Born in Brantford Ontario, Neil’s roots are deep country, proudly reflecting his early years growing up on the family farm near where he lives in Paris, Ontario. He began singing as a young boy in the choir in the small rural church he attended with his family and began writing songs and playing guitar while in high school during the dawning days of Rock and Roll.
It was during his high school years beginning in the mid 1950's when Neil's love of the music inspired by the era of the dawning of Rock 'n' Roll ignited his passion as a songwriter and singer. It was not until decades later after he had "retired" from a 35-year entrepreneurial business career when he came to a fork in the road that he had the opportunity to give himself the room to let that light begin to shine and to follow his dream that was crystallized in 1959.
Neil's interest and love of music began at an early age. Inspired by the artists and music of his time during the dawning era of Rock and Roll, Neil began writing songs in 1959 when in high school and played guitar in garage bands through his university years. Following his graduation in 1964 from Waterloo University College - the Faculty of Arts branch of Waterloo Lutheran University, Neil was employed for three years as Property Accountant at the Massey Ferguson North American Combine Plant in Brantford.
Answering his calling in 1967 as an entrepreneur and turning down an opportunity to join Gerry Risser's Counterpoint Studio in Brantford as a guitar instructor, Neil joined his father in operating a John Deere dealership, Neil Young & Sons, that his father had started in Simcoe in 1950, as well as operating the family farm with his father north of Mount Vernon.
"It doesn't get much more Country than that," to quote Neil from one of his many interviews.
Through the years, Neil continued to follow his passion of music and songwriting while resisting the constant lure of the stage due largely to the limited free time afforded to him by his business responsibilities. When Neil sold his business interests In 2002 and "retired", he came to a fork in the road. The pull of the stage soon found Neil becoming a member of Downtown Jam in Toronto. He joined the professional ranks in 2005 taking the songs he had written over the years into the recording studio with his producer Juno nominee Ray Lyell. In 2008 he became a member of Sentimental Journey - a troupe of area singers and musicians performing at seniors' retirement homes. He followed that with 10 years of solo performances.
With 5 CD albums and several single releases to his credit, in addition to currently writing Book 3 of his novel The Summer Garden and the Song, Neil is working with his producer, Juno nominee Ray Lyell, recording more songs that he has written.
Neil has written all of his single mp3 releases to date and all the songs on his 5 CD albums except "Call Me The Breeze" written by J J Cale, and "For You" written by Paul Brandt and Steve Rosen - the song was performed by Johnny Cash and Dave Matthews in the movie, We Were Soldiers - as well as the first 14 cover songs written by other songwriters on his Those Were The Days CD album, and "Loch Lomond" (author unknown) in the public domain on his Old Memories CD album.
While recording the Old Memories album, Neil enjoyed a special recording session in July 2015 when his two youngest granddaughters, Amelie and Megan Thomson made their professional debut joining him in the studio to sing the extended closing chorus on one of his songs on the album, "Everyone Has A Dream".
Neil is currently stepping back from producing CD albums and plans to release new songs as mp3 singles for streaming platforms such as Spotify, iHeartRadio, iTunes, Amazon, Apple Music, Google Play, Deezer and others. He has hinted that a special vinyl 45 rpm record may be in the making as well as a vinyl LP album.
Neil was particularly honoured by the hand-written letter he received in August 1986 from Harriet Nelson, Rick Nelson's mother, thanking him for the song he wrote about Rick the night he and his fiancé and band were killed in a plane crash in Texas New Year's Eve December 31, 1985. The letter is framed and hangs in Neil's music room next to autographed pictures of many of the 1950's recording stars. Neil has recently re-written the song with the title, "Forever Rick Nelson", currently on his list to be recorded.
In reminiscing and reflecting back on when “it” all began, Neil wistfully recalled, "In the early 1960's, I put on hold - a long hold as it turned out to be - 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.
"Gerry studied classical guitar with Julian Bream at the Bream Masters Class, and was also a good friend of Chet Atkins traveling often 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. Due to other commitments at the time, I turned down the offer. Had I not turned it down, who knows what doors might have opened that could have seen my dream come true 50 years sooner. Still, it truly was a privilege to have had that early training with Gerry and to have gained his confidence in me.
“I purchased my first electric guitar from Gerry in 1964 - A Hagstrom III. My wife reminds me from time to time that there was an electric guitar in our house before there was a washing machine. I remind her from time to time that as an investment the electric guitar has run circles around that long gone washing machine. I still have that guitar and it continues to play an important role in my world of music. By the way - I did most of the laundromat runs during the sans washing machine days!
"Looking back now I see the times when I was much closer, actually rubbing elbows with other legends than I gave myself credit for at the time, or that might even have launched my own career much earlier. During my prolific song writing years of the late 1970's and 1980's, an opportunity to meet Fats Domino back stage after a show in 1984 led to my arranging to take vocal lessons from a vocal coach in Toronto who shortly after I began lessons with her told me that Paul Anka's father had reached out to her to arrange vocal lessons for Paul, which sounded absurd to me as Paul was such a great singer I thought he should be giving vocal lessons himself! As far as I knew, she did give some lessons to Paul. Nevertheless, while I was still taking lessons from her and in taking a break to go to Las Vegas, she had called Paul Anka's father, Andy Anka, who was managing a restaurant there that Paul owned, Jubilation, and told him that my wife and I were coming to Vegas. Mr Anka told her to tell me that I was to give him a call when we arrived and he would treat us to dinner at Jubilation. I don't remember now the reason why we were unable to take Mr. Anka up on his kind offer, but I did call and speak to him to express our thanks and regrets. He took down my address and a few weeks after we returned home an 8 x 10 picture of Paul personally autographed to me by Paul arrived in the mail.
"That was such a long time ago that I now cannot remember the name of the lady who was giving me vocal lessons at that time.
"Later in the 1980's I met Bobby Vinton of 'Blue Velvet' fame and California surfing music legends Jan & Dean - 'Surf City', 'Little Old Lady From Pasadena' and other hits, and arranged several shows for Bobby at Lulu's in Kitchener, Ontario, known at the time as having the longest bar in the world, and arranged shows for Jan & Dean in Peterborough, Ontario.
"I have seen shows and been to concerts of so many great artists that I would be hard pressed to remember half, all of them though having been influential in my song writing and eventual move to turn professional so many years after having been bitten by the bug so to speak in the late 1950's.
"Such is life on the edge of the fishbowl.
"After turning professional with the release of my debut CD album, No Looking Back, in 2007, along with picking up the pen so to speak and taking steps to begin fulfilling a 45-year-old promise that I had made in my graduating year from university to write a novel, my world of music began expanding in a way I never would have believed possible for such a late-comer on the scene, not only in the realm of fans, but also in the forming of wonderful friendships including one with Rosie Hamlin of Rosie and the Originals fame with their 1960 hit, 'Angel Baby', and with Dee Dee Phelps of Dick and Dee Dee fame with their 1961 hit, 'The Mountain's High'. Sadly, Rosalie "Rosie" Hamlin passed away at her residence in New Mexico, March 30, 2017. I have a beautiful painting that Rosie did titled, Peaceful Retreat hanging above my desk.
Rosie and Dee Dee were instrumental in my finishing Book 1 of my novel, The Summer Garden and the Song - a trilogy coming of age love saga, circa 1959, set in the tobacco heartland of Southwestern Ontario."
"Many of the words and feelings for the lyrics and music that I wrote in my late teens and early twenties came from the music I was listening to at that time and from some of my experiences during those impressionable years. In later years and now, they come from my 'well of life' - from memories of young emotions, romance, love, hopes and dreams, and from all the times and roads I have traveled along the way.
"Perhaps in a way, music has allowed me to become the true messenger of my spirit and my soul in much the same way as 'There's Just The One And Only You' after having its beginning as a song in one of my high school note books those many years ago was destined to become the love theme woven through the pages of my novel."
From tumbleweeds drifting along old Route 66 and flashy 1950's convertibles, to rusted-out flatbed trucks and walking down railroad 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.
Neil was a nominee in the 2008 Hamilton Music Awards for New Country Recording of the Year for his debut album No Looking Back, and in the 2012 Hamilton Music Awards for Alt/Country Recording of the Year for his album What Difference Will It Make released in July 2012. He was also a JUNO contender in 2008, 2013, 2020 and 2021 for Songwriter of the Year, in 2020 for Alternative Album of the Year - Dreams In The Wind, and in 2021 for Music Video of the Year - What In The World Is The World Coming To.
Rockabilly Hall of Fame member Bobby Lawson, also a good friend of Neil's, said the following about Neil's debut CD No Looking Back:, "A great CD, these are eleven great songs, beautifully written and sung. Neil puts his all in these songs, from the heart and from the soul. I recommend this CD and Neil w Young to everyone who likes it country."
Evie Romero Montoya, a new friend on MySpace at the time, wrote to Neil in June, 2009, expressing her feelings about his music saying, "Your music takes me back to those times in my life that I now see as idyllic, the times my mother traveled with us girls through the deserts of the west, and along the train tracks of another era. I wanted to let you know that it isn't often one encounters something in this life that lights the path of the soul. I have always needed ruggedly wild and beautiful landscapes to pull me through this life, and your music has become one of the maps for my journey."
Christian Lamitschka of Country Home - Germany’s Premier Country Music Magazine, wrote the following about Neil's debut album No Looking Back, "Some dreams come thru really late, but then when it happens, the joy is much bigger. 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.”
Prior to following his passion over the last 15 years as a songwriter, recording artist and author, Neil had a successful 35-year entrepreneurial business career in real estate development, investment and management including the development of Royal Highland Estates considered today as one of the finest housing developments in the County of Brant. He also received awards and recognition for the restoration of two architecturally and historically significant buikdings he owned in the heart of downtown Brantford, Ontario. Neil combined his busy schedule in Ontario with forming partnerships in Las Vegas, Nevada, in the building of prestigious homes in that city.
In Neil's 'spare time' he founded and served as executive director & team / tour manager of Rhapsody On Ice - an international touring troupe of precision / synchro ice dancers that he took around the world for seven years between 1985 and 1992, traveling to and performing in Australia; New Zealand; across the U.S in Florida, Arizona, California and Hawaii, including countless performances in Ontario and in Edmonton, Alberta, followed by tours to Hong Kong, England, Spain and Denmark. Scheduled tours to Dubai in the Middle East in 1990 and to Yugoslavia in 1991 were both cancelled due to associated risks resulting from the Gulf War and the Yugoslav wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In recognition of the accomplishments and success of Rhapsody On Ice, the troupe along with Neil and its members, was inducted in June 2019 into the Brantford and Area Sports Hall of Recognition located at the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre in Brantford, Ontario.
Ela Stypa Jones, Sport Tourism Coordinator, City of Brantford, cited the troupe as "truly an incredible history of greatness and accomplishment."
In the latter years of his entrepreneurial career, Neil received a film credit for his part as Special Consultant in the 2003 documentary film Piaf … Her Story … Her Songs, about the life of French chanteuse, Edith Piaf. Neil's involvement in the Piaf documentary took him to George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch Film Studio near Nicasio, California, where he was involved in the editing session for the film.
Neil also turned his hand in the art publishing business when he and his youngest daughter, Andrea, formed Southwind Editions, publishing works by selected artists and promoting their work in New York, Las Vegas and Carmel California.
A Western Ontario Secondary School Honour Athlete in 1960 and a graduate of Burford District High School, Neil graduated in 1964 from Waterloo Lutheran University / Waterloo University College Faculty of Arts known today as Wilfred Laurier University.
Known fondly since childhood among his family and close friends as "Skip" - a nickname given to him at an early age by his father - he purposely spells his name "Neil w Young" with his middle initial "w" always appearing in the lower case with no period - a step he took to create a "branding" style for his name, as well as wanting to be seen standing apart in the world of music from his more accomplished countryman three years his junior who shares the same first and last name with him, and who he greatly respects.
Living life true to the spirit of a quote attributed to James Dean - 'Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die today', Neil had a date with history on Saturday, July 24, 2021, as he checked one more experience off his bucket list considering himself fortunate to have taken a flight on one of the only two remaining airworthy iconic WW II Avro Lancaster bombers.
"It was the flight of a lifetime that changed me just a little," Neil remarked following the flight. "I felt taller and stronger ... and more humble and appreciative than ever of the price others paid and what they sacrificed for the freedoms we all too often take for granted."
Following his flight on the Lancaster, Neil entered a contest for a chance to win a trip to space with Virgin Galactic. While he didn't win, just the thought of the trip he says 'moved the adrenaline needle up a notch or two'.
Having turned 80 in January, one could wonder if Neil might be thinking about circling the wagons and beginning to slow down a little. Don't count on it. He writes daily and always has a song ready to take to his producer, Ray Lyell and recording engineer, Trevor Titian, and the studio session musicians that he enjoys working with. Not surprising, one of the next songs that he will be releasing has found its way into Book 3 of his novel. The title of the song is, "I Can't Live Without Your Love" - a 1950's themed love song. Naturally!
Neil offers his own words to close this 'About' page.
"My compass in life has been a factor of the warmth and direction of my country upbringing on the family farm steeped in tradition and nostalgia. It formed treasured memories dating back to my childhood days remembering when downtown Brantford was the bustling heart of the city and none more so than at Christmas time with glittering decorations and lights glistening on gently falling snowflakes and last minute Christmas Eve shoppers hurrying from store to store, the ever-ubiquitous Christmas music playing and drifting out onto snow-covered sidewalks adding to the excitement and dreams of Christmas morning.
"It has been a long road from there to here.
"Waxing philosophical for a moment, looking back on where I've been and what I've been fortunate to do, I'm reminded of an R & R stopover we made in Fiji during the 1986 Rhapsody On Ice tour to Australia as I gazed one evening into the star-studded night sky of the Southern Cross - a sight like none other I had ever witnessed, and how the stillness and profoundness of that moment brought everything into perspective for me that no matter what we accomplish or awards we receive, at the end of the day the part we play is trivial when seen through the lens of the wonder and greatness of the universe.
"My sincere thanks and appreciation to all for the interest and support of my songs and music and my novel, and to my producer and recording engineer all of the outstanding musicians and artists who brought my songs and music to life and to whom I shall forever be grateful, and to my many friends and fans around the world, and many others who have played a special part in my life, and especially to my small family for their undying love and unending support, for without you all, I could not have done or be what I am today.
"I was truly honoured to be featured in the January 2022 issue of NEIGHBOURS OF PARIS ON THE GRAND magazine including the cover photo and more photos in the 4-page article on the inside pages.
"My life truly is a story ... and yes, music decorates the pages."
Neil's words above: 'It has been a long road from there to here', fit squarely with a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson that he has framed in his office, 'Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail'.'
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