Tributes are pouring in for Ted Wesley, a Juno-nominated folk singer who co-founded Folk on the Rocks in 1980.
The former Yellowknife resident recorded three albums in the 1970s. His third album, North of Canada, released in 1977, was certified gold after selling more than 70,000 copies. It earned him a Juno nomination for Country Male Vocalist of the Year.
“Uncle Ted was a very loved and important person in our lives,” wrote niece Jody Brody on Wesley’s Facebook page, which has been filling up with tributes and memories of the famed troubadour since news of his death emerged late in the afternoon on Dec. 30.
“He was a man with a giant heart, a big laugh, and his soul was filled with music that he shared with everyone he knew.”
Wesley – born in northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) — arrived in Yellowknife in 1961 at age 16 where he met his future wife Lesley and found work as a miner after lying about his age, according to the website Canadianbands.com. He claims to have learned how to play guitar after stealing one from his brother and after developing his talent, he began gigging around Yellowknife.
His first album, Straight North, was recorded in 1972, followed by Blackflies and Mosquitoes in 1973. One song off of Straight North, “Muk Tuk Annie,” written by Bob Ruzicka, another Northern singer-songwriter, was later covered by Stompin’ Tom Connors.
Ted and Lesley Wesley were among the original founders of Folk on the Rocks in 1980.
A compilation album, I Remember… Our Northern Heritage, featuring songs from all three of his albums, was released in 2010. The release launched a musical comeback after being somewhat dormant for 30 years, culminating in a performance at the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre.
Wesley is survived by his wife, and children Nahanni and Jon, plus several grandchildren.
This story will be updated.