Nancy Nash was born and raised in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, growing up singing in churches and at dances. She moved to Edmonton as a teen and soon became one of Alberta’s fastest rising stars in the early 1970s, often appearing at talent shows and other lower profile gigs.
Her first recording experience was when Holger Peterson of Stoney Plain Records produced a record with blues band Hot Cottage and Chicago blues statesman Big Walter “Shakey” Horton entitled LOOKA HERE in 1972. Her impromptu jam session with Horton wound up as the duet “Worried Worried.”
Her star was quickly rising, and she made several TV appearances with Bob Ruzicka on his “Homemade Jam” show. Along with doing some jingles work, she also made several appearances on Tommy Banks’ program, “The Cave.” In ’76, she was featured on a CBC production that also contained works from David McLey, Moe Marshall, and cuts from the production of “Love’s Labour Lost.” Nash recorded three songs – “Get To Know You,” which she wrote, Stu Mitchell’s (Southbound Freeway) “One More Time,” and Betty Chaba’s “Empty Stage.”
In ’77, CKUA Radio host Marc Vasey (later the founder of the Edmonton Jazz Festival) recorded several shows with Nash that featured her own material she’d recorded at Damon Studios. There she met Garry McDonall, who signed her to Mustard Records and released the single, “Natural Born.” This was followed by the full album of the same name, produced by Nash and Gary McDonnall. It also featured the three tracks from the CBC record, along with more dance-oriented material like “Gonna Boogie With The Boys All Nite.”
She hosted her own short-lived show in Edmonton called “Catch A Rising Star,” and by now she was also flying to Vancouver for frequent radio, TV, and live appearances there, including with Rene Simard. She moved to the west coast before the end of the year after a jingle house, Griffits Gibson Ramsay, offered her an exclusive contract. While there, she worked with the likes of Bruce Fairbairn, Jim Vallance, and Claire Lawrence, among others. She also appeared on albums by Prism, Valdy, and BTO.
She formed Nash Records and in ’79 released a disco cover of the Steam hit, “Na Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye),” b/w her original “Ain’t Nothin’ Without You.” She did some tours around western Canada, and hired a then-unknown Bryan Adams as a background vocalist. After appearing in the CBC TV production of “Cakewalk” that same year, she was courted to be one third of Martin Shaer’s imaginary group Touche, along with Rosalind Keene and Mary Saxton. Released on GRT Records, the self-titled album produced “Take A Look (But Don’t Touch),” a top 40 disco hit on the airwaves and smash hit in the clubs. She closed out the decade appearing on Rich Little’s adaptation of A CHRISTMAS CAROL.
As the ’80s got underway, she signed with A&M Records and released a pair of singles, “Can’t You Do Anything Right” b/w “Starting All Over Again,” and “Running For Love,” which was featured nationwide on the completion of Steve Fonyo’s cross-Canada walk. The b-side was “I Just Want To Tell You.” Throughout the decade, she became one of the most sought-after studio musicians on the west coast, appearing on the first four Loverboy albums, as well as Shari Ulrich, Anne Mortifee, Gary Fjellgaard , Wynne Hanson, Rita McNeil, Matt Minglewood, Bon Jovi, Cher, and Rod Stewart. She also appeared in many television productions, including those for Tom Jones and Paul Anka.
Forming her own Nash Records, she financed her 1982 album LETTING GO herself. Recorded at Mushroom Studios, notable tracks included the lead-off “Love Has A Hold,” “Say Goodbye,” “Nobody,” and “Surrender,” which was later covered by Agent, who was actually used on the lp.
Shortly after, she was hired by Vancouver Community College to develop a pop music vocal program she termed Muse Ecology, and continues to mentor music students to this day. During this time Nash became very active in Native Indian rights and insisted upon Native Indian, not yet called First Nations, content in her shows and recordings. She had met Haida Raven Clan Mother, Dr Minnie Croft, and many other elders and artists and wanted to assist them in obtaining the recognition they so deserved. She would eventually be adopted into three different Aboriginal families.
In ’86, Bob Rock produced her 12″ single, “Hand In Mine,” mixed by Little Mountain engineer Pat Glover. It featured for the first time ever a traditional First Nations drum group Arrows to Freedom in a pop/rock recording b/w “To Give Our Love”, co-written with Graeme Coleman, (Beastmaster). The video to “To Give Our Love” was directed by James O’Mara and got heavy rotation on Much Music, winning best independent video. The video was also historical for being the first time a First Nations hoop dancer, Buffalo Child (aka Clayton Bugler) was ever featured in a video pop song.
That same year, Nash was the voice of the 1986 Olympic ceremonies “Something’s Happening Here.” She worked with Bob Hope in ’86 as his opening act and touring sidekick, and also got Leonard George, son of native actor/musician Chief Dan George a shot at singing traditional music with her at the shows. He returned the favour by having her sing with him at several Native events around the country.
Nash moved to Toronto in 1989, attempting to find management as Vancouver only had Bruce Allen who refused to manage her after many requests and Larry Wanagas, a fellow Pentecostal and childhood friend was not allowed. Wanagas had extended a management hand, but his latest act K D Lang told him to choose between them. While in Toronto, Nash formed a band with Dean Mazzolin managed by Doug Kirby. The band won contests and toured extensively throughout eastern Canada. Nash also worked as a jingle singer with Pirate Radio and other production houses. Her voice continued to be heard world wide for Coca Cola, Alberto VO5 and New York Seltzer. She later called the disbanded band Mother and released a CD of five songs.
It was also during her Toronto stay that Nash began to use her spiritual Haida name Sazacha Sktghaxeeahw (Red Sky) meaning red sky full of hope. She’d also met Cree elder Vern Harper, and soon became his singer in Ontario sweat lodges and at the Indian Center gatherings.
In 1990, Nash became involved with the Endangered Animal Sanctuary (EAS), a shelter for exotic smuggled animals, and has organized several fundraisers over the years in the cause’s name. She also filmed a music video “Double or Nothin'” as a fundraiser, but most industry insiders at that time weren’t particularly interested in jumping on animal or environmental rights bandwagons at the time. In fact, Much Music refused to play the video in fear of upsetting people.
She moved to Los Angeles in ’91, continuing to perform and also taught black and Hispanic children the roots of the blues on harmonica. There, she recorded RED SKY RISING, released two years later. The critically-acclaimed album was nominated for a JUNO award in 1994 in the Best Music of Aboriginal Canada category. But controversy ensued when adoptive brother Leonard George accused her of stealing a song on the Peter Gzowski show where both were being interviewed even though Nash had credited The Prayer Song to the Chief Dan George Foundation. The scandal made national headlines and would take several years to uncover the truth behind the real origin of “The Prayer Song.” The song is now is in the Public Domain.
Throughout the rest of the decade, she travelled extensively to Native reservations and cities, playing coffee houses and venues and the legendary 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica, where she shared corners with Jewel and Marilyn Manson. She wrote the music for the biker movie Girl Gone Bad and worked with Martin Sheen and Ron Taylor with the homeless and street veterans. She also began to shelter homeless animals and assist at Save-A Life Adoptions, an animal rescue organization.
After moving back to Toronto, she reunited with Hot Cottage alumni Cam MacInnes, recording “Sing It To The Wind” in 2001. After moving back to BC, LOVE IS ALL THAT MATTERS followed in 2004, and after disappearing from the radar all together for nearly a decade – 4:11 SPECIAL in 2010. During this period, she continued her philanthropic past time by establishing the Canadian Save A Life, a street rescue, rehabilitation and adoption program to assist homeless cats. She also set up the Rainbow Spriti Sanctuary, another animal refuge.
In 2013, she wrote and recorded a retospective song about her hometown of North Battelford called “Coming Home,” which was used for the city’s centennial celebrations, although she was unable to attend the festivities.