2014 marks my 50th year in the music industry.
Little did I know back in 1964 where these 50 years would take me. I was 18 and wanted to be a record producer and hear what I produced on Radio Luxembourg or Radio Caroline. After being admitted to Strasbourg University that year, I applied to be the French correspondent to Billboard. I‘d been a ‘private’ subscriber to the magazine since starting naval academy at thirteen. Their European editor was my only direct contact in the music industry.
Amazingly, I was accepted - and more amazingly, started working for them for the grand salary of 12 LP’s of my choice, per article submitted. Needless to say I sent them a ton of articles!
When I returned to the UK and began working as a management trainee for EMI in London in 1966, it was the largest, most successful, and longest standing record company in history. It was the home of the Beatles and many other emerging British Invasion artists with whom I had the good fortune to work.
My very first week at EMI was spent at the Abbey Road studios. I arranged interviews for some of those artists and the un-credited (but that’s another story), in-house A&R trio of George Martin, Ron Richards and John Burgess. These guys were responsible for 3 of EMI’s biggest acts at that time - the fab four of course, the Hollies and Manfred Mann respectively. The first of many Manchester Square basement auditions I attended at their invitation was the Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd.
What 19 year old would not be smitten by such incredible excess!
Arguably the UK was then the centre of the pop universe. I say that with great deference to my primary musical muse Bob Dylan, and the Band too. There’s a good reason why my publishing divisions were later called Freewheeled Music, Magnetic Movements, Reels of Rhyme and Gypsy Hymns!
I reconnected with George Martin and John Burgess from Canada, a few years later. George produced two albums I released by the Huggett Family, a Canadian group living in Ottawa.
I am happy to say that I have signed many of my artists with EMI & Capitol ever since, most recently bringing Serena to the label eight years ago, if my memory serves me well.
So, back to EMI in London.
While looking after the whims, caprices and deadlines of foreign writers scrambling for stories on British artists, I ran into an Australian journalist. He ended up changing the course of my career, and therefore my life. That Aussie was Ritchie Yorke ……..Author, broadcaster, and music historian. He would soon move to Canada and become an early CanCon activist, and a promoter of Canadian artists - which he continues to this day.
Ritchie is responsible for my decision to move to Canada.
He organised a meeting in London with Rompin’ Ronnie Hawkins in the summer of 69. The Hawk wanted to launch a Canadian record company. So, in the ‘Penthouse’ suite of the ‘Playboy’ Club that summer, an Englishman, an Aussie and a transplanted, Arkansas rockabilly star ‘conceived’ the all-Canadian Love Productions and its Daffodil Records label….an auspicious start to any life.
I arrived in Canada in early 1970, we launched Daffodil, signed the King Biscuit Boy and Crowbar - and Canada has been my home ever since.
Ritchie therefore became the unwitting catalyst for me meeting and marrying a Canadian girl, having three daughters and three grandchildren all born here, with a 4th on the way.
I am so pleased and grateful that he and Minnie made the long trip from their home in Brisbane to attend this event in person. Good on yer cobber!
It was 1970.
Walt Grealis, Stan Klees, John Mills, Arnold Gosewich, Ritchie, Pierre Juneau, the Chairman of the CRTC, and a handful of other such advocates, had won their long fought battle for a Canadian Content ruling. The industry in general, and most importantly the public, have enjoyed and benefited from it ever since.
I was in the right place at the right time. I produced, published and released Crowbar’s “Oh What A Feeling”, the first ever CanCon recording released the day the rulings were introduced in 1971.
And so, four decades of discovering, nurturing and developing Canadian artists and songwriters have unfolded for me. These have resulted in a number of triumphs, some real heartbreaks, and a few failures. No matter their commercial outcome, countless wonderful – inspired - and original recordings of songs that deserved to be heard, were given that opportunity. I am proud to have been able to make that possible.
There are so many people to thank for the important roles they’ve played over my career in Canada. It would be impossible to do justice to all, in these few minutes - so I plan to use my LET ME BE FRANK website to do so.
Please indulge me however while I mention a few very special people tonight, all giants in this industry who have worked long and hard to make it what it is today. I am proud to say they have become lifelong friends outside of the work we’ve done together. I had written a whole piece on each of these people but will make those available on my website. I guess time flies when you’re receiving a lifetime achievement award!:
From EMI to Love Productions & Daffodil Records, to GRT and ATV.
From TMP to MCA, and OLE - they have LET ME BE FRANK and helped to nourish the music I love:
Peter Steinmetz has been my first and only lawyer, in both my business and personal life, and a great supporter and wise confidante for all the years I’ve lived in Canada. Peter is a former president of CARAS and, among other firsts, the man who brought the Junos into the modern age by arranging for the awards to be broadcast on national TV. He later succeeded me as Chairman of the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. In my view, up to his retirement a couple of years ago, the most accomplished, committed, and impassioned entertainment lawyer in the country.
Bill Ballard and Myron Wolfe’s much needed investment into my record label in 1974, along with Michael Cohl, allowed me to continue producing and promoting our artists and particularly enable one of my signings, Klaatu, to breakout worldwide a couple of years later, and thus ensure the label’s future.
Bill and Myron got into the music business for all the right reasons – they enjoyed helping people and causes that appealed to them on a personal, as well as a business level.
Deane Cameron, in addition to my earlier comments, has been a tireless major label promoter of Canadian artists throughout his long career. He received the Order of Canada for just those reasons. I await with ‘great expectations’ the launch of his new Blue Wolverine company – presumably named on a wild, midnight snowmobile ride through the frozen north-country around Lake Nip-Iss-Ing;
Arnold Gosewich, also a former president of Capitol/EMI, for his faith in giving an unknown, untried Canadian Indie national distribution through Capitol, way back in 1970. The first ever Major to do so. Fifteen years later in 1986 he secured the funding for me to launch TMP The Music Publisher, and was a shrewd and supportive business advisor for those early years. We continue working together on various music-book projects that Arnold represents as a leading author’s agent;
Rupert Perry is the former Chairman of EMI worldwide after a long run as head of A&R for their Capitol label in the U.S and, like Deane Cameron, was a staunch supporter of my A&R pursuits through his career-long Capitol and EMI years.
Among other ‘ordeals’ I put Rupert through was one in 1975, when I approached him to sign one of my label artists for the world outside Canada. I couldn’t give him any of the band members’ names, would not let him see them play live or meet them, and later, when he decided to go ahead and drew up the final offer, I would not allow their names to be on the Capitol contract.
Rupert, to his great credit, went along with all of this, because of the music - certainly a unique moment in the policy manual of a major label artist signing. Fortunately, Klaatu did go on to sell almost two million albums despite, or because of, the controversy surrounding them. And Rupert did eventually get to meet them in person a few years, and a couple of albums, later. He is actually named in one of the songs on their 4th album Endangered Species, in which he had a speaking part.
THIS PROBABLY SOUNDS LIKE I ONLY WORKED WITH EMI OVER ALL THESE YEARS BUT THAT’S CERTAINLY NOT THE CASE – IT’S JUST THAT THEY WERE THERE AT PIVOTAL MOMENTS, FOR WHICH I’M VERY GRATEFUL.
I’M HAPPY TO SAY THAT I’VE ALSO SIGNED NUMEROUS OTHER ARTISTS TO MANY LABELS FAR AND WIDE OVER ALL THESE YEARS.
Speaking of which, Ross Reynolds was the former Chairman of Universal and VP of Warner Music and we worked together on various projects throughout those years; however, my particular thanks here is for his time as President of GRT. His leadership of that mini-major in the 70s established a significant early national, and international, presence for Canadian artists including those he distributed for my label in the mid-70s during a pivotal period in its existence;
Also a nod to Len Gill who shared a satellite GRT office and a wild ride with me through that extraordinary Klaatu experience. I basically lived in that office as I fielded round-the-clock calls from the world’s press, radio, and tv media for several months on end, before the world accepted that Klaatu was never the Beatles;
Sam Trust was the worldwide president of ATV Music, up to its sale to Michael Jackson in 1985. My thanks to him for his confidence in bringing me, as a record producer primarily, into fulltime music publishing to run ATV in the early 80s. Sam gave me the freedom to continue to develop and grow a thriving domestic music company with a successful roster of Canadian songwriters, while also managing the Beatles catalogue in this country. Sam enjoyed a longtime interest and commitment to signing Canadian songwriters;
Vicki Walters was my VP administration for almost 20 years through the ATV and TMP years. A dedicated, diligent, and caring accomplice in my music publishing ventures and a friend to many more publishers and writers in her later SOCAN management days;
Michael McCarty long ago rewarded my confidence in bringing him into music publishing while at ATV. Later, as he worked his way to the top of EMI Music Publishing, he became a staunch ally and enthusiastic contributor as a director of the C…S…H…F from its birth onwards. A successful and highly trusted competitor and colleague for many years, he’s now continuing to be a great new resource for songwriters and publishers alike at SOCAN;
Leeds Levy was the former worldwide President of MCA Music in California and invited me to create a Joint Venture between MCA and TMP in 1990. This JV allowed me to acquire 100% of TMP from my funding partners and develop and sign new artists and songwriters primarily from Canada for MCA worldwide. As a result of this JV, TMP opened a Nashville office, signed hit Nashville songwriter (Byron Hill) and built a presence in the country music capital for its other U.S and Canadian signings. In addition TMP signed the successful American contemporary jazz trumpeter Rick Braun and Grammy-nominated flautist Steve Kujala.
Sam Feldman became my partner in TMP after orchestrating the sale of the majority of it to Robert Lantos and Alliance Communications in the mid-90s. Notwithstanding the workload and complexities of his own substantial management and booking agency empire and rosters, Sam always had the time and desire to support, appreciate and embrace the new talent I chose to work with;
Robert Ott is a very smart music publisher who’s internationally recognised Ole Media Management celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. I have had much pleasure in working for him and Ole as a consultant from early on in it’s life. Robert has been showing Canadians that you can build a worldwide presence and success story from Canada as a music publisher.
I would also especially like to remember tonight my dear friend and record label partner, Bill Ballard, who died 2 weeks ago.
To Billy “Life was not a dress rehearsal”.
He was a one-of-a-kind, smart, larger-than-life, big-hearted, lovable guy. Those who knew him will greatly miss his generous spirit and immense love of life, and of course, food! Go crazy in heaven’s kitchen Billy!
And obviously I couldn’t possibly forget the Heart & Soul of my work – all the talented songwriters, artists and musicians with whom my career has been shared and enjoyed. This award is dedicated to them. They are our lifeline.
Without them, we are nowhere, man!
Again, far, far too many to name and thank here, but let me quickly mention:
EDDIE SCHWARTZ, DAVID TYSON, RON HYNES, TOM COCHRANE, MURRAY McLAUCHLAN, HUGHIE LEGGAT, RICHARD NEWELL, KELLY JAY, IAN THOMAS,
JANE SIBERRY, ALFIE ZAPPACOSTA, DAN HILL, GERALD O’BRIEN, GRAHAM SHAW, SHERRY KEAN, STEVE SEXTON, BYRON HILL, DEAN MCTAGGART, JOHN CAPEK, KLAATU, STEVE MACKINNON, ANNETTE DUCHARME, ROBERT PRIEST, JOHN CODY…………
TO NAME JUST A FEW.
I created the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1998 to honour and celebrate the unsung heroes of our industry.
I urge the Songwriters Hall of Fame’s current board to play catchup in recognizing more of these deserving candidates annually. I encourage them to keep the bar at the highest level, while still honouring as many of these great Canadians in their lifetime as possible. I believe this should be a primary goal of the Songwriters Hall of Fame under its new SOCAN affiliation.
In February 1970 I had the pleasure of attending the very first Juno Awards. It was then known as the Gold Leaf Awards and was created by Walt Grealis and Stan Klees.
Walt died 10 years ago but I know he’d be happy to see the effects of his dedication to Canadian music is still being felt, as it will be, for many years to come.