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Joseph Gallant

2024 RIBA Hall of Fame inductee

Joe Gallant was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1917 but his family soon moved to Taunton, Massachusetts where he remained for the rest of his life. He began his musical journey when he turned 19 and acquired his first guitar. At this time his musical tastes centered around old country music. He particularly liked country artist Jimmy Rogers.


Also at age 19, Joe married his sweetheart, Ina, and together they raised four children: William, Anna, Janet, and JoEllen. Joe worked full-time as a truck driver and part time as a radio disc jockey at WPEP in Taunton, Massachusetts. On Saturday mornings he hosted a show dedicated to old country and bluegrass music, often featuring live local country and bluegrass bands on his program.


In his job as a DJ, Joe made contact with other radio personalities like Al Roberts, a DJ at WPAW in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Al had a Saturday morning show that often featured local country and bluegrass talent in live performances. Joe was visiting Al one day when Fred Pike and Randy Hawkins were performing live. He was also there on another occasion when those two fellows were joined by dobro player Sky Travis. He talked this trio of bluegrassers to join his band named “The Rainbow Valley Boys.” This group now consisted of such luminaries as RIBA Hall of Famer Fred Pike, RIBA Pioneer of Bluegrass Randy Hawkins, and RIBA Hall of Famer Sky Travis. Even RIBA Hall of Famer, Bill Hall, played with Joe at times. 


Joe was instrumental in getting Bob French and Joe Val from Massachusetts to play in his band. Besides performing regularly on the WPEP radio spot on Saturday mornings, they also performed at numerous venues throughout Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. 


Daughters Anna and Janet sang with Joe and the band on the radio and some of the shows. Later, Anna dropped out of the band but Janet continued. The band name was changed to “The Rainbow Valley Boys and Girl.”


Not strictly a bluegrass band, Joe mixed it up with old country tunes and bluegrass tunes. Around this time, he began booking country and bluegrass acts into the Taunton area. Many of the acts Joe was hiring were regular performers on WWVA Wheeling Jamboree out of Wheeling, West Virginia. Some of the top acts at the time were Doc and Chicky Williams, Reno and Smiley, the Osborne Brothers and several others. Many times, these acts would come north on a package tour often ending in Canada. The acts Joe hired would be invited to WPEP to sit in for an on-air chat with Joe and to spin their latest records: to hopefully drum up attendance for the upcoming show. This was quite common in the early days of minimal promotion by Record labels for bluegrass groups and even many of the country acts. Often after the radio spots and more frequently after the shows the artists would go over to Joe and Ina’s house for a night of picking and singing.

Joe booked national acts, as well as his own band, into Green Acres Ranch in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. It was also around this time that Joe picked up Ralph Jones, dobro player, for his band. Ralph had played dobro on some of the early recordings of the Blue Sky Boys, a very popular country act.


Joe was a very handsome man and certainly commanded respect. His microphone skills were impeccable, no doubt due to his DJ days, and with his big baritone voice, man he sang like a star.
Joe Gallant passed on in 1996, leaving a legacy of 79 years of promoting, performing, educating, mentoring, hosting and most importantly always acting as an ambassador of southern New England hospitality to so many bands from the southern U.S. that had had limited exposure to the New England music scene at that time. Joe Gallant played a pivotal role in getting the right musicians together, many who were at the beginning of their bluegrass journey, and with his encouragement and foresight was able to nurture the fledgling bluegrass scene in southern New England that continues to this day.

Chuck Wentworth | 2022 | RIBA Hall of Fame
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