Alan Mills began a successful career as a folksinger on CBC radio in 1947; he sang until 1959 on 'Folk Songs for Young Folks' and 1952-5 on 'Songs de Chez Nous,' the latter with Hélène Baillargeon and the Art Morrow Singers. He was often accompanied by the guitarist Gilbert 'Buck' Lacombe (b St. Eugene, Ont 12 Mar 1921, d Laval, Que 19 Dec 2006). Mills was heard abroad 1948-55 through his programs and recordings for the CBC International Service, and later twice toured Europe. His first concert performance (Ottawa, 1949) was followed by many concert and festival performances throughout North America. His performances with Jean Carignan at the 1960 Newport Folk Festival were preserved on a Vanguard recording (VRS-9083). The two men also appeared at several Mariposa Folk Festivals and the Winnipeg Folk Festival. Mills's song 'I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly' (Southern 1951) became popular among folksingers; a Burl Ives performance of the song served as the soundtrack of a 1964 National Film Board (NFB) film of the same name.
Mills appeared in a few NFB productions and also acted in English and French radio dramas and TV commercials in Montreal. His play Ti-Jean and the Devil, based on a French-Canadian tale related by Carignan, was premiered 21 Jun 1961 on CBC radio.
Mills was a leading popularizer of Canadian folklore and a favourite of Canadian children. He participated with other leading non-traditional folksingers in the nine-volume Canadian Folk Songs: A Centennial Collection (RCA CS-100/5-ACM 39) and wrote the accompanying English-language booklet. Mills was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1974. His library and papers are held by Library and Archives Canada.
Favourite Songs of Newfoundland (BMI Canada 1958)
- with Fowke, E., and Blume, H. Canada's Story in Song (Toronto 1960)
Chantons un peu (BMI Canada 1961)
- and Bonne, R. I Know an Old Lady (Rand McNally 1961)
Favorite French Folk Songs (Oak 1963)
- and Rinehart, Carroll. Holiday Songs (Bowmar 1966)
Folk Songs for Young Folk, 2 vols. (1965). Dom 1280, 1281
Also several 45s, seven in French with H. Baillargeon, two in English with Buck Lacombe, guitar
Folksongs of Newfoundland. 1953. FW-6831
Duets and Songs of French Canada. H. Baillargeon. 1955. FW-6918
Folk Songs of Acadia. H. Baillargeon. 1956. FW-6923
Folk Songs for Young Folk, 2 vols: no. 1 Animals, no. 2 More Animals. 1956. FC-7021, FC-7022
French Songs for Children. 1957. FC-7018
Songs of Newfoundland. 1958. FW-8771
Songs of the Maritimes. 1959. FW-8744
Canada's Story in Song. 1960. 2-FW-3000
Songs, Fiddle Tunes and Folk Tales from Canada. Carignan violin, Lacombe guitar. 1961. FG-3532
Raasche and Alan Mills Sing Jewish Folk Songs. 1962. FW-8711
14 Numbers, Letters and Animal Songs for the Very Young. 1972. FC-7545
Also Chantons en français (with H. Baillargeon, 4-FC-7719, 7720, 7721, 7722); Christmas Songs from Many Lands (FC-7750); French Folk Songs for Children (FC-2708); More Songs to Grow On (FC-7009); Songs of the Sea (FA-2312); and songs included on Folkways FW-7545
Chansons à boire. RCA Victor CGP-289
Also several 78s
Alan Mills, Folk Singer. Lacombe guitar. 1952. RCI 81-84
Songs of the Maritimes. Art Morrow Quartet, Lacombe guitar. 1954. RCI 102
Some 45s for Capri and HMV
Author Lynne Hoover
Gallant, Mavis. 'His songs tell a story,' Montreal Standard, 10 Feb 1951
McNamara, Helen. 'Alan Mills - Canada's balladeer,' Saturday Night, 13 Dec 1952
'Alan Mills celebrating the 10th year of his folk-song show,' CBC Times, 5-11 May 1957
Cadoret, Charlotte. 'In memoriam,' Canadian Folk Music Society Newsletter, vol 12, Fall-Winter 1977
Colquhoun, Joan E. 'Alan Mills and his role in the popularization of Canadian folk songs,' unpublished paper, at Library and Archives Canada 1982
Links to Other Sites
A brief summary of music created by popular Canadian folk singer Alan Mills. From the “Canadian Journal for Traditional Music.”
Just Call Me Al
Click on the links to full text articles about the life and musical career of Alan Mills, one of the first folk singers to popularize Canadian folk songs in both English and French. From the “Canadian Folk Music Bulletin.” PDF files.
Alan Mills Fonds
A biographical sketch and description of the Alan Mills fonds from the Music Division Archives at Library and Archives Canada.
Scroll down the page to hear an audio clip of Alan Mills performing the "Anti-Confederation Song." Also click on "Liner Notes" for background information on this song and others from the recording "Classic Canadian Songs from Smithsonian Folkways."
Canada's Story in Song
Listen to sample audio clips from a recording of Canadian folk songs performed by Alan Mills and produced by Edith Fulton Fowke. From the Smithsonian Folkways website.