James Stewart Nixon, born Oct. 19, 1931, is the son of Leslie and Margaret (Barton) Nixon. His musical ability stems from both sides of the family which includes playing the piano, organ, accordion, guitar and fiddle. His grandfather (also James Nixon) would lilt mouth music for dances, his mother played the piano, his uncle Tommy Barton played the fiddle and his aunt Bertha Lafaivre, who also played the piano, greatly influenced him to learn. His versatile style of music includes Scottish, Irish, Old Time, Ragtime and Honky Tonk.
At the age of ten he started to play the piano by ear, and while attending high school, took some lessons but never did learn to read music very well. While attending high school he would practice in the assembly hall where his fellow students had an opportunity to enjoy and dance to the music. At fifteen he took up the fiddle by ear and started playing at local functions accompanied by his mother. In the early ’50s he started to play with the McCrimmon Orchestra. Around 1965 he started to play solo piano at places like Duncan McDonell’s Atlantic Hotel, The Sportsman Inn and at various curling clubs and house parties.
The Nixon farmhouse has been a musical haven for some great Canadian fiddlers over the years. In the 1950s, James’ parents became good friends with the parents of renowned Canadian Fiddle Champion Graham Townsend, and the family would spend several weekends a year at the farm where James would chord on the piano for Graham to play the fiddle. In 1968 three time North American Fiddle Champion, Johnny Mooring was in the area and it wasn’t long before he recognized James’ great talent, and by request he quickly became Johnny’s piano accompaniment, both locally and for two Canadian fiddle competitions in Shelburne.
In 1982, he met up with fiddler and composer Don Pettigrew, who recognized James from playing with Johnny Mooring in Shelburne. The two became good friends and spent many hours jamming together. Don was a great composer of waltzes and one of his tunes “Margaret Nixon Waltz” was written by Don for James’ mother, and has been played by many area fiddlers. Also, as a tribute to James’ musical abilities, Don Pettigrew composed “James Nixon’s Reel.”
In 1974, James purchased an electric organ. This brought a unique sound to his traditional style and his superb danceable music has been the request ever since.
For decades James has been a much requested entertainer at dance halls, curling clubs, fairs, seniors residents and house parties, in Glengarry, Prescott and Western Quebec including local places like the Atlantic Hotel, Bonnie Glen, Dalkeith, Dunvegan & McCrimmon dance halls, Alexandria, Maxville & Lancaster Curling Clubs. He has also played the organ for many years on the main stage at the Williamstown Fair, and for several decades has provided the background music for the Eastern Ontario & Western Quebec Holstein Show held every year at the Maxville Fair, giving Holstein enthusiasts from all over Ontario & Quebec a taste of our Glengarry culture.
He has been the sought after musician for weddings receptions and anniversary parties and has also given freely of his time for years to play at senior’s residences, birthday parties and charitable events. He is a founding member of the Glengarry Old Tyme Fiddlers. He has composed many fiddle tunes and some of his music can be found in Canadian Fiddle Music Volume Two, compiled by Dr. Ed Whitcomb.
For close to seven decades James has used his God-given musical gifts and abilities for the enjoyment and pleasure of many and says he has been fortunate to play with some of the best fiddlers. He resides on the family farm between Lochinvar and Aberdeen where he crops and raises a fine herd of red angus beef cows.