Meet The Western Flyers
JOEY MCKENZIE - GUITAR AND VOCALS
Joey McKenzie is a musician of remarkable versatility. Besides being recognized as one of the finest rhythm guitarists of our time, Joey is an award winning multi-instrumentalist, band arranger, singer and producer. His unique ability to blaze new trails within traditional music without losing its rich heritage has gleaned praise from some of the finest musicians in the country. His first musical experience began at age of 11, tuning the instruments his father had around their house - a guitar, mandolin, tenor guitar, and a tenor banjo. Around the age of 12, he started learning a few chords and licks on each of the instruments and has been playing them ever since. When he was 17, he became interested in playing the fiddle after becoming friends with Texas fiddle legend Benny Thomasson. “I went to fiddle contests just playing rhythm guitar, but I wasn’t really inspired to play the fiddle. When I got the opportunity to back Benny up in a few contests and hear the way he played, all I could think about was trying to learn to play the fiddle!” It wasn’t long before Joey began competing and has since won well over 100 fiddle contests and awards on other stringed instruments. Some of these include three-time World Champion Fiddler, World Series of Fiddling Champion and five-time Texas State Guitar Champion. As a music teacher, Joey's influence on the music world is very evident. He is much in demand as a private instructor and also teaches master classes and workshops all over the country. To date Joey has taught 19 National Champion fiddle players! Joey is proud of his students who have advanced into successful music careers, as well as the many others who have become life-long music lovers who play strictly for the fun of it. As a touring musician, Joey has performed in 45 U.S. states as well as Canada, Europe, Russia and South America. Joey's performance highlights include The Grand Ole Opry, The Kennedy Center, NYC's Lincoln Center, Nashville's Ryman Auditorium, NPR's "A Prairie Home Companion" and RFD TV's "The Marty Stuart Show". In addition, Joey has shared the stage with musical greats Merle Haggard, Ricky Skaggs, Ray Price, Asleep at the Wheel, Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers, Connie Smith, and even a ukulele-slinging billionaire by the name of Warren Buffett! He has always been fascinated with the great behind the scenes rhythm guitar work of players such as Eldon Shamblin, Homer Haynes, Eddie Lang, Karl Farr, Freddie Green and Oscar Moore. In addition Joey enjoys restoring, repairing and collecting vintage stringed instruments and says he is still trying to get them in tune!
RIDGE ROBERTS - FIDDLE AND VOCALS
Ridge Roberts is an 18 year old musician from Granbury, Texas. He first picked up the fiddle at the age of 7 and it was immediately evident that this would be a life-long love. In 2013 he entered and won his first fiddle contest at the age of 10. This led him to working with Joey McKenzie, first as fiddle teacher and now bandmate. Since then, he has gone on to compete in and win many more contests, with several notable championship titles - Grand Masters Champion, National Champion, Texas State Champion and the 2018 World Champion Fiddler. He spent his early years researching fiddle players and fiddle tunes, concentrating on the old-time Texas style fiddlers and when he wasn't playing the fiddle, he was thinking about the fiddle, listening to fiddle music, researching fiddle history, playing rhythm guitar for fiddle tunes, looking for fiddles and sometimes just looking at his fiddle. Fast forward to today, Ridge is a 2021 graduate of North Central Texas Academy in Hood County. He enjoys reading, writing, and all things vintage, especially Country music. Ridge plays rhythm guitar, sings, writes songs and composes and will always be a life-long student of music and its history.
MATTHEW MEFFORD - UPRIGHT BASS
If you wonder how the finest Western swing players got to be so good, you imagine them cutting their teeth on Bob Wills records and taking to their instruments before they learned to talk, Matthew Mefford stands out as an exception to that rule. Born in Madison, Wisconsin, Matthew grew up on the outskirts of Austin, Texas, first picking up the electric bass during his late teens to play music more akin to Nirvana than the Texas Playboys. All that changed when he discovered the upright bass and Western swing. It wasn’t long before Matthew found himself at Johnny Gimble’s Swing Camp where he teamed up with the granddaughter of the great swing fiddle legend himself, gifted singer and jazz pianist, Emily Gimble. The Marshall Ford Swing Band was born out of this lucky alignment of stars and soon Matthew found himself part of the fabric of the diverse Austin music scene, as well as founding member of the virtuosic power quartet Milk Drive. Dipping his toes into the bluegrass, country, and western swing world soon found Matthew performing at the largest folk & bluegrass festivals across the US and abroad. 2014 brought big changes as Matthew moved to York, England to support his wife during her PhD. He joined the acclaimed acoustic band Stillhouse and was a featured performer at the Cambridge Folk Festival, Wilderness Festival, and Boomtown Festival to name but a few. In 2018, Matthew returned to Austin and, by the late spring, found a musical home with Texas' award winning trio, The Western Flyers. Now living in Wimberely, Texas, Matthew tours frequently with the Flyers, accompanies Texas style breakdown fiddlers every chance he gets and stays busy playing in and around Austin and the Texas Hill Country.