Canada's premier jazz accordionist, Gordie Fleming (full name: Gordon Kenneth Fleming) was born in Winnipeg on August 3, 1931. He began playing the accordion at a very young age, and by the age of five was already making the rounds on Manitoba's vaudeville circuit. He toured much of western Canada during World War II, also appearing frequently on the radio, and worked in Winnipeg nightclubs for several years afterward, playing piano and organ in addition to accordion. In 1949, he moved to Montreal and joined a bebop group called the Quartones (which also featured clarinetist Gerry McDonald, guitarist Frank Quinn, and drummer Leo Poulin), and one year later formed his own group with fellow Winnipeg native Billy Graham on drums. Booked as part of the ship band on a transatlantic cruise in 1953, he hooked up with Rob Adams, with whom he continued to play upon his return to Quebec.
Also in 1953, Fleming formed a quintet called the Canadian All Stars, which featured clarinetist Al Baculis, vibist/pianist Yvan Landry, bassist Hal Gaylor, and drummer Graham. After opening a workshop concert where Charlie Parker was the headliner, this group recorded a 10" LP for the New York-based Discovery Records in 1955. From there, Fleming went on to play on country & western sessions (which was much more lucrative than jazz), while continuing to perform with a variety of Canadian jazz artists. During the '70s, he occasionally backed folky singer/songwriters like Jesse Winchester, Cat Stevens, and Kate & Anna McGarrigle; he also composed music for TV and movie soundtracks, and played with French-Canadian fiddle legend Jean Carignan. Fleming moved from Montreal to Toronto in 1977, and played often in his new city's jazz clubs. He performed with Herbie Spanier at the 1985 Montreal International Jazz Festival. Most of the recordings Fleming made under his own name were done for the CBC. He suffered a stroke in July 2000 and was never quite the same afterward; he passed away on August 31, 2002.