After studying composition and percussion at Westlake College of Music in Los Angeles, he returned to Canada. For a while he was a member of the Singing Swinging Eight, a song-and-dance troupe on the TV show “Country Hoedown,” but he quickly became part of the Toronto folk scene, performing in the same cafes and clubs as Ian and Sylvia, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, and Leonard Cohen.
He formed a folk duo, The Two Tones, with fellow “Hoedown” performer, Terry Whelan. The duo recorded a live album in 1962 called “Two Tones on a Village Corner”. The following year, while traveling in Europe, he served as host of BBC Television’s Country and Western programme.
As a songwriter, Mr. Lightfoot has progressed beyond the Hula Hoop, but not by much. He told the authors of “The Encyclopedia of Folk, Country and Western Music,” which was published in 1969. When the folk boom of Greenwich Village brought Mr. Dylan and other dynamic songwriters to his work it “didn’t have any kind of identity.” First, he said, “I started to get a point of view, and that’s when I started to get better.”
In 1965, he appeared at the Newport Folk Festival and made his US debut at Town Hall in New York. “Lightfoot has a rich, warm voice and deft guitar technique,” wrote Mr. Robert Shelton in The New York Times. “With more attention to stage persona, he should become very popular.”
A year later, after signing with Albert Grossman, manager of Mr. Dylan, Peter, Paul and Mary, Mr. Lightfoot recorded his first solo album, “Lightfoot!” With performances of “Early Morning Rain”, “For Lovin’ Me”, “Ribbon of Darkness” and “I’m Not Sayin'”, a hit record in Canada in 1963, the album was warmly received by critics.
Real commercial success came when he moved to Warner Brothers, initially registering the company’s Reprise label. “By the time I switched to Warner Brothers, circa 1970, I was reinventing myself,” he told the Savannah Connect in 2010. Where I might have some music that people might want to listen to.”