Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: Joe Firth

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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 many of Nashville’s top touring acts, including: Johnny Paycheck, Boxcar Willie, Johnny Rodriguez, Freddy Fender, Stonewall Jackson and many more.

As a solo recording artist, Joe Firth released ten albums on the Paragon, Marathon, Cynda, Condor, and Boot Records labels, placing a dozen singles on Canadian country hit charts, including his 1973 debut Top 20 hit “Too Many Memories”. Joe Firth also teamed up with Promised Land band member Paul Weber in recording several duet tunes, which also charted nationally in Canada in the late 1980s. Earlier, with Ontario-born recording star Honey West, Joe Firth scored a major duet chart hit from their 1973 duet album, “Getting Together”. His albums and single releases often featured songs written by fellow Canucks, including tunes penned by Paul Weber, Gary Buck, Ray Griff, Don Devaney, Artie MacLaren, Ross Allen, Cliffy (Legere) Short, Jimmy Allen, and band member Gord Fleming, who wrote the group’s signature song, “Me And The Old Promised Land”.

While at the height of his performing career, Joe Firth was also a featured guest on many of Canada’s top country television shows, including: The Tommy Hunter Show, Lively Country, Family Brown Country, etc. Joe Firth & The Promised Land band also enjoyed many years of extensive touring across Canada and made three tours to England and Scotland in the early 80s. The Promised Land Band was also the career launching pad for such artists as Paul Weber, his brother Mike Weber, Jason McCoy, Gord and Audie Henry, Dan Knight, Mike Peters, Nick (Charles) Meinema, and others.

Throughout the latter years of his recording and touring, Joe Firth also established the North American Talent Agency, a Kitchener, Ontario based booking house that supplied live entertainment to country music clubs from coast to coast in Canada; and provided many of Canada’s top independent country bands and artists with national performance venues, opportunities and livelihoods. The North American Talent Agency continues to operate to this day, under Joe Firth’s direction.

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