Base Location: Eugene, OR
Wheatfield formed in October, 1971, as a folk duo by Pete Wolfe and Will Hobbs, who met in the Odyssey Coffee House in Eugene, Oregon. Their first impromptu rendition of “Helplessly Hoping” met with immediate applause, and the two decided they had something special and worth pursuing. Within a week of forming, they were featured on a radio program on alternative music station KZEL, and quickly received many bookings.
They added a bass player and a lead guitarist in the next few weeks, and finally a drummer the following Spring. As new musicians came aboard, they added their own musical styles to the group’s sound, and Wheatfield developed its signature penchant for musical variety, covering folk, bluegrass, country, country rock, rock and roll, and even some jazz. One prerequisite of all new members was that they sing, further differentiating Wheatfield from most other bands at the time. Most members also played multiple instruments.
In 1972, Wheatfield put out a 45, which received modest airplay in a few markets. The A side was a war protest song written by Will, that was also featured on an album recorded at the Second Annual Willamette Valley Folk Festival.
As Wheatfield’s reputation grew, so did its geographical reach, ultimately covering the entire Northwest, from British Columbia to Montana, Idaho, and all over Washington and Oregon. By the mid-70’s, Wheatfield was said to be the top unsigned band in the Northwest. Wheatfield played clubs, colleges, standalone concerts and festivals. Besides headlining in all the venues where Wheatfield played, they also frequently shared the stage with other popular artists, including Doc Watson, Maria Muldaur, Seals and Crofts, Asleep At The Wheel, Utah Phillips, Norton Buffalo, and even the Ramones. One weekend in Seattle, Wheatfield was the backup band for Bo Diddley.
In 1980, Wheatfield released a self-titled album, produced by Norton Buffalo, which also received modest airplay. The songs from the album and 45 are currently available on a CD, which can be ordered through this web site. In December of 1980, Wheatfield was honored with a prime time TV special that was aired all over Oregon by Portland’s KOIN TV.
In 1982, with increased interest in their growing families, and weary of constant travel, the group disbanded. Occasionally, in the ensuing years, the band would briefly re-form for some specific gig, and in 2002, after a reunion to benefit their drummer, Ken Sawyer, who had fought cancer successfully but was left with massive medical bills, the band decided to get back together.
Over the years, there were several personnel changes. Here is a short summary of the significant members of the band, including the instruments they play or have played over the years:
- Pete Wolfe (1972 – 1981) bass, banjo, guitar, spoons, vocals. Co-founder of Wheatfield. Rejoined for the present band.
- Will Hobbs (1972 to present) guitar, mandolin, flute, harmonica, saxophone, vocals, songwriter. Cofounder of Wheatfield.
- Paul Douglas (1975 to present) guitar, keyboards, fiddle, harmonica, clarinet, vocals.
- Kerry Canfield (1977 to present) keyboards, guitar, lap steel, accordion, trumpet, vocals, songwriter.
- Steve Aubrey (2005 to present) drums, vocals.
Former Members (Outfielders)
- “Snead” Freedman (1971 – 1972) bass guitar, vocals.
- Don Ross (1971 – 1975) guitar, vocals.
- Rex Stallion, real name Bruce Endicott (1972 – 1978) drums, vocals
- John Powell (1973 – 1977) keyboards, guitar, trumpet, vocals, songwriter
- Kelly Stites (1981 – 1982) bass guitar, vocals, songwriter
- Susan Scholz (1981 – 1982) Vocals.
- Kenny Sawyer (1978 – 2005) Drums, vocals.
Source: Wheatfield website – http://www.wheatfieldoregon.com/