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The earliest available recordings are from 1962. In January, he recorded a live album, performing with his high school friend Terry Whelan in a duo called the Two Tones. The album, called Two Tones At The Village Corner, was released on two record labels, Chateau and Canatel. Most of the songs are international folk, including standards such as The Fox, Copper Kettle and Kilgarry Mountain, but Lightfoot included one original (This Is My Song), and also a Merle Travis song called Dark As A Dungeon, (click for clip). That's his partner, Terry Whelan, introducing "Gordie". The original song is nothing like those he would be writing and performing a year and a half later, but his vocals on the Travis standard were very much in the "Lightfoot style". See the Two Tones At The Village Corner album page for the track listing, and to buy it as a digital download (it is not available on CD).
The Two Tones also released a single with two other songs (again, not original songs).
Also in 1962, Lightfoot recorded 11 songs in the studio; they were eventually released on records, 10 of them on the AME album Early Lightfoot (track listing), released in 1971. There were five singles, some released in the 60s (four I believe), and one released in 1971 at about the same time that the LP Early Lightfoot was released. The singles were released on Chateau in Canada, ABC in the US and Fontana and Decca in the UK. The first two songs on Songbook were singles; Remember Me (I'm The One) was paired with Daisy Doo and It's Too Late, He Wins with Negotiations (not by Lightfoot). Another single had Adios, Adios (under another name); the fourth had Day Before Yesterday (also not by Lightfoot, and the one that was not on the AME LP); and the last had a studio recording of This Is My Song.
What I find most incredible is the dramatic change in Lightfoot's style, from these recordings in 1962, to what he was writing and performing by 1963. One of the early songs in "Lightfoot style" is Echoes Of Heroes. He performed that song in May, 1965 at La Cave in Cleveland (thanks to Joey McGowan for the correction), and the recording is one of those that Koala put out on one of their two bootlegs in 1979. Echoes Of Heroes is on Get Together (the other LP is called Yellow Bird). It's a protest song, and the sound and lyrics are very much "Lightfoot style". I know he doesn't think much of the song (he says so in Eric Greenberg's interview elsewhere at this site), and no it isn't quite a Don Quixote or a Sit Down Young Stranger, but it's still a very beautiful song as far as I'm concerned. At La Cave, Lightfoot said he wrote the song a year and a half earlier, so that would place it in late 1963.
From what is probably a bootleg recording, we can hear Lightfoot performing live in 1967 or 1968 on these iTunes song downloads: Live Gordon Lightfoot 1960s.
This article is copyrighted by Valerie L. Shainin, and is still being revised. Any publication or reproduction is strictly prohibited unless permission is obtained from the copyright holder.
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