Blake Ellis/Local Journalism Initiative
It has been a long time since Joan Spalding gave her first performance at the Oil Rig Restaurant in Petrolia in the 1970s. She only made $4 that night because in those days she had to rent her own equipment.
“No one could see my knees knocking,” she said, as she described how nerve racking it was.
It all worked out as she continued to perform there for four years. Performances likes this and at the Bridge Tavern in Point Edward in those early days would lead to Spalding becoming a Nashville recording artist and have a country music career which spans 50 years.
Not bad for a girl from Mooretown.
She has now written a book “Life’s Highway, telling about all of the twists and turns as she persevered through out her career.
A book signing was held at the Lawrence House Centre for the Arts in Sarnia Sunday.
Spalding love of music began as a child, as she remembers watching her grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles play music in her home.
She sang all the time and told her neighbours she was going to be a star one day.
She went on to learn to play the guitar, harmonica, banjo and mandolin. She took her only formal lesson on the piano when she was 10 or 11.
Spalding won the Canadian Open singing contest for the first time in Simcoe.
This would lead her to meeting Roger Quick and he produced her first album, True Country in 1979.
This album included songs she had written herself, “I Know the One I Love is You,” and “Please Come Back to Me.”
Spalding went on to form her own band, The Foggy Mountain Band, and sang with other bands, The Rhythm Ramblers, The Jubilares, Roger Quick and the Rainbows as well many others.
She performed in the United States from Arizona, to Florida and Indiana, as well as Ontario and Quebec.
It was during her time in the United States when she was given the title, the First Lady of Bluewater Country, which would be used as an introduction as she took to the stage.
She would go to Nashville for the first time in 1980 where she recorded with Producer Howard Walker.
She then went to Toronto to record, “He Means So Much to Me,” which was released by Hillcrest Records and it went as high as third position on the worldwide charts.
Spalding would go to Nashville again in 1990 and record four more of her own songs with producer Gary Buck.
One of the four songs, Life’s Highway was released and was in the top 10 on the European charts. She released Life’s Highway as a cassette in 1990.
“Nashville was beautiful,” she recalled. “In the recording studio, that is where I felt I was meant to be.”
When asked whether she thought she had to work harder as a female country musician, Spalding responded with “It’s a man’s world.” Women have to put in a lot more effort in order to have success, she said.
Spalding would release five more albums over the course of her career. One of the highlights of her career has been the people she met, which has included Willie Nelson and Boxcar Willie.
During the pandemic, she decided to entertain online when everyone found themselves in lockdown. Despite not knowing much about computers at the time, she performed online for 736 days.
Spalding is not going to be stopping any time soon as she continues to book dates and perform, so there might just be one more chapter to write.