Big Dave McLean is finally getting his recognition, at an age when the rest of us are getting around to contemplating retirement. Only in the last decade or so has there been significant inroads into recording this definitive Canadian bluesman.
A masterful guitarist and top notch harpist, McLean’s raw and gravelly vocals bespeak of a life lived to the fullest, and a career spent performing in and around those countless small towns that dot the Canadian prairies. When it comes to the blues, however, McLean’s heart firmly beats to the ghosts of the delta greats--especially the incomparable Muddy Waters, with whom he toured over two decades ago. Just how important the Mojo Man was to the development of Big Dave can be gleaned in an 11-minute tribute, aptly titled ‘Muddy Waters for President’. Actually written for the dean of Chicago bluesmen, Muddy died before getting around to recording it.
McLean’s stage performances also identify him as one of the top bluesmen in Canada and what he knows about the business came to him from blues legends John Hammond Jr. and Muddy Waters. He started out on harmonica in the early '60s and had his first guitar lesson from John Hammond at the Mariposa Folk Festival in 1969. Hammond and Muddy Waters became Dave's lifelong musical heroes and friends. What did he learn from the masters? "Well you gotta be courteous," says McLean. "You know, Muddy Waters told me you can have the best guys in the world in your band, and if they gotta go, if they want to branch out and do their own thing, you’re not gonna stop them from doing what they’re destined to do. You might as well aid them along, help them out. And John (Hammond) was much the same, one of the most courteous gentlemen on this planet, you know, totally helpful, inspiring. You know both of them were just wonderful, wonderful men. I’m so pleased that I had the opportunity to even meet them."
Years later, Colin James - certainly one of the best-known Canadian blues artists there is - put himself into the picture.
“Dave McLean has been stalwartly keeping up the blues tradition for years,” says James. “I first heard him when I was nine, and he blew me away then, and he still does today. He's one of the great undiscovered bluesmen, and people ought to hear him.” As good as his word, James took McLean into his home studio in North Vancouver, called up a bunch of players who have worked with both artists, and cut a record together in three days.
Said Colin: “Dave has spent his whole life dedicated to the music, and what you hear is pretty well what happened. Everyone who got involved had a ball, and everybody can hear what a good time we all had. Dave is a singer and player that just makes everyone want to do their best.”
Whisky Award, 2005
- Runner-up for Singer Of The Year
Western Canadian Music Award, 2004
- Outstanding Blues Recording - "Blues From The Middle"
Prairie Music Award, 1999
- Outstanding Blues Recording - "For The Blues...Always"
Great Canadian Blues Award, 1998
Juno Award, 1991
- Best Blues/Gospel - "Saturday Night Blues, Vol. 1"
Maple Blues Award nominations:
- Acoustic Act Of The Year, 1998, 1999, 2000 & 2003
- Blues With A Feeling Award*, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 & 2006
* Toronto Blues Society Lifetime Achievement Award.
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