folk families toronto

The top 10 Toronto folk music families

Folk music in Toronto is tied to the roots of many family trees. Growing up in a musical household is an expression that naturally applies to all of Toronto's music kinsfolk. These parents, sons, daughters, siblings, nieces, and nephews have all inspired each other and been a part of Canadian folk history past and present - the Junos may want to take note here and add a Best Family Performance/Album to their awards.

Here are my picks for the top blood-related Toronto folk families.

The Whiteleys
Prolific can be used to describe any of the Whiteley family. Brothers Chris and Ken perform separately and as the Whiteley Brothers. Since 1965 and contributed to over 100 recordings, and played over 100 festival dates. Dan Whiteley (Chris' son) is a recognized mandolin musician. Jenny Whiteley (Chris' daughter / Dan's Brother) is a multiple Juno award winner and has performed with Dan with the musician Raffi. Ben Whiteley (Ken's son) plays double bass with Ken Whiteley and the Beulah Band, New Country Rehab, Basia Bulat, and the Good Lovelies.

The Good Family
The country-folk-bluegrass band The Good Family starts with brothers Bruce and Larry Good. They are two thirds of the Goods Brothers (Brian, twin of Bruce is the other). Add in Travis and Dallas Good both members of the Sadies. Also add Margaret Good (Bruce's wife and mother of Travis and Dallas). From there, add D'arcy Good (niece and cousin). Also, Sean Dean and Mike Belitsky (from the Sadies). Their album "The Good Family Album" sounds pretty good.

The Cashs
Peter Cash was an original member of the Skydiggers from 1987-1996, appearing on his brother's Andrew's Acoustic Meltdown show at the Spadina Hotel. The Skydiggers were often Andrew's backing band, though never writing together. Andrew was part of L'Etranger and Ursula. Both brothers eventually left their bands and in 1996 formed The Cash Brothers. Andrew currently is a NDP MP for the Davenport riding. Sam Cash (Andrew's son) fronts the roots-rock band Sam Cash & the Romantic dogs.

The Titcombs
Brent Titcomb's career goes back to 1965 when he was in the the folk-rock group 3's A Crowd before moving to Toronto. His 50 year career includes showcases at folk festivals, his own CBC show, and joining the band Lee Harvey Osmond. Liam Titcomb (son of Brent) was playing ukulele on stage at the age of 2. By 15 he was signed to Sony, and now at 23 he's an accomplished multi-instrumentalist signed to Nettwerk.

The Woodheads
David Woodhead is known for his fretless bass playing in concert, in studio, and throughout folk festivals. Indie-rock fans will remember brothers Airick and Daniel Woodhead (David's sons) from the band Spiral Beach and their Drake Hotel residency. Both play in Montreal's Doldroms. Daniel is also in the Toronto electro-folk-pop duo Moon King with Maddy Wilde (of Spiral Beach).

The Mills
It was Mitch Podolak who gave CBC producer Paul Mills the stage name "Curly Boy Stubbs" in 1974. Paul Mills currently operates the Millstream recording studio in Toronto, and plays in the Crabtree & Mills duo. Trevor Mills (Paul's son) is an accomplished musician who has relocated from Toronto to Barrie.

The Grays
Jerry Gray has had a 60-year music career. He was a founding member of the folk group the Travellers in 1953. The band became recognized for their Canadianized version of "This Land is Your Land." James Gray (Jerry's son) was best known for being the keyboardist for Blue Rodeo from 1992-2005. He passed away in 2013. Jerry and James had also played together at times in the band Jerry Gray and the Travellers in 2011.

The Timmins
Siblings Margo, Michael, and Peter make up 3/4 of Cowboy Junkies. Their first album was recorded appropriately enough in the family garage (Whites Off Earth Now!! 1986). They became internationally known for their mix of country, folk, and blues, as well as their cover of Sweet Jane (on The Trinity Session, 1988).

The Grunskys
Jack Grunsky's career dates back to 1966 when he was in the folk group Jack's Angels, in Vienna. He returned to Canada in the 70's and in the 80's began his long career in children's folk music. Jack has won two Junos for best children's album. His daughter Cosima Grunsky is a solo folk singer with three adult albums and three children's albums. Jack and Cosima often perform together.

The Celias
David Celia was a member of the bands Tarnished Gallahad and Roundhouse, before his solo career in 2002. Since then he's become known as an "astonishing" guitar player, and alt-folk songwriter. Brother Mike Celia has been called a "late bloomer" before his first show in 2005. His 2014 CD Falling Backwards is a mix of r&b, folk, roots, and blues.

What did I miss? Add your suggestions for top folk related families in the comments.

Photo of Cowboy Junkies by Chris Buck


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