Shedding Light on the Family Tree: Creativity Runs Rampant

The 29th in a Series

Prompt: Fun Facts

Creativity runs rampant in my family. It’s just the way we are. Musicians, writers, artists, and craftsmen line the branches of our tree to one degree or another. My fun factoids are focused on a few examples of this.

Music is central. Whether playing in brass and military bands or simply having fun at home, music has always been a focal point of community and family bonding. Great granddad William Alexander Gordon knew his way around an accordion while my grandfather, Stanley Lewis McDonall, played multiple instruments and particularly loved tinkling the old ivories ~ ragtime being his favourite genre. Great granduncle Orlie Cox, second husband of Margaret (Belton) Musselman Cox, was a “spoons” virtuoso; great Grandma Mary (Belton) McDonall excelled as a church organist and singer. My mother remembers the McDonall clan gathered around her grandmother’s piano, playing and singing often after a long day of farm chores. A way to decompress and enjoy a shared passion for music. These occasions helped to inform mom’s very early decision to become a professional singer. Perhaps this was true of her two cousins as well, because …

FUN FACT #1: All three McDonall cousins of mom’s generation pursued successful professional music careers.

My mother, Lois Jeanette McDonall* (1939-), enjoyed an illustrious international opera career based in London, England (1970-1984). As well as being a principal soloist at the English National Opera she enjoyed many appearances on the concert stage and performed for many BBC radio broadcasts. She sang in the world premier of an opera written specifically for her (title role in Anna Karenina by British composer, Iain Hamilton), and even sang at Buckingham Palace! In total her music career spanned more than four decades. As well as performance she excelled as a teacher of voice and piano, and as a composer, choral conductor, and church organist.

Her older cousin by two years, Garry McDonall (1937-2010), son of Earl Lamar McDonall and Nellie (Curtis) McDonall of Larkspur, Alberta, played trumpet with popular Edmonton, Alberta, rock and roll band The Nomads. He also owned and operated a successful recording studio, Damon Productions**, for 40 years.

Carol (McDonall) Coonradt
Barney Armstrong’s Machine

Garry’s sister, Carol (McDonall) Coonradt***, began her music career in 1967 at age 16 as lead vocals and on keyboards, fronting many popular West Coast bands, including Scrapbook, Performance, Lady and the Tramp (changed later to Lady),  Sweetness and Lite,  Barney Armstrong’s Machine, Carol McDonall’s Hotline, Carol McDonall Band, Bishop Band, and Jampact. Carol also did a single act for three years, and worked side-by-side with her drummer husband, Bruce Coonradt, touring the West Coast of the United States. Carol’s last band was the Contenders. After retiring from the road in 1994 Carol taught piano for 19 years.

FUN FACT #2: Garry McDonall’s production company served as the recording facility for two Canadian music sensations:

Source: Alberta Report, April 17, 1981

~ The Rodeo Song by Gary Lee and The Showdowns ~ a controversial hit single released in 1980. His daughter, Kelly McDonall, shares this:

“My Dad’s big claim to fame was recording and publishing the infamous “Rodeo Song” which was an expletive filled … country tune … . It ended up going double platinum, and made them a lot of money.

What was remarkable is that it did that with NO AIR PLAY! It was this huge underground hit, that came with a lot of controversy. Now, we wouldn’t even blink an eye if we heard it on TV or the radio, but it was outrageous for the times. …

Eventually, I think my Dad made a “bleeped” version for the radio that some of them played, but I think they got a bunch of complaints. … It was to be in the movie “Thelma and Louise,” but ended up on the cutting room floor. … ”

Kelly McDonall, daughter of Garry McDonall

Naturally I felt compelled to search out this notorious song so I could understand what all the fuss was about. It didn’t take long. Even in these more “relaxed” times it’s a little too salty for me. Of course, everyone must judge for themselves. I’m no censor. You’ll find it on YouTube.

~ The Bird Dance by The Emeralds ~ If you’ve ever been to a wedding reception or similar event you’ve no doubt clucked, strutted and danced your way through this super popular tune. “The international hit and dance craze The Bird Dance was recorded at Dad’s place,” notes Kelly. “His partner(s) were part of the band that recorded it. My Dad’s secretary used to dress up in a big bird suit to promote it.” The Bird Dance (also sometimes referred to as The Chicken Dance ~ see Sources below) was a polka-inspired recording phenom that went to double platinum in Canada and gold in Australia. Here’s a link … The Bird Dance

And now for something completely different …

FUN FACT #3: A connection to Western artist, Charles Russell

Paying tribute now to my great grandaunt Margaret (Belton) Musselman Cox (1887-1978) who was a multi-talented creative. In an excerpt from this circa 1975 article in an unidentified Montana newspaper we read the following:

The Final Word

The Arts continue to be alive and well in our family and can be explored further in a later post. Suffice to say that while the focus here has been on some of the fun creative accomplishments of the past, the present and future generations are also well represented. It’s just the way we are. ❦



*Lois McDonall … Biography … The Canadian Encyclopedia

**Garry McDonall … Damon Productions, History/Biographical SketchHeritage Resources Management Information System (HeRMIS), Provincial Archives of Alberta

***Carol McDonall … “Missing You”

The Chicken Dance …


©Dorothy E. Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2022 … Aimwell CreativeWorks

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