Canadian Country Music News
The Voice of Country Music in Canada
January 2006

Obituary - DICK NOLAN


Dick Nolan, one of Newfoundland’s most revered music personalities, died December 13, 2005 in Carbonear, Newfoundland, after suffering a stroke. He was 66.

Dick Nolan recorded over 40 albums of Country and Down East music during his lengthy career, and is likely best recognized for his 1972 country novelty hit, Aunt Martha’s Sheep.

Richard Francis (“Dick”) Nolan was born in Corner Brook, Newfoundland on February 4, 1939. After building a strong fan following for his music in his native province, Nolan moved to Toronto in the late 1950’s where he began his recording career, his first album (on Arc Records) being a set of Johnny Cash classic hits. Throughout the 60’s he worked as a member of the Blue Valley Boys (with Johnny Burke, Roy Penny, Bunty Petrie, etc), the house band at the famed Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, backing all of the major country touring acts of the day.

After returning to Newfoundland in the late 1960’s, Dick would again pursue his recording career in 1972, releasing the albums Fisherman’s Boy and Home Again This Year, both of which earned Gold status. In 1973 he became the first Newfoundlander to guest on the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. He would later host his own weekly television show aired from CJON-TV in Newfoundland.

Dick Nolan’s extensive recording career included 29 vinyl Lp’s, 4 cassettes and 8 CD’s. The body of work would be recognized with Juno Award nominations, Certificates Of Merit, and numerous special tributes from fans and industry. Ironically, only weeks before his untimely passing, he was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Music Industry Association of Newfoundland / Labrador; and RCA Canada was currently in the midst of releasing a “Dick Nolan Hits” collection.

Dick Nolan’s classic hit, Aunt Martha’s Sheep, came unexpectedly. In a story published in the June 1985 edition of Country Music News, Nolan told how the song, which he co-wrote with fellow Newfoundlander Ellis Coles, was thought to be an album filler only on his Fisherman’s Boy Lp. Once aired on radio, the song took a life of its own, and listener requests, forced RCA to track him down while playing a series of club dates in Newfoundland, to bring him back to Toronto, to promote the record. He made guest appearances on several nationally televised shows; and RCA pressing plants in Smiths Falls, Ontario actually put a hold on pressing Elvis Presley vinyl, in order to meet demand for Dick Nolan’s Aunt Martha’s Sheep hit, which would become an almost overnight Gold success, practically unheard of at the time for a Canadian country act.

Dick Nolan is survived by his wife Marie, daughters Donna Wagoner, and Bonnie Lou Gardiner and five sisters. Interment was made at All Hallows Cemetery, North River, NL.


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