Ian Tyson (1933-)

Ian Tyson

Year Born: 1933

Year of Induction: 2000

Member of CAB Hall of Fame

Tyson, Ian (1933- )

Had Ian Tyson not suffered serious damage to his ankle in a rodeo accident in Alberta in 1956, the world would likely never have come to know Four Strong Winds, Someday Soon and dozens of songs with western themes, or to hear them sung by Ian and his wife Sylvia (Fricker). Ian, born in Victoria, BC in 1933, had set his sights on being a cowboy, a career from which his father had tried, unsuccessfully, to discourage him. Starting when a teenager, Ian rode broncs in rodeos for 20 years.

It was while he was in hospital recovering from his accident that Ian learned how to play the guitar. In 1958, he moved to Toronto to pursue a musical career It was there he met Sylvia and formed an alliance that became “Ian and Sylvia”. They appeared together in clubs singing traditional ditties and popular songs, and married in 1964 (but divorced in 1975). The vogue at the time was for performers to write and sing their own songs. In 1964, Four Strong Winds was a “top three” hit for Bobby Bare; in 1979 a minor hit for Neil Young. Someday Soon was a minor hit for Judy Collins in 1968 and a “top twelve” hit for Suzy Bogguss in 1989. Canadian arranger-conductor Ben McPeek recorded orchestral versions of both songs, and, of course, Ian also made his own records. These songs have found their place as “standards” in the pop-folk music of Canada.

In the 1970s, Ian and Sylvia were invited to host a Canadian TV show, Nashville North. When Sylvia left shortly after due to throat problems, the program was re-named The Ian Tyson Show, and ran for five years.

But Ian longed to return to the west. In 1975, he took a job as a ranch hand in southern Alberta, and subsequently worked at a cowboy bar on McLeod Trail in Calgary called The Ranchman. He and his second wife Twylla and their daughter Adelita took up residence at his 160-acre T-Bar-Y Ranch in Longview, south of Calgary.

In 1983, Ian recorded in his living room an album, Old Corrals and Sagebrush, that was intended as a Christmas present for his friends. It opened-up a second career in music and Ian began to build his own storehouse of original songs. His second and third albums were Cowboyography, which won a Canadian Country Music Academy award as “Best Album of 1987”, and I Outgrew The Wagon. Also, Ian received a Juno Award as the “Top male country singer of 1987”.

Two new songs were added to Ian’s repertoire amid a compilation of memorable tracks from six earlier albums of traditional and original cowboy songs, All The Good ‘Uns, The Wonder Of It All and Barrel Racing Angel . His song, Lost Herd won the Prairie Music Awards’ Outstanding Country Recording prize in 1999.

For his achievements as a performer and as a writer, Ian received The Order of Canada.

Ian’s contribution to Canadian culture and enriching the lives of Canadians through private radio was also recognized in November, 2000 by the private broadcasters of Canada. At the annual meeting of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters held in Calgary, Ian Tyson became the fourth Canadian performer to be inducted into the CAB Broadcast Hall of Fame.

Written by J. Lyman Potts – October, 2000