The news recently that our latest Newfoundland Idol, Rex Goudie, has sold
over 50,000 copies of his debut CD, Under The Lights, and the fact Great
Big Sea’s Sea of No Cares has sold platinum (100,000 copies ) made this
journalist proud to be a Newfoundlander.
The success of our province’s musicians, both here and elsewhere, shows
that Newfoundland and Labrador has an abundance of talent that deserves
the nation’s attention. However, the accomplishment also made me
feel a little melancholy about another Newfoundland musician who achieved
gold status. His musical legacy paved the way for Goudie and our own Great
Big Sea’s national stature.
Dick Nolan, who passed away last month at the age of 66, was more than
just an ordinary Newfoundland country singer. He was a man of firsts for
this province’s music industry. He was the first Newfoundlander to perform
at the prestigious Grand Old Opry, the first homegrown talent
to sell a gold record and be nominated for a JUNO. More than that, Nolan
paved the way for Newfoundland and Labrador music to be seen and heard,
here and across Canada. “He was true to the traditional country music
style and left us all a great legacy of songs as only Dick could sing
them,” according to Stompin’ Tom Connors, the man who defeated Nolan at
the 1973 Juno
It’s an accomplishment that was especially difficult in his era. Many
musicians here recorded albums for many companies, but never got the
financial rewards they deserved. Our musicians signed deals that paid them
pennies for their work. Nolan was one of those musicians, along with the
likes of John White, Harry Hibbs, Joan Morrissey and others. These musical
pioneers, all now deceased, brought the music of this place that we call
home to the country. It consisted of the songs that were sung at kitchen
parties, traditional Maritime melodies, and yes, even a few original songs
that have stood the test of time.
Aunt Martha’s Sheep, written by Nolan with Ellis Coles in 1972, is
undoubtedly one of the most popular songs in the “Newfoundland” music
repertoire and his best known tune. The album on which that song was
included, Fisherman’s Boy (recorded at MUN Radio in St. John’s), sold
30,000 copies in 30 days, a remarkable achievement. It eventually went
However, Nolan left a great deal of music as part of his legacy. He
recorded over 40 albums and 300 songs and performed with some of the
biggest names in country music, from Dave Dudley to Loretta Lynn.
The biggest tragedy of his passing is the fact that with the loss of
the vinyl record, many of his recordings (along with White’s) are no
longer available. Many of our children don’t know who Dick Nolan was, and
what he accomplished.
However, there is some good news on that front. Sony/BMG, Nolan’s
old label, is re-releasing some of Nolan’s RCA work on a new compilation
CD later this month. The Best of Dick Nolan, to be released Jan. 31,
includes some of his most popular songs for the first time on
the new format. It’s a chance for us to remember and relive those
musical memories. For others, they can experience for the first time, the
voice, and the music that was Dick Nolan.
I hope this CD flies off shelves as quickly as Goudie’s has. It should.
He deserves no less than another gold album, one that reinforces the
impact of his music on our homeland.
His legacy passed the torch, now we should hold it high.
Country: News |