Ian and SylviaIan and Sylvia. Folk (later, country) singers, active 1961-75. Ian Tyson and Sylvia Fricker (m Tyson) sang together in Toronto clubs as early as 1959. Ian played guitar; Sylvia, guitar and autoharp. As a full-time duo by 1961, they performed that year at the Mariposa Folk Festival and in folk clubs in New York and Chicago. Caught up in the so-called 'urban folk revival' in North America, they rose quickly to the forefront of the movement with their first LPs and on the popularity of Ian's song 'Four Strong Winds'. Their repertoire also included traditional material (eg, 'Un Canadien errant', 'V'là l'bon vent', and 'Brave Wolfe'), blues, pop tunes, and contemporary folk-styled songs. They were among the first to sing songs by Gordon Lightfoot and Joni Mitchell.
Ian and Sylvia performed throughout North America, soon making the transition from clubs to colleges and festivals, including the Newport Folk Festival in 1963 and 1965. They appeared in 1966 in England on BBC TV and performed 30 Apr 1967 in New York at Carnegie Hall. Other early songs of note included Sylvia's 'You Were on My Mind' (an international hit in 1965 as recorded by the US group We Five) and Ian's 'Lovin' Sound' (a modest Canadian hit in 1967 as recorded by the Tysons themselves) and 'Someday Soon'. Songbooks were issued in conjunction with several of their LPs.
In the mid-1960s Ian and Sylvia began to move away from traditional folk toward an early synthesis of country music and rock. In place of guitar accompaniment (which had been supplied in turn by Monte Dunn, David Rea, and others) they formed a full band, the Great Speckled Bird, in 1968; the debut LP Great Speckled Bird is considered a classic of the country-rock genre. The change in style initially met with mixed if not hostile reaction but brought Ian and Sylvia before a broader audience - in 1970, for example, they appeared at the Atlanta Pop Festival and as part of the Festival Express, a rock festival that crossed Canada by train, stopping in several cities. They also performed at Expo 70 in Japan.
The Great Speckled Bird went through many changes in personnel - Amos Garrett and David Wilcox were successively its guitarists - but supported Ian and Sylvia as country music increasingly became the dominant influence on their work together, and individually, during the 1970s. Their weekly CTV series, 'Nashville North,' introduced in 1970, became 'The Ian Tyson Show' (with Sylvia only an occasional guest) in 1971 and continued until 1975. Ian and Sylvia made their last appearances as a duo in May 1975 at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto. They have been reunited on occasion - eg, for a concert filmed 18 Aug 1986 by the CBC at the Kingswood Music Theatre, Maple, Ont, with Lightfoot, Judy Collins, Emmylou Harris, and Murray McLauchlan as guests. Ian and Sylvia were inducted into the Juno Awards Hall of Fame in 1992.