Terry McDade, grew up in Saskatchewan and as was the case with many of his generation he was infatuated with music. He began playing the piano at age 5 & guitar at 14. After high school he attended the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. In 1968 he felt an insatiable urge to go to San Francisco and be part of the scene that was going on.Terry with his pack-sack & guitar began hitch-hiking on a roundabout journey that saw him going as far south as Texas and back up through Arizona and the southern part of California before arriving in San Francisco that “Summer of Love”. When he arrived, the first thing he noticed was that the city was full of kids from all over the world also with long hair, tie-dye shirts, ripped jeans and sandals; as Terry put it, “there were Hippies everywhere”. As the summer passed and money grew thin, Terry decided to return to Canada feeling alive with the sense of a common spirituality from his experience.

Looking to stay engaged with the community he had been a part of all summer, Terry decided to go to Toronto to check out the Yorkville Scene. It was there that Terry decided he should take a more serious approach to music and began studying classical guitar with notable teachers Norbert Kraft and Eli Kassner.

In 1974, while deep in his music studies, Terry received a call from his friend Mike Mooney who wanted him to join his trio for a Eastern Canadian tour. This particular gig was with a circus named The Royal Brothers Circus, which turned out to be Canada’s last travelling “mud-show” traditional tent circus. It was a very rugged existence as the trio traveled with the circus living out of a milk truck, setting up and striking the full show, sleeping on plywood platforms mounted above their equipment and caring for the elephant and zebra stripped painted donkey. The show traveled largely at night as many of the vehicles violated a plethora of regulations and requirements adding to the stress and exhaustion. Part of this tour was filmed by Paul Saltzman, broadcast on CBC’s Gallery (To Be A Clown) featuring Mike & Terry’s music as an (uncredited) soundtrack. Terry was given the chance to relive one of the more tragic experiences he had while traveling with the Royal Bros. Circus during the Fringe festival in Edmonton with Jan Kudelka’s play Circus Gothic. The play chronicled the darker side of life in the circus, and was centred around the death of a father & son . The two men, Little Stevie and Big Bob were killed one morning while setting up for a show in P.E.I when a tent pole struck an over- head power-line.

After the circus tour wound up, Terry played Jazz gigs in Toronto with the Mooney Bros. mainly in an after-hours Speakeasy until it was suddenly “closed” one evening.

In 1975 he  moved out west to Edmonton  where he met the fabulous Danielle and her two children Shannon and Solon. Terry played bass with former members of the legendary “Brain Damage“, Bing Jensen, Helen Davis and Randy Clark touring Western Canada.

Danielle & Terry married in 1976  and had another child, Jeremiah in 1977. At this time Terry established himself as a guitar teacher and performed with various musicians in Edmonton.

Pleasantly surprised by the emerging talents of his family ,Terry formed The McDade Family Band in 1978 with Danielle on vocals and guitar and Shannon on the fiddle. As the boys came of age they too began perform with the family band, Solon on bass and Jeremiah on a variety of instruments. The bands first “big” gig was in 1978 at the Wild Rose Folk Fair (precursor to the Edmonton Folk Music Festival). The Family Band played many major events in the next 13 years including Expo ’86 in Vancouver, Canada Days Celebration in Ottawa, the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, Canmore Folk Festival, Calgary Stampede, the Universiade Opening Ceremonies in Edmonton and were a regular feature at The Fort Edmonton Park.

During the early 1980’s Terry also discovered the Celtic Harp. Through the music of Alan Stivell, Terry was inspired to begin studying the instrument and as a performer, educator & arranger has become one of Canada’s premier Harpists.  He now performs on a concert pedal harp.

As the Family Band began performing less and less, Terry re-focused on his personal career, teaching music & performing on guitar & harp. He is a major contributor to the Western Canadian harp community and a driving force for independent musicians in Canada. Today, with a singular style, Terry is taking the Concert Harp to a new and vibrant place. With his dynamic trio Harpe Jazz, Terry is exploring the boundaries of the pedal harp and incorporates Jazz and World music into his bands original sound. He has performed through out Canada, the U.S and most recently in China and has recorded four critically acclaimed CDs to date; Harpe Danse, Midwinter, Noel and 2011’s Winter Rose. Terry is also featured on recordings by his children with their Juno Award winning group, The McDades.


Wisdom From My First Guitar Teacher

Read an article by guitarist Peter Thorn for Premier Guitar Magazine that features his experiences with Terry.