Born in Red Deer, Alberta in 1954, Bill Bourne was raised in a musical family, often seeing his parents play old-time country, gospel, and blues in the community hall circuit around their Penhold, Alberta home. He tried his hand at the clarinet, but after a year of lessons decided it wasn't cool, so it came as no surprise he'd pick up the guitar himself when he was still young. His early influences also included everything he soaked in from Oscar Brand's TV show "Let's Sing Out!," and from there he branched out to listening to the likes of Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, and Mississippi John Hurt.
He quit school and moved to Toronto at the age of 16 seeking his fame and fortune. The only problem was he didn't like playuing Top 40 and didn't like using a drum machine, popular at the time. So he had to find his own sound and invent his own way of getting his music heard. The answer was to move back to Alberta a few years later, and work on his sound while paying the bills any way he could.
In '78 he and his second cousin Jim Morison formed Sweetgrass, which lasted for a year or so. Undeterred, he recorded a solo album for CBC Radio with jazz masters Tom Dolin and George Koller that went unreleased, before his multi-instrument musicianship landed him in the Scottish traditional folk band Tannahill Weavers. They recorded their fourth album PASSAGE in 1983, with Bourne providing fiddle, bass pedals, and bouzouki, and writing the track "Drink Another Round." This opened the door for more tours for the band of Britain, Europe, and throughout North America. But after the album was re-released a year later with a pair of added tracks, he and Alan Macleod had left the group.
MacLeod had decided to pursue an art career, but it was short lived, and the two reunited to form Bourne & Macleod. With Bourne on guitars and fiddle and handling the bulk of the vocals and songwriting, and Macleod on bagpipes, they quickly became staples of the major folk music festivals, and ultimately released their first album - DANCE & CELEBRATE in '85. The title track earned them a Juno Award for Best Roots Recording, giving them leverage for a better deal.
They signed with Attic Records and recorded MOONLIGHT DANCERS with producer Brian Allan (Rose, Toronto). The title track initially appeared on the BOOTLEG album, and along with the single, "Ship of Fools," it again was critically recieved, and received a second Juno nomination.
Bourne's next collaboration was a pair of albums with Edmonton's Shannon Johnson - DEAR MADONNA in '92, and VICTORY TRAIN two years later. Despite the great guitar playing and sentimental singing/songwriting of Bill Bourne, it's the bagpipes of Alan MacLeod that really make these Canadians stand out from the crowd. The "war pipes," as MacLeod calls them, are not a complementary instrument, but the duo manages to blend them in nicely. What would have otherwise been a pleasant diversion becomes quite memorable thanks to the highland pipes. Seen this pair several times starting around 1990 when I was living up in Alberta. Bourne had just skipped out on the Tannahill Weavers/Scotland and headed back to his beloved Canada. Brought MacLeod with him. First time I saw the two was in a back-woods grange hall in Sundre, Alberta. The dancing was so feverish that dust was eminating up between the cracks in the floorboards. Earthy, organic music in an earthy, organic setting. Riding Mountain/Hare O' the Dug is a personal dance favorite. It would send Deadheads tumbleweed dancing! 18 years ago, I stumbled into a bar in downtown Olympia, WA and this group was performing. Their music was both joyful and soulful. I bought their CD "Dance and Celebrate" at the bar and put it on a few times a year and it always surprises me how much I enjoy it after all these years. Biography He began his professional career as a solo performer in 1975, later forming the duo Sweetgrass with Jim Morrison in 1978. In 1980 he recorded a solo album, Bill Bourne, for CBC Radio, before joining the Scottish traditional band The Tannahill Weavers, with whom he recorded the album Passage (Green Linnet, 1984) and toured Britain, Europe and North America, playing bouzouki, fiddle and bass pedals. Resuming his career as a solo artist in 1985, Bourne concentrated on songwriting, the fruits of which were evident on his next album, a collaboration with ex-Tannahill Weavers piper Alan MacLeod, Dance and Celebrate (Rynde, 1990), which received a Juno award in 1991. The duo Bourne and MacLeod pioneered an exciting blend of blues and Celtic music and recorded a second CD, Moonlight Dancers (Attic World, 1992), which also received a Juno nomination. Between 1993 and 1996 Bourne worked with violinist Shannon Johnson as the duo Bourne and Johnson, recording two CDs, Dear Madonna (Rynde, 1994) and Victory Train (Free Radio, 1996), for which he received a third Juno nomination. Returning to his solo career, Bourne next released the CD Bill Bourne - Farmer, Philanthropist & Musician (Blue Streak, 1997), a retrospective of his work with MacLeod and Johnson, and also collaborated with vocalist Hans Stamer and Vancouver guitarist Andreas Schuld on an acoustic blues album, No Special Rider (Blue Streak, 1997). An excellent blues and folk guitarist, Bourne is also a distinctive vocalist and a unique songwriter; among his best-known compositions are "Dance and Celebrate,""Ole Buffalo,""The House,""Pitsberg,""Baggins" and "The Road to Tokyo."