California native Shari Ulrich moved to Vancouver in 1969 to seek out her music fame and fortune. After a couple of years on the scene doing coffee houses and open night jams, she met guitarist Joe Mock (ex of jazz/rock group Mock Duck) and Rick Scott, primarily a children’s entertainer but also a serious dulcimer player. Like Ulrich, both were struggling to make a name for themselves on the circuit, and after learning they had many similar musical tastes, they decided to combine their talents and formed The Pied Pumkin String Ensemble.
They mixed humour into infectious, light-hearted folk rhythms that featured guitars, violins, and dulcimers into an act that saw them work throughout BC and western Canada, making stops in Washington State over the next couple of years. During this time they made stops at several smaller festivals. They set up their own Squash Records label, argued as Canada’s first independent label, and released their self-titled debut album in ’74. Taped live at the Simon Fraser University on top of Burnaby Mountain from the back of a truck, it was well received with original tunes like “Orville Goes To The Country,” “Long & Lonely,” and “People I Love You.”
Recorded a year later at Vancouver’s Little Mountain Studios with bassist Doug Edwards and drummer Jeff Eyre, their follow-up album, ALLAH MODE, picked up where its predecessor left off, self-produced and full of light-hearted charm wrapped up in tight harmonies. They shortened their name to Pied Pumkin, and again, there were no singles, but tracks like “Lotus Eaters Blues,” “A Fear of Flying,” and “Swing’s Da Ting” were infectious, keeping the band on the road until Ulrich left to join Valdy‘s Hometown Band later a year later. By this point, they’d sold over 30,000 copies of their two albums.
Mock and Scott carried on as the duo Pied Pear, releasing several records over the next eight years before they split and went on to achieve individual accolades over the next quarter of a century. Mock moved to France and concentrated on a European audience and also spent some time in Japan. In 1982, Scott appeared as Sufferton in Ann Mortifee’s musical “Reflections on Crooked Walking,” and spent the next seven years performing in stage productions, including “The Late Bloomer,” “Barnum,” and “Angry Housewives.” In 1989 a series of school shows launched what was to become a fulltime carreer as a family entertainer, culminating in six children’s recordings co-written and produced by his longtime partner Valley Hennell. Ulrich meanwhile would also achieve solo success after leaving Valdy’s troupe, and also became one third of UHF with Chilliwack‘s Bill Henderson and Roy Forbes (aka Bim). In addition, she also became a mentor to other aspiring artists when she began giving workshops and producing the Bluebird North singer/songwriter series.
In 1998, the Pied Pumkin retrospective PLUCKING DEVINE was released. Essentially a wrap-up of the band’s two albums, it also contained four unreleased tracks and was nominated as Best Folk/Roots Album during the the Pacific Music Industry Awards celebrations that year. THE LOST SQUASH TAPES, another collection of out-takes from the studios followed, featuring “Crystal Clog,” “Here Comes My Baby,” Chicken Finger Ramble,” and “Oh Lord Pardon Me.”
In the fall of 1999, what was initially supposed to be a couple of dates for Mock and Scott led to a full Pied Pumkin reunion. They performed 33 hugely successful shows throughout western Canada, culminating in the March 2000 release, PIED ALIVE. Recorded during nine of those 33 concerts, it was 13 tracks that featured cuts from the first two records from the ’70s, as well as a few gems from their solo careers and an artsy rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog.” All thee continued on with solo lives, including Scott being nominated for a 2007 Juno Award for his kids’ album SNOOZE MUSIC – DULCIMER LULLABYS FOR ALL AGES, which also won several American awards for parenting.
They continued reuniting now and again over the next decade, and released their first children’s album, PUMKIDS – TUNEFUL TALES FOR KIDS & KIN in 2007. The album won Best Children’s CD at that year’s Canadian Folk Music Awards and Western Canadian Music Awards, and Parents’ Choice and NAPPA Honors Awards in the US. They concentrated on touring children’s festivals for the next couple of years while still finding time for the occasional folk venue, then carried on with their individual solo projects again. This included Scott teaming with with veteran blues guitarist David Essig in ’09, releasing the critically acclaimed album, DOUBLE VISION.