Ontario Pioneers

August 8, 2017

Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: Ray Francis

Born: February 9, 1931 – Eberts, Ontario Died: June 30, 2010 – Chatham, Ontario (by Larry Delaney) Based out of Chatham, Ontario, Ray Francis formed his first band The Whippoorwills in the late 1950’s (with John Tangelis, Max Dauphin, Ray Dauphin, and Bill Taylor) and they quickly earned a solid reputation by backing up touring Nashville stars like Ray Price, Johnny Cash, Jim Reeves, Faron Young, Ferlin Husky, etc., and making appearances on major stages. The Whippoorwills also hosted a “live” show, aired weekly for more than five years over CFCO radio in Chatham. The act recorded two albums in the mid 1960’s: “The Whippoorwills” released on Canatal Records; and “Country Jamboree” on Arc Records. After the demise of The Whippoorwills group, Ray Francis joined […]
July 10, 2017

Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: Mickey McGivern

Born: December 13, 1931 – Pembroke, Ontario (by Larry Delaney) Quite likely the “most heard” and “least credited” musician on the Canadian country music scene during the 1960’s-80’s was Pembroke, Ontario-born guitarist Mickey McGivern. His tasty guitar talents were featured on hundreds of albums released by the popular Canadian indie label Arc Records, but many of these releases were issued in an era when session musicians were not credited on the back cover liner notes. Mickey McGivern’s guitar work played a key role on Arc Records albums released by such Canadian artists as Dick Nolan, Jimmy James, Dusty King, Irwin Prescott, Freddy McKenna, etc.; as well as on Arc albums featuring Nashville artists Red Sovine, Donna Darlene, Ramblin’ Lou Shriver, etc. At the time, Mickey […]
June 7, 2017

Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: David Thompson

Born: April 4, 1950 – Kapuskasing, Ontario Died: November 9, 2010 – Aylmer, Ontario (by Larry Delaney) David Thompson’s career in the spotlight was relatively short, but quite productive. Born in the Northern Ontario town of Kapuskasing, the family moved to Detroit when he was 5 years old… and while there, he absorbed various styles of music. During his teenage years, he played with local bands. At age 20, he returned to his hometown in Ontario, where he further developed his songwriting skills and performed with various local bands, most notably, The Richard Gordon Trio. David Thompson’s songwriting talents took him to Thunder Bay, Ontario, in an effort to pitch his tunes and secure a recording contract. In 1977, he was signed to RCA Canada, […]
May 12, 2017

Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: Colleen Peterson

(Born: November 14, 1950 – Peterborough, Ontario) (Died: October 9, 1996 – Toronto, Ontario) (by Larry Delaney) Born in Peterborough and raised in Ottawa, Colleen Peterson’s early career years (1966-1974) were spent on the Ontario folk music scene, performing in the group 3’s A Crowd with Bruce Cockburn and David Wiffen; and later, as part of the duo Spriggs & Bringle with Kingston-based musician Mark Haines. By the mid-1970’s, Colleen was pursuing a solo career in country music, and was signed to Capitol/EMI, recording albums in Los Angeles and Nashville. She earned a Billboard chart hit with her debut single “Souvenirs.” While in Nashville, Colleen joined on as a back-up vocalist for The Charlie Daniels Band and was also featured as a background vocalist on albums […]
April 13, 2017

Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: Mike Graham (aka Michael Dee)

(Born: October 3, 1944 – Toronto, Ontario) (Died : August 18, 1993 – London, Ontario) (by Larry Delaney) Toronto-born Mike Graham was one of the more versatile and popular artists on the Canadian country music scene during the 1970’s through the early 1990’s. He was a recording artist, songwriter, TV series host, record label owner, radio station DJ… and a “showman” with a fabulous stage show that included a lively mix of his own songs, his versions of popular country hits, and a comedic side that featured dynamic impersonations of country’s top stars. Mike Graham also showed great versatility. He began his career out of Toronto as a pure country singer. Later, while working as a popular DJ on Montreal radio station CHOM, he pursued […]
March 7, 2017

Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: The Mercey Brothers

Larry Mercey – (born Dec. 12, 1939 – Hanover, Ontario) Ray Mercey – (born Nov. 21, 1940 – Hanover, Ontario) Lloyd Mercey – (born Dec. 12, 1945 – Hanover, Ontario) (by Larry Delaney) One of Canada’s most decorated country groups, THE MERCEY BROTHERS were perennial award winners for Group Of The Year, including the Canadian Country Music Association’s 1985 Group Of The Year award and six-time (1970-74 and 1976) Juno Award winners as Best Country Group. Led vocally by Larry Mercey, who also wrote several of their top hits, the group released albums on Columbia, RCA and their own MBS Records label. Larry Mercey (on guitar) and brother Ray (on bass guitar) began their music careers in the mid-1950’s as members of The Town And […]
February 6, 2017

Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: Gary Buck

Born: March 21, 1940 – Thessalon, ONTARIO Died: October 14, 2003 – Didsbury, Alberta (by Larry Delaney) Gary Buck was a leader on the Canadian country music scene as a “builder”, as well as a recording artist, songwriter and producer. His talents in all of these fields have been largely responsible for laying the groundwork and development of the Canadian country music industry. Gary Buck began his own music and recording career while based out of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and would soon become recognized for his work at the international level. As a recording artist, Gary Buck released albums on the Canatal, Tower, Sparton, Capitol, RCA Camden and his own Broadland Records labels. He charted more than 25 singles on the Canadian Country Hit […]
January 9, 2017

Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: Gordie Tapp

A SPECIAL TRIBUTE TO GORDIE TAPP (1922-2016) (by Larry Delaney)  Gordie Tapp, a legend in Canadian country music, even though he has had few record releases to speak of, passed away December 18, 2016, at his home in Burlington, Ontario. He was 94. Tapp, who was equally known as “Cousin Clem”, is best recognized worldwide for his comedy character skits performed on the long-running “Hee Haw” TV series taped in Nashville studios. Gordie Tapp was born June 4, 1922 in London, Ontario. His early years were spent as a member of the Main Street Jamboree, one of Canadian country’s most popular radio shows. He then moved on, becoming a regular on the CBC’s Country Hoedown show, which aired for 13 years before transitioning into The […]
December 6, 2016

Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: Diane Leigh

// by Larry Delaney // Toronto-born singer Diane Leigh can be credited with opening the doors for female singers in Canadian country music. She was the first Canadian female artist to be featured as a regular performer on a country TV series and the first female to be recognized with major awards for her recordings, earning her the distinction of being dubbed “The First Lady Of Canadian Country Music.” Diane Leigh began her music career performing with the Pop band The Sapphires, influenced heavily by the recordings of American Pop stars Joni James, Peggy Lee and Julie London. In the early 1960’s, Diane was ‘discovered’ by Vic Siebert of the famed country & western group Sons Of The Saddle and for a short time, she […]

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