Ian and Sylvia Tyson,
CM, were a Canadian folk music duo who performed and recorded from
the early 1960s through the early 1970s.
Ian Tyson was born in Victoria,
British Columbia, in 1933.
In his teens, he decided upon a
career as a rodeo
rider. Recovering from
injuries sustained from a fall during the mid 1950s, he started
. In the late 1950s, he
relocated to Toronto, aspiring to
a career as a commercial artist.
He also started playing
clubs and coffeehouses in Toronto. By 1959 he was performing music
as a full-time occupation.
Sylvia Tyson (née Fricker) was born in Chatham,
Ontario, in 1940.
While still in her teens, she
started frequenting the folk clubs of Toronto. She met Ian in 1960,
and they started performing together shortly thereafter.
they were living in New York
City, where they caught the attention of Albert Grossman, who later managed Bob Dylan.
He secured them a contract
, and they released their first album late in the
Singing career together
Their first and self-titled album on Vanguard Records
consisted mainly of
traditional songs. There were British and Canadian
folk songs, spiritual music, and a few blues
thrown into the mix.
The album was moderately successful;
they made the list of performers for the 1963 Newport Folk Festival
. Four Strong
, their second album, was similar to the first, with the
exception of the inclusion of an early Dylan composition, "Tomorrow is a Long Time
", and the
title song "Four Strong Winds
which was written by Ian. "Four Strong Winds" was a major hit in
Canada and ensured their stardom.
in June 1964, and released
their third album, Northern Journey
during that year.
included a blues song written by Sylvia, "You Were On My Mind", which was
subsequently recorded (in a somewhat altered form) by both the
California group We Five (a 1965 #1 on
the Cashbox chart, #3 on the Billboard Hot 100) and British
folk-rock singer Crispian St. Peters (#36 in
A recording of "Four Strong Winds" by Bobby Bare
made it to #3 on the country music
charts around that time.
Also on the Northern Journey
album was "Someday Soon", a
composition by Ian that would rival "Four Strong Winds" in its
popularity. Both songs would eventually be covered by dozens of
Their fourth album, Early Morning Rain
, consisted in large
part of contemporary compositions. They introduced the work of
fellow Canadian songwriter and performer Gordon Lightfoot
through the title song and
"For Loving Me". They also covered "Darcy Farrow" by Steve Gillette
Campbell, being the first artists to cover these three songs.
Additionally, they recorded a number of their own
Play One More
their offering of 1965, showed a move toward
the electrified folk-like music that was becoming popular with
groups like the Byrds
and the Lovin' Spoonful
. The title tune used horns
for a mariachi
In 1967, they released two albums, one recorded for Vanguard, the
other for MGM
. These two efforts, So Much
and Lovin' Sound
, were far less dynamic
presentations. At this time they were doing a weekly TV program for
relocated to Nashville,
Tennessee, where they recorded two albums; one to fulfill the
terms of their Vanguard contract, the other to supply MGM with a
second (and last) album for that label.
The albums can be
defined as early country-rock
Three of Bob Dylan's "Basement Tapes" compositions are covered on
these albums, most of the rest were written by Ian or Sylvia.
1970 found Ian and Sylvia as part of a country rock group called
Great Speckled Bird
group started as studio musicians for their weekly CBC program. In
addition to participating in the cross-Canada rock-and-roll rail
tour Festival Express
recorded a self-titled album for the short-lived Ampex
label. Produced by Todd
, the record failed when Ampex failed to establish
widespread distribution. Thousands of copies never left the
warehouse, and it has become a much sought-after collector's item.
Early copies do not give Ian and Sylvia credit on the cover. Some
later copies had a sticker attached with their names.
Ian and Sylvia's last two albums were recorded on Columbia Records
. The first, titled Ian
(not to be confused with the earlier Vanguard
release) consists largely of mainstream country flavored
compositions. The second, You Were On My Mind
, features a
new incarnation of the Great Speckled Bird band. The songs range
from hard country-rock to middle-of-the-road country material.
Neither album sold especially well; Columbia eventually put both
albums together and called the combined collection The Best of
Ian and Sylvia
. That album cover was a variant of the first
Columbia cover, with the inside liner notes in the "book" printed
over pictures of their backs.
By 1974 they had stopped performing together and soon afterwards
. Ian retreated to western
Canada, returning to ranching
, while Sylvia
wrote, performed, and involved herself in various projects.
Eventually Ian started producing records again, and has had a solo
career that continues to the present (2008). Sylvia in recent years
has been occasionally recording new material, working with Quartette
, an aggregate she has performed
with since 1993, and performing a one-woman show entitled "River
Road and Other Stories". She has also written a book about
songwriting with Tom Russell
The duo's son, Clay Tyson
, is also a
In 1992 they were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame
during the Juno Awards
In 1994 they were both made Members of the Order of Canada
In 2005 an extensive Canadian Broadcasting
(CBC) poll determined their song "Four Strong Winds
" to be the "most
essential" piece of Canadian music.
In 2006 they were both inducted into the Mariposa Hall of Fame. It
was in 1961 that Ian and Sylvia headlined at Canada's legendary
Mariposa Folk Festival
induction featured a rare live performance by the duo (accompanied
by David Celia on guitar) in Toronto to an enthusiastic audience
including Gordon Lightfoot
The Good Brothers
, Greg Keelor
, David Wilcox
- Ian & Sylvia (Sep 1962) (Vanguard VSD-2113)
- Four Strong Winds (Apr 1964) (Vanguard VSD-2149)
- Northern Journey (Sep 1964) (Vanguard VSD-75914)
- Early Morning Rain (Jul 1965) (Vanguard
- Play One More (May 1966) (Vanguard VSD-79215)
- So Much for Dreaming (Apr 1967) (Vanguard
- Lovin' Sound (Jun 1967) (MGM SE-4388)
- Nashville (Aug 1967) (Vanguard VSD-79284)
- Full Circle (Sep 1968) (MGM SE-4550)
- Ian & Sylvia (Oct 1971) (Columbia KC30736)
- You Were on My Mind (Aug 1972) (Columbia KC31337)
- 30 Years of Canadian Chart Listings - #9 on 28 October
- Joel Whitburn, Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits
- Ian and Sylvia Re-Releases and Discography -
Sylvia is a member of Quartette