The Western Flyers perform February 24th in Harrisburg, Hot Western Swing with Joey McKenzie, Katie Glassman + Gavin Kelso

Recently named the 2017 Best Western Swing Group at the Ameripolitan Awards in Austin, Texas, the award winning Western Flyers are one of the most exciting new bands to glide onto the music scene in years!Their music is a distinctive cross section of the Great American Songbook: authentic Western swing, Hot jazz and swing standards, cowboy songs and electrifying old-time fiddle tunes.



The Western Flyers come to central Pennsylvania on Friday, February 24, 2017, for a 7:30 p.m. concert sponsored by Susquehanna Folk Music Society at the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn, 5300 N. Front Street, Harrisburg.

Internationally renowned guitar master Joey McKenzie drives the train with his powerful rhythm, while reigning National Swing Fiddle champion Katie Glassman and world-class upright bassist Gavin Kelso add fuel to the fire. A blending of tradition and innovation, The Western Flyers are a singular musical experience; a fresh take on a venerable American art form performed by three Western swing virtuosos.

Concert tickets are $24 General Admission, $20 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets online at or toll-free (800) 838-3006. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society website at

We had a chance to speak to Gavin Kelso about the band, the music that they play and the big award that they just won!


FOLKMAMA: Wow! Congratulations on winning Best Western Swing Group! That must have been pretty exciting!

GALVIN: Yes, thank you. We were all surprised. We’re really a pretty new band. We didn’t expect it.

FOLKMAMA: So, what are the Ameripolitan Awards and how does it all work?

GALVIN: The Ameripolitans are an organization that is interested in promoting roots music from the Western states. They give awards in several genres; Western Swing, Honky Tonk, Rockabilly and Outlaw. The have a fabulously produced awards ceremony and concert and hold it in a beautiful Neapolitan style theater—the Paramount Theater—in Austin. What happens is the DJs who specialize in these genres compile a list to be considered for the award and people vote for the band that they like best on social media.

FOLKMAMA: So did you win the vote because you’ve been really getting around during the last few years and getting better known or do people listen to MP3s and select their favorite that way?

GALVIN: A little of both. We’ve tried to keep the road as hot as we can given everybody’s availability. Sherry McKenzie, Joey’s wife and our manager has just done a really tremendous job of making sure that we have the opportunities that are going to present our music in the best light and people who are going to get the most out of it.

That’s why we’re playing at your concert series again. That was a really wonderful experience for us the first time. We go where we think people are going to dig hearing it. You can only be one place at a time and we try to go where it’s going to make a splash and I think we have done that.

FOLKMAMA: Thanks, glad you enjoyed playing for Susquehanna Folk! But for those that didn’t get to see you last time you were in Harrisburg, tell me what a Western Flyers concert is like.

GALVIN: If you come to a Western Flyers show you are going to see a three piece band, and you’re going to see way too much energy on stage than three people ought to have! We’re pretty enthusiastic about what we do.

All three of us come from the Western Swing tradition. It’s a genre within American traditional music, that’s broad on one hand, but narrow and specific on the other. For example we play swing music, but the slice of swing music that we play is from the 1920s, 30s, 40s. And we play country music too, but mainly from around that time period. And of course the meat and potatoes of what we do is Western Swing and the greatest artist and composer in that genre is Bob Wills. So we’re the biggest Bob Wills fans that you could encounter!

And then fiddle music kind of rounds us out. Fiddle music is kind of the “kingpin” of so many traditional American styles like Appalachian old-time, Ozark fiddling, Cajun, Celtic fiddling. But when we talk about fiddling we are primarily concerned with Texas style breakdown fiddle.

So Western Swing is a narrow section of American music but it draws from a much larger pot including swing, different styles of fiddling and some country shuffle music. There is a lot of gold to pan for a band like us because the repertoire of possible music is big.

So that’s the kind of music that people are going to hear and how we pull it off is there are three of us and me and Joey form up the rhythm section and I play upright bass and Joey plays acoustic rhythm arch top guitar. Katie is our fiddler and we all three sing.


FOLKMAMA: I’m curious of the “arch top guitar”. What is it and why does Joey choose to play that style rather than a more common flattop guitar?

GALVIN: Before guitars were amplified with electromagnetic pickups they were designed in a way acoustically to give the most volume and ensemble projection, while still maintaining a really beautiful bell like tone. If you look at photos of the Count Basie Band, for example, you’ll see that their guitarist Freddie Green played an arch top guitar. It’s been called an “orchestra guitar” because it’s built to be loud enough to be heard over the drums and horns in a traditional swing band.

Joey is a real flame keeper in terms of the style of guitar that he plays and the instruments on which he plays that style.





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: