Ontario Pioneers

April 16, 2021

Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: Gordon Lightfoot

// by Larry Delaney // (THE “COUNTRY” SIDE OF GORDON LIGHTFOOT) Born: November 17, 1938 – Orillia, Ontario (#48 in the Ontario Pioneers Series)   Gordon Lightfoot, one of Canada’s most renowned singer/songwriters, has seen his compositions recorded by artists from around the globe… and from all musical genres. Lightfoot’s own recordings of many of his songs have become permanently etched in our musical memories. While Gordon Lightfoot is most often regarded as a “Folk” artist, his “Country” roots run just as deep. His songs have been recorded by the Who’s Who of country music, many of them becoming major chart hits for those artists. During the 1970s and mid 80s, Lightfoot placed eight of his recordings of original songs on the Billboard Country Charts, […]
March 12, 2021

Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: Carroll Baker

// by Larry Delaney // Born: March 4, 1949 – Bridgewater, Nova Scotia Home: Guelph, Ontario (#47 in the Ontario Pioneers Series)   Carroll Baker’s career in Canadian country music remains unmatched. Notwithstanding the modern-day accomplishments of such Canadian-bred country stars as Shania Twain, Terri Clark, Michelle Wright, etc., Carroll Baker still holds the Canadian chart record of scoring 12 consecutive #1 hits (February 1975 to May 1979). Carroll Baker was on the RPM Country Hit Charts for a total of 528 weeks, with 31 consecutive singles reaching the charts and 20 of them making the Top 10, mostly achieved with her manager/producer/songwriting partner, the late Don Grashey. Carroll’s success story did not end with the Don Grashey era. After moving to Tembo Records in […]
February 9, 2021

Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: Mike O’Reilly

// by Larry Delaney // Born: Dec. 10, 1944 – Seaton (Devonshire) England Home: Ottawa, Ontario (#46 in the Ontario Pioneers Series) In the Bluegrass Music world, Mike O’Reilly has long been one of Canada’s “best kept secrets”. The now-veteran Canuck has done it all: a masterful musician, a gifted singer, a quality songwriter, and a stage presence that balances a traditional bluegrass voice with a comedic side that keeps an audience enthralled. Today’s bluegrass fans will likely be aware of Mike O’Reilly’s quartet of albums recorded with long-time music partner Dick Smith, releasing the four albums (from 2002-2008) on the New Era Recording label under the “Dick Smith – Mike O’Reilly Band” banner. Amazingly, all 56 songs featured on these albums were written solely […]
January 11, 2021

Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: Canadian Zephyr

// by Larry Delaney // (#45 in the Ontario Pioneers Series) Seven albums, 20 charted singles, including three #1 hits and eight Top 10 hits to their credit… but still, Canadian Zephyr remain as one of Canadian country music’s all-time “mystery” acts. A product of the pre-CD, pre-video era of Canadian country music, Canadian Zephyr were the perfect example of being “ahead of their time.” The early origins of the band go back to the late 1960s as a foursome called The Four Jacks, featuring the talents of John Hayman, Bill Meens, Marty Steiger and Chris Plewes. In 1971, after Steiger and Plewes left the act, Hayman and Meens were joined by bassist/vocalist Garth Bourne, billing themselves as CANADIAN ZEPHYR, with a home base in […]
December 11, 2020

Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: Hugh Scott

Born: April 4, 1940 – Riceville, Ontario // by Larry Delaney // (#44 in the Ontario Pioneers Series) Hugh Scott is the epitome of the “hometown hero”… a singer, songwriter and performer who had the pure talent to become a huge star at the national level, but chose to stay close to home to pursue his music career. Born April 4, 1940, in the Eastern Ontario town of Riceville, Hugh Scott was raised in Ottawa and began playing the fiddle at age 5. By his mid-teens, he was playing in his first professional band, Smokey Rand & The Drifters, working shows at the popular Chamberland Hotel in nearby Aylmer, Quebec. Later, while heading-up his own group, The Meteors, Hugh generated a huge fan following with […]
November 3, 2020

Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: Marie Bottrell

Born: January 16, 1961 – London, Ontario // by Larry Delaney // (#43 in the Ontario Pioneers Series) Marie Bottrell has been writing songs and singing since her pre-teen years. After performing in her family group (Whitestone Bridge) and singing at dances and Legion Halls in her hometown of London, Ontario, Marie was signed to The Mercey Brothers’ MBS Records label in 1978. She pursued a solo career, releasing two albums on MBS and an additional three albums after being signed to RCA Records. Many of the songs on these albums were original songs written by Bottrell. Her debut “Just Reach Out And Touch Me” album featured four songs, which she composed, including the title track, which became the first of her twenty nationally-charted hit […]
October 16, 2020

Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: Bob Lucier

Born: December 9, 1942 – Grande Prairie, Ontario (by Larry Delaney) Bob Lucier was born in Grand Prairie, Ontario – a small community near Chatham – and he has been playing steel guitar since his late teenage years. He first played professionally with his hometown-based Myers Brothers & The Jubilaires. He would later become a renowned steel guitarist for several of Canada’s top country bands, including Eastwind – a group headed up by Johnny Burke; and with the Caribou Showband, with that group hosting their own TV series At The Caribou. Bob also was the steel guitar player in the house band backing Canadian legend Tommy Hunter, host of the long-running CBC-TV series, The Tommy Hunter Show. He was also the steel guitarist in the […]
September 18, 2020

Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: Paul Weber

Born: May 22, 1960 – Kitchener, Ontario (by Larry Delaney)   Paul Weber was raised in a Kitchener, Ontario-based country music family. His father – Howard “Smoky” Weber – played in various local bands in Southwest Ontario, and his older brother Mike Weber was a gifted steel guitarist. In 1985, the Webers celebrated the family’s collective talents with a full-length album, “The Webers – Together.” In the mid-1970s, Paul Weber joined his brother Mike as a member of Joe Firth’s Promised Land band; a group that toured extensively across Canada. By the early 1980s, Paul Weber would strike out on his own as a solo artist, recording albums on the Boot and Great North American Phonodisc (GNAP) labels. Later CD albums were released on Cardinal […]
August 1, 2020

Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: The Rhythm Sweethearts

(Circa 1953-1972) (by Larry Delaney) The early days of Canadian country music were predominantly the domain of male country singers and musicians… there were very few star female performers, and indeed, it was rare to find an all-girl act on the Canadian country scene. That male stranglehold on the genre was first challenged in the mid-50s by The Rhythm Sweethearts, a Toronto-based female foursome, who became a marquee name on the Ontario country scene, and beyond. The Rhythm Sweethearts were comprised of Myrtle Gifford, a Marmora, Ontario, born bass guitarist and vocalist; Bessie (Elizabeth) Brunette, a Pembroke, Ontario-bred lead guitar player, vocalist and yodeler; “Patti Jo” (Patricia Hennessey), from Digby, NS, was the group’s drummer; and Lorrie Gale (Lorraine Gallant), of Moncton, NB, played guitar […]

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