By Keith Sharp
Paul Humphrey, lead vocalist for Toronto-based seminal synthesizer pop band, Blue Peter passed away April 4th after a long illness, he was 61 years old.
Paul Humphrey (vocals/keyboards) had joined forces with guitarist Chris Wardman to launch Blue Peter in 1978 in Markham Ontario. Heavily influenced by the burgeoning British new wave music scene, Blue Peter was an integral part of Ready Records, a Toronto-based boutique independent record label launched in 1979 by Angus McKay and Andy Crosbie who also released singles, EP’s and albums by the likes of The Spoons, Manteca, The Battered Wives, Colin Linden and Teenage Head before folding in 1985
In a statement issued by former label mates, The Spoons, lead vocalist and guitarist Gord Deppe said “Paul was one of the kindest and most talented people I ever met. The Spoons and Blue Peter were both young bands on the Ready Records label, just starting out on the long road that lay ahead. To me, Paul always seemed like a soul transposed from another time; his humility, his old-world style, his genuine sincerity in everything he did. The 80s were full of characters, good and bad. Paul, to me, was one of the very finest. He was a true gentleman and someone I will dearly miss.”
The band’s initial lineup included Geoff McQuat on bass and Ron Tomlinson on drums with the final lineup featuring keyboardist Jason Sniderman, bassist Rick Joudrey and drummer Owen Tennyson.
Even though the band broke up in 1988, Blue Peter earned a certain amount of credibility. They received strong radio support from influential station CFNY, their “Don’t Walk Past” video produced by Juno award winner Rob Quartly received exposure on both MuchMusic and MTV and the band won CASBY honours (then called The U-Knows) in 1982 for Single of The Year “Chinese Graffiti” and Humphrey himself was voted CASBY male vocalist of the year in 1984.
Although the band only released two studio albums “Radio Silence” in 1980 and “Falling” in 1983 Blue Peter release a ground-breaking 7-track EP “Test Pattern For Living” in 1979 as well as their 1982 6-track EP “Up To You” and enjoyed exposure opening for the likes of The Jam, Boomtown Rats and Simple Minds. They also shared the CNE Toronto stage August 5th, 1983 with the likes of Simple Minds, The Fixx, Peter Tosh and King Sunny Ade as guests of The Police during their 1983 Police Picnic performance.
Blue Peter reappeared in 2006 to promote a series of re-releases by their former record label Ready Records and then appeared at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival to promote their soundtrack contribution for the movie “Suck”. January 2011 Blue Peter performed at the Horseshoe Tavern as part of the Juno Song of the 1980’s series and performed at Toronto’s Phoenix Theatre in 2015. A number of their records have since been re-released by Universal Music Canada.