Catalysts of the folk boom, Canada’s Ian Tyson and Sylvia Fricker burst onto the scene in the early 1960s with a unique vocal sound. Sold-out concerts at Carnegie Hall. Headline appearances at the Newport and Mariposa festivals. Hit songs like the now-classic “Four Strong Winds” and “You Were On My Mind.” A real singing cowboy and a church organist’s daughter, Ian & Sylvia were one of the hottest acts around. But all of that changed in the mid-1960s when The Beatles and the British Invasion landed on North American shores. The folk boom suddenly went bust and everyone—including Ian’s mentor, a scruffy kid named Bob Dylan—began plugging in.
“The Beatles shut us down,” Ian recalled in his 1994 autobiography I Never Sold My Saddle. “It was over. Over! We were the hottest ticket in California for about a year and a half, and then I remember standing in a club, maybe the Troubador in Los Angeles, and the announcer was announcing the upcoming acts, and when he mentioned Ian & Sylvia some of the people booed. That quickly we had gone from the hippest thing around to being booed.”
Time to move on. But rather than follow the pack into pop—something the record label was pushing—Ian & Sylvia gravitated toward country. There had already been hints of it on most of the duo’s Vanguard albums: “Spanish is a Loving Tongue” on Four Strong