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My father was an RCAF pilot and we moved between air force bases in Canada, Europe and England. I soon learned how to make friends easily and adjust to different schools. The most difficult transition was from Canada to England when I was about 8 years old. I couldn’t quite get used to the school uniform - short pants, cap and tie. The tie kept my mother busy washing out the gravy stains from lunch at the school cafeteria! My brother and I rode the double decker bus to school. All the desks in the classroom all had ink pots so we could dip our nib pens and learn to write nicely. Unfortunately for me we were transferred back to Canada before my penmanship was developed and the ball point pen screwed up my handwriting forever after. When we first got to England the Beatles were making it big but I was too young to get the drift of what was happening musically. Sunday was the day for piano lessons with Mr. Parkinson an elderly gentleman who made sure that my fingers stayed curled properly on the keyboard by holding a pencil under my hand while I played. I’m glad it was just a pencil!
I bought my first car at age 16 in Ottawa, Canada by convincing my younger brother Dan to split the cost and therefore get to use it with me! It was a Ford Galaxie 500 that we saved up for by working summers on construction with my uncles in New Brunswick. I was an apprentice carpenter and drove the dump truck home for lunch until I took out my grandmother’s clothes line. After that I was relegated to an old jeep with VERY loose steering. Dan and I started “Student Movers” ( the first one) and used my dad’s pickup to move folks. We sure knew how to pack that truck and our little ad in the paper made us money for years.
First Professional Gig
I was 16 and when my youngest brother Kevin was graduating from grade school. What an entrepreneur! He convinced the student council to hire “Circus” for the graduation dance and we put the gear in the pickup and had a great time singing “Smoke On The Water” by Deep Purple and “Could Have Been A Lady” by April Wine etc. Maybe I should mention I experimented with alcohol and had a bit of trouble with the “naa na na na na naa part”?
I played in cover bands in Ontario until I moved back in with my parents in New Brunswick. Then I played in a band called “Tandem” around St. John and the French part of N.B. I left N.B. for the BIG TIME in Toronto and moved into the cheapest room I could find (China Town) where nobody spoke English. I went to Long and McQuade’s music store and was BLOWN AWAY by the Toronto talent…I proceeded to starve to death while collecting unemployment benefits from my N.B. job as a medical record microfilm clerk (I was the only guy in the whole department….cat fights abounded). Finally a telegram arrived that a band in Prince Edward Island had heard of me and needed a new guitar player. That band was “Tequila”. I called my cousin Pat Riley in P.E.I. Pat filled in on bass with the Guess Who and was playing in a band called “Scrubbloe Cane” which was a pre-Lover Boy band with Paul Dean. Pat said Tequila was good and had a ”hit” on the radio there. So I got on the bus to P.E.I…..18 years old and looking for fun! Tequila was a hoot! Schoolbus, more gear than April Wine at the time, at one point 13 roadies – I have to include the 6 band members in that number. We played arenas, events, barns and universities. I lived in a hotel most of the time, made good money and life was great except they didn’t want to record any more original tunes! Go figure!...I hit the road to London, Ontario and started a band called “Hot House”.
London Ontario , 1978
London was great. It seemed like there was a bar on every corner with live music. I graduated from Fanshawe College where I took electronics so that I could tinker with my guitar amp. Then graduated from the University of Western Ontario where I took business so I could learn “how come the booking agents are making so much money”! Fortunately, it was the age of punk music because I was the only one in the band with experience. I could even tune the guitars! The drummer was Robert Klein (not the R.K.) his dad owned a bakery and co-signed a HUGE loan for the band. We bought a 5 ton truck, tons of PA and lights and hit the road playing small town bars in southern Ontario. I was always amazed that they hired us. The bars were full of cover bands and we were an original hard core punk band…..THE FARMERS LOVED US! Pretty strange…our bass player’s name was “Dick” Demery. His day job was as a stationary engineer and he wore a large bell dangling from a pierced ear and a dog collar to work! We agreed that he could play “Born to Be Wild”, with the strobes on, flash pot explosions (in a bar???) a fuzz on his bass and blood dripping down the dildo in his mouth which he used to play the bass with…whew…NICE!!! We recorded one of the first if not THE first independent record albums. In those days you had to be signed to a record label to make an album but we found a guy who worked for the labels and was willing to master and press the album on his graveyard shift. You can still hear "Burn It Down" on Fanshawe College radio. Things went well until Frank, our Italian singer who wore really tight white pants decided to go to university to take chemistry!...I headed to Ottawa.
Full of folkies! Dang! I played in bars with my band “The Movers” (we had a cube van and made money doing moving jobs). Played with country singer-recording artist “Paul Henry” who offered me a job helping him in his legit undertaking business - funeral director and pet cremation. I took it! Hey its gooood money! I graduated from the University of Ottawa, did soundman gigs and finally opened my own recording studio in the back of a record store above a Chinese restaurant on Elgin Street – a hip place to be! Recording studio gigs led me to soundman freelance work with CBC. That was a great time in my life. I met Maureen, my significant other with 3 children who became my step kids. Working with CBC on parliament hill and TV shows introduced me to producers who finally decided to give me a chance to write commercial music for TV. I wrote, produced and recorded hundreds of National TV commercials during this time period. Then began a transition to Toronto in order to be closer to the music biz. Opened a substantial studio on Queen Street West and proceeded to burn out. Too much overhead! Toronto costs toooo much! I bought a little cabin in the woods in Muskoka to move to and then TRAGEDY STRUCK. Maureen passed away. She had struggled for years with epilepsy and it finally got the best of her. I loved her greatly and still do. When such a person departs, the dreams and hopes of the future vanish as well. My belief in life was shattered. Life is not a movie. It doesn’t always have happy endings. It has taken me years to put the pieces back together. Fast forward to today….
I have a wonderful person in my life – Cathy! She grew up in a musical family where dad and brothers would play and practice for hours. Her brothers played in local band for years. PERFECT! Finally, someone who understands the artist! After a long hiatus, I have recently sold some music to CBC and am back in touch with the music biz. I love connecting with musicians and fans at music jams and events. I prefer good time gigs – special events, backyard BBQ’s and music jams where people attend to hear the music and socialize with the musicians etc. NICE! There is always musical videos and work-in-progress happening. Drop in again for an update!