The Cariboo Express is a one-of-a-kind variety show cast with renowned Canadian musicians, led by Canadian superstar Barney Bentall, along with Ridley Bent, Dustin Bentall, Kendel Carson, Matt Masters, Wendy Bird, various special guests and a backing band comprised of some of Canada’s finest musicians. Each of the core members have music careers of their own, but every November the group convenes to raise funds for various worthy charities in the spirit of song, community and giving back to society.
As told by Barney Bentall: The Cariboo Express took a while to develop and incubate. My band “The Legendary Hearts” had been performing each year at the Clinton May Ball – a tradition that goes back to a time when Jesus first put on chaps and tried his best to ride some rank old cayoose to the buzzer. We would come to town, stay at my ranch and rock the place in our usual way. We found ourselves bringing a whole bunch of other musicians up for the weekend and this weekend was becoming some kind of unholy midnight ramble where the devil dukes it out with Don Messer. It was becoming more old time and definitely more country & western. The first people to take a chance on this rodeo were friends of ours in Winnipeg. We were rehearsing around their piano and I was writing intros right up until the last minute. A sold out crowd in the West End Cultural Centre was waiting. Now, I’m not usually a nervous performer, but I really thought this was going to be a disaster of epic proportions. Backstage was bedlam and we were a little late getting on stage. When we finally made it and we cranked into the theme song, low and behold what had seemed so chaotic, corny and amateurish a few minutes before settled in to what has become one of my favourite things!”
In the spirit of an old time radio show, The Cariboo Express showcases a variety of young Canadian artists, as well as bringing in special guests of Canadian music fame. Each year, a different famous Canadian musician joins the cast as a special guest, bringing a new flavor and allure to the show. Past guests include such luminaries as Jim Cuddy, Neil Osborne (54-40), Joel Plaskett, Tom Wilson (Junkhouse, Blackie & The Rodeo Kings), Romi Mayes, and Leeroy Stagger, among others.
- Over the past ten years, the Cariboo Express has raised nearly a OVER HALF A MILLION DOLLARS ($500,000) towards various charities including The Potluck Café Society in Vancouver, Mustard Seed Food Bank, Sidney Lions Club Food Bank and Sooke Food Bank on Vancouver Island, The Good Food Club of Winnipeg, Habitat for Humanity in southern Alberta, The Inner City Children’s Program in Edmonton and the Bragg Creek Community Association (for Alberta Flood Relief in 2013).
- In 2013, the tour raised almost $100,000 in three weeks, and in 2014, it raised nearly $140,000 in the same time frame. 2015, was our best year yet and we were able to raise $235,000. The ride continues…
- It’s a family affair! Cariboo Express Shows are presented in theatres, community centres and church halls, so all age groups are welcome to attend
- It’s a tradition! Interest has grown so much in the shows since it’s 2006 inception in Vancouver, that it’s hometown audience has outgrown venues and swelled to approximately 800 people. Even better, the show expanded to include Saanichton in 2007 and Victoria in 2008, then expanded again to include Sooke, Winnipeg, and Bragg Creek in 2013. The tour has also visited Edmonton, Campbell River, Salt Spring Island, Penticton, Cranbrook, Lethbridge and Calgary!
- The fundraising premise of the show is similar to that of an old time radio show; “This hour brought to you by…”. Sponsors purchase a song and are spotlighted in the song’s introduction through a humorous monologue, delivered by Barney Bentall himself and the “Master” of Ceremonies, Matt Masters. These clever, heartwarming, and hilarious introductions set the Cariboo Express experience apart from other fundraising shows, engaging the audience and getting the sponsor’s message out in a more accessible and unique way than standard advertising.
Barney is a renowned Canadian musician, who achieved fame in the late 1980’s with his hit “Something to Live For”, but his career spans over 35 years of music making. Starting his own career in 1985 as Barney Bentall and the Legendary Hearts, the band went on to record, tour, and win awards up until 2000. After a few years break where Barney mostly just worked his ranch land in the Cariboo region of BC, he got back in the music saddle in 2007 and has released three acclaimed albums since; Gift Horse (2007), The Inside Passage (2009) and Flesh and Bone (2012). In 2006 Barney started the Grand Cariboo Opry with a select group of musicians and he hasn’t looked back since! Barney currently splits his time between his treasured ranch, a home on Bowen Island, and touring the world!
…is a Canadian country singer-songwriter. Born in Halifax, Bent was raised throughout Canada in a military family before settling in Vancouver BC to start his career in 2000. His debut album, Blam!, was released on MapleMusic Recordings in 2005, and was marked by a style that incorporated country, rock and hip hop influences, in a manner similar to Buck 65. The album was produced by Chin Injeti, formerly of the R&B band Bass is Base. Described by Bent as “hick hop”, the album was best known for the single “Suicidewinder”. His subsequent albums, 2007’s Buckles and Boots and 2010’s Rabbit on My Wheel, pursued a more conventional country sound, and in 2014, Bent released Wildcard, keeping in the country vein. In 2009, Bent’s song “Nine Inch Nails” won in the 8th Annual Independent Music Awards and Vox Pop vote for Best Country Song.
The Vancouver-born son of Canadian roots rocker Barney Bentall, Dustin Bentall was raised on the music of Neil Young, The Band, Bob Dylan, Tom T. Hall, The Beatles and Steve Earle. Dustin debuted his own musical career in 2007, with his album Streets with No Lights. Picking up a band and starting to tour, Dustin ended up in Nashville, overseas to Denmark, Germany and Ireland, opening shows for Kathleen Edwards, Blue Rodeo, Sam Roberts and Matt Mays along the way. During this time, Dustin also co-wrote songs with Mother Mother’s Ryan Guildemond, Vancouver troubadour Cameron Latimer and Canadian Country Music up and comer Ridley Bent. He released follow up Six Shooter in 2009, and then put out an EP in 2012 called Orion, dubbed as the first “band record” from the group. Now as Dustin Bentall & the Smokes, the band released a full length album; You Are An Island, in 2013, and toured extensively alongside John Prine, JJ Cale, The Arkells and Spirit Of The West, to name a few.
Wendy is one of the great secrets of the Vancouver music scene. Besides working with producer Craig Northey on film scores, she can be heard on albums by Barney Bentall and the Legendary Hearts, Murray McLauchlan, The Paperboys, David Gogo, Bob Kemmis and many more. “Natural Wonder” is her debut recording and Beaumont Classic Records’ first release. She was the original singer in the Lost Durango’s, a fabulous country punk band in the mid-80s, but the recordings she made with them were never released. A few years later she hooked up with Jeff Hatcher in the Sugar Beats, an offshoot of Canadian country-rock greats the Blue Shadows. They recorded a great album, but it also was never released. And she more or less faded from sight, working a day job and singing as a hobby, often at the urging of partner Colin Nairne, guitarist for Barney Bentall and the Legendary Hearts. She’s always been modest about her abilities, but other musicians knew how good she was. In 2011, she finally put out a record of her own, entitled Natural Wonder, and Wendy Bird is indeed, a natural wonder!
Matt Masters is a Calgary singer, and a guitar playing songwriter of original country and western music with a contemporary edge. He’s been a full time, self-managed musician since 2004, with many accolades to date. In 2008 Matt premiered his first full-length musical play, “Don Coyote.” It opened to strong reviews in Calgary and played the prestigious Nuit Blanche festival in Toronto, where it was performed before 8,000 people. Subsequently, he took the show to London, England (2009) and Calgary’s High Performance Rodeo (2010) Excerpts of the play have been shown at the EnBridge New Playrites festival (2009) and at the Biennale De Montreal (2007). In July 2011 Matt Masters released his album ALL-WESTERN WINNERS on Calgary label, Saved By Vinyl. It spent four weeks in the earshot! National Folk/Roots/Blues Charts top ten, peaking at #4. ALL-WESTERN WINNERS was recorded in Ashcroft, British Columbia where Matt worked with award winning producer/guitarist Johnny Ellis, drummer Pat Steward and bassist Rob Becker. Matt spends most of his time at his home in Calgary but also tours extensively. Along with regular tours around Western Canada, Matt’s recent international tours have included Mexico, Qatar, Germany, Turkey, England and the US.
http://mattmasters.comTHE GOLD RUSH ALL STARSRob Becker (bass): Award winning bassist Rob Becker has been an active part of the Vancouver music scene for over 25 years and continues to maintain a busy work schedule playing both electric and acoustic bass. As a sought after studio bassist he has recorded with many artists including Jim Byrnes, The Sojourners, Barney Bentall, Ridley Bent, Hayley McClain, and Chris Luedecke. He tours regularly in the US and Europe with Celtic sensations The StepCrew and has recently traveled to Scotland, England and Australia with The Sojourners. He is also a member of the bluegrass group the High Bar Gang as well as a newly formed group of session players called The New Yank Yorkies.Geoff Hicks (drums): Geoff Hicks is an earthy, organic drummer along the lines of Levon Helm, Steve Jordan and Steve Ferrone. Driven by the song, not the ego, Geoff constantly strives for a strong groove-orientation. Born in a snow drift in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1972, Geoff soon after started pounding out rhythms on his dad’s old orange marble Ludwig’s (like Ringo’s). He moved to Vancouver as an adult and began touring non-stop with artists like The Paperboys, Barney Bentall, Harry Manx, Steve Dawson, Jim Byrnes, Craig Northey (The Odds), Steven Drake, Jesse Valenzuela (Gin Blossoms), Dustin Bentall, The Sojourners, Coco Love Alcorn, Bocephus King, Ndidi Onukwulu, Bob Kemmis, The Seams, Wayne Lavalee, and many, many more. Since 2005, Geoff has been steadily touring with Canadian blues/rock legend Colin James, in addition to The Opry and more.Scott Smith (pedal steel, electric guitar): Scott Smith has helped make a lot of other people sound great over the years. From the arena-sized mainstream country of Aaron Pritchett to a slew of insurgent Vancouver club champs like Rich Hope and His Blue Rich Rangers, Terminal Station and Bocephus King, plus many more, Smith has been everybody’s ringer, flipping between guitar and pedal steel while casually raising the bar with lightning technique and unfailing good taste. In 2014 he released his own solo record, taking up the reins as the lead in a project called Just A Season. At all times, Just a Season is characterized by that rarest of qualities, where a relaxed feel is somehow produced out of the stealthiest musicianship.
Potluck Cafe Society – Barney Bentall and Grand Cariboo Opry
DAY604 – Barney Bentall and the Grand Cariboo Opry – Setting The Woods On Fire (by Hank Williams)