Since meeting at the National Old-Time Fiddlers Contest in Weiser, Idaho as young teenagers, Joey and Sherry's influence on the fiddle world is very evident. Both have won multiple state, national and world fiddle championships and as teachers, several of their students have gone on to win major national fiddle championships of their own. In addition, the McKenzie's are very proud of their students who have advanced into successful music careers, as well as the many others who have became life-long music lovers who play strictly for the fun of it!
Joey McKenzie is a natural musical wonder. He is such a gifted musician, arranger and musical visionary. I truly admire him. One of the things we both share in common is rhythm. I always keep an eye out for rhythm specialists. When I first heard Joey play I proclaimed him the best, rock solid. He takes care of business at the microphone in a mighty way.
Marty Stuart ~ Grand Ole Opry star and host of "The Marty Stuart Show" on RFD-TV.
Joey McKenzie: Master of the guitar! As you watch him play, you know he has been blessed with power and perfect control over the instrument. In my opinion, he is the greatest guitar player this side of Heaven. He is an Icon, and my hero.
Leon Rhodes ~ Legendary Nashville session guitarist and member of Ernest Tubb's Texas Troubadours.
The first time I heard Joey McKenzie, his playing impressed me. His sound, chord progressions and ability to keep such good time - even when playing alone, was amazing. His L-12 is the best sounding I've ever heard. You've got to hear him to believe it!
Bob Bain ~ L.A. session icon and guitarist on 'The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.
Joey’s 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 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 to touring with The Western Flyers, Joey enjoys restoring, repairing and collecting vintage stringed instruments and says he is still trying to get them in tune!
When eleven years old, Sherry experienced fiddle music for the first time. "I saw a fiddle player on TV," she recalls, "and thought it looked really, really fun. My parents got me an instrument, and I started playing in the sixth grade orchestra in my hometown of Idaho Falls, Idaho and I just fell in love with the music. The sound of it made me feel good." Sherry has essentially learned to play Texas-style completely by ear. "My parents would get me a record, like Benny Thomasson or Kenny Baker, and I would try to put those licks in the old-time songs I was playing. I entered the state fiddle contest just for fun (I placed next to last!) but that year I fell in love with the Texas-style versions of the tunes I heard. I met Mike Parsons and Roberta Pearce at the contest and began taking lessons from them, learning this exciting style of fiddling, and the next year I got first place in the Junior Junior Division." After this first win, Sherry headed of to the national contest in Weiser, a few miles down the road. "I remember sitting in the gym at Weiser watching the open division and hearing the great Texas-style players for the very first time. Herman Johnson made a big impression on me--the way he stood, the way he played, even how he walked out on stage to compete, and I just thought he was so amazing." That year Sherry met Herman along with Benny Thomasson and Dick Barrett. These three fiddlers would deeply influence her playing over the next few years. "I had never met a Texas-style fiddler in person," she recalls.
"I just had this Benny Thomasson record. I remember playing outside on the sidewalk at Weiser-- I'm squeakin' around on this fiddle, and I heard fiddling over my shoulder and looked over and it was Benny Thomasson. I had been playing Clarinet Polka, and he was playing the harmony. I got really nervous and I thought, 'this is that man that I have the record of!' And he was just so nice. I met Dick Barrett that same year - my dad approached him and asked if he would have some time to watch me play and talk with me, which he did. Dick took me aside and showed me a different way to hold my bow, and I asked him some questions. He showed me Black & White Rag, and helped me all afternoon to get the bowing right. I greatly admired these three fiddlers and wanted to play just like they played." After these encounters, Sherry recalls, "I would spend hundreds of hours with a record, slowing it down and listening over and over. And I spent hours watching great fiddle players, trying to figure out how they bowed certain songs." Sherry has completed Suzuki Violin Unit 1 at Texas Christian University and has incorporated the pedagogical ideas of the method into her teaching. “I believe there are more similarities than differences with the Suzuki method and a systematic approach to learning traditional fiddling.” Sherry enjoys working with Suzuki students in an Enrichment role to supplement their existing studies and with intermediate level students of all ages. She is a sought after instructor at workshops and institutes across the country.