John Allan Cameron: Canada's 'godfather' of Celtic music
• Cameron was raised in a musical family. His mother, Katie Ann, and brother, John Donald, were avid fiddlers. Cameron's uncle was Dan Rory MacDonald, a renowned fiddler and composer.
• Cameron began playing guitar for his brother at local dances when he was just 12.
• Cameron switched career paths in 1957 and moved to Ottawa to pursue the priesthood. He told the Cape Breton Post in 2005 "when I was a kid, the two most important people in the world were the priest and the fiddler."
• He spent seven years with the Order of the Oblate Fathers, taking his final vows in 1964. Six months later he received a papal dispensation to return to performing.
• "I knew that 10 years down the line I would be unhappy," he said.
• While pursuing a music career Cameron enrolled in St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S.
• He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1966, and earned his Bachelor of Education the following year.
• In 1967, he started teaching (English and religion) at a Catholic high school in London, Ont. But after one year he quit and returned to music.
• In 1968, he played sold-out shows at both the Newport and Mariposa Folk Festivals.
• Soon after, Cameron signed a recording contract with Apex Records. His debut album, Here Comes John Allan Cameron (1968), would become a seminal Celtic folk album.
• At first, Cameron had a difficult time reaching Canadians with his traditional music. "There was no music industry in this country for God's sake," he told a reporter in 2003. "And Celtic music wasn't regarded as music."
• Cameron was known for his interpretations of Scottish pipe tunes using a 12-string guitar. He also became known for wearing a kilt on stage.
• The kilt became a personal trademark after he began wearing it on CBC Television's Singalong Jubilee in the early 1970s.
• In 1970, Cameron was asked to play one song at The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn. His band was such a hit that it played for 15 minutes and got a standing ovation.
• Cameron performed on a number of CBC shows, including The Irish Rovers, before getting his own weekly musical variety show in 1979. The John Allan Cameron Show featured traditional Celtic music mixed in with skits.
• The show played host to Roger Whittaker, Ian Tyson and Bruce Cockburn before its cancellation in 1981. It's widely cited as providing many Canadians with their first taste of Celtic music.
• John Allan Cameron released 10 albums over the course of his nearly 40-year career, but he is best known for his work in the 1970s.
• Records such as 1972's Get There by Dawn and the 1973 classic Lord of the Dance helped to establish his reputation as a champion of traditional Irish and Scottish music long before its popular revival in the 1990s.
• Cameron was known as either the godfather or the grandfather of Canada's Celtic music scene, and at one point was dubbed "The Thinking Man's Stompin' Tom Connors" by Maclean's magazine.
• In the late 1980s, Cameron took a break from music to perform on the dramatic stage in the Stephenville Festival and at Halifax's Neptune Theatre.
• Cameron's followers include the likes of Rita MacNeil, Jimmy Rankin, Natalie McMaster, Ashley MacIsaac and the Barra MacNeils. All of them have credited him with paving the way for their success.
• In 2003, Cameron was made a member of the Order of Canada in honour of his role in reviving and preserving the heritage of Celtic music in Canada.
• Cameron's son, Stuart Cameron, is a musician who has played with Ashley MacIsaac and produced albums for Natalie McMaster.
Broadcast Date: May 24, 1996
Guest(s): John Allan Cameron, Stuart Cameron, Cookie Rankin
Host: Peter Gzowski
Last updated: April 18, 2013
Page consulted on September 10, 2014
All Clips from this Topic
British actress Anna Neagle reads a poem about the life of a merchant ...
The man who plays the carillon at Ottawa's Peace Tower, Robert Donnell...
Elvis shakes his pelvis onstage in Toronto.
Humble and soft-spoken, the 22-year-old rock 'n' roller talks to CBC a...
The rising country star talks about his Canadian itinerary, his music...
Canadian singer Phyllis Marshall talks to CBC Radio's Assignment about...
French-Canadian composer Jean Papineau-Couture discusses his early day...
The 13-year-old pop music sensation talks to CBC Radio's Assignment
Reporters describe screaming fans at the airport, outside a Toronto ho...
Hold onto your hats, Canada. Television is about to change forever wit...
In Toronto to make a return to the North American musical stage in 196...
The acclaimed violinist reminisces about his teacher Georges Enesco an...
America's master songwriter comes to Canada for the revival of his meg...
Teenagers groove to the blues and musicians with the Dave Brubeck Quar...
An interview with Maria von Trapp, the matriarch of the von Trapp Fami...
Expodition talks to Supremes singer Diana Ross and glimpses La gendarm...
When the tree that inspired the song The Maple Leaf Forever los...
Canadian tenor Jon Vickers talks more than music with host John Amis -...
A 1969 interview with Jimi Hendrix, Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell up...
Harry Belafonte is in Toronto for a three-week run, and he sits down w...