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Born in Brantford Ontario, Neil's country music roots were nurtured growing up on the family farm near Burford, Ontario. Neil began singing as a young boy in the choir in the little white church on the hill in nearby Mount Vernon that he attended with his family.
"Home is where your story begins."
The old farm house that Neil called home and where he lived and grew up through his childhood and teenage years.
Neil with his mother and father ... about 1944.
Getting in some practice preparing for the mile-long walks alone in freezing-cold winter weather to and from school. Like the old farmhouse and barn in the photo above, the drive shed is long gone now too. "There's nothing left of the old farm now 'cept old memories," from my song "Old Memories" the title track from my CD album Old Memories
Helping Dad and a neighbour dig out our country road after another snow storm. No snowplows in those days!
Mom said girls go 'Gaga' over a man in uniform.
I said, "Sign me up!"
With Dad - 'The two tough guys' ... about 1945
After you learn how to harness the horses, you learn how to drive the tractor, THEN you learn how to drive dad's pickup.
Dad looks pretty happy putting in a day's work on the farm. Free air conditioning was standard equipment on John Deere tractors in those days.
Mum carrying her share of the workload on the farm.
Neil in the center leaning on the fender of Grandpa Neil's old John Deere Model D tractor with his three cousins at the time - Leslie James standing, Murray James, Neil, Betty Young.
We're all dressed up. Must be Sunday ... or maybe they're taking me to join the Navy. About 1946)
Neil and his pal-companion-shadow Sandy. About 1946
The big day - first day of school
Thinking about writing a poem, or maybe a story, or maybe a song ... or
maybe dreaming about the girl sitting in front of me. Hmmm ....
Tobacco planting time. Pulling new tobacco plants in the greenhouse on
the home farm: Left to right: Cecil Hall from Burford, "young" Neil and Grandpa Neil Young.
Just another day of farm life ... helping neighbour girl Carol "round up the cattle" just like any cowboy!!
Under the old maple tree helping Grandpa William work on another one
of his lazy summer day projects.
Hope Grandpa lets me drive his car when I get my licence.
Must be Sunday again. About 1950
In public school ... about 1951
Neil and Grandpa. Looks like we swapped the sailor suit for a Boy
The little white church on the hill in Mount Vernon ... where Neil's Mum - Joyce, served for 43 years as pianist/organist and where Neil & his wife Jean were married ... and where they attended Sunday school and sang in the church choir.
With Mom and Dad, Christmas Eve, 1953
Christmas Eve 1953
On the farm and Dad's Ford pickup ... about 1954. That's Neil's first baseball glove on his left hand. He still has the glove!
Tobacco harvest - Having "graduated" from starting at the bottom suckering tobacco plants in the field, here's Neil a few years later now in his new position unloading boats/slides. Neil's mum. Joyce, wearing glasses, is handing leaves. Neil was soon promoted to "driving" boats, then priming and then hanging kiln literally working his way to the "top".
First year in high school - 1955
High school -1956
My first car - 1931 Ford Model A
"I got my driver's licence as soon as I turned 16, although I had been driving - even on highways, long before that. I bought my first car about the same time - a real beauty and street ready too, and a real bargain at only $35.00!! Yep. no front fenders, no front bumper, no hood, no roof and two of Mum's 1950s chrome and green vinyl kitchen chairs for front seats straddling the cracks in the floorboards. With it having a hand operated accelerator lever on the steering column as well as a foot pedal accelerator, I could stand up through the roof opening and drive it, managing to operate the clutch
and the long floor mounted gearshift with the porcelain knob. It was a true blue 'Beverly Hillbillies' kind of convertible if there ever was one!! I'd have to stop and pull over every ten miles or so and top the radiator up with water from one of the two one-gallon jugs of water that I had to bring along when I left the farm to make sure I could get it back home.
Well, I never ventured very far from the farm anyway so I could have walked if I had to if the car broke down - I'd had lots of practice walking the mile or so back and forth to public school five days a week through all kinds of weather. I wouldn't have had to worry about anyone stealing the car though. Besides there being no water in the rad, I would have taken the hand crank with me so no one would have been able to start it without the crank.
Mum loved to drive it too, although never that far away from the farm. I even got insurance on it too ... well, until the insurance broker saw the car for the first time when he came around to the farm for a friendly visit. Sure was fun while it lasted though.
I traded it the following year for a 1932 Ford Coupe with a rumble seat then sold that a year later. If I'd only known then what I know now, I would never have sold any of my cars!
After the Korean War ended in 1953, the rest of the 1950's were some of the best years ever. It was wonderful being a part of the legendary 1950s Country/Blues/Rockabilly/Doo Wop era and the dawning of Rock and Roll when Elvis took the stage and the world by storm with his #1 hit, 'Heartbreak Hotel'.
Those were the years when I began to learn to play guitar. My first guitar lessons in my early teens were on an old Hawaiian guitar that a neighbour lady across the road from our farm had given me. The Hawaiian guitar was no substitute though for the music that was churning and burning inside of me to get out. My dear mother, God rest her soul, did not relish the thought of me learning to play a guitar that made "that rock and roll music," as she called it. I persisted and not long after got my hands on one of those "rock and roll" guitars and started off with the C-F-G chords - the basic I-IV-V progression like most every other teenager, did and like how many of the songs of the day were written.
That was soon followed by the first two songs that I wrote in 1959, 'Got Nothin' to Lose', and, 'There's Just the One and Only You', about a girl I was sweet on.
My wife is fond of reminding me from time to time that there was an electric guitar in our home before there was a washing machine!
Like most teenage boys with a guitar in their hands, I had dreams about being a rock and roll star one day. Little did I know at the time that some 50 years later both of those two songs would make the cut for my debut CD album, although being a rock and roll star was not in the cards for me.
In the booklet that came with my debut CD album No Looking Back released
in August 2007, I wrote, 'It should come as no surprise that my music and lyrics are coloured and shaped by those wonderfully free and inspiring times and experiences. Perhaps in a way through my music I'm going back to the Fifties. Then again maybe I never really left'."
High school - yes, those really were the days
In high school ... the 'budding' songwriter - 1959
Neil's 'Phil Everly' look - 1959
With Mom and Dad - 1959
Neil was the recipient of the The Cowan Insurance Company Trophy for
High Academic Standing and Extra-Curricular Activities, Burford District High
School Commencement, November 1960. Neil's classmate, Grace Hall, was the
Recipient of the Harris Trophy for Outstanding Female student of the year.
The Brantford Expositor, November 16, 1960
Burford District High School - November 13, 1960
Neil - 1961
With my 1954 Oldsmobile Starfire convertible - June 1962
A little R & R between classes at university
Summer 1962 - Neil's 'James Dean' look
Jean & Neil summer 1962
Two years later - wedding bells
Neil's 1954 Oldsmobile Starfire convertible ... Neil sure wishes he'd never sold that baby in 1967
The '54 Olds Starfire convertible newly painted, front bumper sent out to be re-chromed.
One more photo of the '54 Oldsmobile Starfire convertible.
Those were the days!! Those were the cars!!
Graduation, October 1964 - Waterloo Lutheran University - Waterloo University College (now Wilfred Laurier University)
London Free Press, June 29, 1965: "Former Mount Vernon pupils, who all went on to be named best all-round students at Burford District High School, pose with retiring teacher Mrs. Evelyn Massecar. From left: Larry Douglas, award winner in 1963; Judy Kenny, 1961; Mrs. Massecar: and Neil Young, 1960. (Photo by Jean Sumsion).
After winding up a successful 35-year entrepreneurial career in real estate development, investment and management in addition to other businesses and activities he was engaged in during his career in real estate, Neil and his wife moved to Paris Ontario only a few short miles from where he was born and grew up, Neil found it the perfect place to follow his heart and embark on his life-long dream to record songs he had written over the years and to begin penning his long-postponed novel which he has recently finished writing.
When asked about the turning point in his life resulting in his going into the recording studio he offered the following account: "One morning a few summers ago ... well, actually several summers ago now," Neil said reflectively, "I found myself at that place characterized by the great New York Yankees catcher,Yogi Berra: ...When you come to the fork in the road, take it'.
"I did ... and I took it," he said matter-of-factly.
"It was obviously my lucky day," he added. "In a round-about way it led me back to my country roots, back to the sweet memories of my teen years, and thankfully, back to my music that I had left behind years earlier."
Neil's roots are deep country, proudly reflecting his early years growing up on the family farm in part of the now slowly disappearing tobacco heartland of southwestern Ontario, Canada. Strengthening his country roots was time spent during his pre and early teen years working after school and on weekends and during summer months on the family owned general and tobacco farm near the village of Burford, Ontario, and in the John Deere Farm Equipment Dealership, Neil Young & Sons, in Colborne Village near the town of Simcoe. Years later he operated and managed the business with his father.
"The two photographs below are of the John Deere dealership in Burford Ontario that my grandfather Neil Young and my father's two younger brothers opened in 1946.
My father started his dealership in Simcoe in 1950, also known as Neil Young & Sons (see decal below), it being associated in that way with the dealership in Burford. I joined my father in the dealership in 1967."
"Farming and John Deere's," Neil said pensively, "you don't get much more country than that.
"In the early 1960's," Neil continued, with thoughts of what might have been, "I 'temporarily' put on hold an opportunity to seriously pursue a music career. At the time, I was studying under the mentorship of Gerry Risser at his Counterpoint School of Music and Recording Studio. Gerry was a product of the birth of rock 'n roll in the 1950's getting his start playing guitar in 'The Mel-O-Denes', a rock band in his home-town of London Ontario. From that start, Gerry performed with The Capers - a London group that included drummer Garth Hudson who went on to perform with Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks and later with The Band. The Capers had their own TV show on CFPL Channel 10 in London. Gerry landed a recording contract in Detroit and had personal appearances with such artists as The Everly Brothers, Paul Anka, Jimmy Rogers, Bill Haley & The Comets, Johnny Cash and others.
"In addition to studying classical guitar with Julian Bream at the Bream Masters Class, Gerry was also a good friend of Chet Atkins and often traveled to Nashville to further hone his craft under the watchful eye and tutorship of the master himself, 'Mister Guitar'.
It wasn't long into my time studying music with Gerry that he offered me a job as a guitar instructor in his studio to help keep up with the growing list of eager "wannabe rock 'n' roll stars" signing up for lessons at The Counterpoint. I was honoured that he had that much confidence in me although I did not share that confidence in myself. For some unknown reason that I still cannot explain, I turned down the offer. Had I not turned it down, who knows what doors would have opened for me that might have seen my dream come true 50 years sooner than it did.
"Still, it truly was a privilege to have had that early training with Gerry and to have gained his confidence in me. Looking back all these years later I was fortunate in a way to have come so close to being in the company of legends at the time.
I purchased my first electric guitar from Gerry in 1964 - A Hagstrom III. I still have it and play it occasionally."
Gerry Risser - Neil's first guitar mentor
The Capers, London Ontario (1955 or 1956) - L to R: Paul London (vocals), Gerry Risser (guitarist), Bob Liley (drummer), Garth Hudson (sax and keyboard), Tony Caminiti (sax). Photo courtesy of The London Free Press, October 22, 2006.
The Capers featured on their own TV show on CFPL TV London: Left to Right: Garth Hudson, Gerry Risser, Bob Liley, Paul Hutchins, Phil Murphy
"Other pressing priorities and realities in my life though," Neil added pensively, "kept the stars out of my eyes and my feet on the ground. Continuing to pursue a future in music during those formidable early years was just not a viable option. As it turned out, much water passed under the bridge so to speak before I was able to return and devote serious time to my love for music. That's how life goes and we do what we have to do.
"Through those years though, all of those early influences and inspirations kept my passion for music and my life-long dream burning inside of me. It really was only a matter of time before that fork in the road appeared in my life."
He attributes this life-changing event to being in the right place at the right time that led to the propitious opportunity in the summer of 2005 to meet Ray Lyell, an accomplished musician, Juno nominee, international recording artist and vocal instructor in Hamilton Ontario.
"Ray played a major role in making my life-long dream come true," Neil said.
From tumbleweeds drifting along old Route 66 and flashy 1950's convertibles to rusted-out flatbed trucks and walking down railway tracks, it is hard not to picture Johnny Cash here. Even more so with Neil's self-effacing western lilt and a soft southern drawl influenced in part during his teens while toiling in summer sun-baked Southern Ontario tobacco fields alongside his co-workers from the Carolina's and Georgia.
Upon graduating from university and prior to joining his father in the farm equipment dealership business, Neil spent several years as Property Accountant at the manufacturing operations of Massey-Ferguson's North American Combine Plant in Brantford, Ontario.
After the John Deere implement business in Simcoe was sold, Neil continued farming for several more years in addition to serving in various management positions with the Ponderosa Steak House Chain of Restaurants, first as assistant manager of the Pondersosa Steakhouse in Brantford and then as manager of the Ponderosa Steak House on Great Northern Road in Sault Ste. Marie in Northern Ontario where with an eager team of fresh and newly trained employees Neil and his staff set a Canadian record in February 1973 for the highest volume sales ever achieved in opening a Ponderosa unit.
During the 1970's and 1980's, Neil continued writing songs, often at a prolific pace.
Neil, circa 1986
He also continued laying the groundwork for his entrepreneurial career in real estate development, investment and management with projects in Ontario and Las Vegas Nevada. Locally, Neil developed the Royal Highland Estates subdivision just a few miles south of where he now lives in Paris, Ontario.
After developing the first subdivision in the Township of Brantford in over 10 years, Neil was instrumental in developing a proposal for a major commercial-residential development on the vacant Market Square in the center of the downtown in the City of Brantford and on adjoining property owned jointly by Neil's company and two other companies owned by his solicitor.
THE BRANTFORD EXPOSITOR
November 1, 1977
THE BRANTFORD EXPOSITOR
August 15, 1978
The downtown commercial-residential development that had been named "Homestead Centre" after the name of Neil and his partner's company, Homestead Projects, soon took on new proportions and scale as a result of conditions that were imposed first by the City of Brantford and then by the Province of Ontario turning the development into a project greatly different than the one Neil and his partner had envisaged that was the "right" size and fit for the city and that had the greatest potential of being compatible with and benefiting the otherwise beleaguered and struggling remaining downtown merchants who had suffered through a long and sorry decline in the downtown core.
It was to become a fight for financial survival for Neil and his partner.
A full page story under the heading, "Brantford: Corporate chess, downtown stalemate" appeared in the Friday, December 7, 1979 issue of The Whig-Standard, Kingston, Ontario.
Brantford City Council turned its back on our street-conscious and downtown-friendly proposed development buying into a much larger project proposed by Toronto based major development consortium Campeau Corporation and Eatons that had squeezed us out of the agreement we had with them resulting in great financial loss to our Homestead Projects partnership.
The consortium then proceeded to construct - with the blessing and support of city council and the Province of Ontario - a walled and inward-looking development with blank exterior brick walls turning its back on the surrounding streetscape and businesses in the downtown. The Campeau-Eaton project ultimately failed miserably as the "saviour" of the downtown that it had been championed to be with the blessing of the city and the province.
Interestingly, the proponents of the consortium met the same fate as the development, failing miserably and fading into oblivion.
After recovering from financial wounds resulting from the Homestead Projects - Campeau-Eatons downtown redevelopment debacle, Neil terminated his family company's 50% interest and investment in Homestead Projects. Considering all that the investment had cost his company, Neil figures that on closing the book on that chapter of his entrepreneurial life, it had cost more than twice a much to get out as it had cost to get in.
Live and learn!
Never known to let a setback lessen his entrepreneurial spirit though, Neil received recognition for saving and restoring two architecturally and historically significant heritage buildings that he owned in Brantford Ontario - 'The Commercial Buildings' that he later renamed Royal Victoria Place and 'Park Baptist Church'. Built in the late 1800's, both buildings were designed by renowned architect John Turner.
One of Neil's many appearances defending his company's property and building investment interests before Brantford City Council
The recognition did not come without much previous controversy and opposition to Neil's vested interest and plans for both properties as well as their value to his family's business investment needs and objectives. While the community, heritage proponents and politicians all clamored for the designation and preservation of both buildings at any cost, Neil endured untold frustration and delay, in addition to more "blood, sweat and tears" ' and money, than he now cares to remember.
Responding to his civic conscience, Neil bit the bullet, so to speak. He and his family took the high road making the final decision and paying the price and cost of saving both buildings, a fact that reflects Neil's contribution to the architectural and heritage history of his hometown city.
The 'Commercial Buildings' renamed Royal Victoria Place
Letter of 24 January 1990 from Flying Officer Susanna Perkins WRAF, The Assistant to The Equerry to H.R.H. The Prince of Wales, Buckingham Palace.
One of the ground floor commercial premises that Neil and his daughter Andrea - who was working with him in the family business at the time, renovated into private executive suites in 1994.
Neil and Andrea had the ornate plastered ceiling meticulously restored to its original condition and reclaimed the marble columns (not visible in the photo) along the walls inside the executive suites. The previous tenant of that ground floor space - The Province of Ontario Savings Office (a bank), that was occupying the space when Neil purchased the building in 1985, had covered the ornate ceiling with a drop T-bar ceiling and had covered the marble columns behind drywall panels. When they began the renovation work on that space, Neil and Andrea were more than pleasantly surprised to discover the ornate ceiling, although badly damaged from the work that had been done in prior years, and the marble columns which fortunately had not been damaged.
Park Baptist Church
Neil was instrumental in renovating what was left of the church sanctuary when he bought the building. Before Neil purchased the church, it had fell into a state neglect, disrepair and salvage after being abandoned by its congregation and its then owners - the church diocese, having stripped and sold its original massive pipe organ as well as all of the pews and 90% of the ornate cast iron and leather theatre chairs in the upper seating gallery.
In 2002, Neil sold the building to the Brant Community Church. They resold it a few years later to a private developer who gutted the sanctuary and complete interior of the church converting the then vacant space into apartments for students of the adjoining Brantford Campus of Wilfred Laurier University.
As noted further above, both the Commercial Buildings - renamed Royal Victoria Place by Neil, and Park Baptist Church, were designed by British born and trained architect John Turner. John Turner's great granddaughter, Constance Pole Bayer, living in Toronto at the time when Neil restored both buildings, came to Brantford to meet Neil and to tour the then restored Commercial buildings.
In a later letter to Neil at the time he began work to restore Park Baptist Church, Ms. Bayer expressed her thanks and appreciation to Neil for his effort to retain both buildings. She ended the letter and saying "Blessings will attend you from all Canada."
Walking eldest daughter Suzanne down the aisle - 1986
Neil often reminisces of the spell, mystery and solitude of his times in the Arizona desert. "It is an inspirational place," he muses fondly. "I know that in a way it silently spurred my return to songwriting after a prolonged absence.
"There is just something about the desert," Neil says wistfully, "that inspires the mind. It has a magical, mystical ambiance - a way of reaching into the heart and touching the soul that results in feelings and emotions that become words that become lyrics that become a melody and then a song."
Never one to let the grass grow under his feet, in 1985 Neil founded Rhapsody On Ice, an International Ice Skating Show comprised of Ontario based figure skating stars and world professional championship skaters.
One of the first major events that Neil organized with Rhapsody On Ice was Skate For Life on May 26, 1986 in Edmonton Alberta Canada, an official event for Bob Geldof's worldwide Sport Aid event held on the same day in support of famine relief in Africa. Neil received corporate sponsorship from Air Canada for Skate For Life. The airline sponsored the round trip flight of Neil's thirty-member contingent from Toronto to Edmonton in western Canada where Neil had arranged with the owners of the huge West Edmonton Mall to host the event on the skating rink inside the mall. The event had the blessing of Otto Jelinek, Canada's Minister of State for Fitness and Amateur Sport. A former figure skater himself having achieved prominence in 1962 when he and his sister Maria won the gold medal at the World Figure Skating Championships, Otto donned a pair of skates and opened the event in Edmonton. Neil also arranged for several members of the NHL's Edmonton Oilers hockey team to participate in the event.
Following the success of Skate For Life, Neil took Rhapsody On Ice around the world for seven years under the banner of the motto for the troupe:
'... hold on tight to your dream ...'
The troupe performed in places around the world such as Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, England, Spain and Denmark, and in Florida, Arizona, California and Hawaii in the U.S., as well as at shows in Ontario and Alberta Canada - with stops along the way in South Korea, China, Macau, France and the Fiji Islands.
Neil produced and directed Stairway To The Stars, Rhapsody's spectacular ice extravaganza, a show that featured at times such special guests as World & U.S. Professional Pair Champions Anita Hartshorn and Frank Sweiding and French Champion & World Silver Medalist Fernand Fedronic. His plans to take the show on tour to both Yugoslavia and to Dubai in the U.A.E. (United Arab Emirates) were scuttled when the Foreign Affairs Department of the Canadian government reined in travel plans to Yugoslavia during the Bosnian War and to the Middle East at the outbreak of the Gulf War.
Following Rhapsody's performance in Aalborg Denmark in 1992 as special guests at that city's second 650 years anniversary celebrations, and always reaching for the stars, Neil began making plans to produce and direct Cotton Club Express Rhapsody's follow-up show to Stairway To The Stars.
Unfortunately, as a result of his efforts to begin the world tour of Cotton Club Express in New Zealand not materializing as intended, coupled with new demands on his time and resources, Neil reluctantly put his plans for the new show figuratively 'on ice' as his focus was shifted away from the world arena stage.
The crowning moment though for Rhapsody On Ice for Neil came when the troupe received a standing ovation from the audience after a performance at 'Skate Asia' held in the Hong Kong Coliseum in 1989. Rhapsody On Ice was featured in the show along with Ice Follies stars Richard Dwyer - 'Mr. Debonair', and Gertie Desjardines.
"There is no way to describe the feeling and exhilaration of that one complete and so very special moment," Neil remarked. "It has a very special place in my box of treasured memories."
While managing and directing Rhapsody On Ice, Neil had the opportunity to promote several 'Oldies' concerts in Ontario featuring 1950's and 1960's recording stars Jan and Dean and Bobby Vinton.
In addition to his long-standing interest in music and song writing, it was not uncommon for Neil to be balancing several of his various entrepreneurial projects at the same time, such as an art print and poster publishing company, Southwind Editions - The Fine Art Of Living, that he formed and managed with his youngest daughter during the 1990's.
American Classic poster designed by Neil and his daughter Andrea and Toronto artist Heather Brown.
Neil considers it another stroke of good luck that the role he was asked to play in working with the film company principals in Chicago and with the executive producer and respective parties in California assisted in the production of the documentary film, Piaf - Her Story ... Her Songs starring Raquel Bitton. The documentary is an entertaining story about the life of the French chanteuse Edith Piaf told through a wonderful theatrical presentation by singer Raquel Bitton.
The documentary was filmed at Elgin Theatre, Toronto, various locales in Paris France and at Luminair Film studio in Chicago and mixed at Skywalker Sound, California.
One of the highlights of Neil's involvement was participating in the editing process and final review of the documentary at Lucas Film and Skywalker Sound Studio at George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch in California.
He was honoured to be given credit in the film as Special Consultant. Distributed by Lionsgate, the documentary is available on DVD.
The confluence of Neil's experiences as a teenager eventually gave life to his own hybrid sound and musical genre described by his many fans as Country Rockabilly with the 'Country' the way Country music should be - pure and honest and from the heart.
Those early experiences were shaped even further by his years working in sun-baked tobacco fields mingling with the traditions of Dixie and sounds of the deep South that were brought into his life by fellow workers from the Carolina's and Georgia.
How, or why, he kept it all buried and tucked away neatly in the background of his life for so long remains a mystery, even to him, although it may be partly symptomatic of his somewhat private and complex nature and character.
Ask him now where the words and feelings for his music came from, Neil will tell you quite philosophically:
"Many of the words and feelings for the lyrics that I wrote in my late teens and early twenties came from a combination of the music I was listening to at that time and from some of my own experiences during those impressionable years.
"In later years and now, they come mostly from what I call my well of life - my inner self - from memories of those young emotions of romance, love, hopes and dreams, and from other times and roads that I have traveled along the way.
"Those memories and roads weave an endless tapestry of images and melody of sounds through the quiet, deep corners of my mind. I've had lots of time to reminisce over the depth and contents of that well, and have drawn words and feelings from it for my debut album."
One of Neil's most treasured memorabilia items is the hand written letter that he received in 1986 from Harriet Nelson, Rick Nelson's mother and one of the stars of their long-running television series in the 1950's, 'The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet', thanking him for the lyrics to the song he had written in tribute and memory of Rick on the New Year's Eve that Rick was killed in the plane crash in Texas. The letter is framed and hanging in a place of honour in Neil's music room.
Walking youngest daughter Andrea down the aisle - 2002
The fork in the road I took that led me back to my country and music roots
Open mic night, Hamilton, Ontario - July 2006
Neil's debut CD album of original songs No Looking Back was released August 2007
In speaking about recording his debut CD album No Looking Back, Neil commented: "I was most fortunate and honoured to have a multi-talented line-up of musicians, fondly dubbed 'The Legendary Bear Creek Band' working with me during the recording of the album," he said referring to his mentor, Juno nominee and international recording artist Ray Lyell on acoustic and bass guitar, keyboard, harmonica and backing vocals, ex Helix member Gary Borden on lead guitar, Ken Baird on piano and Steve Petrie on pedal steel guitar and fiddle. Steve performed for a number of years with legendary Canadian Country Recording Stars Stompin' Tom Connors and Tommy Hunter.
Sharing lead vocals with Neil on one of the tracks on the album, "You Just Turned My Life Around", was the talented Paula Tessaro.
"Paula brought that special touch and charm that I was hoping for right from the very first session in the recording studio," Neil added. "I was fortunate to have Paula grace my album with her beautiful voice."
Glen Striemer, GS Radio Sales, Brantford Ontario, calls Neil "Canada's cross between Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson."
Bobby Lawson, Rockabilly Hall of Fame member, says this about NO LOOKING BACK, Neil's debut CD album: "NO LOOKING BACK is packed with some great songs written and sung by Neil w Young. It is that rare album that is as artistic as it is accessible. Neil combines a lyrical complexity that audiences appear to be craving with bright, radio friendly arrangements. It is the sort of album that could shake up mainstream radio and possibly send country music spinning off in a whole new direction, and in my opinion this album represents true country music in its purest form. If you like your songs, your music played and sung country then this album is for you. Neil is an award winning artist with songs on CASHBOX Magazine at number one, and song of the year with The Cowboy Song. Keep up the great work Neil, keep it Country."
Christian Lamitschka, Country Home, Germany's Premier Country Music Magazine writes of Neil's debut CD album NO LOOKING BACK: "Some dreams come thru really late, but then when it happens, the joy is much bigger. Neil w Young is not a young boy anymore, but he always had the dream to publish his own CD ... better late than never. And even the man is over 50, he has the energy of a 25 year old. His songs have an honesty that hasn't been heard in a long time."
Joining the band in the studio on Neil's second CD album What Difference Will It Make were Roger Banks on drums and Mike DeBenedictis on bass guitar.
Marc Bristol co-editor of Duvall, Washington based Blue Suede News writes the following review in the Winter 2012/13 issue #99 of Neil's second album WHAT DIFFERENCE WILL IT MAKE: "This is the OTHER Canadian Neil Young! While Neil says he's stepping out of the Country mold his previous CD was cast in, there are still some songs that have Country feel, such as the intro to 'The Eyes Tell You Everything' with acoustic guitar, fiddle and added surface noise as though it were an old record. It is more of a Rock album, but 'I Donât Wanna Lose You' is a Rockabilly song, and 'Rock And Roll Will Never Die' is straight ahead Rock and Roll. 'The Tunnel Of Love And Bumper Cars' has a carnival theme, with old time Rock and Roll sax. 'Is There No One?' is a nice slow dance number with a little Swamp Pop feel. Thereâs even a little Bluegrass feel on 'For Old Times' Sake.' Neil is joined by some well-traveled and much lauded musicians on the CD, and he's also included a Christmas song from a 2010 single. He closes the song on the title tune, sounding a bit like a Leonard Cohen song."
Neil was a nominee at the 2012 Hamilton Music Awards for Alt/Country Recording of the Year for his second CD album What Difference Will It Make released in 2012, and at the 2008 Hamilton Music Awards for New Country Recording of the Year for his debut CD album No Looking Back released in 2007.
In 2008, Neil was honoured to receive the IAIA (International Academy of Independent Artists) Golden Kayak Award for Best Country Song 2007 - "The Cowboy Song", from his debut CD album, No Looking Back.
As noted further above, Neil's debut CD album No Looking Back included two songs he had written while in high school in 1959 - "Got Nothin' To Lose" and "There's Just The One And Only You."
"The Restless Wind" and "The Cowboy Song" on his debut CD album reached #1 on the CASHBOX Country chart.
Neil was honoured to be named on the front cover of the July 1, 2007 CASHBOX Magazine as one of the "awesome Indies gracing our Independent Charts every week".
Accomplished musician John Sands (johnsandsmusic.com) wrote the following about Neil's CD album, OLD MEMORIES:
"I just finished listening to your new album for the second time .. it's BRILLIANT!! Every aspect of this production is excellent. It's alive! Very good work by the band, they were tight - and the guy working the console was right on. Your songs are great and you delivered them well. . . You ROCK man!
It would be hard for me to pick favourites - but 'Fire on the Water' and 'Everyone has a Dream' are awesome tracks. Those two little angel voices added so much to 'Everyone has a Dream'. Beautiful! 'Loch Lomond' - that is the best arrangement of that song I have ever heard. Congratulations on a great new album, Neil."
In 2017, Neil was honoured to receive his second IAIA (International Academy of Independent Artists) Golden Kayak Award this time for Best Classic and Progressive Rock Song 2016 - "Fire On The Water", from his third CD album, Old Memories.
It was Neil's second IAIA Golden Kayak award in the last ten years, the first Golden Kayak was for Best Country Song 2007 - "The Cowboy Song", from his debut CD album No Looking Back.
The Paris Star - April 11, 2007
Neil - Winter Concert, Hamilton, Ontario, February 23, 2008
Neil, Erica Eldridge, Paula Tessaro - Winter Concert, Hamilton, Ontario, February 23, 2008
The Burford Times - April 23, 2008
On July 19, 2008 Neil opened for recording star Naomi Striemer at The Backstage Capitol Theatre in Delhi, Ontario. Naomi had just released her hit song "Cars" featuring Carlos Santana on YouTube.
Neil, July 19, 2008 - Naomi Striemer Concert, The Backstage Capitol Theatre, Delhi, Ontario
Naomi Striemer and Neil backstage with Neil's granddaughter Elizabeth after the concert.
Ray Lyell, Neil's producer, in the studio with Neil's two granddaughters, Amelie and Megan, recording their part of the extended chorus of "Everyone Has A Dream" on Neil's third CD album "Old Memories.
Neil was proud to have his granddaughters Amelie and Megan be a special part of the album.
A quantum leap in Neil's life - both a milestone and a mountain - occurred July 8, 2016 with the release of Book 1 his long anticipated novel - a two-book love story, fiction, circa 1959, set in the bountiful tobacco belt of Norfolk County in Southwestern Ontario. Book 1, The Summer Garden and the Song: The Circle of Life published by Cavern of Dreams Publishing was released July 8, 2016.
The novel was the culmination of a promise Neil had made in 1964 to a friend who he was tutoring in her first year - his graduation year, at Waterloo Lutheran University / Waterloo University College Faculty. The university is known now as Wilfred Laurier University.
Book 2, The Summer Garden and the Song: Harvest was released November 25, 2016.
Both books are available at www.cavernofdreams.com and at Amazon.ca and Amazon.com, and at Green Heron Books on Grand River Street, North in Paris, Ontario.
During the spring of Neil's graduation year, 1964, a university friend had asked him to promise that one day he would write a novel. He said he would promise, but that he wouldn't promise when he would. The flame for the novel had flickered on one of the many shelves in his mind waiting patiently for the right time to arrive to begin to put its words to paper.
Neil attributes the trigger that resulted in him finally putting pen to paper so to speak, to the special friendship that he developed with Rosie Hamlin of Rosie and The Originals. Rosie and her group topped the charts in 1961 with their hit single, "Angel Baby".
"Rosie's encouragement and confidence that I 'had a book in me' just waiting to be written was the spark that finally set the novel in motion," Neil says appreciatively.
A couple of years into the writing, it turned out to be a propitious event that Neil happened to befriend Dee Dee Phelps of Dick and Dee Dee fame from their 1961 chart topping #1 hit "The Mountain's High" at about the time that he was going through a period of discouragement and had been second guessing and doubting himself as to whether there was any merit in continuing the writing or if he should just pack it in and move on.
Pulling from her own experience as a successful writer and performer Dee Dee convinced Neil to stop judging his work and encouraged him to "just keep writing and let the story happen". Neil feels honoured, blessed and privileged not only by the special friendship of Rosie and Dee Dee but also for the special part each played in his fulfilling the promise he had made to his university friend.
With the assistance of a helpful staff member at his alma mater during the summer of 2015, Neil was able to locate and contact that university friend living surprisingly nearby in the city close to where he lives. She was surprised to receive the call and even more surprised to learn about the novel that fifty years earlier she had asked him to promise to write. Neil has personally delivered an autographed the first copy of Book 1.
In his 'Thank You' notes in his debut CD album No Looking Back Neil writes: "I think that now perhaps in a way, my music has allowed me to become the true messenger of my spirit and my soul in much the same way, so to speak, as "There's Just The One And Only You", after having its beginning as a song in one of my high school notebooks those many years ago, was destined not only to be one of the songs on my debut album decades later, but also to become the love theme woven through the pages the novel I am writing."
Neil freely admits that the writing of his novel was a long work in process as well as a labour of love, and that it went through more starts and stops and near throwing in the towel times than he said he cares to remember.
Still, Neil's words speak of his fulfillment about the life he has lived and the enjoyment that flows from the creative process of writing both his novel and from songwriting, as well as from his times performing on stage.
"Having the opportunity to perform my music and songs on stage and to have so many people enjoy my songs and music is truly the icing on the cake for me," Neil says with an obvious glow of satisfaction and appreciation for his many friends and fans.
If my novel results in it being enjoyed by just one person, I will consider it a personal success story - an achievement and accomplishment many years in the making.
Hard knocks and life lessons accompanied several decades of business pursuits and activities, paving the way for Neil's retirement in 2002 from a 35-year successful entrepreneurial career.
During the years between when he began singing as a young boy in the choir in the small rural church that he attended with his family and the years following his graduation from university, married and with a family on the way, to the point where that fork in the road provided him with the opportunity to embark on his life-long dream, he was kept more than busy providing for his family as well as developing, managing and operating various business ventures and operations, and of course through it all, quietly continuing one of his passions - songwriting.
Neil was a Western Ontario Secondary School Honour Athlete in 1960 and graduate of Burford District High School and graduate in 1964 of Waterloo Lutheran University now known as Wilfred Laurier University.
Known to his family and friends over the years as "Skip", a nickname which started as "Skipper" given to him by his father. On seeing him for the first time in the sailor suit that his mother had purchased and dressed him in, his first words were, "Hello Skipper." The rest as the saying goes, is history. Neil's mother, a sea-loving girl in her own right having grown up in a seaport town in England lost two sailor cousins in the British Navy during WW II. (See Neil in his sailor suit with his Dad and Mum near the beginning of this page).
Neil purposely spells his name Neil w Young with his middle initial 'w' always appearing in the lower case with no period following it - a step he says intended to create a "branding" style for his name as well as wanting to be seen standing apart in the world of music from his accomplished countryman three years his junior who shares the same first and last name as him and who he greatly respects.
Article in the November 15, 2010 issue of the Old Autos newspaper on Neil and his cars.
Neil released his Christmas song written in 1984 That's What Christmas Means To Me as an mp3 single in December 2010
The Burford Times - November 10, 2011 article about Neil's song The Price of Freedom that he had written on November 11, 1986 while watching a Remembrance Day from Ottawa Ontario on television. Neil had just recorded the song to be included on his second album.
Neil is a member of the Canadian Country Music Association(CCMA) and the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS. His music accomplishments have been reviewed and written about in local newspapers as well as in Blue Suede News Issue #83 (Summer 2008) and Issue #99 (Winter 2012/13) published in Duvall, Washington, U.S.A., and in CountryHome - Germany's Premier Country Music Magazine.
He feels privileged and blessed that the time and season in his life to return to his country roots and to his music came, either by fate or destiny, at that unexpected fork in the road, proving once again that all things happen for a reason, and, better late than never.
Neil's late-in-life accomplishments in the world of music add credence to the words of 19th century English novelist Mary Anne Evans better known by her pen name George Eliot: "It is never too late to be what you might have been".
"My greatest reward," Neil adds now, "comes from knowing that others receive enjoyment from my songs and music while my dream and journey continues to unfold day-by-day taking me wherever it may.
What more could I ask or hope for," he reflects wistfully, "music is for the soul ... my wish is that mine touches others."
Neil - "Happy Daze" Concert, Bay Park Marina, Hamilton, Ontario, August 16, 2008
Neil's fourth CD album Those Were The Days
MP3 single of Neil's song, "There's Just The One And Only You" - the love theme woven through the pages of Books 1 and 2 of his two-book fiction love story, The Summer Garden and the Song is available on Neil's music page at www.cavernofdreams.com. The song is on Neil's debut CD album, No Looking Back
Neil's CD albums No Looking Back, What Difference Will It Make, Old Memories and Those Were The Days,/b> as well as his Christmas mp3 single "That's What Christmas Means To Me" released in December 2010 are all available at iTunes, cdbaby.com, cavernofdreams.com as well as here on his website - see the cdbaby shopping cart links. They are also available locally in Neil's hometown of Paris, Ontario at Green Heron Books.
Neil's personal record label, Restless Wind Records, was born in his dreams as a country boy in the dog days of summer during the dawning days of Rock 'n' Roll. The sound of the restless wind was music to his ears. It still is.
A reflective moment at The Gasworks recording studio during the recording of Neil's 5th album Dreams In The Wind.
"Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die today." - James Dean