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Last update, Feb 19, 2007

Ian Tyson

Tyson has long been one of Canada’s most respected singer-songwriters. A pioneer who began his career in the early days of the first folk boom in the ’60s, he was one of the first Canadians to break into the American popular music market. In the years that followed he hosted his own TV show, recorded some of the best "folk" albums ever made, quit the music business and became — after years of backbreaking work — a rodeo rider and a successful rancher.

But with his songs covered by Neil Young, Judy Collins, Suzy Bogguss, Gordon Lightfoot, Bobby Bare and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, among many others, he returned to music with a vengeance in the mid-’80s. He found himself able to combine his two separate lives in new songs that explained the reality of “western culture” and the mindset of a cowboy in a sometimes-alien world.

Tyson cuts demo versions of his songs in the stone cottage ("although the furnace makes such a racket you have to turn it off when you’re recording"), after he’s written down and joined the phrases and snatches of melody he’s discovered on his walks down the gravel road. His regular on-the-road accompanists, Gord Matthews (guitar, vocals) and Gord Maxwell (bass, vocals) play a key role in the way the songs develop, and in making the demos.

The recording process that follows takes Tyson a long way from the gravel road — just about as far, physically and mentally, as he’s prepared to go.

At the age of 24, Tyson left behind the itinerant logging and rodeo life of British Columbia and hitchhiked to Toronto. Caught up in the folk music revival, he formed, along with a very young Sylvia Fricker, the legendary singing duo of Ian and Sylvia.

The influential folk duo, Ian and Sylvia, married in 1964, recorded over a do zen timeless albums, including their best known and often covered hits - Ian's Four Strong Winds and Someday Soon, and Sylvia's You Were On My Mind.

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

Tyson considers himself a very fortunate man. His second music career takes him to concerts all over North America, where he is able to ride the deserts and sage hills with his friends from Alberta to Mexico.

"I like to surround myself with the most talented musicians," Tyson says, "so that people not directly from the ranch culture can enjoy an evening with us through the music alone. Everyone, it seems, can relate to a song like Someday Soon and that's the kind of communication I strive for."

Visit Ian's website
Credit, Ian Tyson website

Ian Tyson albums in my collection
Old Corrals & Sagebrush