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Old 12-30-2022, 09:02 PM   #1
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Default RIP Ian Tyson

I was saddened to discover this this evening. He died Dec. 29 at his ranch in southern Alberta of "ongoing health complications" according to his family. He was 89.

We've lost a giant in folk music.
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Old 12-31-2022, 04:30 PM   #2
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Old 01-03-2023, 04:54 PM   #3
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Gordon wanted this posted but gave no formal statement for his Facebook page..( I will copy and paste in case there's a paywall stopping the reading of the articles:

Without Canadian country-folk icon Ian Tyson, there may never have been Gordon Lightfoot as we know him.

So said the Sundown singer-songwriter, 84, from his Toronto home following the news of Tyson’s death on Thursday at the age of 89 at his ranch near Longview, Alta.

“He was five years my senior,” Lightfoot, a native of Orillia, Ont., said Friday.

“I can honestly say without Ian, there probably wouldn’t be … (his voice trails off). He was the first person to record a Gordon Lightfoot song and that was Early Mornin’ Rain. The next thing I knew I was getting launched into the music business. I’ve always been eternally grateful to (then folk duo) Ian & Sylvia for getting me started in this business. I’ve got a heck of a lot of respect for the guy and I loved him dearly. He was almost like an older brother. He was one of the most remarkable human beings that I ever met.”

Lightfoot first saw Tyson, the composer of the Canadian folk classic Four Strong Winds, performing with Don Francks at a coffee house in Toronto’s then-vibrant Yorkville folk scene in the early 60s.

“I enjoyed his playing style and I enjoyed the songs,” said Lightfoot, who’s himself responsible for such Canadian folk classics as The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

“They had a real good act going but later on he and Sylvia got teamed up. I just watched him perform and eventually our paths crossed because we were both in same business by then. We actually became friends at one point and we became friends all our lives.”

Ian & Sylvia covered Early Mornin’ Rain, also the title of their 1965 album, which led to Lightfoot getting signed by A-list manager Albert Grossman, whose stable of talent included Bob Dylan.

“Ian decided to do that,” said Lightfoot. “He liked the song.”

Lightfoot said they were friendly competitors as his star rose.

“It was always competitive,” he said. “There were lots of other artists coming out with records at that time during the folk revival. Only a few of us were able to have success and continue on. I saw Ian five years ago (at Hugh’s Room in Toronto) and he sounded as good as he did 50 years ago.”

Tyson, who was born in Victoria, B.C., to British parents, went to boarding school and learned to play polo, later sang about the Canadian western cowboy lifestyle that went along with him buying his Alberta ranch.

“He was a very funny guy, very gracious too, and gregarious and outgoing,” said Lightfoot. “Great with horses, my God, I used to watch him ride, and my goodness, he was really good with horses.”

Lightfoot has long covered Tyson’s song Red Velvet and said he may do so again when he hits the road in March with nine dates in Florida.

“I’d probably do Red Velvet — that was about a guy trying to find his way back to his girl,” said Lightfoot. “Four Strong Winds, that’s the same as Red Velvet. They’re love songs.”

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Old 01-05-2023, 11:17 AM   #4
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Canada’s ‘coolest cowboy’ Ian Tyson wrote Four Strong Winds

Singer-songwriter Ian Tyson wrote Four Strong Winds – a stately balladic lament in E major and a Canadian-set expression of romantic sorrow – in about a half an hour. It was his first attempt at creating his own song. A friend of his, Bob Dylan, had just written Blowin’ in the Wind. Inspired by Mr. Dylan’s imagery, Mr. Tyson wrote an instant classic as a self-challenge: “How hard can this be?” he thought.

Though it wasn’t completely a snap – his musical partner and future wife Sylvia Fricker contributed one line that Mr. Tyson was stuck on – Four Strong Winds as recorded by the folk act Ian and Sylvia charted high in Canada in October, 1963, competing with Bobby Vinton‘s Blue Velvet and Sugar Shack by Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs.

A twangy hit version by U.S. singer-songwriter Bobby Bare earned Mr. Tyson enough royalties to buy a 350-acre farm in Ontario. Neil Young, who recalled plugging coin after coin into a jukebox to hear the song as a teenager in Manitoba, recorded it himself for his million-selling 1978 album Comes a Time. Mr. Tyson used the resulting money that came his way from that adaptation as a down payment on a ranch in the foothills of the Rockies, southwest of Calgary.

The melancholic song that touches on fresh starts and regional meteorology – “Think I’ll go out to Alberta, weather’s good there in the fall” – eventually got the songwriter to where he always longed to be.

Mr. Tyson, one half of the influential folk music revivalists Ian and Sylvia and a life-long embodiment of cowboy pride, died at his spread in southern Alberta on Dec. 29, after a series of health complications. The Victoria native was 89, and had undergone open heart surgery in 2015.

Tyson and partner Sylvia Fricker's beautiful ballad of lost love, Four Strong Winds, hit the top 10 chart in 1963.

The private-schooled, only son of a well-to-do British immigrant was a rodeo rider as a young man who after successful forays in folk music and country rock reinvented himself artistically as a sort of northern Gene Autry, writing and recording songs that stubbornly celebrated a vanishing way of life that was experienced on the back of a horse. A white-hatted mythologizer who “loved his old damned rodeo,” he championed the western side of country and western music.

His commitment to ranch culture was represented by rugged lifestyle choices – he bred cutting horses and rode them victoriously in competitions – and by his albums of cowboy music. The 1987 LP Cowboyography in particular rejuvenated Mr. Tyson’s status and touring career in North America, and with a single from 1989 he seemed to position himself as the Irving Berlin of the sagebrush people: “I wonder if old Irving ever wrote a song about blowed out country, a marriage gone wrong and a cowboy on the telephone?”

In 2005, CBC Radio One listeners chose Four Strong Winds as the greatest Canadian song of the 20th century. The composition is seminal. “Ian and Gordon Lightfoot were reflecting on the emotional, psychological and physical landscape of being Canadian songwriters,” Blue Rodeo’s Greg Keelor told The Globe and Mail. “They started it, and it means everything.”

Mr. Lightfoot described the Tysons as his “angels,” because they recorded his Early Morning Rain in 1964. “It opened up the door for me,” Mr. Lightfoot told The Globe. It was Mr. Tyson who convinced Mr. Lightfoot to sign a contract with Albert Grossman, the high-powered manager of Mr. Dylan, Peter, Paul and Mary, and Ian and Sylvia, among others. “From that, came my career,” Mr. Lightfoot said.

Mr. Tyson, the charismatic and irascible boot-wearing baritone with matinee idol looks, was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1992, alongside his by-then former wife. Eleven years later he won a Governor-General’s Performing Arts Award, and he is a member of the Order of Canada. The Washington Post once hailed him as “Canada’s cool cowboy.”

More infamously, Mr. Tyson holds the distinction of turning young Mr. Dylan onto grass, according to onetime Dylan muse and girlfriend Suze Rotolo. “The first memory I have of Ian is him introducing Bob to marijuana,” she told Ian and Sylvia biographer John Einarson for his 2011 book Four Strong Winds.

Ms. Rotolo and Mr. Dylan were close friends with the Tysons in New York’s Greenwich Village, folknik central in the early 1960s. The Blowin’ in the Wind singer deferred to the hip fashion choices of Mr. Tyson, eight years his senior. “It was no surprise when after we arrived in New York in the folk community all the guys started wearing cowboy boots and not rolling their jeans up,” Ms. Tyson said in Mr. Einarson’s book. “Ian had a sense of style that others copied including Bob.”

In his later years, Mr. Tyson was the darling of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering held annually in Nevada. “Ian was the patriarch of traditional cowboy music renaissance,” said Corb Lund, a friend and fellow western singer-songwriter.

There was a bit of Bach, a bit of Henry VIII (Greensleeves), some Schubert and a psalm, but not a hint of a guitar as Tyson and Fricker were married in Toronto on June 26, 1964.

Mr. Tyson dearly loved his ranch, the T-Bar-Y in Longview, Alta. He was fond of Navajo rugs, Mexican tiles and 6 a.m. coffee. His bookshelves, as revealed in a profile by The Globe’s Marsha Lederman in 2008, were stocked with To Kill A Mockingbird, a Georgia O’Keeffe biography, Hemingway, The New Yorker magazines, poetry by Robert Frost and The Western Buckle: History, Art, Culture, Function.

“He was the thinking man’s cowboy,” said Mr. Lund.

In 2006, he blew his voice out at the Havelock Country Jamboree. A year later, a virus further reduced his once-rich vocals to a soft croak. As a sufferer of arthritis, he played his Martin D-45 acoustic daily to keep his hands and wrists limber.

He had first picked up a guitar at the age of 22 after fracturing his ankle while rodeoing in Banff, Alta. Recuperating from surgery, he passed the time by learning to play Johnny Cash’s I Walk the Line.

More than 50 years later, a horse struck again, stepping on his foot shortly before his 2008 interview with The Globe. He limped and winced but went about his chores. “I’ll get used to it,” he said. “It’s the cowboy way.”

continued in part 2
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Old 01-05-2023, 11:17 AM   #5
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part 2

Ian Dawson Tyson was born on Sept. 25, 1933, on Vancouver Island. He shared a middle name with his father, George Tyson, who had emigrated from England to Alberta, where he found work as a ranch hand in Bowden.

Finding the harsh work and climate not to his liking, Mr. Tyson’s father headed to British Columbia. There he met his wife, Margaret Gertrude Campbell, a second-generation British Columbian who came from money and a deeply moralistic Scots Presbyterian background. “She was always there for me over the years, but poor mother lived a pretty dour life,” Mr. Tyson said in his 2010 autobiography, The Long Trail.

Mr. Tyson’s father managed the Monarch Life Assurance Co.’s Victoria branch and kept polo horses on the family farm in Duncan. At the age of 6, Mr. Tyson encountered his first cowboy, at a rodeo in Vancouver. “He was wearing a purple satin shirt, and when he lifted me up and stuck me up on the saddle, I said to myself, ‘This is it.’ That saddle was where I was meant to be.” Raised on the novels of Will James, the paintings of Charlie Russell and the music of Roy Acuff and the yodeller Wilf Carter, Mr. Tyson pined to punch cows.

He graduated from the Vancouver School of Art (now the Emily Carr University of Art and Design) in 1958. The Jack Kerouac enthusiast hitchhiked to Toronto, where the folk scene bubbled.

There he worked as a commercial artist by day – he designed the logo for the dandruff-defying shampoo Resdan – and as a solo singer-guitarist at night. At a Ryerson Polytechnic gig he met Ms. Fricker, an aspiring folkie seven years his junior. Her high vibrato voice, eccentric wardrobe and a gift for harmony caught Mr. Tyson’s attention.

In turn, the future Ms. Tyson was struck by his handsomeness. “But it was not love at first sight,” she told biographer Mr. Einarson. “I didn’t think of it in terms of becoming a relationship.”

By 1961 the two had become the top coffeehouse draw in the city. That year they left for New York, where contracts with Mr. Grossman and with Vanguard Records were signed.

The pair were a hit on the East Coast college circuit and made their Newport Folk Festival debut in 1963. But just as their career was taking off, the Beatles changed everything. Driving on the New Jersey Turnpike, Mr. Tyson heard I Want to Hold Your Hand on the car radio. “They got to the part of the song where the voices go up,” he recalled in a recent interview with The Globe. “When they did that, I said, ‘We’re done. We’re done.’”

In 1964, the twosome returned to Toronto to play Massey Hall – “They are unquestionably masters of harmony and deliver their songs in a unique style copied from no one,” wrote Globe reviewer Marvin Schiff – and to get married. The wedding at St. Thomas’s Church was attended by 100 guests, including the colourful American folkie Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. The couple’s only child, Clay Dawson Tyson, was born in 1966.

As the folk movement lost momentum in the late 1960s, Ian and Sylvia relocated to Nashville and moved on to a brand-new style with their albums Lovin’ Sound, Nashville and Full Circle. “Those records were as close to the beginning of country rock that you’re going to find,” said Mr. Keelor.

In 1969, the duo formed the short-lived electric band Great Speckled Bird. From 1970 to 1975, Mr. Tyson played host to CTV’s The Ian Tyson Show, known as Nashville North in its first season. The Tysons divorced in 1975 because of Mr. Tyson’s infidelities. “Sylvia could accept a lot of things but she couldn’t accept that,” he explained. “I don’t blame her.”

In 1976, Mr. Tyson headed to Alberta and never left. He broke horses and chased cattle before purchasing his own ranch. Multinight stints at the Calgary honky-tonk Ranchman’s paid $5,000 a week.

Regret and wistfulness were consistent lyrical themes for Tyson. The Wonder of It All, for example, mourned a lost age: “The golden West has come and gone, right before our very eyes.”

A hard drinker for a time, Mr. Tyson’s personal life was perpetually complicated. When his career bottomed out in the late 1970s, he dulled his pains with tranquilizers. He met his second wife, Twylla Dvorkin, when she was a teenager and he was in his 40s. They later married in 1986, and were divorced in 2008. The song Estrangement is about the couple’s only child, Adelita.

The troubadour’s Navajo Rug (co-written with Tom Russell), Summer Wages and Someday Soon were chosen by the Western Writers of America as three of the top 100 western songs in history. Four Strong Winds has taken on anthemic status in Canada. Mr. Tyson performed it at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. When four RCMP officers were tragically killed in Mayerthorpe, Alta., in 2005, he sang it at the memorial service.

Regret and wistfulness were consistent lyrical themes for Mr. Tyson. The Wonder of It All, for example, mourned a lost age: “The golden West has come and gone, right before our very eyes.” In his music, Mr. Tyson, the bard of buckaroos, romanticized the very life he lived.

He is survived by son, Clay Tyson; daughter, Adelita Tyson Bell; and granddaughter, Mesa Bell.
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Old 01-05-2023, 11:27 AM   #6
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RIP: Ian Tyson

Dec 29, 2022 by Kerry Doole

Ian Dawson Tyson, a renowned Canadian folk and country singer/songwriter, died on Dec. 29 at the age of 89.

The family of the Canadian country legend Ian Tyson has confirmed his death from ongoing health complications at his ranch in southern Alberta, Canada.

The following biography is taken from a statement issued by the Tyson Family.

Ian Tyson was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame in 1989 and was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame with his former wife and singing partner, Sylvia, in 1992. Tyson became a Member of the Order of Canada in 1994 and in 2003, he received a Governor General's Performing Arts Award and was inducted into the Alberta Order of Excellence in 2006. In 2019, he was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. Tyson won a Juno Award as Best Male Country Artist in 1987.

Tyson was born to British immigrants in Victoria and grew up in Duncan B.C. A rough stock rider in his late teens and early twenties, he took up the guitar while recovering from an injury he sustained in a bad fall in the rodeo.

Ian Tyson’s story from there is familiar to most. He upped stakes from Vancouver Island and hitchhiked to Toronto, where he met a young singer from small-town Ontario called Sylvia Fricker. As Ian & Sylvia, they were the Canadian stars of the early ’60s folk boom that gave the world Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Joan Baez, the Clancy Brothers, and the Kingston Trio.

Married in 1964, the pair made almost a dozen albums — and wrote some of Canada’s best-loved songs, including Ian’s Four Strong Winds and Someday Soon, and Sylvia’s You Were on My Mind — songs that have all been covered countless times by some of the most famous artists of our time, including Dylan, Neil Young, Judy Collins, and a young Canadian singer the couple mentored in his early days, Gordon Lightfoot.

During the British Invasion, Ian and Sylvia evolved into pioneers of country-rock. Their band, Great Speckled Bird, rivalled the Byrds and other groups which helped create modern country a decade before the Urban Cowboy phase of contemporary “new traditionalists.”

After hosting a national Canadian television music show from 1970 to 1975, Tyson realized his dream of returning to the Canadian West. The music and marriage of Ian and Sylvia had ended. It was now or never. Disillusioned with the Canadian country music scene, Tyson decided the time had come to return to his first love – training horses in the ranch country of southern Alberta.

After three idyllic years cowboying in the Rockies at Pincher Creek, Tyson recorded the album Old Corrals & Sagebrush, consisting of cowboy songs, both traditional and new. “It was a kind of musical Christmas card for my friends” he recalls. “We weren’t looking for a ‘hit’ or radio play or anything like that.” Unbeknownst to Tyson and his friends, the cowboy renaissance was about to find expression at the inaugural Elko Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 1983; a small coterie of saddle makers, rawhide braiders, cowboy poets and pickers discovered one another in a small cow town in northern Nevada. Tyson was invited to perform his “new western music”— and he’s missed only one or two gatherings in the 30-plus years since.

Bob Dylan and the Band recorded his song One Single River in Woodstock, New York, in 1967. The recording can be found on the unreleased Genuine Basement Tapes, vol. 1. Judy Collins recorded a version of his song Someday Soon" in 1968. In 2005, CBC Radio One listeners chose his song Four Strong Winds as the greatest Canadian song of all time on the series 50 Tracks: The Canadian Version. He has been a strong influence on many Canadian artists, including Neil Young, who recorded Four Strong Winds for Comes a Time (1978). Johnny Cash would also record the same song for American V: A Hundred Highways (2006).

Life has not been without its difficulties, however. In 2006, he seriously damaged his voice after a particularly tough performance at an outdoor country music festival.

“I fought the sound system and I lost,” he said afterwards. With a virus that took months to pass, his smooth voice was now hoarse, grainy, and had lost much of its resonant bottom end. After briefly entertaining thoughts that he would never sing again, he began relearning and reworking his songs to accommodate his “new voice.” To his surprise, audiences now paid rapt attention as he half-spoke, half-sung familiar words, which seemed to reveal new depths for his listeners.

Tyson released his most recent single, You Should Have Known, in September 2017 on Stony Plain Records, the label that has released 15 Tyson albums since the ‘80s. The song unapologetically celebrated the hard-living, hard-drinking, hard-loving cowboy life and joins his favourites such as hits like Four Strong Winds, Someday Soon, Summer Wages, and more.

Notable Canadian musicians and industry figures were quick to pay tribute to Tyson.

Charlie Angus, MP and leader of folk/roots combo Grievous Angels posted this on Facebook: "Ian Tyson defined Canadian folk music. He was a true original. He wrote so many incredible songs. Four Strong Winds remains the defining Canadian song. But any of the top ten Ian classics could be pointed as capturing this nation's great breadth of land and hope. Go to the angels." Read a full tribute by Angus here.

Steve Kane, former President of Warner Music Canada, in a Facebook post: "Neither legend nor icon comes close to describing Ian Tyson. He is woven into the fabric of Canada. He brought our stories to the global stage. He helped keep the tradition of Cowboy Poetry alive and wrote a beautiful song, The Gift, about the Old West painter Charlie “Kid” Russell.

He recorded a cover of AC/DC’s Ride On as a duet with his friend and keeper of the flame Corb Lund. I went to see Corb and Ian play cowboy songs and tell historical stories of the Cattle Trail. I’m eternally grateful to Corb for making sure that I got a chance meet the man who wrote Four Strong Winds and quite a few more that just stop time whenever they come on.

If I’m not mistaken he and Sylvia were the first to cover Gordon Lightfoot’s Early Morning Rain. My folks and I watched Ian & Sylvia’s / Great Speckled Bird T.V. show. The Cowboyography LP is on the turntable. My condolences to Mr. Tyson’s family, loved ones and to my friends who worked with him over the years."

Keith Glass (Prairie Oyster) on Facebook: "Saddened to learn that one of my musical heroes has died. The legendary Ian Tyson passed away overnight. Adios, Ian. Thanks."

Corb Lund, on Facebook: "With a heavy heart, I learned of my old friend, Ian Tyson’s passing this morning. Canada and the world has lost a legendary songwriter, performer and lifelong advocate for the romance and reality of the West. His music and presence will be missed by me and by many others. But I’ll miss his friendship the most. Ride easy, cowboy; see ya on the other side."

Paul Brandt, on Twitter: “He kept country music and its artisans honest. Authentic to the core. Thankful we crossed trails this side of the Great Divide."

Brett Kissel, on social media: "He was one of the most authentic and genuine artists ever — and because of him — Canadian music was put on the map and respected worldwide."

Neil MacGonigill, who managed Tyson in the 1980s, told The Calgary Herald that “It’s hard to put into words what he’s meant to the Canadian music scene. An argument can be made he’s the greatest singer-songwriter in Canadian history. … He’s reinvented himself two or three times.”

Richard Flohil, on Facebook: "The death of Ian Tyson, while not unexpected, hit hard. In the decades I did publicity for Stony Plain, the label which rejuvenated his career, I suppose I was a gatekeeper — and I turned down lots of media requests without even consulting his manager or Ian himself. Yes, Ian was one of the grumpiest people I've ever met, and he didn't suffer fools for more than 60 seconds. I defended him often — underneath his crusty exterior lurked a songwriter of enormous warmth and sensitivity; if you had been offended by his attitude, just listen to his songs. From his early folk days to his cowboy stories of a disappearing lifestyle, Ian Tyson was one of the best songwriters this country ever had. Safe home, old friend."

In an interview with CP, Gordon Lightfoot termed Tyson the “older brother” he never had and one of the reasons he found early success in the music business. He said Tyson wasn’t only his friend, but also a “great teacher” in the ways of music, particularly guitar playing.

In a statement, the Mariposa Festival noted that "Tyson created what country and folk musicians have called the 'cowboy renaissance,' in which his bruised voice revealed secrets of a rancher’s life and all that comes with it. His original songwriting paired with his unique voice will never leave the hearts and minds of Mariposa fans. He helped plant Mariposa roots and will never be forgotten for his dedication to the folk music community."

In an interview with CBC News, Sylvia Tyson reminisced about the impact of Ian & Sylvia's most famous song: "I sat in with a young band at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, and they wanted me to do Four Strong Winds with them. It was quite a young audience, and I didn't really expect that kind of response but everybody in the crowd sang Four Strong Winds. It's kind of like a Canadian national anthem."

The family will hold a closed service and has requested privacy at this time. Donations in Ian’s memory can be made to The Ian Tyson Legacy Fund here.

Further tributes to Ian Tyson will be posted in FYI later.

Sources: CBC, The Tyson Family, Facebook, FYI, CSHF, Calgary Herald
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Old 01-05-2023, 11:29 AM   #7
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The Bill King Interview with Ian Tyson - 2015

Jan 02, 2023 by Bill King
Ian Tyson emerged during the burgeoning ‘60s folk boom and became something of a legend. He later pivoted to creating a catalogue of cowboy songs that had the smell, the colour and the hardpan truth of life in the saddle, the badlands and riding the range. He was an original. In the past decade, Bill King had the good fortune to catch up with Tyson during one of his rare visits to Toronto.

Tyson died at his 650-acre ranch near Longview, Alberta, on December 29, 2022, at the age of 89. According to his manager Paul Mascioli, this followed several health issues, including a heart attack and open heart surgery in 2015.

Ian Tyson—A Cowboy’s Life is a Dreary Life—(May 2015)

Such is the case stated in the opening salvo—the traditional Doney Gal. Ian was recently in Toronto promoting his new side Carnero Vaquero and dropped by my Thursday morning radio show at CIUT 89.5 for a sit-down. Publicist Richard Flohil alerted me Tyson might be testy before noon, but who wouldn’t be, travelling a great distance from Alberta, far removed from the high plains and wide range.

Bill King: A cowboy life can be a dreary life.

Ian Tyson: Can be. March in Alberta—I rest my case. We had an easier winter this year, and I was feeding a lot of livestock. Went down to Santa Fe and stayed in a casita for about a month and a half. It's high at 8,000 feet and just enough winter, which I like, rather than being on the Sonora desert where you fry.

B.K: Why did you choose this life?

I.T: I took a wrong turn. It’s been interesting.

B.K: Was the cowboy thing a big part of your childhood?

I.T: Right from the beginning. My dad immigrated from Wales in 1906 to Alberta - he wanted to be a cowboy. He spent two winters in Alberta, and that fixed him. He headed to the west coast. My earliest memory is from when he took me to a rodeo that came to town with a bunch of Indian cowboys; I guess I was four or five. One put me up on his horse, and I thought; this is for me. I want a purple shirt like that. It’s been good for me.

B.K: Even at that age, you must have been gathering stories that would one day become a key part of the songwriting.

I.T: I experienced those stories. I didn’t know how to process it into an art form of any kind. I went to art school; I was a logger and rodeoed throughout there. It was great up there then. You could hitchhike with no worries about running into some perverts. I guess they were there, but we never saw them. We’d hitchhike to L.A. and back like nothing. If you didn’t like your job, which paid little but was a job, you’d hitch ten miles down the road and get another job. You could work in the bush, cowboy, work in the mines, and the pipelines.

B.K: When did you first put words to paper?

I.T: The mythology says it was Four Strong Winds in Greenwich Village in 1963. It might have been that I wrote Four Strong Winds there. I went to my manager, a great guy, Albert Grossman, on a rainy afternoon—he steered Peter, Paul and Mary and people like Bob Dylan to fame and fortune. He tried to get us ‘house broke’ and succeeded. I went over there and wrote Four Strong Winds, and it took about twenty minutes. I hadn’t used up my ammunition, so the first song was really easy. The first twenty were easy. After that, it got tougher and tougher.

B.K: I guess what had to be said was said.

I.T: Exactly. Some of those writers repeat themselves over and over, like in the movie cowboy stuff. Summer Wages is another one, probably my favourite song. It was another twenty-minute deal I wrote in Toronto walking in Rosedale. I was thinking about working the log ‘booms’ in the Fraser River, which I had done.

B.K: It’s much more colourful looking back.

I.T: You leave out the boring stuff.

B.K: Albert Grossman came from Chicago and started the club, the Gate of Horn.

I.T: He was a pivotal figure in the folk scene. Dave Van Ronk, The Greenbriar Boys, Eric Weissberg, and many good guys were there. Judy Collins—Tom Paxton. Nobody had any money, and it was great. We hung out at Gerde’s Folk City. They have now what they call ‘open mikes’ - I think back then Thursday and Monday nights, and you could get up there if you had the goods; sing and pick and whatever. You could get a record contract like that. Ian and Sylvia had one in a week. George Wein, and Albert Grossman, would be there to hear you—John Hammond got Dylan. Many people didn’t get him. I didn’t at first—I wondered who was this little jerk; who wanted to borrow my guitar; was bumming cigarettes, subway fare, bumming your couch. He recently did a press release about the early songs that affected him—the folk stuff, Big ‘Bill’ Broonzy and those guys, interesting and honest.

B.K: Your new recording is called Carnero Vaquero.

I.K: Which means ‘ram’—‘cowboy.'We had a ram on the OH Ranch just west of town killed on the highway when we were wrapping up the record. It turned out he was the biggest ram in the world. I thought that was interesting. We’d all see him when he’d come down to the highway for the salt. There seemed to be a connection there, so my driver, who also created the cover art, which I like very much, a ‘ram skull’ done by him, started a contest online to name the album. I said, ‘that ain’t gonna’ work.' He said it would, and it did, and we had seven hundred entries in the first couple of days, and it went viral or something – maybe abnormal. This girl from California said, ‘Carnero Vacquero’—I thought that was terrific. People would talk about it because they don’t know what that means.

B.K: The recording?

I.T: It’s all live off the floor in an old stone house we record, built in the last century—the last great wave of homesteaders. They were Welsh/Scots stonecutters and chiselled the fieldstones. No one knows how the damn thing stands up—it’s just sitting on the prairie.

B.K: The great studios—the classic ones you warm too, have a sound—like the old Sun Studios.

I.T: Nobody can define that.

B.K: You’ve had issues with your voice.

I.T: A wonderful surgeon operated on me in Calgary. That entire throat surgery thing has been revolutionised now because of Stephen Siddall, the surgeon from Harvard University whose innovations help them do wonderful things. I’d been to doctors who said I was done. This guy said he could help me, and I said, go for it.

B.K: The Great Speckled Bird sort of broke with tradition, grafting country, folk and electric, paving the way for contemporary country music. Am I close?

I.T: The GSB was always experimenting—the Flying Burritos—about four bands of which we were one. We never got a radio song out of it, and it fell apart, but there was some exciting music on the only recording. I didn’t know how to be a bandleader in those days. I sure learned down the road. It took me a few decades. There’s an art form of doing it. They were pretty ‘bronky,’ and it just didn’t work. The sound systems weren’t there then. I don’t know how any of those country/folk rockers got it done. It was technically demanding.

B.K: There must be music from long ago that never leaves you.

I.T: The bluegrass guys and that method. Just a microphone hanging from the ceiling—two or three guys grouped around that microphone and let it rip. That was as good or better technology than anybody had, and not hindered by drums. Drums were challenging then. The drums almost killed Vanguard Records because we recorded in a wonderful old place called the Manhattan Towers up on the west side of New York City. Those early Ian and Sylvia semi—a Capella things were done there. Then they moved the drums in, and it was a disaster. Then they went to Nashville, and drums were even new there—but at least the rockabilly guys knew what to do.

B.K: I warmed to Doney Gal.

I.T: It’s a trail driving song barely post-civil war, 1865, and this young cowboy is riding this little mare he loves and loves him, but it’s a mystery. It was Charlie Goodnight, the iconic trail man, who said, ‘boys no mares now. They’ll be fighting on the trail.' You'd put the mares in with the geldings, and there would be a hundred head. It’s a mystery why the cowboy is riding the Doney Gal, the mare.

B.K: I thought I heard a bit of Ralph and Carter Stanley in your singing on this.

I.T: I was a big fan. It’s the high lonesome sound.

B.K: It’s a sound that touches the heart in a certain way.

I.T: When I lost my voice, I didn’t think I could sing like that again, and when I could; it was like a miracle I said would not screw this up. We had one of those old radios that came to an arch point, and Roy Acuff was playing on the Grand Ole Opera - I’m guessing, in the forties. That sound blew me away and stays with me today.
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Old 01-05-2023, 11:34 AM   #8
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Ian and Sylvia's Great Speckled Bird
Blog Posts Monday, 02 January 2023 67 Hits

Ian and Sylvia's Great Speckled Bird

In February 1968, Ian and Sylvia made a pilgrimage to Music City, home of the Grand Ol’ Opry, to record their Nashville album with session cats like Fred Carter, Jerry Reed and Harold Bradley. The Byrds hadn’t yet arrived to make their Sweetheart of the Rodeo album and it would be a full year before Bob Dylan showed up to record Nashville Skyline. After years of being overlooked, Ian and Sylvia’s Nashville is now finally recognized as the first pop-country crossover album. Both it and the subsequent Full Circle paved the way for the duo’s landmark country-rock album, Great Speckled Bird, recorded in Nashville with Todd Rundgren as producer. “With [those albums],” said Ian, “we found our direction.”

The original Great Speckled Bird was a crackerjack band consisting at various times of such exceptional players as Amos Garrett, Ben Keith, Ken Kalmusky, Ricky Marcus, Buddy Cage, N.D. Smart, Jim Colgrove, Jeff Gutcheon, Pee Wee Charles and David Wilcox. The group appeared with Ian and Sylvia on the famous Festival Express tour and then joined them on prime-time television, when Ian landed hosting duties on Nashville North, later renamed The Ian Tyson Show. It was a radical hybrid. As singer-songwriter Tom Russell put it: “Ian and Sylvia added a rock-and-roll drummer, an electric guitar and pedal steel to their show, changed the rules and blew out the speakers.”

The stellar musicianship of Great Speckled Bird shines through on The Lost Tapes, a two-CD set that came out in 2019. Ben Keith, who famously played on Patsy Cline’s “I Fall to Pieces,” graces Ian and Sylvia’s sumptuous harmonies with his elegant pedal steel on “Heartaches By the Number.” Pee Wee Charles, who became Gordon Lightfoot’s pedal steel player, duels briskly with guitarist David Wilcox, who replaced Garrett, on a rousing rendition of “Crazy Arms.”

Meanwhile, the voices of Ian and Sylvia—Ian’s warm and smooth as leather, Sylvia’s cool as the night air—shine throughout. Ian’s tenor soars on Lefty Frizzell’s “That’s the Way Love Goes” and soothes on Utah Phillips’ “The Goodnight Loving Trail.” No wonder Townes Van Zandt once said, “We all wanted to write like Hank Williams and sing like Ian Tyson.” Sylvia is a convincing chanteuse on “Crazy Arms” and her version of Lucille Starr’s “The French Song,” singing both songs in French in her beguiling alto. And she and Starr duet like a pair of honky-tonk angels on Buck Owens’ “Crying Time” and the country classic “Silver Threads and Golden Needles.”

Of his and Sylvia’s role with Great Speckled Bird as country-rock pioneers, Ian once said: “We were 10 years ahead of our time—us, Gram Parsons and the Byrds. The public just wasn’t ready for the modern country thing.”
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Old 01-05-2023, 11:49 AM   #9
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Default Re: RIP Ian Tyson

Jane worked at The Riverboat back in the day...
September 25, 1933 - December 29, 2022
We want to take a moment to interrupt our regularly scheduled program of shilling for ticket sales to reflect on the passing of the truly legendary Ian Tyson. Above is a video of Ian performing "Four Strong Winds" at Hugh's Room Live, one of his over two dozen appearances at our 2261 Dundas West venue. As the creator of the video, Michael LeBoutillier, admits in his You Tube post, the iPhone video quality here is not the best, but the sound is pretty good and it certainly has the authenticity that Ian radiated with every song and every performance.

We also wanted to share with you the reflections of long time HRL publicist Jane Harbury:


"Ian Tyson - was ALWAYS professional - he would show up at Hugh's Room with his two accompanists at the prearranged time for sound check. Ian gave his audiences what they came for and they always left happy.

Ian would come downstairs from the 'green room' after each concert to meet the many people who lined up with their newly purchased CDs (shrink wraps removed beforehand.) He would bring his glass of white wine and it would be carefully placed beside him. Most people would ask for him to sign a copy for mother/father/son/neighbour/whoever- Ian would brusquely tell them "I sign my name - YOU write the rest". I do not know if that was always the case, but always in the years that I or Richard Flohil would get rid of the shrink wrap. I'm actually pretty sure that was because he had a hard time writing in his later years due to rheumatism or arthritis.

Back in 2004/05 Holger Peterson came to me to ask if I would work on Ian's new album coming out on Stony Plain Records. I was a little nervous as Richard Flohil had been working all Ian's albums for so many years. I asked Flohil and he was okay with this. SO, we entered into a client/publicist role which was pretty stress-free except, just before we got going Holger told me that Ian requested all interviews be submitted to Ian by FAX - my problem was I had just gotten rid of my fax machine since we were now in the world of email. Ian didn't 'do' email. So I asked Holger if I emailed requests to him, would he fax my requests to Ian. And, of course I could also telephone Ian's landline between 7 and 7:30AM Alberta time - before he went out to check on his horses and cattle.

This whole experience was fabulous - Ian truly lived an authentic life out there in Alberta. I was privileged to work with and know Ian Tyson."


If you have memories of Ian's many performances at Hugh's Room Live, or anywhere else, please feel free to share them with us. Email our Executive Director Michael Booth at and we'll be happy to share over the next few editions of "Hugh's On Stage".
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Old 01-28-2023, 04:58 PM   #10
Andy T.
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Default Re: RIP Ian Tyson

I just looked at this board and realized no one has posted in the last several weeks since this went up. So I want to say Thank You to Charlene for posting these memorials.

I guess it's rather easy to say why no one would comment, Gord had his own career. It rather got kick-started when Ian decided to cover a couple of his tunes, and maybe a bit of guitar tech learning, but not much beyond that. Still, I appreciate remembering Mr Tyson.
"May this world find a resting place... where Peaceful Waters flow..."
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Old 05-03-2023, 02:26 PM   #11
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Charlene, these are giving me both tears and goose-bumps. Thank you!

(Do you realize you've posted them on the Ian Tyson thread?)
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Old 05-03-2023, 06:23 PM   #12
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lol.. I was just posting another and saw that! lol.. will edit now..
been busy!
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