Ian Thomas | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Ian Thomas

Ian Campbell Thomas, singer, songwriter, guitarist, producer, actor (born 23 July 1950 in Hamilton, ON).

Ian Campbell Thomas, singer, songwriter, guitarist, producer, actor (born 23 July 1950 in Hamilton, ON). A Juno Award-winning singer-songwriter, Ian Thomas is best known for the hit single "Painted Ladies" (1973), and for his role as Dougie Franklin in the first six seasons of Steve Smith's cult TV program The Red Green Show (1991–2006).

Recording Career

Thomas began his career as a member 196971 of the rock band Tranquility Base (the pop group-in-residence 1970–71 with the Hamilton Philharmonic). As a CBC producer 1972–74 in Toronto, Thomas was responsible for the radio program National Rock Works and for CBC LM-series recordings by more than 20 performers, including Bearfoot, Bim (Roy Forbes) and Cal Dodd. He produced commercially released recordings by James Leroy, D'Arcy Wickham and others. Throughout his career he has also written, produced and performed many jingles.

His debut album, Ian Thomas (1973, GRT 9230-1037), included the song "Painted Ladies," which was popular in Canada and the Unites States. Five albums followed 1974–79 for GRT: Long Long Way (1974, 9230-1044), Delights (1975, 9230-1054), Calabash (1976, 9230-1063), Still Here (1978, 9230-1067), and Glider (1979, 9230-1082). Thomas received a Juno Award in 1974 for Most Promising Male Vocalist and was active in clubs, concerts and on TV in Canada. He toured in the United States in the 1970s. He retired for a time from live performance in 1981 but maintained, through subsequent recordings, his reputation as one of the better craftspeople in Canadian pop.

On the demise of GRT, The Best of Ian Thomas (1980, ANR-1-1024) was compiled by Anthem Records, which continued with The Runner (1981, ANR-1-1032), Riders on Dark Horses (1984, ANR-1-1044), and Add Water (1985, ANR-1-1047). His 11th album, Levity (1988, WEA CD-55556), was followed by What We Do (1991, WEA CD-74515), which introduced the Boomers: Thomas, guitarist Bill Dillon, bass guitarist Peter Cardinali and drummer Rick Gratton. The band, which was particularly successful in Germany, recorded three more albums by 2002.

Other popular Ian Thomas singles include "Liars" (1976, from Calabash); "Coming Home" (1978, from Still Here); "Hold On" and "Chains" (1981, from The Runner); and "Levity" (1988, from Levity).

Covers by Other Artists

"Hold On" was an international hit in 1982 for the American band Santana, and "Runner" in 1984 for the British group Manfred Mann's Earth Band. Other Thomas songs have been recorded by Anne Murray ("Good Again"); Bette Midler ("To Comfort You"); the US groups America and Chicago; Germany's Lineman; and the Australian singers Daryl Braithwaite and John Stevens. In 1994, Ian Thomas received SOCAN Classic Awards for "Painted Ladies," "Right Before Your Eyes," and "Hold On;" his "You've Got to Know" (recorded by The Boomers) was SOCAN's most popular Canadian song of 1993.

Other Pursuits

Ian Thomas began touring with the revue Lunch at Allen's (Murray McLauchlan, Marc Jordan, Cindy Church) in 2004 and has also performed with his brother, comedian Dave Thomas. He has written scores for film and TV. As an actor, he was seen regularly on TV's The Red Green Show (see Steve Smith). He was president of the Songwriters Association of Canada 19982000. He has also written two novels: Bequest (2006) and The Lost Chord (2008).

A version of this entry originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada.


Most Promising Male Vocalist of the Year, Juno Awards (1974)

Classic Award (“Painted Ladies”), SOCAN (1994)

Classic Award (“Right Before Your Eyes”), SOCAN (1994)

Classic Award (“Hold On”), SOCAN (1994)

National Achievement Award, SOCAN (2014)


Bequest (Manor House Publishing, 2006).

The Lost Chord (Manor House Publishing, 2008).

Further Reading