Bluegrass Mountaineers


Reg Whitten (1925-2001) and Frank Thorne (1927-2000), both from St. John’s, started playing music together in 1946, when they began entertaining at house parties. Reg learned  to play banjo from recordings and a Pete Seeger instruction book. He was likely the only 5-string banjo player in St. John’s at the time, and also played fiddle and Dobro. Frank was an early fan of bluegrass music who sometimes performed at the Porthole, a St. John’s tavern.       Reg and Frank began performing as The Bluegrass Mountaineers, a name perhaps derived from The Mountaineers, a hillbilly band that performed at socials and charities aroundd St.John’s in the 1930s.  The two did guest appearances on CJON-TV.  They had a regular spot on Saturday Nite Jamboree on CBN and can be heard on recordings of the show recently issued on CD.  They also played at the Porthole, where I saw them do a tight set with Don Randell on fiddle in 1963.  Newfoundland’s pioneer bluegrass group, The Bluegrass Mountaineers brought the music to the local scene and gave us a chance to hear it first-hand.