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The History of Canadian Country Music
by Alex Cosper (10/26/14)

Country music has been popular in Canada since its rise in the 1920s. Much of the sound has been influenced by the British folk tradition that also included the country music of the Appalachian region. The Canadian Country Music Association was founded in 1975, presenting annual awards since 1982. The Association coordinates with the publication Country Music Week.

The two fiddlers who made country music popular in Canada were Don Messer and George Wade, who worked in radio during the late 1920s. More country stars emerged in the 1930s with Wilf Carter and Hank Snow. Carter and Snow helped set a tone for lower pitched voices than the more common nasal higher pitched American country singers. Country music grew in popularity as a result of singing cowboy movies and the expansion of radio stations in the Great Depression years. Country singers relied on radio shows and lots of regional live shows through the 1950s. Hank Snow had scored a series of hits by the early sixties in Canada and The United States.

By that period several country stars had emerged, including Ray Griff, Stu Phillips and Lucille Starr. These Canadian each moved to the United States, where they found better recording studios. During the 1960s the country stars rising out of Canada took on a more mainstream sound, such as Anne Murray, R. Harlan Smith and Shirley Eikhardt. Some of the more rock-oriented country bands of the period were Good Brothers, Praire Oyster and Colleen Peterson. Folk sounding singer-songwriters such as Gordon Lightfoot emerged in the 1960s as well.

Since the 1960s the folk tradition has been preserved, along with Canadian fiddle music. Shania Twain became a huge selling Canadian country artist in the 1990s. It helped that she was married to a top producer of the era, Mutt Lange. Cowboy Junkies, although not considered country, certain had a country flavor when they started gaining attention from their cover of "Sweet Jane." K.D. Lang surfaced in the 1980s then had a big hit in 1992 called "Constant Craving."

In 1991 the Crash Test Dummies had a big hit called "Superman's Song." It had the feel of a traditional country folk song sung in a deep voice. The song got attention in the United States and the group went on to have a string of hits in the alternative format. Other country acts who made a mark since the 1990s have included Blue Rodeo, Spirit of the West, Charlie Major, Blue Shadows, Michelle Wright, Murray McLauchlan, Bob Rusicka, Rita MacNeil, Quartette, The Ranins and Colleen Peterson.

Check out information on the following Canadian music scenes:

New Brunswick
Quebec City

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