Doc MacLean

Doc MacLean

 Toronto, Ontario, CAN

Doc is a weathered, wily, but infinitely likeable storyteller/performer. Writing from the dark side of the blues highway, Doc's distinctive vocals and bare fingers National guitar plot an intense, emotional remapping of contemporary Delta and roots music.


Son of a civil rights lawyer and a fiddle player, MacLean was by his early teens playing harmonica and washboard in coffeehouses and festivals, and on radio and television. In 1972 he formed a duo with Colin Linden, (now Grammy nominated producer and recent Dylan guitarist) and became a frequent opener for Sonny Terry & Brownie McGee, Muddy Waters, and John Hammond. Famously, they traded a guitar for a 1948 Dodge, and set out to explore America– never looking back.

In his early travels Doc met many older musicians including Son House, Tampa Red, and Robert Pete Williams. “Who I am, what I do and what I carry, was gifted to me by the grandchildren of slaves,” says MacLean. “I’m a small link in a big, unbroken chain.” Youthful work included tours and performances with Peg Leg Sam the Medicine Show Man, Blind John Davis, Sunnyland Slim, Rev Pearly Brown, and Sam Chatmon. Recordings from this period were released on Chicago’s Flying Fish label.

In 2006 Doc MacLean released the critically acclaimed CD, Narrow House. Produced by Linden, the recording featured bassist Larry Taylor (Canned Heat) and drummer Stephen Hodges (Mavis Staples), who at that time were the core of the Tom Waits band. Driven by MacLean's distinctive vocals and bare fingers National guitar, Narrow House plotted an emotional remapping of contemporary, Delta rooted music (see Press). “Angola Prison Rodeo,” has since been covered by bands around the world.

During the last decade, MacLean has performed 200+ road dates annually– his National Steel Tour playing all parts of all ten Canadian provinces, two territories and 25 US states. In the process, the Tour itself became legendary. Ice roads to the arctic. Crazy, burning highways through the desert wilds. Hard travel, wrecks, and tough North American weather. And now, way over 1000 shows later, the Tour is reaching Africa. "No venue too large, too small, too grand or too humble." Even places lost in the folds of the map.

Appearing most often as a solo performer, Doc likes to say that he “tells songs and sings stories.” Over the years his storytelling has become a popular part of his show. Forty-five years ago Doc was playing Charlie Patton songs in Son House's living room. Today he's a blues vagabond, a traveller writing from the dark side of the highway: his resophonic, finger style slide guitar paying sonic homage to Patton, House and Big Joe Williams, his Lincoln more of a small home than a big car, his songs a celebration of a life lived fast and large on the Blues Highway.

2016 sees Doc back in the studio with Colin Linden producing, and a busy tour schedule now spanning two continents.

His legendary travels are well documented- (2015) (2014) (2013) (2012) (2011) (2010) (2009) (2008) (2007) (2006)

The National Steel schedule has included club and concert dates with Guy Davis, Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater, BB King, Duke Robillard, Downchild, Libby Rae Watson, Los Lobos, Johnny Winter and others. In Canada the Tour has seen him pair with Big Dave McLean, Michael Pickett, and Morgan Davis for headline theatre, concert, and festival appearances (to hear a live track, play "Jimmie Lee Jackson's Blues").

MacLean is equally comfortable at a festival workshop, priming a rowdy blues crowd, or telling a story in a hushed theatre. Radio and television appearances have included national programming on CNN Today, PBS Morning Pro Musica, BBC Earl Grey, CBC 90 Minutes Live, Touch the Earth, Morningside, Canada Live, and Saturday Night Blues.

Sonicbids calendar is not updated. Please visit the Tour blogs and for the most current tour info.


Live with Big Dave McLean, CD, 2009
Narrow House, CD, 2006
Memphis Town, 45, 1989
Be What You Are, 45, 1987
Sam Chatmon & His BBQ Boys, LP, 1979

Set List

Original blues roots material with a small number of non-standard covers by artists such as Son House, Charlie Patton, Willie Brown, Blind Willie Johnson... Extensive songlist- many hours of songs. Often punctuated by stories.