The Rankins (known as The Rankin Family until 1998) was a musical group from Mabou, NS. The Rankins grew up in a musical home and performed locally at Cape Breton ceilidhs for many years with their parents. Nine of the 12 Rankin children were at one time or another in the band, the eldest children being replaced by younger siblings as they grew up and started their own families. In 1989, 5 of the children-Jimmy, Raylene, Heather, Cookie and John Morris-officially formed the band. They began performing their repertoire of Celtic-inspired traditional music professionally at FOLK FESTIVALS and released an independent album, The Rankin Family, in 1989.
A national TV appearance in 1990 introduced the group to a wide audience and a CBC-TV special followed later that same year. In early 1992 they released Fare Thee Well Love to strong regional success in the Maritimes. After selling 70 000 albums independently, the group signed with EMI Music Canada in June 1992; now in wide release, Fare Thee Well Love went on to sell 400 000 copies in Canada behind constant touring and strong airplay for the title track and the Jimmy Rankin-composed "Orangedale Whistle."
North Country (1993) maintained the group's status in Canada and led to 4 JUNO AWARDS (including Group of the Year and People's Choice Entertainer of the Year). International touring began in earnest, and the group was well received in England, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand and America. A limited-edition 5-song release, Grey Dusk of Eve (1995), featured a duet with Liam O'Maonlai of Ireland's Hothouse Flowers. The group's continuing evolution from fiddle-based traditional music to contemporary roots music took another step forward with Endless Seasons (1995), which includes a higher percentage of original songs by John Morris, Cookie and Jimmy Rankin. The greatest hits album, The Rankin Family Collection (1996), was another bestseller.
Raylene left the group in 1998 following the birth of her first child, and after one final album (Uprooted) the Rankins officially called it quits in September 1999. In 2000, they were awarded a Juno for Best Country Group or Duo. Jimmy has launched a solo career, while Heather earned excellent notices for her acting in the Thom Fitzgerald film The Hanging Garden. John Morris Rankin died at age 40 in an automobile accident in Nova Scotia on 16 January 2000.
In 2006, the Rankins reunited with with John Morris' daughter Molly added to the group. They released Reunion in 2007 and did two cross-country tours (2007 and 2009). On 30 September 2012, Raylene died after a long battle with cancer.