Gavin. Gavin introduced Ken to drummer Peter Alexander and soon the three were delighting crowds with their unparalleled fifing
and drumming. Peter’s broad-ranging percussive talents added tremendously to Gavin and Ken’s hitherto unfocused musical stylings. In short, he made them sound cool.
After a few years of touring and performing on bass with folk-rock band Two Penny Opera, Ken was looking for a change. During a pilgrimage to Williamsburg, Ken and Peter began experimenting with new old instruments (flute and dulcimer) and were excited by what they heard. Finally they were playing instruments that didn’t make people’s hair bleed. The three now-close friends, decided to form a folk band of their own. Determined to bring history to life through music, then kill it, can it and sell it, The Three Big Dummies/The Hogarth Trio/Malarky/Gin Lane was brought kicking and screaming into a harsh and unforgiving world. And the rest is history. ReallyView Profile
Peter Aaron Alexander
Peter was born in Welland. Despite this fantastic setback, he grew up to be bigger than when he was born. Peter’s youth was spent in Niagara-on-the-Lake mostly to disguise the fact that he was born in Welland. For the most part that trick has worked. He went to school at St.Vincent de Paul followed by Dennis Morris in St. Catharines. His interest in music began at an early age and has been spread across numerous instruments largely because his first choice (the drums) were too noisy and annoying for his parents to deal with.
In 1980, he began volunteering at Fort George and was given the snare drum to learn because he wouldn’t go away. In 1987, after a brief stint at Epcott center working for ‘the Mouse’, he and Gavin began the official Fife and Drum corps of the 41st Regiment at Fort George . Apart from his B.A. in History at McMaster, Peter has also studied Jazz performance at Mohawk College and McGill University. Despite his inclination towards Jazz and kit drumming, Peter has remained predominantly in the realm of folk music.
In 1993, Peter did an Internship at Colonial Williamsburg (Virginia). While returning from the trip (Ken drove down to get Peter), they had the life-affirming experience of getting lost in Camden, New Jersey. This, naturally, caused them to discuss starting a band. While continuing to work at Fort George Peter also studied massage in Toronto, but has subsequently taken up full time employment at Fort George. He is now happily married with one kid. Favourite food: Chinese. And he is a Taurus – are you taking notes?View Profile