Colleen Peterson

Colleen (Susan) Peterson. Singer, songwriter, guitarist, b Peterborough, Ont, 14 Nov 1950, d Toronto 9 Oct 1996.

Peterson, Colleen

Colleen (Susan) Peterson. Singer, songwriter, guitarist, b Peterborough, Ont, 14 Nov 1950, d Toronto 9 Oct 1996. She sang with a succession of folk and rock groups, including Three's A Crowd in Ottawa and TCB in New York, appeared in Hair in Toronto during her teens, and was a member of the duo Spriggs and Bringle (with Mark Haines) in Kingston, Ont, in the early 1970s. She won the Juno Award for most promising female vocalist in 1967 and again in 1977. In the interim, she turned to country music, dividing her time after 1974 between Peterborough, Kingston, Toronto, and Nashville, Tenn. She was co-host with Rick Neufeld in 1977 for CBC TV's 'On the Road.'

Her first LP, Beginning to Feel Like Home (Capitol ST-11567), recorded in Nashville and issued in 1976, contained what would become her signature song, 'Souvenirs.' Two more LPs followed by 1978, Colleen (Capitol ST-11714) and Takin' My Boots Off (Capitol ST-11835). While living 1979-88 in Nashville, Peterson served as a back-up singer to Charlie Daniels on tour 1979-82 and to Waylon Jennings, Roger Miller, and others on record, appeared frequently on The Nashville [TV] Network's 'Bobby Bare and Friends,' and worked as a songwriter under contract to Warner Bros Publishing. Peterson continued to perform in Canada for CBC radio and TV (she was a regular on CTV's Spirit of the Country) and on the club, coffeehouse, and folk festival circuit during this time. A tour in 1986 included appearances at the Mariposa Folk Festival and Expo 86. She returned to live in Ontario in 1988.

Peterson, who brought a voice of great colour and character and a wide range of influences (eg, R&B and folk) to her country material, had Canadian hits with 'I Had It All' (1986) 'What a Fool I'd Be (1987), and 'Basic Fact of Love' (1987) for the Cardinal label, and 'Gently Lay Me Down' (1987), 'Mr Conductor' (1988), 'Weather the Storm' (1989), and 'If You Let Me Down Easy' (1990) for Book Shop. The first six were included on the LP Basic Facts (Book Shop BSR-33-766). A fifth album, Let Me Down Easy (Intersound CD-9102), included some of these same songs as well as the 1991 hit 'No Pain No Gain' (written by Cyril Rawson, Scott Phelps, and Leroy Anderson). Two duets for Book Shop with Gilles Godard, 'I Still Think of You' (1988) and 'Life Is Just a Holiday' (1990), were also popular. She released the CD 'What Goes Around Comes Around' in 1995 (EMI 72438-33362-2-7). Peterson collaborated with several songwriting partners including the Canadians Cyril Rawson, Nancy Simmonds, and Sylvia Tyson, and had songs recorded by Tyson, Glory-Anne Carriere, Anne Murray, and Ronnie Prophet.

Peterson's collaboration with Sylvia Tyson led to their cofounding the country group Quartette. With fellow members Cindy Church and Caitlin Hanford, their first performance was at Toronto's Harbourfront in summer 1993. They subsequently appeared on CBC radio's Morningside, and in response to audience demand, recorded the CD Quartette the next year (Denon CAN 9016). It was followed in 1995 by Work of the Heart (Denon CAN 9024). The group toured extensively in Canada. Quartette's popularity was recognized with the Canadian Country Music Association's Vocal Collaboration of the Year Award in 1994, and Juno nominations 1995 and 1996. In August 1996 Peterson, with Quartette, recorded the album It's Christmas (Denon CAN 1225), which was released after her death from cancer. As tributes to Peterson, Quartette dedicated its concert 26 Oct 1996 in Peterborough, Ont, and CBC TV broadcast the show The Circle (8 Nov 1995). Peterson's place in Quartette was filled by Gwen Swick.

In Country magazine, after her recording of the standard 'Crazy' became a hit on country radio, Peterson commented on her delayed successes in the 1990s: 'I can't remember the last time I heard of a radio station breaking a song all by itself, but CISS-FM did that for me, and it's been a dream come true ... We artists in Canada need this kind of momentum from "out of left field." I know I did.' About Peterson's career, Larry Delaney in Country Music News said, "Musically, Colleen was always ahead of her time -- it has only been in recent years that the music industry finally caught on to what she has been delivering."


Further Reading

  • Hale, Barrie. 'Rediscovering Colleen Peterson,' The Canadian, 22 Jan 1977

    Beyer, Susan. 'Colleen Peterson: lady pays the dues,' CMN, vol 3, Apr 1982

    Delaney, Larry. 'Colleen Peterson ... one more time,' CMN, vol 7, Jan 1987

    Fitzgerald, Judith. 'Lives lived,' Globe & Mail, 23 Oct 96