Jason McCoy's 38 years in country music celebrated by Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame

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On the fourth floor of the National Music Centre, there is a 38-year-old photo of Jason McCoy.

It is now officially part of the exhibit for the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame, included in a section dedicated to its newest inductee. McCoy, 53, was inducted alongside talent agent Brian Edwards in 2023. There are other photos on display, including one of McCoy on stage at the Grand Ole Opry and one of him with children in Honduras, where he worked with World Vision to raise awareness of child poverty. He has also loaned his first electric guitar, a Japanese-made copy of The Gibson Les Paul Jr. that he purchased in Barrie, Ont., and his first acoustic guitar, a time-worn Stella, for the exhibit. But it’s that 1986 image, which came from his first professional photo session at the age of 15 or 16, that shows how long McCoy has been in the business.

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Staring dreamily into the distance, he is dressed in black with no cowboy hat and a 1980s-style, boy-band hairdo.

“It’s wild looking back over that stuff,” says McCoy, in an interview with Postmedia from his home in Barrie. “When you’re young you are more worried about what the jacket looks like than the music. It’s really silly what young artists do. Then I look forward and I’m 53 and I still do those same things, but I try to (balance) it a little better. There are two separate things. There’s the business and there is music. I’ve always found if you concentrate on the music, the business takes care of itself.”

That’s the sort of wisdom that presumably arrived early for McCoy during his 38-year career in country music. These pieces of McCoy’s past are now housed at the National Music Centre, which is the permanent home of the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame, Canadian Music Hall of Fame, Canadian Songwriter Hall of Fame and  Quebec’s ADISQ Hall of Fame. The artifacts in the Canadian Country Hall of Fame are both weird and wonderful: There’s everything from Wilf Carter’s saddle to Ian Tyson’s handwritten lyrics to Four Strong Winds and the cartoonishly farm-inspired overalls worn by Gordie Tapp, one of the Canucks who starred in the cornball American variety series Hee Haw. McCoy was supposed to ceremoniously place his plaque on the wall on Feb. 2, a hall of fame tradition, and perform at the National Music Centre but the event was cancelled after he came down with laryngitis. (It has been rescheduled to June 14.) Still, he was able to check out his exhibit while on a later trip to Calgary.

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“I’ve heard the term surreal, but I’ve never understood what it meant until I was at the NMC,” he says.

Jason McCoy
The Jason McCoy exhibit in the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame in the National Music Centre. cal

McCoy is probably best known as one-third of The Road Hammers, a multi-platinum, Juno-winning trio he co-founded in 2004 that also features Clayton Bellamy and Chris Bryne. But he released his first solo album at the age of 19 in 1989, a good six years before his 1995 breakthrough self-titled sophomore album that offered hits such as This Used to Be Our Town, Learning a Lot About Love and Candle. The Road Hammers’ latest EP, Back At It, came out in the summer of 2021, but McCoy hasn’t released a solo record since 2010.

Nevertheless, it has been as a solo artist that McCoy has been touring Canada as of late as part of a triple-bill featuring Doc Walker and Michelle Wright. The Great Canadian Roadtrip drops by Calgary’s Ranchman’s on Feb. 24. The show will not have a typical opening band-headliner structure. All three acts will be on stage at the same time with a shared band. Whether these sorts of old-school revue-style shows will become a trend remains to be seen, but the format is similar to Aaron Pritchard’s Liquored Up tour with Cory Marks and Matt Lang.

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“We have the same agent and I think we were all gearing up to do a theatre tour,” McCoy says. “The agent had a front-row seat to all these artists and we were all talking about how we were going to do it and the costs involved and I think he just said ‘You’re all talking about this, why don’t you just go together?’ It’s fun. We have one band and we all come out on stage at the same time. It’s not like one is opening up for another. It’s really relaxed and we share stories and it’s fun.”

As for the Road Hammers, McCoy and his bandmates are working on new material. He hopes to perform the plaque-setting ceremony at the NMC in the summer. Given his early start in the business, McCoy still sees himself as relatively young. So he admits the Hall of Fame honour “feels weird.”

“I always think I haven’t recorded the record I want to, I haven’t written the song I want to – all that kind of artist-y junk,” he says. “I feel pretty young but it’s neat when you think back about all the miles you’ve put on and all the things you’ve done. It’s basically been my wife and I since the beginning and we’ve travelled all over this place in one incarnation or another in different bands. So it’s pretty cool to be recognized by your peers in that way.”

The Great Canadian Roadtrip featuring Doc Walker, Jason McCoy and Michelle Wright will be at Ranchman’s on Feb. 24. The rescheduled NMC and CCMA Present: Jason McCoy Live in Concert will be June 14.

 

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