November 9, 2022

Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: MIKE “Pepe” FRANCIS

// by Larry Delaney // (#68 in the Ontario Pioneers Series) MIKE FRANCIS is a multi-talented music man who has literally “done it all” in the music world. A guitarist extraordinaire, a record producer, composer, arranger, and commercial jingles writer… are but a few of his massive career credits. Music has always been a part of Mike Francis’ life. He is the son of legendary Canadian country music recording artist, the late Ray Francis (1931-2010), who headed-up the Chatham, Ontario-based group The Whippoorwills. As a teenager in his hometown of Chatham, Mike followed in his father’s musical footsteps, briefly playing with his father’s band before moving on to working with various local country and pop/rock bands – which led to full-time work in Toronto studios. […]
October 12, 2022

Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: Blake Emmons

// by Larry Delaney // (born: August 2, 1944 – Toronto) (#67 in the Ontario Pioneers Series) BLAKE EMMONS is likely best known for hosting the TV series “Funny Farm”, a short-lived (one season-1974) Canadian-produced answer to the long-running Nashville TV show “Hee Haw”. For diehard country music fans, Blake Emmons will also be remembered for a pair of albums – I Wish You Love, released in 1976, and First Flight, a 1983 album on Columbia Records. The debut album, released on Canadian label Condor Records, contained five songs written by Blake Emmons, including his two biggest chart hits: “Let Me Do Something Lord”, which peaked at #9 on the RPM Charts, and the follow-up single “Sunchild”, a Top 30 hit. The album also contained […]
September 6, 2022

Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: Ward Allen

// by Larry Delaney // (1922-1965) (Born: Kirkton, Ontario) (#66 in the Ontario Pioneers Series) There have been many Canadian-made songs that have become standards and earned mega-play worldwide… One, however, that often flies under the radar, is the fiddle instrumental, “Maple Sugar”, composed by the late Ward Allen. Most fiddle players in North America and beyond have either recorded or performed a live version of “Maple Sugar” – the tune is immediately identifiable by fans and enthusiasts of fiddle music. Ward Allen’s “Maple Sugar”, originally recorded and released on the Sparton Records of Canada label, was so popular and far-ranging that it also earned a release on the famed Texas-based D-Records label, operated by Pappy Daily. Warden Amber (Ward) Allen was born May 11, […]
August 4, 2022

Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: Gilles Godard

// by Larry Delaney // (Born: Cornwall, Ontario) (#65 in the Ontario Pioneers Series) Cornwall, Ontario-born singer/songwriter/producer GILLES GODARD is one of Canadian country music’s best all-around success stories. He began as a musician (steel guitar), was a prolific songwriter, an in-demand record producer, and completed the picture by forming his own record label, Book Shop Records, which became a home to many Canadian recording artists. By the mid-1980s, he was making Nashville his base of operations, where he not only became a hit songwriter but also a music publishing executive. To better grasp Gilles Godard’s massive career, one must review his accomplishments somewhat chronologically. After graduating from the Royal Conservatory of Music as a master steel guitar musician, still in his teens, Gilles formed […]
June 21, 2022

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 […]
May 10, 2022

Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: Clint Curtiss

// by Larry Delaney // (Born: Toronto, ON) (#63 in the Ontario Pioneers Series) Albert Pink was born in Toronto. As an aspiring singer/songwriter he honed his talents under the guidance of Fred Roden – owner of The Record Corral, a popular record store outlet and music venue in Toronto – presenting live entertainment during the 1950s and 60s by visiting country music legends Ernest Tubb, Carl Smith, Wilf Carter, etc. Albert Pink wanted to pursue a career similar to the “stars” he was meeting. The first step on his trip to stardom was a name change and Albert Pink became “Clint Curtiss”. Clint Curtiss was soon touring country music venues with his band, The Clintsmen, and in the recording studio cutting his first album, […]
April 12, 2022

Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: Tim Taylor

// by Larry Delaney // (Born: Bowmanville, ON) (#62 in the Ontario Pioneers Series) Tim Taylor is one of those guys who has done it all… and he’s still doing it!! Singer, songwriter, recording artist, touring act, award winner – Tim Taylor can answer to all of that. Born in Bowmanville, Ontario, Tim Taylor spent his high school years in a variety of rock bands, playing school dances and social events. He eventually “graduated” to perform professionally with the country band, Buckshot. By the late 1970s, he had teamed up with vocalist Anita Perras, both on-stage and eventually, as a married couple. They quickly honed their talents and recorded a debut album, “Bought And Paid For”. Several hit single releases followed – separately and as a […]
March 11, 2022

Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: Cliff Edwards

// by Larry Delaney // (Born: January 20 – Montreal, QC) (#61 in the Ontario Pioneers Series) Cliff Edwards grew up in a musical family and while in high school in Montreal, formed his first band, The Strata-Cats, performing a mix of rockabilly and country. He later headed up the group The Counts Four, and hosted the TV Show “Hurtin’ Songs”, aired on CFCF in Montreal. Cliff’s late brother, Brian Edwards, was an early career guest on the TV show and he later became lead voice for the Canadian rock band Mashmakhan. In 1965, Cliff Edwards formed the group The Five Bells, which would soon undergo a name change to The Bells. The group included sisters Ann and Jacki Ralph and pianist Frank Mills, who […]
February 7, 2022

Ontario’s Country Music Pioneers: Sneezy Waters

// by Larry Delaney // (Born: March 1, 1945 – Ottawa, Ontario) (#60 in the Ontario Pioneers Series) Peter Hodgson may not be a name that strikes familiarity among country music fans… but mention the name “Sneezy Waters”, and immediately many more know who you are speaking of. “Sneezy Waters” – aka Peter Hodgson – has been recognized in the music world for more than half a century, most notably in the leading role portraying the immortal Hank Williams in the stage play and movie “Hank Williams: The Show He Never Gave”. The Ottawa-born performer first attracted attention in the duo “Nev & Pete” with long-time friend and fellow entertainer Neville Wells. As a “folk” duo, they worked major stages and venues in Ottawa and […]

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