Return to Dick Nolan Country
CBC Radio in Newfoundland and Labrador originally broadcast "The Dick Nolan Story" on May 15 and 22, 2004 and rebroadcast it on January 8 and 15, 2005. Through interviews and music, the program chronicled Dick's career and personal life. The information on this page is based on that program. It aired on "The Performance Hour" and was hosted by Andrew Younghusband, recorded by Terry Windsor and produced by Ingrid Fraser.
DICK NOLAN 'FIRSTS'
sold approximately one million records and was the first
Newfoundlander to have a gold record (50,000 units sold),
the first to go platinum (100,000 units sold) and the
first to cash in on the 'ex-pat' Newfoundland community
living in Toronto and Alberta. He was also the first to
be nominated for a Juno Award and the first to appear at
Nashville's Grand Old Opry.
THE NEWFOUNDLAND TO TORONTO CYCLE
In 1958, Dick worked for Cliff Herlihy at CBC radio Corner Brook. He did two radio shows there for a year or two including "Woodland Echoes" and a show sponsored by City Motors. He sang and played with his Band the Blue Valley Boys which included Roy Penney, Cliff Dyke and Toots Heath. Dick played with Roy Penney in bars even though they were too young. Country music in Corner Brook was prevalent partly because of the Americans who visited from the base at Stephenville. In 1958 at age 19, Dick went to Toronto to look for work and see the big city. In Toronto, Dick waited on tables at a coutnry bar, the 300 Tavern on College and Spadina. He would sing the odd song and soon landed a job singing because "he was better at singing than selling beer!" At that time he performed songs by country artists such as Johnny Cash, Lefty Frizzell and Carl Smith.
Dick met record producer Ben Weatherby who encouraged Dick to do some recording. Weatherby played guitar on a couple of Dick's Johnny Cash covers. Dick made his first album of Johnny Cash covers for Arc Records entitled "I Walk the Line" in the late 50s. He was paid approximately $150 but in those days it was such an honour to do a record "you might do it for nothing". The resemblance of Dick's voice to Cash's was remarkable and on one occasion Dick was a "fill-in" for Cash when he played Massey Hall in Toronto. Dick's job was to fill-in for Johnny if he didn't show or was ill but he was not needed!
Throughout his career, Dick alternated his home between Toronto and Newfoundland. He was born in Corner Brook but also lived in Outer Cove and Manuels. Toronto was the industrial and musical capital of Canada with recording facilities, musicians, songwriters and expatriot Newfoundlanders. In 1998, Dick released the CD "Down By the Sea" featuring Newfounland composers Eddie Coffey, Wince Coles, Roy Payne and himself. One of Dick's selections is "Memories of Corner Brook" which documents Dick's personal memories while growing up.
to return to Newfoundland for one last time in June of
2004. He has moved back and forth so often that he
"sold more furniture than a furniture store".
Toronto provided many opportunities to Dick during his
career but he says the atmosphere has changed and its
time to move on. "I'm going right to Bell Island and
I'm staying there". He has a mild case of
Parkinson's and can't hold the pick to play his guitar
but other wise his health is good.
WORKING MAN SONGS
By 1963, Dick was still in Toronto and working with a publishing company by day and performing at night. He performed at the 300 Club which catered to down-easters who liked country and down-east music. After Dick had covered Dave Dudley songs such as Six Days on the Road, Mad, and Cowboy Boots, Dick became friends with Dudley. They met at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto where Dick was playing. They sang sets together, played Jamborees and travelled to Montreal and the States.