About Nancy Nash
Nancy Nash was born and raised Pentecostal in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, growing up singing in churches and dance bands. As a teenager and single mom she moved to Edmonton and there met song writer Paul Clark who introduced her to Hot Cottage.
Holger Peterson, Stoney Plain Records, produced a record with blues band Hot Cottage and Chicago blues statesman Big Walter ‘Shakey’ Horton entitled “Looka Here” where Nancy first ‘jammed’ singing a duet “Worried Worried” with Walter. Horton was Nash’s first harmonica mentor.
CKUA Radio host Marc Vasey who later founded the Edmonton Jazz Festival recorded several shows with Nash that featured her own material recorded at Damon Studios. It was here she met Garry McDonall who signed her to Mustard Records and recorded “Natural Born”. During her time with Mustard she recorded TV shows and records with Bob Ruzicka, “Homemade Jam”, Tommy Banks, “Nothin Comes Easy”, Big Miller, and her own show “Catch A Rising Star” with special guests Betty Chaba (Empty Stage) and Gord Marriott. She was also lead singer with Wes Henderson for the celebrated jingle “Black Sheep Man” produced by Gerry Dere written by Garry McDonall.
Nash also began traveling to Vancouver for television and live appearances, “Rene Simard” show produced by Alan Thick and Tommy Banks live from “The Cave”.
Nash relocated to Vancouver in 1977 when Vancouver jingle advertising house, Griffiths Gibson Ramsay offered her an exclusive contract. Quickly Nash became known as “The Voice”. She began to work with Bruce Fairbairn, Jim Vallance, Claire Lawrence and many other producers for many recording artists including Prism, Shari Ulrich, and Valdy. Fairbairn produced cover song “Na Na Hey Hey” in 1979 b/w a Nash penned “Ain’t Nothin’ Without You” dance single. Jim Vallance hired Nash and Mary Saxton to sing for legendary rock group BTO. It was the only time the band ever had “chick singers”.
Nash met a young artist named Bryan and hired him as a background vocalist in her live show. She introduced Bryan as “one day the world will know him and he will be a household name”. His last name is Adams.
CBC -TV production of CAKEWALK led by Robbie King and Vancouver elite musicians featured Nash as a guest singing and playing harmonica. This same year Martin Shaer (Sweeney Todd, Bryan Adams) worked for Little Mountain Sound Studios and hired Nash as lead vocalist for the Touche project. The single “Take A Look But Don’t Touch” written by Hoot Gibson was a moderate hit with GRT records.
In 1980 Bruce Fairbairne hired Nash to sing bg’s (background vocals) for Loverboy a new rock band. She would continue to record with them and be featured on thousands of their live shows as a ‘sampled voice’. The band considered her the ‘other’ member of the band.
A short single release stint with A&M Records in 1980 released “Can’t You Do Anything Right” b/w “Starting All Over Again” and “Running For Love” featured on the completion of Steve Fonyo’s cross Canada walk, b/w “I Just Want To Tell You.”
Nash continued to appear in many television productions during the 80’s both as a solo and background performer including the Tom Jones and Paul Anka series. She also worked for hundreds of worldwide recording artists and producers including Declan O’dorety (Rita McNeil), Matt Minglewood, Rod Stewart and Australian legend Kamahl.
In 1982 Nash recorded her self funded album LETTING GO with Mushroom Studios engineer Rolf Henneman, (Heart). Several tracks with the band Agent were added later before it was released. Notable tracks on the album include “Nobody” and “Surrender,” covered later by Agent.
In the early 80’s Vancouver Community College hired Nash to develop a pop music vocal program she termed Muse Ecology. She continues to mentor and teach this course today to protégés and students. 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.
In 1986 Bob Rock produced the historical 12″ single, “Hand In Mine” featuring for the first time in the world 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). “To Give Our Love” video directed by James O’mara was heavily rotated on Much Music winning best independent video. “To Give Our Love” was also historical and the first time a First Nations hoop dancer, Buffalo Child aka Clayton Bugler was ever featured in a video pop song. (It is important to note that Little Mountain engineer Pat Glover mixed these music projects as Bob Rock was touring with Rock and Hyde.)
Bruce Fairbairn continued to hire Nash for his record projects and in 1985 she sang for an up and coming group Bon Jovi. When she heard the first few bars of the song she told Jon Bon Jovi it was just like Loverboys, “Turn Me Loose” and would be a giant hit song. The song was “Livin’ On a Prayer” the biggest hit in the Bon Jovi repertoire to date selling over 30 million copies.
Nash was the voice of the 1986 Olympic ceremonies “Something’s Happening Here”. She also recorded with Cher, “We All Sleep Alone” and in late fall of 86 began working alongside icon Bob Hope as his opening act and sidekick. She invited Leonard George, son of native actor Dan George to sing an ancient traditional song with her at the show where Bob Hope looked on from the wings. Later Leonard invited Nash to sing with him at several Native events and she used her influence to have him hired for television appearances and live events. In 1987 he adopted her into his family as his sister at a live JR Country radio event that was broadcast from the Sandman Hotel and attended by renowned Salish author Lee Miracle. Minnie Croft also adopted Nash as her kindred daughter during this time. In 1988 Nash won Best West Coast Vocalist award after being nominated seven times.
In 1989 Nash moved to Toronto 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’. Larry had offered to manage Nash but his latest act K D Lang told him to choose between them. 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 in Toronto for Robert Armes and Terry O’Reilly at Pirate Radio and other production houses. Her voice continued to be heard world wide for Coca Cola, Alberto VO5 and New York Seltzer. Nash maintains had her band stayed together they would have reached great success. She later called the disbanded band MOTHER and released a CD of five songs. Nash met harmonica master Carlos del Jungo who was living in Toronto and became his student.
During this time Nash’s Native Okanagan kindred sister Rainbow Spirit aka Gina Smith passed away. Nash attended the memorial in the Okanagan where Gina’s mother Mildred adopted Nancy into the family. It was also during her Toronto stay that Nash began to use her spiritual Haida name “Sazacha S’ktghaxeeahw (Red Sky)” meaning ‘red sky full of hope’. She met her mushom, Cree elder Vern Harper and was his singer in Ontario sweat lodges and at the Indian Center gatherings. She also continued her mentorship with Nishnabe elder Glayds Kidd until her death.
After a dream of her kindred father Dan George, Nash became involved with the Endangered Animal Sanctuary (EAS) an alleged shelter for exotic smuggled animals. She organized a fund raiser at the Diamond Club where Colin Linden and Second City actors performed to raise money. Tom Cochrane gifted a Gibson guitar Nash would later use on her Juno Nominated CD. Nash also filmed a music video, “Double or Nothin” to raise awareness about EAS featuring the tigers Rocky and Balboa. Most people including music artists and the industry were not interested in animal or environmental rights at that time. Nash was a pioneer and met with much chagrin and criticism. Much Music refused to play the video.
In 1991 Nash moved to Los Angeles continuing to perform and also taught black and Hispanic children the roots of the blues on harmonica. It was here she recorded RED SKY RISING in 1993. The critically-acclaimed album was nominated for a JUNO award in 1994 and caused much controversy 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. This scandal made national headlines and would take several years to uncover the truth behind the real origin of The Prayer Song. The song is no longer attributed to the Chief Dan George Foundation and is in the Public Domain. Nash still considers Leonard a brother.
Nash traveled extensively during the 90’s 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, (Children Helping Poor and Homeless People) with the homeless and street veterans. She also began to shelter homeless animals and assist at Save-A Life Adoptions, an animal rescue organization.
Nash moved back to Toronto in 1998 and in 2001 recorded “Sing It To the Wind” with Hot Cottage alumni Cam MacInnes. She also created the Canadian Save A Life and began a street rescue, rehabilitation and adoption program to assist the thousands of homeless cats.
Nash moved to the Okanagan mountain that bordered her First Nations family reservation in B.C. in 2003. Here she lived alone off grid for ten years and established “The Rainbow Spirit Sanctuary” a refuge for homeless, abused and abandoned domestic and wild animals. With the help of the sun and solar panels Nash recorded CD’s “Love Is All That Matters”, “Welcome to the World” – Olympic theme song, and “411 Special”. She played Komasket, Rare Earth and Salmon Arm and many other festivals and venues. Now a staunch animal and environmental activist for over a decade her theme was joining together, making a difference for Mother Earth. Her motto was and still is: “there is enough for everyone”.
In 2008 Nash’s only child, Robin Nash suddenly left the world. She continued her work off grid with the animals in her care as well as ending the poaching of bears on the mountain she called home. She also met her protégé Kyle Richardson after judging the Okanagan Idol Contest. However, grief, loneliness and lack of funds took its toll and Nash decided to leave the Okanagan. She moved to Vancouver Island in 2013 where she now lives with her sister. Nash continues to teach and offer mentorship Muse Ecology programs. She is gearing up to record a blues record with Hot Cottage alumni in the fall of 2014. Her protégé Kyle Richardson is releasing his first single mixed by AC/DC engineer and adoptive brother to Nash, Mike Fraser.
Sazacha Red Sky (marriage of the earth and sky/red sky full of hope) will always be Nancy Nash’s name and used to honor her Haida family and people who know her as that. Her Okanagan name given by elder Dottie Crabbe is Qualeumsoomiel (song spirit) and Cree Elder and Mushom (teacher)Vern Harper gave her the name Adance, Cree for (little big girl). Now that her Haida family have ‘crossed the rainbow bridge’ Nash will use her birth name on the release of her next CD. She continues her animal rights work and has a self funded animal shelter at her home on Vancouver Island.