Although Peter Appleyard is acknowledged to be one of the world's five top vibraphonists, he actually started his musical career playing drums. This was in his native England at the age of thirteen. At the time, World War II was in progress and there was a big influx of big American Band recordings, which introduced Appleyard to such Jazz greats as Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington and Count Basie.
Times were hard and Appleyard had to leave school and he became apprenticed to a nautical instrument maker. Because of his interest in music, and his experience on drums and bugle he was accepted by the band of the Boys Brigade, a youth organization. In the evenings he also played with local dance bands. Then, when he was seventeen, he auditioned for the Mendelssohn's Hawaiian Serenaders. Appleyard got the job and was soon on the road with one of the biggest dance bands in England.
In 1951, while on his way to join a band in Bermuda, he stopped off at Bop City in New York. On the billboard, names included the George Shearing Quintet and the Lionel Hampton Big Band. Appleyard was thrilled, - this was his real music scene. During his two years in Bermuda he spent his holidays in Canada and picked up his first set of vibes. He was so impressed with Canada that, when the time came to leave Bermuda the choice of anew home was easy - he headed for Toronto. At first, unable to get a union card in Toronto, Appleyard worked as a room booking clerk at the King Edward Hotel as a salesman at Simpson's. All the while he was honing his musical skills.
His first musical job was at the Colonial with Bill O'Connor followed by a stint with the Calvin Jackson Quartet at the park Plaza. This included to group's weekly coast to coast CBC series "Jazz with Jackson". In 1957, having become a Canadian citizen, Appleyard decided to form his own quartet and it toured the major club circuits in Canada and the United States. he next year, he recorded his first Jazz LP "Anything Goes" for RCA Records. An invitation to open at the Round Table Club in New York led to rich opportunities for Appleyard and he was soon playing with such luminaires as Andre Previn, Steve Allen and the Dukes of Dixieland.
In the late sixties, Appleyard returned to Toronto on a more permanent basis and was soon playing once more at the Park Plaza Hotel. In addition he began studying timpani and percussion and extended his musical expertise substantially. At the time he was doing many CBC television productions.
Appleyard has been the leading percussionist with the CBC on both radio and television since 1960. He still plays for all the Wayne and Shuster Shows and also for Anne Murray, Oscar Peterson, Gordon Lightfoot and many major television specials seen in Canada. His work with the CBC eventually led to his career with Benny Goodman.
Benny Goodman had been impressed with Appleyard's skills and invited him to join the Benny Goodman Sextet. Within the next eight years they had played in most major concert halls in the world while touring Europe, Australia, the Middle East, Bermuda, Jamaica and behind the Iron Curtain. Working with this group gave Appleyard the opportunity working with some of the jazz "greats" such as Slam Stewart, Bucky Pizzarelli, Abe Most and Butch Miles.
During his years with Goodman, Appleyard continued to live in Toronto and remained active in local fund raising activities for a number of worthwhile causes. Most of his NATO tours have been at his own expense. He has completed four tours at bases in Europe and three tours in Cyprus and the Gaza Strip and has also performed for Canadian and American servicemen at the North Pole Christmas Show in Greenland.
In 1983 his big band album "Swing Fever" went "gold" with 50,000 records sold in Canada before going international.
In the past twenty years he has appeared at all major jazz international jazz festival. He has performed for many members of the British Royal family. He has worked with Hagwood Hardy, Maureen Forrester, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Vera Lynn, Dinah Christie, Gordie Tapp, the Toronto Symphony, the R.C.M.P. Musical Ride, Walt Disney and Henry Manc ini, to name a few. He has recorded with Oscar Peterson on several occasions including the award winning "A Place To Stand". Following the death of Benny Goodman, he formed the Benny Goodman Tribute Band which is compromised of a number of Goodman alumni and some great Toronto musicians. Appleyard also is the leader of the "Swing Fever Band".