// by Larry Delaney //
(#71 in the Ontario Country Music Pioneers Series)
Murray McLauchlan and the music he makes cannot be pigeon-holed into one category… he pretty much covers all popular musical genres – Folk, Pop, Rock, Cabaret – and, oh ya, COUNTRY. In fact, his “Farmer’s Song”, and its recording, is about as Country as it gets!!
Murray McLauchlan was born June 30, 1948, in Paisley, Scotland. He came to Canada with his family when he was five years old, settling in Toronto. By the time he was in his early teens, he was learning his craft as a singer/songwriter/musician while haunting the coffee house scene in Toronto.
After a brief stay in New York, Murray returned to Toronto and in 1970, he inked a recording contract with True North Records, releasing a debut album, “Song From The Street”, in 1971. The album featured his early career songs, “Honky Red” and “Child’s Song”. Comically (or perhaps not), the liner notes on the LP also carried the message: “anyone knowing of a 49-51 Mercury in reasonable condition, please write”. The album would mark the first of a long series of album projects released on the True North label.
2023 will mark the 50th Anniversary of McLauchlan’s iconic title, “The Farmer’s Song”.
“Farmer’s Song” would first appear on Murray McLauchlan’s 1973 self-titled second album. The song was initially released as the B-side of a single… but thanks to Ottawa country radio DJ Ted Daigle, who chose to airplay the B-side, “Farmer’s Song” became a national hit – so popular, that it earned Murray McLauchlan his first Juno Award.
A 1974 album, “Sweeping the Spotlight Away”, also delivered some of McLauchlan’s most memorable early career hits, with “Down By The Henry Moore”, “Shoeshine Working Song” and “Do You Dream Of Being Somebody” among them. A steady stream of albums would continue through the next decade – most filled by his songs with a Pop/Rock/Alt-Country edge, while he toured and recorded with his band, The Silver Tractors.
In addition to his extensive concert touring through the years, Murray has also made high-profile guest appearances on television shows, including Ian Tyson’s Nashville North, The Tommy Hunter Show, The Rita MacNeil Show and The Ralph Emery Show on The Nashville Network.
By 1983, Murray McLauchlan’s music had drifted back to a more “countryfied” sound. His “Timberline” album, the follow-up album “Heroes” and the 1988 “Swinging On A Star” (his first release on Capitol Records), were all given strong support with Country radio airplay.
The Murray McLauchlan recording catalog is impressive – 24 albums, 21 charted singles, a #1 hit with his “Down By The Henry Moore” single, ten Juno Awards and several RPM award honours. What makes the achievement even more remarkable is the fact that McLauchlan composed almost all of his recorded work.
As a songwriter, Murray McLauchlan has had his songs covered by George Hamilton IV, Tom Rush, Alan Rhody and David Bromberg; as well as by Canadian artists Ron Hynes, David Wiffen, Blackie & The Rodeo Kings, Barney Bentall, John McDermott and more.
“Farmer’s Song” has become a much-travelled song – there are recorded versions by George Hamilton IV, R. Harlan Smith, Merv Smith, J. Doc James, Lindsay Thomas Morgan, Otto Bright, Walter Ostanek, Miriam Dreher, Murray Williams… even Canada’s current hit-maker, Brett Kissel, included the classic on one of his early-career albums.
In addition to his songwriting and recording, Murray McLauchlan has enjoyed success with several sidelines. He held a commercial pilot license, flying as a “bush pilot” in the Northlands (songs on his “Timberline” and “Heroes” albums reflect that era) and spawning the 1986 TV Special, “Floating Over Canada”. Murray also hosted the CBC radio program, “Swinging On A Star”, from 1989 through 1994.
McLauchlan also authored his autobiography, “Getting Out Of Here Alive”, published in 1998; as well as the 2004 stage play “Eddie”, about an unheralded jazz vocalist. More recently, he has returned to an earlier passion – painting; with some of his work auctioned in aid of various charities.
In 2001, Murray returned to live performing and joined Ian Thomas, Marc Jordan and Cindy Church in the musical group Lunch at Allen’s, with a series of albums released to date. He was featured in a version of “Home From The Forest” on the 2003 multi-artist album “Beautiful – A Tribute To Gordon Lightfoot”. A “Best Of Murray McLauchlan” album, featuring 36 songs, was issued in 2007. A solo album, “Human Writes”, was released in 2011, followed by the 2017 “Love Can’t Tell Time” and the 2021 release, “Hourglass”.
In 1993, he received the prestigious Order Of Canada and in 2016, Murray McLauchlan was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame.