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Ian & Sylvia were a Canadian folk and country music duo which consisted of Ian and Sylvia Tyson, née Fricker. They began performing together in 1959, married in 1964, and divorced and stopped performing together in 1975.[1][2][3]

Ian & Sylvia
Ian and Sylvia 1968.JPG
Background information
OriginToronto, Ontario, Canada
GenresFolk, country, country rock
Years active1959–1975
LabelsVanguard, MGM, Columbia
Associated actsGreat Speckled Bird
Past membersIan Tyson
Sylvia Tyson



Early livesEdit

Ian Tyson, CM, AOE 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 learning guitar. 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.[4] By 1959 he was performing music as a full-time occupation.

Sylvia Tyson, née Fricker, CM, was born in Chatham, Ontario, in 1940. While still in her teens, she started frequenting the folk clubs of Toronto.


Folk duoEdit

The two started performing together in Toronto in 1959. By 1962, they were living in New York City where they caught the attention of manager Albert Grossman, who managed Peter, Paul and Mary and would soon become Bob Dylan's manager. Grossman secured them a contract with Vanguard Records and they released their first album late in the year.

Their first album, self-titled Ian & Sylvia, on Vanguard Records consists mainly of traditional songs.[5] There were British and Canadian folk songs, spiritual music, and a few blues songs thrown into the mix. The album was moderately successful and they made the list of performers for the 1963 Newport Folk Festival.

Four Strong Winds, their second album, was similar to the first, with the exception of the inclusion of the early Dylan composition, "Tomorrow is a Long Time", and the title song "Four Strong Winds", which was written by Ian Tyson. "Four Strong Winds" was a major hit in Canada and ensured their stardom.[6][7]

The two married in June 1964; they also released their third album, Northern Journey, that year. It included a blues song written by her, "You Were on My Mind", which was subsequently recorded 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 1967).[8] A recording of "Four Strong Winds" by Bobby Bare made it to #3 on the country charts around that time.

On the Northern Journey album was the song "Someday Soon", a composition by him that would rival "Four Strong Winds" in its popularity. (Both songs would eventually be recorded by dozens of singers.)

Their fourth album, Early Morning Rain, consisted in large part of new songs. They introduced the work of the couple's fellow Canadian songwriter and performer Gordon Lightfoot through the title song and "(That's What You Get) For Lovin' Me". They also recorded songs "Darcy Farrow" by Steve Gillette and Tom Campbell, being the first artists to record these three songs. Additionally, they recorded a number of their own compositions.

They performed at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.[9] 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 to evoke the mariachi style.

In 1967, they released two albums, one recorded for Vanguard, the other for MGM. These two efforts, So Much For Dreaming and Lovin' Sound, were far less dynamic presentations. At this time they were doing a weekly TV program for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Country rock pioneersEdit

They 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 music; Nashville for Vanguard was cut in February 1968, one month before The Byrds' Sweetheart of the Rodeo, widely considered the first collaboration of rock and Nashville players.[10] Three of Bob Dylan's "Basement Tapes" songs are included on these albums; most of the rest were written by Ian or Sylvia.[10]

In 1969, Ian & Sylvia formed the country rock group Great Speckled Bird. In addition to participating in the cross-Canada rock-and-roll rail tour Festival Express, they recorded a self-titled album for the short-lived Ampex label. Produced by Todd Rundgren, the record failed when Ampex was unable to establish widespread distribution. Thousands of copies never left the warehouse, and it has become a much sought-after collector's item. Initially, the album artist was given as Great Speckled Bird but later copies had a sticker saying that it featured the duo.

Ian & Sylvia's last two albums were recorded on Columbia Records. The first, 1971's Ian and Sylvia, not to be confused with their 1962 release titled Ian & Sylvia, consists largely of mainstream country-flavored songs. This album was released on CD, with extra tracks, as The Beginning of the End in 1996.[11] Their second Columbia record, 1972's You Were On My Mind, featured a later incarnation of Great Speckled Bird. The songs range from hard country rock to middle-of-the-road country material. Neither of the Columbia albums sold well. They were eventually combined and released as 1974's The Best of Ian and Sylvia.

In 1972, Ian & Sylvia performed the song "Let Her Alone" for Walt Disney Productions' live-action drama Run, Cougar, Run. Ian also served as the film's narrator.

By 1975, Ian & Sylvia had stopped performing together and soon afterwards were divorced.


Ian retreated to western Canada, returned to ranching, and focused on his solo career.

Sylvia wrote, performed, and involved herself in various projects. In recent years, she has been recording new material, working as a member of the group Quartette, and performing a one-woman show entitled River Road and Other Stories.

The duo's son, Clay Tyson (Clayton Dawson Tyson,[12] born 1966),[13] is also a musician and recording artist.

In August 1986 a stellar cast of folk singers who had recorded or written their songs, including Gordon Lightfoot, Judy Collins, Murray McLauchlan and Emmylou Harris, was assembled in Ontario, Canada, for a reunion concert.

Ian & Sylvia sang their signature song, "Four Strong Winds", at the 50th anniversary of the Mariposa Folk Festival on July 11, 2010, in Orillia, Ontario.


In 1992 they were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame during the Juno Awards ceremony.

In 1994 they were both made Members of the Order of Canada.

In 2005 an extensive Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (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. The 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, and David Wilcox.

In a poll of the Western Writers of America, two Ian & Sylvia songs, "Someday Soon" and "Summer Wages" (both written by Tyson), were selected among the "Top 100 Western Songs" of all time.[14]



Year Album[15] Chart Positions Label
1962 Ian & Sylvia Vanguard
1964 Four Strong Winds 115
Northern Journey 70
1965 Early Morning Rain 77
1966 Play One More 142
1967 So Much for Dreaming 130
Lovin' Sound 148 MGM
Nashville Vanguard
1968 Full Circle 48 MGM
1970 Great Speckled Bird 54 Ampex
1971 Ian and Sylvia 60 201 Columbia
1972 You Were on My Mind
1996 Live at Newport Vanguard


Year Single Chart Positions Album
1965 "Early Morning Rain" 1 Early Morning Rain
1967 "Lovin' Sound" [17] 101 Lovin' Sound
1971 "Creators of Rain" 73 Ian & Sylvia
"More Often Than Not" 22
1972 "You Were on My Mind" (re-issue) 4 You Were on My Mind

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Tyson". Quartette. 2003-09-08. Retrieved 2012-04-04.
  2. ^ Leblanc, Larry (12 February 2005). "Tyson Takes a New 'Road'". Billboard. p. 52. Retrieved 2010-04-09.
  3. ^ historica. "Ian and Sylvia". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2012-04-04.
  4. ^ Coffeehouses Archived 2005-12-05 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc.: 24 August 25, 1962. ISSN 0006-2510. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ 30 Years of Canadian Chart Listings Archived 2002-11-02 at - #9 on 28 October 1963
  7. ^ Billboard magazine: 18. October 19, 1963. ISSN 0006-2510. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. ^ Joel Whitburn, Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits
  9. ^ Ian & Sylvia interviewed on the Pop Chronicles (1969)
  10. ^ a b Browne, David (July 22, 2015). "Inside Ian & Sylvia's 'Nashville,' Country-Rock's Great Lost Album". Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 11, 2016.
  11. ^ "The Beginning of the End". Allmusic. Retrieved 2012-04-04.
  12. ^ "They're partners in life as well as in music, which must have its difficult moments like the prospect of having to sing with someone you were maybe not speaking to. But they certainly have made that work, what with that thing rolling around on the rug, young Clayton Dawson, herein and hereafter referred to as 'Mr. Spoons.'" From the jacket notes (by John Court) to Ian and Sylvia's LP "Lovin' Sound", MGM 4388, 1967. Quoted in Mudcat Forum by Dale Rose, 1999-04-16; accessed 2011-05-08.
  13. ^ "Clay Tyson". Living Legends Music. 2006–2008. Retrieved 2011-04-19.
  14. ^ Western Writers of America (2010). "The Top 100 Western Songs". American Cowboy. Archived from the original on 10 August 2014.
  15. ^ Ian and Sylvia Re-Releases and Discography - Sylvia is a member of Quartette
  16. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2011). Top Pop Singles 1955–2010. Record Research, Inc. p. 422. ISBN 0-89820-188-8.
  17. ^ "Ian & Sylvia - Lovin' Sound (Vinyl) at Discogs". Retrieved 2012-04-04.

External linksEdit