Biography: Rufus Guinchard

Rufus Guinchard was born in Daniel's Harbour in 1899. At the age of 11 fiddle music became his number one interest, and he became determined to play. He secretly practiced on his father's old fiddle, sitting at a window keeping watch for anyone who might see him and discover his secret. Because he practiced on an adult sized instrument, he had to hold the blow about halfway up the shaft because of his short arms. He never changed this self taught method of playing the fiddle.

When he reached his early teens he was finally ready to play in public. After his first couple of events he discovered that because of his self taught method he wasn't playing at the right speeds.

"I had to go back and learn how to stamp my feet and keep the time." (Quoted in Kelly Russell: 1982 p.9)

After finally mastering the different tempos, he began to play at dances and Christmas plays. After a while he also managed to play waltzes, two-steps, and continued to play for occasional dances.

Many years later at the age of 72 he came to the attention of two folklorists, Al Pittman and Wilf Wareham. They took him to memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John's, to preform for the students. It was there he met the organizers of a concert at the St. John's Arts and Culture Center. Pat and Joe Byrne and Clyde Rose. Guinchard played three songs and received three standing ovations. This resulted in the forming of the group the Breakwater Boys. They preformed together for five years, during that time Guinchard made his first recording, entitled Rufus Guinchard Newfoundland Fiddler, this was a highly energetic solo recording. It was 1978 when Guinchard broke with the group, but he continued to play at folk festivals and concerts.

Guinchard received wide media attention, he appeared on such television shows as Canadian Express, This Land: A CBC Special, Ryan's Fancy, 90 minutes Live, Sounds of the Rock, and Some Ghosts of Christmas Past. In the 1980's he was accompanied by musical partner Kelly Russell, and traveled to Britain and France representing Canada at international shows.

Guinchard was a well-accomplished musician who made a huge difference in Newfoundland music. And even through he is gone his traditional style of music lives on.