Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: Shirley Eikhard

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Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: Shirley Eikhard

// by Larry Delaney //

(Born: Sackville, NB – Home: Oshawa, Ontario)

(#64 in the Ontario Pioneers Series)


Shirley Eikhard is blessed with musical blueblood. Her mother is famed fiddle player June Eikhard; her father, the late Cecil Eikhard, was also a gifted musician. Shirley has further blossomed as a singer/songwriter/musician, with career credits the envy of many.

Born in Sackville, NB, the family relocated to Oshawa, Ontario, when Shirley was in her pre-teen years. She quickly followed in her parents’ musical footsteps as a singer, a guitarist, and above all, a songwriter. Shirley, as a 12-year-old, performed at various fiddle contests where her mother was a headline attraction, and at a songwriters’ venue at the famed Mariposa Folk Festival, which led to TV appearances. She was signed by Capitol Records to a major label deal at age 14.

Shirley’s compositions were already drawing major interest. In 1970, famed Nashville guitarist Chet Atkins used Shirley’s song, “Pickin’ My Way”, as the title track for one of his RCA albums.

Shirley Eikhard made her own recording debut in 1972, with her self-titled album on Capitol Records. Her cover song of the Sylvia Tyson-penned classic, “Smiling Wine”, became an instant radio hit and a genuine #1 record on the Canadian Country charts, as well as attracting crossover airplay. The album also included Shirley’s song, “It Takes Time”, which was soon recorded by Anne Murray, Gary Buck, Kim Carnes, and more.

The almost overnight success story that Shirley Eikhard created was rewarded with consecutive Best Country Female honours in the 1972 and 1973 Juno Awards.

Following that initial success in Country music, Shirley Eikhard directed her artistry towards Pop, Soft Rock, Jazz and R&B sounds. In 1975, she released the album, “Child Of The Present”, and followed-up in 1977 with the album, “Horizons”, both on Attic Records. Her “Taking Charge” album was released a decade later, during which time her songs were being recorded by Pop artists Cher, Bonnie Raitt, Rita Coolidge, The Pointer Sisters, Kim Carnes and Anne Murray, to name a few.

Bonnie Raitt’s 1991 recording of the Shirley Eikhard song, “Something To Talk About”, garnered a Grammy Award for Raitt, and even greater interest in Shirley’s songwriting talents.

By the mid 1990s, there was a swing back to Country for Shirley, thanks largely to Emmylou Harris recording Shirley’s songs, “Good News” and “Maybe Tonight”. Country/blues singer James Talley collaborated with Shirley on his recording of their song, “Nothin’ Like Love”. Shirley’s vocal skills were also being called upon, as she performed background vocals on albums by Anne Murray, Emmylou Harris, Dan Hill, and others.

Meanwhile, in Canada, her songs were being cut by Anne Murray, Gary Buck, Sylvia Tyson, Quartette, Terry Kelly, Cindy Church, Donna Ramsey, Al Brisco, Karl Erikson, Sundance Café, Rena Gaile, David Clayton Thomas and many others.

Shirley Eikhard’s songs have also been featured in several movie soundtracks. She sang the theme song in the 1976 Stanley Kramer film, “The Domino Principle” (starring Gene Hackman); the theme song for the 2000 film “Passion Of Ayn Rand” (starring Helen Mirren); and the theme for the TV series “Women Of The House” (starring Teri Garr/Delta Burke).

During her lengthy career, Shirley has refrained from any exhaustive touring with her music. She performed at selective events and occasional club dates, often with her brother, the late Brent Eikhard – himself a gifted musician. She was, however, prolific with her songwriting and recordings, much of which was done at her own home studio. At last count, Shirley Eikhard had released 22 albums, containing a wide variety of her musical interests, including an instrumental collection – “End Of The Day”, on which she performs guitar, piano, bass, drums and saxophone.

Many of her most recent albums have also been adorned with her own artwork, a talent that she has honed since early childhood years, and which has since attracted critical acclaim in the art world.


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