legend Dick Nolan dead at 66
December 20, 2005
One of Newfoundland and Labrador's most-known singer/songwriters has died.
Dick Nolan passed away at the Carbonear General Hospital Dec. 13, less than two weeks after suffering a stroke.
He was 66.
Nolan retired in South River last July with his wife of 26 years, Marie. The couple moved from Bell Island, Marie's native home, because they liked Conception Bay North and as Nolan put it, "to get from the cold winter winds that swirl around Bell Island."
He was born and raised in Corner Brook and was the son a paper mill worker. Before completing high school, a young Dick Nolan took a job at the then Bowater's Paper Mill. He later quit because he said he didn't want to die there like his father.
"That's where you live and die," Nolan told The Compass in an interview last August in his South River home.
In 1958 Nolan moved to Toronto and worked as a waiter at a hotel. He completed a radiobroadcasting course but never worked in the field - ironically he was heard on radio many years as a singer.
He classed himself as a country artist and sang the songs in bars around Toronto, where he met Marie. In 1966 he recorded an entire album of Newfoundland songs and returned to the island for the province's Come Home Year celebrations.
In the early 1970s he recorded Aunt Martha's Sheep, a song that Nolan said had changed his life. He was nominated for a Juno Award, and in 1973 Nolan preformed his biggest hit at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee.
He recorded 41 albums with some songs in duet with his daughter Bonnie Lou. Three of his albums went gold.
Dick Nolan idolized the late Johnny Cash and sang songs from Carl Smith.
In his retirement years he was misdiagnosed with Parkinson's disease and lost, but regained, some use to his left hand. Unable to continue to play guitar, Nolan sold the instrument - a move he later regretted.
Last month, Nolan received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Music Industry Association of Newfoundland and Labrador. In February, 2006 he was to appear in concert at the St. John's Arts and Culture Centre.
"Dick Nolan paved the way for many local musicians and he will be greatly missed by all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians," Tom Hedderson, minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation said last week.
Nolan was working on his memoirs and was hoping to have it published by this Christmas. A fan and friend Wayne Tucker, who worked with Nolan on the project, plans to complete the book.
He played his final gig at Murphy's Pub in Marysvale Nov. 12.
Funeral services for Nolan were held last Friday Dec. 16 at All Hallows RC Church in North River followed by internment in the RC cemetery in that Conception Bay town.