Top Historic and Notable Artists from London, Ontario

Updated: Mar 21

London is known as “The Forest City,” but it’s so much more to those who live in it, including a source of musical inspiration. Let’s check out some past and present London music artists that flourished.


London is cozily nestled in the southwest peninsula of Ontario, with a population of 400,000+ residents according to the City of London. The city is located on the Québec-Windsor corridor midway between Toronto (185 km) and Windsor (190 km) and is an urban resource for many rural hamlets, villages, and towns in its surrounding area.


Today, London is home to a vibrant community of students, young professionals, and is a hub for upcoming tech companies. But what about the cultural and arts scene? With such a large population of young people, it’s no question that great music is in demand. There are lots of concert venues and complexes, including Budweiser Gardens, which holds up to 10,000 people depending on the event!


Let’s take a walk down history lane to see which London music artists have emerged from the city and into the spotlight.


London, Ontario
HDC London

History of London, Ontario

London, Ontario, would not be formally incorporated as a city until 1855 due to a growing need for a settler district emerging in the region. By that time, the provincial capital was located in Toronto, and administrative control was becoming necessary for the larger area located in central-western Ontario.


These days, London is proudly known as The Forest City and is home to a rapidly growing population of over 400,000 residents. It is a network for higher education, medical research, manufacturing, and technology. The growth of the City of London over the last few years has been rapid as the city continues to expand its sprawling geographic borders. It has become a destination for local and surrounding rural area residents for employment, recreation, and for entertainment.


Historical Music Artists from London, Ontario


Cecil Lean

Cecil Lean (1878 – 1935) was born in London, Ontario. He moved early in his childhood and began his acting career at the age of 13 in Detroit. Lean later moved to Chicago and rose to musical comedy prominence at the La Salle Theatre. Cecil Lean was best known as an actor, lyricist, composer, and singer.


Garnet Brooks

Garnet Brooks (1937 – 2009) was known for his distinct voice as a Canadian tenor who performed with opera companies and orchestras across North America and Europe. He was born in London and later returned to London in 1982 to teach voice to students at the University of Western Ontario. He would remain a professor at the university until his retirement in 1997. Brooks continued to occasionally perform into the early 2000s and was known for his clear, vibrant, high tenor voice that seemed effortless.


Marie Diane Bottrell

Marie Diane Bottrell (born 1961) is a country music singer and songwriter that emerged on the music scene in the late 1970s. She was born in London and released her first album, Just Reach Out and Touch Me, in 1978, which was well-received. In the same year, Bottrell performed at the Grand Ole Opry and proceeded to win Juno Awards every year until 1986. She continues to perform at some Canadian country music festivals.


Bill Durst

Bill Durst is a Canadian blues artist whose career began in 1970. Durst is known as one of the founding members of the band “Thundermug” and has released several solo albums since then. To date, Durst has released five albums and two Top 40 Canadian singles. He continues to perform today.



Notable Modern Music Artists from London, Ontario


Loud Luxury

Loud Luxury was established in 2017 in London as a Canadian production and DJ duo consisting of Andrew Fedyk and Joe Despace. Currently, the duo operates out of Los Angeles but met in school at the University of Western Ontario. These two London music artists are incredibly popular stars that have toured and been featured at large EDM festivals and other musical events.


Shad

Shad (Shadrach Kabango) is a rapper, singer, songwriter, and radio host who was born in Kenya but lived most of his childhood in London, Ontario. Shad is a Juno award-winning rapper that’s known for his sharp, witty, and socially conscious lyrics. Shad was ranked #2 in CBC Music’s 2013 list of 25 Greatest Canadian Rappers ever. As a radio host, Shad hosted CBC Radio One’s flagship talk show q from April 2015 to August 2016.


The Weekend (band)

The Weekend (not to be confused with Canadian rapper, The Weeknd) is a pop-rock band that hails from London, Ontario. The Weekend has released three albums to date and has toured worldwide, predominantly in Asia and Australia. Music from The Weekend has been featured on movie/TV soundtracks such as Freaky Friday, The Simple Life 2, and Uptown Girls.


Rick McGhie

Rick McGhie is a well-known musician on the University of Western Ontario’s campus. Alumni and current Western students attend consistently full-capacity events that have been deemed as “legendary” and “a rite of passage”. Rick McGhie has been playing at the University of Western Ontario since around 1970. While McGhie may not be known by many outsides of the walls of Western Ontario to alumni and students, he is the closest thing to a celebrity that visits the UWO campus regularly!



London Symphonia

The London Symphonia is a professional Canadian symphony orchestra band that’s based in London, Ontario. It was founded in 1937 and changed its name a few times to its final iteration as it stands now. The London Symphonia has a core of 30 players and presents programming that includes well-known symphonies, Canadian premieres, and collaborates with Canada’s singer-songwriters.


Beyond Musical Artists - let’s look at London’s Music Scene

Beyond producing talented musicians, the City of London also offers some unique and dynamic entertainment venues. These range from classical musical theatres, to concert venues, to university campus areas that often host musicians. Here are just a few of the many venues that host musical talent in the London, Ontario area.



Entertainment Venues in London, Ontario

  1. Budweiser Gardens (formerly the John Labatt Centre)

  2. Centennial Hall

  3. Aeolian Hall

  4. Forest City London Music Hall of Fame

  5. Kiwanis Memorial Bandshell

  6. UWO Campus (The Wave, The Spoke, Alumni Hall)


How to Visit this Iconic City in Southwestern Ontario

If you’re planning a visit to London, Ontario, in 2022, check out the COVID-19 travel restrictions ahead of time. Ensure that you plan accordingly based on those restrictions. London has great restaurants and venues to offer, and it may be worth spending a whole weekend in the city if you’re planning on visiting for a concert at Budweiser Gardens or another venue!



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