Ontario Pioneers

January 12, 2022

Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: Jimmy Phair

// by Larry Delaney // (Born: February 26, 1941 – Froomfield [Sarnia], Ontario) (Died: December 31, 2020 – Sarnia, Ontario) (#59 in the Ontario Pioneers Series) Jimmy Phair was born February 26, 1941, in Froomfield (near Sarnia, Ontario). He received his first guitar – made from a cigar box – at age four and has never looked back. By the time he was 14, he was guesting on his first radio show, aired out of Marine City, Michigan. Soon afterwards, he was appearing regularly on his hometown radio station CHOK, which led to the hosting of his own radio show on the station. In 1962, Phair took his live show on the road, touring extensively in Ontario, Quebec and into the USA. He often shared […]
December 17, 2021

Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: Randall Prescott

// by Larry Delaney // (Born: February 6, 1955 – North Bay, Ontario) (#58 in the Ontario Pioneers Series) Randall Prescott is in the middle of a rare Canadian country music generational family tree: his father is Ottawa Valley Country Music Hall of Famer, Irwin Prescott; Randall is himself a multiple Hall of Fame inductee; and more recently, Randall and his wife Tracey Brown (of Family Brown) celebrate with great pride the emergence of their daughter, Kelly Prescott, on the Canadian music scene. That’s three generations of music-makin’ Prescotts. Randall Isaac Prescott was born in North Bay, Ontario. He and brother Ron Prescott followed their father Irwin Prescott when he relocated to Ottawa in 1971. Irwin Prescott founded and operated the famous Golden Rail club […]
November 9, 2021

Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: Tommy Hunter

// by Larry Delaney // (Born: March 20, 1937 – London, Ontario) (#57 in the Ontario Pioneers Series) Tommy Hunter has affectionately been dubbed “The Country Gentleman”, thanks largely to a legion of fans he developed through his 27 years of hosting “The Tommy Hunter TV Show” on CBC-TV (1965- 1992). Many of the faithful who followed him on the television show also attended his concerts during his almost-annual tours across Canada. The TV show was unceremoniously cancelled by CBC after 27 years, to the dismay of his fans, who petitioned the CBC for its return, to no avail. Several seasons of the show were also televised on The Nashville Network. At its peak in Canada, the show was drawing a weekly audience in excess […]
October 13, 2021

Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: Wayne Rostad

// by Larry Delaney // (Born: October 28, 1947 – Ottawa, Ontario) (#56 in the Ontario Pioneers Series) Wayne Rostad has long been one of Canada’s most visible country music entertainers, thanks to his long-running TV series “On The Road Again” – a homespun weekly show that featured vignettes on everyday people and places from all corners of the country. In fact, the TV series was so popular that it interrupted Wayne’s career as a country music recording artist and songwriter. Born October 28, 1947, in Ottawa, Wayne Rostad paid his dues in Canadian country music as a radio DJ at stations in Smiths Falls, Ottawa, and Kingston, Ontario and in Grand Falls, NL. During the 1970s, while in Ontario, Wayne was also the front-man […]
September 14, 2021

Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: Sylvia Tyson

// by Larry Delaney // (born: September 19, 1940 – Chatham, Ontario) (#53 in the Ontario Pioneers Series) Sylvia Fricker was born September 19, 1940, in Chatham, Ontario. While still a teenager, she moved to Toronto to pursue her interests in singing and soon crossedpaths with Ian Tyson. Shortly after they met in 1959, they began collaborating vocally and as songwriters, composing songs together and individually. Within the year, they launched the duo Ian & Sylvia, attracting attention to their folk/country music throughout North America, highlighted by what would become a Canadian classic: Four Strong Winds. Sylvia and Ian were married June 26, 1964. They recorded a dozen albums and by the late 1960s, were fronting the country/rock band Great Speckled Bird. During this time, […]
August 5, 2021

Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: JK Gulley

// by Larry Delaney // (Born: John Ken Gulley – October 11, 1955 – Toronto, Ontario) (#52 in the Ontario Pioneers Series)   A guitar whiz since early childhood, JK Gulley first performed professionally in support of Canadian artist Alfie Fromager, then became a founding member of the country group Dusty Road (with Les Childs and Brian Callan). The trio released a self-titled LP (Thunderbird Records) which featured five songs written by Gulley. JK Gulley next joined the Ontario-based group Whiskey River, and by the late 1970s, was playing lead guitar in Billie Jo Spear’s Nashville touring band, with his first show date with the band taking place at the 1979 Wembley Festival in England. Following a near three-year stint with Spears, JK moved on […]
July 6, 2021

Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: The Good Brothers

// by Larry Delaney // (Brian Good – Born January 27, 1946 – Toronto, Ontario Bruce Good – Born January 27, 1946 – Toronto, Ontario Larry Good – Born January 25, 1952 – Newmarket, Ontario) (#51 in the Ontario Pioneers Series) Twin brothers Bruce and Brian Good began their music career during the late 1960s folk music scene in Yorkville (Toronto) with the folk music group The Kinfolk, which also featured Bruce’s wife Margaret. Brian and Bruce later teamed up with James Ackroyd to form the trio, James & The Good Brothers. The act was part of the fabled “Festival Express” train tour across Canada, which also featured Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, The Band, Ian & Sylvia, etc. The Good Brothers once listed their […]
June 8, 2021

Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: Wendell Ferguson

// by Larry Delaney // (Born: February 28, 1954 – Streetsville, Ontario) (#50 in the Ontario Pioneers Series)   Wendell Ferguson is the “Mr. Do-It-All” of Canadian country music. A guitar player, a singer, a songwriter, a producer, a band leader, a comedian, an industry executive… and probably a whole lot more. Born and still residing in Streetsville (Mississauga), Ontario, Wendell became fixated on being a guitar player after hearing Chet Atkins play the instrument. Although he took several years of formal guitar lessons, Wendell was off-and-running as a guitar player, fueled more by listening to and emulating the recordings of some of his guitar idols: Chet Atkins, Les Paul, The Ventures and other guitar gods. In 1987, after years of practice and dues-paying, Wendell […]
May 12, 2021

Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: George Fox

// by Larry Delaney // (Born: March 23,1960 — Calgary, AB [Raised in Cochrane, AB]) Home: Ancaster, Ontario (#49 in the Ontario Pioneers Series) George Fox was a farm boy with a dream. Living on his parents’ farm in Cochrane, Alberta, George spent much of his younger life working the farm, baling hay and milking cows… all the while dreaming about becoming the next Elvis Presley or Buddy Holly – two of his early music idols. After spending time in Sweden on a “farm exchange” program, George’s musical interests turned to more traditional country artists, and he began writing songs himself. By the mid-1980s, and after playing the local community events scene in and around Cochrane, George began recording several demo sessions of his music, […]

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