Ontario Pioneers

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 […]
November 9, 2016

Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: Terry Carisse

// by Larry Delaney // Born: July 11, 1942 – Ottawa, Ontario Died: May 22, 2005 – Ottawa, Ontario Terry Carisse is among Canada’s most decorated Country singer/songwriters, with numerous Male Artist of the Year, Song and Album of the Year awards presented to him by the Canadian Country Music Association during the height of his career in the early-to-mid 1980’s. As a recording artist, Terry Carisse released six albums and over 30 charted singles on Canadian country hit charts, including ten Top 10 hits; highlighted by such Canadian classics as the #1 hit “Sparkle In Her Eyes”, “All Her Letters”, “We Could Make Beautiful Music Together”, “Windship”, and many more. In addition to his solo recordings, Terry also enjoyed chart success with the 1987 […]
October 5, 2016

Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: Myrna Lorrie

// by Larry Delaney // Born: (Myrna Lorraine Petrunka), August 6, 1940 – Cloud Bay (Fort William), ONTARIO At age 15, Myrna Lorrie became only the second Canadian (after Hank Snow) and second Canadian-born female (after Betty Cody) to chart a hit on the Billboard Charts in the USA with her 1955 hit “Are You Mine”, recorded as a duet with Buddy DeVal (a/k/a Jim Amadeo). The song, co/written by Myrna Lorrie with Jim Amadeo and Don Grashey, reached #6 on the Billboard charts and was also a hit in 1955 for Ginny Wright & Tom Tall (#2), and Red Sovine & Goldie Hill (#14). The chart hit breakthrough earned Myrna Lorrie a Most Promising Female Artist award from the US-based Jamboree magazine. The “Are […]
August 29, 2016

Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: Joe Firth

// by Larry Delaney // Born: March 30, 1941 – Shelburne, Ontario Joe Firth was born in Shelburne, Ontario, and raised on his parent’s farm in Keldon. He began his music career in late 1960s, fronting the group Joe Firth & The Rockabillys, which also included his cousins Gord Henry and Grant Middaugh. The group soon underwent a name change to Joe Firth & The Country Gentlemen, and quickly became a mainstay on the Toronto country club circuit, working show dates at such notable venues as The Edison, The Horseshoe Tavern and The 300 Club. By the early 1970s, he formed the country band Joe Firth & The Promised Land, a group that would tour extensively in Ontario and across Canada, often sharing the stage with […]
July 5, 2016

Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: Honey West

// by Larry Delaney // Born : Merla Arlene West September 5, 1939 – Grafton (Cobourg), Ontario   While working as a ticket agent (1961-67) for Air Canada at Toronto International Airport, and later for American Airlines, Merla West was also pursuing her love of singing country music, working the Toronto area country club scene with a variety of pick-up bands and adopting the stage name Honey West. The name was inspired by a successful Hollywood TV series in the late 1960s featuring the private-eye detective character, “Honey West”. By the late 1960s Honey West launched her recording career, cutting a series of albums for the Paragon Record label: “Meet Honey West”, “A Touch Of Honey” and “Sweet Dreams”. Her fourth album for the label, […]
May 10, 2016

Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: Smiley Bates

// by Larry Delaney // Born: Harvey E. Bates – October 16, 1937 – Kirkland Lake, ONTARIO Died: January 8, 1997 – Ullswater (Bent River), ONTARIO Harvey “Smiley” Bates was one of Canada’s most popular country balladeers, yet one who has been least recognized by the Canadian country music industry at large. A diehard country traditionalist, Smiley Bates was influenced by the music of Hank Snow; and in fact, promoted his music career much in the same fashion as his idol by travelling to his shows hauling a trailer filled with his albums and cassettes – a hot commodity with his many fans. Smiley Bates came from a musical family, with his father and mother (Sidney and Pearl Bates), seven brothers and three sisters all […]

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