John was born September 24, 1918 on the family farm in Rhodes District, RM of Ethelbert. His parents were Ukrainian immigrants Joseph and Ksenka (Ewanchuk) Bazylo. John likely inherited his natural ability to play music by ear from his grandfather John Bazylo, a musician in Ukraine. John attended Rhodes School where a teacher Mr. L.J. Syrnyk introduced him to string instruments. When John was 14 years old, his father bought him a violin which John played about three years. John played the tsymbaly and a banjo as well.
During the Great Depression, John and his friends hopped freight trains to work for Saskatchewan farmers as harvest hands. John purchased a guitar and proudly brought it home but his parents thought he was misguided in his priorities during such tough economic times. Undeterred, John dreamed of becoming a successful musician.
The rapidly growing Ukrainian immigrant community sought relief from the daily grind of depression life through music and dance. Local teens and young adults walked to nearby road intersections on summer evenings to socialize and dance. Few if any owned cars so traffic was sparse. John played his guitar while his sister Mary played the violin. Others joined in.
John developed the reputation of being a great local musician. He played solo instrumental guitar and also joined bands at many traditional Ukrainian weddings (with “vivat” greeting), anniversaries, house parties, concerts, barn dances, New Year’s Eves and socials, often until dawn. In 1937, John’s father bought him a used Chevy car. John no longer had to transport his instruments by bike.
John played with various musicians including inductee John Sawchuk (violin), inductee John Frykas (tsymbaly), Johnny Moroz (various instruments), Ed Swiderski (violin), Alex Potoroka (violin), Nick Dudar (saxophone) and Andrew Yury (violin). John played music with Andrew the longest period of time. Andrew was known to tell people that John was the best guitarist around because John played every note so beautifully.
John served in the army from 1940-1945. In 1945 John married Pearl Sanchuk. They farmed on his family farm raising their family of two daughters. John continued to play in bands travelling near and far for various events. By the 1960s, the era of socials and weddings in country halls was in decline. Meanwhile, John and Pearl were busy expanding their farm operation but still found time to sing. They sang in Canada’s National Ukrainian Festival choir of Dauphin and in church choirs. As John’s music career wound down, he supported Pearl to become a church cantor and choir director.
John’s music career gradually ended after entertaining countless people for over 25 years. His guitar, a Great
Depression investment, had paid for itself many times. His once skeptical parents were very proud of his success. John still played his guitar at family gatherings for years. He passed away on August 7, 1991 at 72 years of age, leaving his family with many fond memories.
John’s induction into the Hall of Fame is a tremendous honour for an unpretentious man who brightened so many lives with his music. It is very poignant that John’s career as a serious musician largely began at Rhodes and in the very hall now known as the Ukrainian Musicians Hall of Fame. One could say that John has come home!