Last FAQ Update on June 22, 2010

Music Related Questions

[ Music | Background | Private ]

  • Who is/are the Rankins?
    What kind of music do they play?
    Why is it in some stores, they're labelled country and in others, they're folk?

    The Rankins (formerly The Rankin Family) are a group of talented musicians composed of five siblings: Cookie, Heather, Jimmy, John Morris, and Raylene. They were all born in Mabou, a tiny fishing villiage on the west coast of Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada.

    The Rankins incorporate many different musical styles into their work, including celtic, traditional, folk, country, rock and pop. A variety of instruments such as fiddle, mandolin, steel guitar, and various percussion instruments help to make their sound unique. While the their music is frequently labelled as Country or Folk, it is at the same time both and neither; theirs is a style beyond everyday description. As Jimmy defines it, their music is simply Rankin.

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  • Who writes their music?

    Jimmy Rankin is the group's primary songwriter and John Morris composes a number of original fiddle tunes for their recordings. Raylene, Cookie and Heather have also contributed a few pieces. Raylene penned the words to Whiskey in a Cup found on the original Rankin Family CD as well as the bouncy tune, Gillis Mountain, found on their Fare Thee Well Love release. The Endless Seasons CD features the debuts of John Morris' handiwork, Blue-Eyed Suzie and Eyes of Margaret, as well as Cookie's reflective writing style in The River.  Heather wrote the sombre Cold Winds on Uprooted and Maybe You're Right was written by Cookie Rankin and Gordie Sampson.

    John Morris Rankin's songs are copyright Ole Sound Productions Ltd. - SOCAN
    Jimmy Rankin's songs are copyright Co'Bhan Music Company Ltd. - SOCAN
    Raylene Rankin's songs are copyright Sweet Pea Music Comapny Ltd. - SOCAN
    Cookie Rankin's songs are copyright Mull River Music Ltd. - SOCAN
    Heather Rankin's songs are copyright Back St. Music Limited - SOCAN

    About a quarter of the songs that they have released are traditional ie. public domain.

    The remaining non-traditional songs found on their albums have been written by:

    Jerry Holland Lively Steps on Piano Medley
    Dan MacDonald Lime Hill on Fiddle Medley
    Wilfred Gillis Golden Rod Jig on Mull River Shuffle
    Donald A. Beaton Trip to Toronto on Mull River Shuffle
    J.S Skinner Tipperty's Jeen on Mull River Shuffle
    Leon Dubinsky Rise Again
    David Field Portobello aka Grey Dusk of Eve
    Paul Doran Natives
    Bruce Cockburn One Day I Walk

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  • Ho ro mo...what? What in the world are they saying?
    What is Gaelic anyway?
    Are they fluent in the language?

    They are not fluent but through the Mabou school system, they took Gaelic in the schools from Margie Beaton. One of their relatives, Effie Rankin helps with the Gaelic pronunciation when they have made a selection. Heather used to sing with the group Caileagan Mhabu (Girls of Mabou) and has a solo on their tape Duanag Do Mhabu. As well, Heather used to sing in competition at Mod Ontario.

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  • Why aren't the lyrics published on this website?

    Due to copyright legislation, the lyrics aren't posted on this website.

    However, the lyrics are published with the CD's (with the exception of The Rankin Family, Fare Thee Well Love and Grey Dusk of Eve).  As well, the Rankins learned a lot of the traditional songs through the oral tradition which is the way they would like you to learn them.

    However, if you really do need the lyrics to a song, email the webmaster.

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  • Why doesn't John Morris sing?

    John Morris does sing. You just never see it happen often.
    Because he is probably the band's most highly skilled instrumentalist, he is usually found playing those dizzying piano tunes or his feverish fiddle. His vocal contributions are often limited to a back-up capacity.
    In some concerts however, fans have been treated to a rare sight as John Morris joined his siblings at the front of the stage playing the guitar - and singing - in performances of some songs, Sir James Baird in particular.

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  • Do any of the girls play instruments?

    Heather's ability to play the piano is evident from what she demonstrates during the concerts. All the girls play a variety of hand instruments.

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  • How popular are they?

    They have toured extensively in Canada and have made appearances throughout the United States, England, Scotland, Australia and New Zealand. Some of the Rankins international fame has been through participation (sometimes as the headline act) of folk festivals held around the world.

    Due to the great success in their home country, it's not surprising that their biggest following lies within Canada's borders. Complimenting this huge fan base however, are loyal groups residing in England Scotland and Ireland, fans who readily appreciate the skill of the Rankin Family and the range of their songs.

    By mid-1995, development into the United States was slow, primarily because of the poor marketing plans of their initial American label, Liberty Records: not much in the way of promotion or exposure, and only one major US tour. Certainly with Garth Brooks as a client, we can't say that Liberty is a bad company; perhaps it's better to say that Liberty just wasn't good for the Rankins.

    When Endless Seasons was released in late 1995, the Rankin Family hooked up with the US-based Guardian Records, a record company which is associated with EMI Records, the label which handles the Rankins' Canadian market. Already they have managed to make appearances on American national broadcasts such as Good Morning America and CBS Sunday Morning.

    In 1998, the Rankins changed US labels again, and joined Rounder Records.  Rounder has an extensive history promoting "folk" music groups and this is a great career move for the Rankins.

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  • How successful are they?

    The Rankins are quite successful when it comes to music, especially in Canada where they are regarded as one of the top bands in the nation. While sales numbers may seem low to their American counterparts, they are in fact very high according to a Canadian music standpoint: 100,000 units alone is quite difficult to achieve north of the 49th parallel. Their CD sales as of mid-1998:

    The Rankin Family 100,000 units
    Fare Thee Well Love 500,000 units
    North Country 400,000 units
    Grey Dusk of Eve 50,000 units (only 50,000 units were produced)
    Endless Seasons 200,000 units
    Collection 200,000 units
    Do You Hear... ?
    Uprooted ?

    Their track record with respect to awards has been no less decorated.

    • At the East Coast Music Awards:
      Group of the Year
      Recording Group of the Year
      Video of the Year "You Feel the Same Way Too"
      Album of the Year "North Country"
      Recording Group of the Year
      Entertainer of the Year
      Video of the Year "Fare Thee Well Love"
      Best Live Act
      Entertainer of the Year
      SOCAN Song of the Year "Orangedale Whistle"
      Best Live Act
      Entertainer of the Year
      Best Live Act
      Best Roots Traditional Artists
      Best Recording Band
    • At the Junos, the highest honours for Canadian music:
      Country Group of the Year
      Country Group of the Year
      Group of the Year
      Country Group of the Year
      People's Choice Canadian Entertainer of the Year
      Single of the Year "Fare Thee Well Love"
    • At the SOCAN Awards:
      "Borders and Time"
      "North Country"
      "Fare Thee Well Love"
      "Orangedale Whistle"
    • At the Canadian Country Music Awards:
      Album Graphics of the Year for Endless Seasons
      (Patrick Duffy/Tom Chaaggaris)
      Group of the Year
      Vista Rising Star
    • At the RPM/Big Country Music Awards:
      Group of the Year
      Best New Artist

    And in 1996, not only did they manage to capture the "Best Selling Ticket Award" in history of Celtic Connections festival in Glascow, Scotland, but also all five Rankins of the Rankin Family received an Honourary Degree Doctor of Music from the prestigous Acadia University based in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

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  • I often see another fiddler onstage besides John Morris. Who is he?

    Howie MacDonald of Westmount, Cape Breton, just outside of Sydney. During hiatus, John Morris and Howie often team up and play in the Nova Scotia area.  Howie has been with The Rankins since 1989, as well as having a successful career on his own.

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  • Who are the other band members up on stage with the Rankins?

    Besides, Howie MacDonald (fiddle), the other members are John Chiasson (bass), Scott Ferguson (drums) and Gordie Sampson (guitar).   Before Gordie joined in 1997, Ray Montford was the guitarist.  He went on to perform with Mary Jane Lamond. Gordie is a successful singer/songwriter in his own right, with a CD out called Stones.  He also performed in a band called Realworld in the early 1990's and was part of the house band on the Rita MacNeil show.

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  • What are the Rankins record labels?

    As of 2000:

    Canada -                  EMI Music
    United States -         Rounder Records
    United Kingdom -    Grapevine

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  • Who is their manager?

    Mickey Quase is the manager for Cookie, Heather & Raylene Rankin (he was the manager for The Rankins when they were performing as a group).  The North Country CD was the last of the Rankin material to be distributed under the original Brookes Diamond Productions label. With Grey Dusk of Eve, the company was re-christened to Pier 21 Artist Management Ltd.. They can be reached at:

    Suite 1400
    1791 Barrington Street
    Halifax, Nova Scotia
    B3J 3L1
    Phone: (902) 492-2100
    Fax: (902) 492-3738

    It's important to note that this address is for their manager. If you have a business proposal for the Rankins, then these are the people you talk to. If on the other hand, you just want to send them fan mail then please don't bother the folks at Pier 21.

    Graeme MacDonald is Jimmy Rankin's manager.  He may be contacted at:

Kharma Management
Graeme MacDonald
Tel: 613-378-1956
Fax: 613-378-1445

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  • Do you have any interesting facts about the Rankins videos?

    While the Rankins have a growing list of videos that are getting airplay on television, they haven't exactly made videos for every release. Missing are Orangedale Whistle, Gillis Mountain, Grey Dusk of Eve and Let It Go.
    When selecting extras to appear in their videos, they often ask other family members to participate.

    • Fare Thee Well Love - 1992
      Director: Philip Kates
      Producer: Philip Mellows
      Apparently, when the Rankins first released Fare Thee Well Love in 1992, the video that accompanied the release was comprised of Rankin-only footage. While it still had the brown-and-black colour scheme, there were no scenes of the lovelorn couple as there is today. We don't know what prompted the change, but soon after the single began to pick up momentum, the video was altered - with some Rankin footage unfortunately cut in the process. We don't know if anyone has a videotaped copy of this "Original Video".

    • North Country - 1993
      Director: Jacoba Dedert
      Producer: Karen Hollett
      Parts of this video were filmed in St. Peter's Anglican Church Hall. Freddie Wright and Aunt Suzie (of Blue Eyed Suzie fame) make appearances.  Other locations include Mabou and Halifax, Nova Scotia.

    • Borders and Time - 1994
      Director: Jeth Weinrich
      Producer: Braun Farnon
      This was filmed in Banff, Alberta with the Rockies in the background.

    • Rise Again - 1994
      Obviously, the snow flakes used in the video were not the real thing. But would you have ever thought that those little white slivers were actually potato flakes? Innovative maybe, but gross nonetheless - Heather remarked in an NCN interview that the flakes kept sticking onto everyone's make-up!

    • You Feel The Same Way Too - 1995
      Director: George Doughterty
      This was filmed in a pub on Barrington St. in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

    • The River - 1996
      Director: Jeff Siberry and Robin Trickett
      Producer: Robin Trickett
      Parts of this video were filmed on one of Toronto's famous Red Rockets, running either the Queen Street or King Street line. The intersection that you see every now and then is Bloor Street and Avenue Road in downtown Toronto.
      The directors of this video were local students from Ryerson Polytechnical University.

    • Forty Days and Nights - 1996
      Director: George Dougherty
      Producer: Alvaro Acosta
      This was filmed in Tapachula, Mexico in the span of three short days. As an interesting footnote, the guitar which Jimmy throws at the end of the video was the only one that he brought on the trip - he had but one shot to get it right.

    • Roving Gypsy Boy - 1997
      This was filmed in a railway station in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.  Filmmakers from around the world were asked to submit footage of their country for this video.
      #1 on CMT Canada - March 11, 1997

    • Movin' On - 1998
      Director: George Doughtery
      The streets of downtown Halifax, Nova Scotia were used for the exterior shots while a warehouse was used for the interior "concert" shots.  The piano was on a cable.

    • Maybe You're Right - 1998
      An old church just outside of Toronto, Ontario became the filming location.   According to Heather, it was a church that was about to be torn down so they were able to paint the inside blue for the video shoot.
      Many people think there is an extra "Rankin" in this video but I'm sure you're just not recognizing Heather when she has her hair up in some scenes and down in another.   Rest assured, there are only 5 Rankins in this video.

    • Bells - 1999
      Producer: Blackwalk Productions
      This was filmed in downtown Toronto at a mall and on the subway.  Heather was hoisted on a crane that was in the middle of the mall.  Where's Raylene you may ask in this video?  Raylene had already left the group to raise her son when this video was filmed and she actually doesn't appear on this song on the CD or in concert.

    • Followed Her Around - 2001 (Jimmy Rankin)
      Director: George Dougherty
      Producer: New Scotland Pictures
      This was filmed in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia at Ralph's Place.  The dancers in the video are from the club.

    • Midnight Angel - 2002 (Jimmy Rankin)
      Director:  David Hyde
      Producer:  Jamie Dagg
      This video was filmed in Toronto, Ontario.

  • Can I purchase their videos?  TV specials?

    In January 2007, the Rankins tv special Backstage Pass was released on DVD.  It can be ordered via the Discography page.

    At this point, none of the Rankins music videos are available for sale.  They can be viewed on CMT Canada, and MuchMoreMusic in Canada.  Also, their tv specials - Christmas Cabaret and Home for Christmas - are currently not available for purchase.  However, the special Celtic Tides, which Cookie, Raylene and Heather host, is available for purchase.  Visit the Discography page for info.

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  • Can I purchase sheet music to the Rankins music?

    The Rankins have a songbook out entitled "The Rankin Family Album."   It contains music (piano, guitar, fiddle) for a number of their songs & tunes.  Visit the Discography page for info. This album is currently out of print.

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  • Are there any plans for solo careers?

    Prior to their split in September 1999 - Raylene had a solo career and John Morris had his freelancing, but they're a group now. Originally, Raylene had performed in the Rise and Follies of Cape Breton, a local variety show. Heather and Cookie has also worked on the Cape Breton Summertime Revue shows. The first tour as a group was in their own show, Mabou Jig. Also, Raylene sang the haunting Gaelic piece, An Innis Aigh (The Happy Island) in the NFB production, Song of Seasons.

    After their split in September 1999 - Jimmy is focusing on a solo career, Cookie is working on her songwriting, Heather is focusing on an acting career, and Raylene is spending time at home with her family, with a few special appearances here and there.

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  • Rankins Background

    [ Music | Background | Private ]

    • Why are they no longer called "The Rankin Family"?

      The Rankin Family is no more...sort of.  The Rankin Family's management has confirmed that as of April 28th, 2000, when their new album comes out, they will be known simply as The Rankins.

      The reason The Rankins have given is that they wanted to go back to their roots with their release "Uprooted".  Back before they signed to EMI, they were known simply as "The Rankins."  When they released their CD, they were encouraged to spice their name up.  But to the majority of people, they have always been called "The Rankins."  Whatever the change to the name, they are still the same people, making the same great music.

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    • Which Rankins are involved with the band?
      How many brothers and sisters do they have?

      These are a very popular questions and they get asked in interviews which are open to the public. While it's known that the members of the Rankin Family don't appreciate intrusive questions into their extended families, they have made this much known publically:

      There are twelve Rankin children in total, most of whom have been involved with the musical band in at least one point in their lives. Over the years, different Rankin siblings have either joined or left the "family band", much before they were actually signed on as the Rankin Family. A total of nine brothers and sisters have made their way into the group, and of those nine, only two, John Morris and Raylene, have been involved from its beginnings to the present time.

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    • When was each Rankins member born?

      The Rankins prefer to keep this information private.  Although if you look hard enough, you can find out this information.

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    • Is Cookie really Cookie's first name?

      No, Cookie's real name is Carol Jean. Like most families, the Rankins developed nicknames for the kids, and while most have faded away into obscurity, Carol Jean's nickname stuck.

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    • Do any of them have university degrees?

      Encouraged by their parents to complete their education, all five Rankins members have graduated from Nova Scotia based post-secondary institutions.

      Jimmy has a Fine Arts degree from Nova Scotia's College of Art and Design in Halifax. St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish can boast of three Rankin Family members who have graced their hallowed halls: John Morris, who graduated in 1980, Raylene in 1982, and Cookie in 1987. Cookie continued on to Acadia University in Wolfville where she, along with Heather, were granted Bachelor of Arts degrees. As for Raylene, she followed up her St.FX BA with a law degree from Dalhousie in Halifax.

      All five Rankins were awarded with honourary music doctorates from the prestigious Acadia University in 1996.

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    • Which Rankins are married and/or have children?

      The ones that have husbands/wives and sons/daughters.

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    • Why did the Rankins split up?

      Here is the official press release from the Rankins:

      September 17, 1999


      After a critically acclaimed ten year musical career highlighted by album sales in excess of two million units, international touring, and numerous hit singles, the multiple Juno-award winning band, The Rankins, will cease to record and perform as a group in order to pursue independant careers and interests.

      Cookie Rankin will pursue various songwriting and recording projects while sister Heather will focus on a career in acting (She appears in "The Hanging Garden");   Jimmy Rankin, a prolific songwriter, will begin work on a solo record; John Morris Rankin plans to freelance as a multi-instrumentalist and composer.

      The group will perform all scheduled engagements in September and October, including a benefit for Restoration House at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario on October 21st, and call it a wrap in early November.  In late November and December, Heather, Cookie, and Raylene (who left the band last year), will embark on a Christmas Symphony tour in various Canadian cities.

      The Rankins extend sincere thanks to their many fans, families, band, and crew, and members of the industry who have been most supportive of their career.

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    • What happened to John Morris?

      This is a difficult question to talk about.  John Morris passed away tragically in a car accident January 16, 2000.   He was taking his son and 2 friends to a hockey game in Cape Breton when his car went off the road into the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  Everyone except John Morris survived this crash but reports indicate that John Morris told the kids to get out of the car before it crashed.  Some answers will never be known.

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    Private Questions

    [ Music | Background | Private ]

    There are some questions to which we may have no answer or cannot answer, because

    1. only a true Rankin would know, or

    2. the question is just too darned private.

    What point is a FAQ page if we're not going to reveal anything private, you ask? Well, this FAQ is your one stop spot for general information - a compilation of facts that you'd normally have to spend a lot more time scouring newspapers, magazines, and videotapes to find. In general, while we will post up answers to questions that fans may casually ask the Rankins in meeting them, we cannot reveal anything that would constitute a breach of trust.

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