Mel Shaw – Producer – Photo Courtesy of the Stampeders.
By Keith Sharp – Music Express
Canadian Record industry pioneer Melvyn James Foster Shaw, who passed away Wednesday, January 19th, 2022 in Regina Saskatchewan at the age of 82 years old was directly involved in the establishment of Alberta Music Express back in October 1976.
Trying to avoid being assigned to covering the daytime rodeo events for The Calgary Herald, this writer volunteered to run a major feature on the band, set to run during the newspaper’s weekend entertainment supple
Shaw’s band, The Stampeders had become a major Canadian success story with the release of hit singles; “Carry Me” and “Sweet City Woman” when they were booked to return home to Calgary to perform at the annual Calgary Stampede Rodeo evening entertainment schedule during the first week of July that year.
Unfortunately, the band performed their concert on the previous Thursday and Herald music Brian Brennan shredded the band so badly that the Herald felt obliged to pull my feature from the weekend issue – and then asked me to contact Shaw and explain to him why the feature was pulled!
Mel was extremely understanding and was supportive when I told him I planned to release my feature to the Canadian Press national news service. CP reported back after three weeks that some 17 major newspapers had picked up my piece, the one major absentee being the Herald. Determined to publish that story in Calgary I launched Alberta Music Express that October with the sole objective of publishing my Stampeders’ piece. Forty-Five years later, Music Express (ME) is still functioning and still covering The Stampeders.
Born in Banff Alberta, Mel was an early sparkplug on the Calgary domestic music scene, staging local dance hops, promoting local talent and even staging his own “Guy And Girls” television show on CHCT-TV. When the city did not operate its own recording studio in the late 1950’s Shaw convinced an engineer at CFAC Radio station to help him record his début 45 “Mean Lover/The Swinging Sound”, considered the first-ever pop single to be recorded in Calgary.
In 1965, Shaw discovered a local six-piece band, The Rebounds, agreed to manage and record them, changed their name to the Stampeders, and when their first single “House Of Shake” didn’t receive any traction he bundled Rich Dodson, Ronnie King, Kim Berly, Van Louis, Brendan Lyttle and Race Holliday along with Shaw’s wife Fran and two children into a dilapidated Cadillac hauling a U-Haul eastwards to Toronto.
At a time when CRTC regulations promoting domestic talent on the radio did not exist and independent labels had not yet established themselves to utilize their new radio exposure opportunities, Shaw established Music World Creations (MWC), and after a few false starts and the departure of Lyttle, Holliday and Louis, the remaining three members; guitarist/vocalist Rich Dodson, bassist/vocalist Ronnie King and drummer Kim Berly, hit pay dirt in 1971 when “Carry Me” became their first radio hit single. This was followed by “Sweet City Woman” and the release of their debut album `Against The Grain’
Sweet City Woman proved to be a global hit, topping the Canadian charts, reaching #8 on the US Billboard charts and setting up a European tour and a one-hour Canadian TV special “A Visit To Planet Earth” produced by Shaw. Achievements which in 1971 earned the band four Juno Awards for Best Vocal Instrumental Group, Best Single “Sweet City Woman”, Best Composer Rich Dodson, and Best Producer Mel Shaw.
Future albums displayed the trio’s individuality with Dodson’s pop tracks “Devil You”, synergizing with King’s more rock side “Wild Eyes”, and Berly’s soulful ballads “Oh My Lady”, as he encouraged them to write and record their own material.
On the industry side, Shaw served as the first president of CARAS, (1975-1978), president of Canadian Independent Record Producers and an executive producer for FACTOR, efforts which resulted in him being honoured with the Walt Grealis Special Achievement Juno Award in 1991. And the SOCAN Guardian Award in 2021.
Shaw moved his family to Nashville in 1992 and he spent 25 years on Nashville’s Music Row before returning to Canada when he joined forces with his wife Fran to publish Under The Living Skies a collection of 53 short stories by Saskatchewan author Bert McNair.
Shaw is survived by his wife Fran, children David (Marie) and Susan and sister Maureen (Max) and his legacy continues with Dodson, King and Berly who are still performing together and are about to celebrate their 50th-anniversary concert tour.