We first met the Ezero/Perkins family in 1997 when we moved to upstate New York. They served as our worship team at our church. We soon grew to love them and their love for music and for God soon became evident to us. They are the most caring, genuine people we know and are happy to call them our friends.
Pastor Mike and Diane Saunders
CrossWay Community Church
Willow Grove, PA
More than 35 years ago, I first became acquainted with the Perkins Family and their music. The setting was the NYS Fiddle competition at Old Forge. For several years I enjoyed listening to them and watching them perform there.
Years passed and then they were performing at the Long Lake Spring Blossom festival. I have watched Daniel and Lesley grow up on that stage and am now watching Daniel’s son, Liam, being introduced to his musical heritage as well.
Whether on stage or just jamming by their campers at a bluegrass festival, I’ve never heard anyone perform old time music any better than the Perkins Family. I’m happy that I can call them friends. Thank you for the memories!
I have had the wonderful opportunity of knowing the Perkins family for about 20 years.
I will never forget the first time I ever heard them. It was at the Long Lake Spring Blossom Fiddle Jamboree, and I was attending with a friend. I had never been to an event such as that so wasn’t quite sure if I would like it or not. I decided to attend and in my own mind thinking if I didn’t like it, I would run over to Tupper Lake to visit with my father, then go back to pick up my friend. Well… the fiddling started as did the piano, the bass and the singing… and I was absolutely hooked... Needless to say, the next year I wanted to sit in the front row. 20 years later… I still try to catch them anytime I know they are playing. Together they show a great combination of professionalism, dedication and love for old time music.
It was a great honor to be asked to contribute to the Perkins Family history. It was very easy to draw back on the memory of sixty years past and find myself in the presence of these fine people.
I believe that young Donald and myself started producing music together sometime around 1953. Growing up in Lake Placid we were surrounded with the kind of neighborly adults that always tried to make young people aware of any talent they might have and to always encourage the same.
Money wasn’t very plentiful and Don and I found that by playing a guitar and a fiddle on the village streets we could accumulate some welcome income. While Don played the most magnificent fiddle tunes, I followed along strumming a few basic guitar chords for rhythm. I guess we seemed interesting to the tourists, as they would put change in an old cigar box we had placed on top of an upright guitar case.
Later on I was asked to accompany the family as they went forth in the evening to play for dances in the surrounding countryside. I would arrive at the Perkins home always just before suppertime. I knew that the wonderful table that Mrs. Perkins sat always had room for a skinny kid from across town. When we finished eating we would all crowd in the old Plymouth and were off for a country-dance. No matter where we went or what kind of a crowd we encountered there was little concern for our wellbeing or safety as Francis and Lois always had everything in complete control.
Those were good days. Whether it was an evening on the stage in Wilmington, a Fourth of July afternoon at the Upper Jay picnics, or a bang-up August daytime show at the Fifteenth of Redford, a great sense of friendship and togetherness was always in play. Even after fifty years, the sights of dancing couples and the pungent smell of the foods, mostly fried, linger in the mind.
And then there were nighttime trips home. Francis must have been very tired after working hard all day and then calling square dances until midnight. It couldn’t have been an easy task. Old Lee Moore, the Coffee Drinking Night Hawk, would boom across the air from Wheeling, and we would dose off to strains of My Little Home in West Virginia.
The most important thing that a non-relation can say about the Perkins family is that they were GOOD people. Not fancy people, not wealthy people, but the kind of parents and friends that are becoming hard to find in this modern world.
Donald had a little sister, Phyllis, and one of the most poignant sights I remember were the dances at Wilmington when she slept through the noise and shenanigans on a blanket that Lois had placed across a bench directly beneath the stage. The stomping and loud music never bothered her as she slumbered off to dreamland.
I know, I know. You can’t go back but if an old man can be allowed to make a request, I would like to hear the sounds of that fiddle and the old upright as I cross the river and head into my final rest. I just hope it isn’t too quiet and I hope the Perkins family will be there to entertain me. And hey…can I sit in on one?
I first met Don Perkins back in the early 1970's around the time he played for Fred Pike and the Kennebec Valley Boys in Maine. I met Phyllis and Joe years later at one of the many fiddle shows the Perkins Family Band was hosting.
It has been a wonderfully rewarding experience knowing them all and their extended families. The loyal friendship and professional musicianship just can't be beat.
I feel very honored to have been asked to take part in this anthology.
I have known the various members of the Perkins family for most of my life. I remember as a child seeing Donnie compete at the New York State Fiddle Contest at Old Forge. I also remember the family coming to the NYS Old Tyme Fiddler’s Association events when the association was in its infancy.
I have a recording of Donnie playing at Cedar Pines in the 1970’s. The Perkins family came to the NYSOTFA Picnic after a long absence as guest artists. We renewed our friendship at that time and have been close since then.
I have had the privilege of learning about fiddling, fiddle styles and about old time fiddlers, who are long gone, from Donnie. I, and many of my family members, will travel hundreds of miles to see the members of this family perform. They are great people and great musicians.
Jackie Hobbs, Co-Curator of the North American Fiddler’s Hall of Fame and Museum in Osceola, NY
Back in the summer of 1956, while staying with my grandmother and working to the Lake Placid Club, I met Don Perkins. I was seventeen and had just started to learn guitar, in fact Don was the first person that I really played music with. We would go to three or four square dances a week. What a great summer.
One night we happened to be in Saranac Lake and learned that Wilma Lee and Stony Cooper were going to play at a local venue. Tex Montana came out and happened to mention that his fiddle player wasn’t coming. I spoke up “he can play fiddle” and pointed to Donald. I went out and got Don’s fiddle and he auditioned in front of Stony’s band members; opening for the Cooper’s band. Wilma Lee is my favorite singer of all time.
When I was in my senior year of high school, I would travel to Lake Placid on weekends and go to Don’s house. One time early that fall, Don’s little five year old sister started to sing a song. Her eyes seemed to get bigger with each word as she belted out the song with everything she had in her. Today that girl is Phyllis Perkins Ezero, and she still belts out a song with all she has – the way I think an old country or bluegrass song should be sung.
Earl V. Southmayd
Musical traditions have always been very important to me in my endeavors. I am truly delighted that the Perkins family has undertaken a wonderful project such as this in documenting their heritage and superb talents.
Kendrew Corners, NY
High spirited and fun, that's what I think of when I hear the Perkins family music.
For 30 years—from a country-dance, to the Festival of North Country Folklife in Massena, the steps of the New York State Capitol, and the Edwards Opera House—their performances have everyone on the edge of their seats and feet tapping.
The most memorable time for me was a visit to Phyllis Ezero's living room in the summer of 2002, when TAUNY's photographer was taking pictures for their North Country Heritage Award. Don and Phyllis were playing and posing near the piano and their mother Lois sat with me on a nearby sofa, chatting about anything and everything. Once, during a particularly lively tune, Mrs. Perkins suddenly stood up, grabbed her walker and, without a hitch, began to step dance!
That's what I mean, /joie de vivre/, the joy of living, the love of good music. That's the Perkins family gift to all of us.
Varick Chittenden, Folklorist
Traditional Arts in Upstate New York
When Donny told me about this project, I tried to think of how long I’ve known him and the family. It’s been a long time. If I remember correctly, I met Donny for the first time in the living room of my brother’s home in Northern NY. It was during the period when jam sessions were as common as breathing. I was just getting back into playing (I wasn’t and am still not a good guitarist) and learned a lot because of Donny and the others who I played with. As I think back to those days, the quality of musicians was astonishing and Donny played second fiddle to none.
One thing led to another and years later in 1992 when I planned the first Spring Blossom Fiddle Jam in Long Lake, Donnie was the first and probably the only person I thought of to be the featured fiddler for that first event. Little did I know those many years ago that it would turn into such a wonderful, long-term business relationship and personal friendship. At the time, I really didn’t know many members of the Perkins Family Band but after the first event, there was never a consideration of any other group to be featured on the stage that last Sunday in April.
I knew from the first meeting that Donnie was an exceptional fiddler, but I didn’t know how good his sister Phyllis and the rest of the band were. I also didn’t know what good entertainers he and the family band actually were. You don’t get to see the response of an audience to a performer during a jam session. He loves to play and more importantly, he loves to please the audience. Donny and the family were, and are, one of the reasons the event is a success. The large repertoire of the band and its ability to improvise has many times made the event a success.
While I haven’t heard the anthology, I’m sure the selection and the quality will be outstanding. The Family simply wouldn’t have it any other way.
Long Lake, NY