The Canadian "godfather of Celtic music," singer/guitarist/songwriter John Allan Cameron, died on Wed. (Nov. 22) following a five-year battle with cancer. He was 67.

The Canadian "godfather of Celtic music," singer/guitarist/songwriter John Allan Cameron, died on Wed. (Nov. 22) following a five-year battle with cancer. He was 67.

His son, guitarist Stuart Cameron, was with him when he passed away at the Centenary Hospital in Scarborough, Ontario. "It was his time and he was a fighter and he never wanted to give up," says Stuart. "He lived life to its fullest."

Through his four-decade career, John Allan Cameron recorded 10 albums for such Canadian-based labels as Apex, MCA, Columbia, and his own Glencoe label. His repertoire included Cape Breton fiddler tunes, Scottish and Irish folk songs, bagpipe music adapted to guitar, and music by such Canadian songwriters as Bruce Cockburn, Stan Rogers and Bob Ruzicka.

His stature in Celtic music circles in Canada was akin to that of American Bill Monroe in bluegrass music.

"In our household growiing up, John Allan Cameron was as big as Elvis Presley, ABBA or the Beatles," recalls Nova Socia singer/guitarist Dave Gunning who helped to organize a Cameron tribute in Halifax, Nova Scotia in May 2005. "He was the first performer that I ever saw in concert. He had great taste in material."

Born on Dec. 16, 1938, into a musical family in Glencoe Station, Inverness County in Nova Scotia, Cameron learned to play the guitar and by age 12 was playing local dances. His early influences included his legendary Cape Breton fiddling uncle Dan Rory (Dan R) MacDonald and his Gaelic-speaking mother Katie Ann and brother John Donald, who both played fiddle.

Between 1957 and 1963, Cameron was in the Order of the Oblate Fathers and had an ambition to become a priest. Although he took his final vows, he received papal dispensation in 1964.

He then studied at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, where he received an arts degree. He next received an education degree at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1967.

Performing in Eastern Canada clubs and in folk festivals through the country, he was quickly heralded with keeping the tradition of Celtic music and language alive in Canada. This was almost two decades before the emergence of such Celtic-based Atlantic Canada acts in the '90s as the Rankin Family, the Barra MacNeils, Natalie MacMaster and, more recently, the Cottars.

"I was performing this stuff before it became sociologically acceptable," Cameron said in a 1993 interview.

By the mid-70s, Cameron was a household name in Canada. He appeared on CBC-TV's "Singalong Jubilee" and "Ceilidh" programs. He had his own national series, "The John Allan Cameron Show" on CTV from 1975 to 1976, and on CBC-TV from 1979 to the winter of 1981.

In 1970, Cameron got a standing ovation at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, with fellow Nova Scotian Hank Snow telling him offstage, "Whatever you're doing, boy, keep it up because it works."

Cameron toured extensively throughout North America with Canadian singer Anne Murray in the '70s. She recalls he had the ability to speak Latin.

"He used to speak on the set of 'Singalong Jubilee' and other places too, he would break into fluent Latin and do complete sentences."

People outside Canada looked at Cameron performing Celtic music in amazement, especially in places like Las Vegas, Murray said. "They'd shake their heads," she recalls. "But he put on such a great show and he made people laugh. And you can't help but clap your hands and stomp your feet. It's undeniable that music and it elicits that kind of response from people."

Cape Breton fiddler Allie Bennett, a long-time Cameron band member says John Allan could play music with anyone. "One time he shared a double bill with Chubby Checker in Charlottetown (Prince Edward Island). Chubby Checker would do a set and then John Allan would do a set. It worked though."

In December 2003, John Allan Cameron was awarded the Order of Canada.

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