The late Bobby Curtola, Andy Kim, Chilliwack and The Cowboy Junkies may have had little in common musically but on Sunday, October 27th, they will be linked together by a common bond, induction into Canada’s Music Hall Of Fame.
The induction ceremonies to be staged at the Hall Of Fame Studio Bell location in Calgary will honour both the musical contributions and cultural impact these artists have had in the development of Canada’s music industry and will be joining Corey Hart who was honoured at this year’s Juno ceremony staged in London Ontario.
Curtola, a native of Port Arthur, Ontario (now Thunder Bay) who passed away in 2016 at the age of 73, recorded 26 gold singles and 12 albums through the 1960’s and early 1970’s including such hits as “Fortune Teller”, “Hand In Hand”, “Aladdin” and “Indian Giver”. This success was achieved at a time when a Canadian music industry virtually didn’t exist and when airplay on Canadian radio by a domestic artist was rarely achieved. He was the first Canadian artist to receive gold record recognition in 1966 (50,000 units sold) for his ”Magic Moments – 12 Golden Hits” release, an achievement that was rewarded with a Gold Leaf Award.
Curtola was also awarded The Order Of Canada and was later a featured performer on Princess Cruise Lines before hosting the CTV music show “Shake Rattle And Roll” in 1974. Away from the microphone, Curtola was also a successful entrepreneur who at one time marketing his own brand of Bloody Caeser, called “Sea Czar”.
“It’s a pretty cool thing to be around all these famous artists,” noted Kim when contacted about Sunday’s induction. “We have all come from the same place and all had a dream to hopefully create something unique. In my case, I had to leave home (Montreal) and move to New York in order to find my way.”
Establishing himself as a songwriter in the famous Brill Building, which was a virtual hit-song factory for the likes of Burt Bacharach-Hal David, Neil Diamond, Carole King, Neil Sedaka. Leiber-Stoller and many others, Kim wrote and recorded hits such as “Rock Me Gently and “Baby I Love You” as well as hooking up with Jeff Barry to pen material for the Archies cartoon TV series including the iconic 1968 chart-topping single “Sugar Sugar”.
“At the end of the day, my dream wasn’t about winning any awards,” explained Kim. “It was about being in a playground with other musicians and developing a way to express myself musically. I didn’t come here to change the world; I just came here to find me.”
Kim has continued to write songs, both as himself and under the pseudonym, Baron Longfellow and for the past 15 years has been staging an annual Christmas concert to raise funds for children’s charities. “It started out as a `one-off’ event after I wrote “Whatever Happened To Christmas” with Ron Sexsmith and it has just continued from there. I feel blessed that so many artists come and give their time so we can raise monies for charity.”
This year’s Andy Kim And Friends Christmas Show will be staged Wednesday, December 4th at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Toronto and on Friday, December 13th at Place Des Arts in Montreal.
“I wondered if it would ever happen,” mused Chilliwack frontman Bill Henderson upon learning of his band’s induction into the class of 2019. “A lot of people have that hit international thing, it’s appropriate to give them a hall of fame induction. But for us, we’ve just been constantly moving. I guess it’s because our music keeps getting played all of the time.”
Considering Chilliwack’s career has constantly been plagued with record-company bankruptcies just after they had released gold and platinum-selling records, it’s a testament to Henderson’s tenacity that his band is still functioning almost 50 years after the band’s 1970 debut release.
Having emerged from Vancouver’s psychedelic scene in the late 1960s as The Collectors, the original Chilliwack lineup recorded five albums for four different record companies between 1970-1975 before signing with Mushroom Records label in 1976. Under the direction of label VP Shelly Siegel, Chilliwack released Dreams Dreams Dreams in 1977 which included hit singles; “Fly By Night”, ”California Girl” and “Baby Blue” which was followed by their 1978 release “Lights From The Valley” which featured the introduction of guitarist Brian MacLeod (both achieving platinum sales status).
Unfortunately, Siegel (whose label also featured Heart and Jerry Doucette) died unexpectedly from a brain aneurysm January 17, 1979, leaving Mushroom in financial turmoil, just after Chilliwack had released their somewhat ironically named “Trouble In Paradise” album.
Henderson, MacLeod and bassist Ab Bryant were then picked up by Neil Dixon and Steve Propas for their fledgling Toronto-based Solid Gold Records, releasing two more consecutive platinum-selling albums “Wanna Be A Star” (1981) and “Opus X” featuring major hits like “My Girl (Gone, Gone, Gone) 1981” and “Whatcha Going To Do” (1982). But again, fates conspired against the band when McLeod and Bryant left Chilliwack to join label mates The Headpins only for Solid Gold to stop functioning in 1985 just as a cobbled-together Chilliwack released “Look In Look Out”. MacLeod tragically passed away on April 1997 after a valiant battle with cancer.
“People told me that the music industry is a tough business. I had been forewarned and I wasn’t surprised when these things happened,” shrugged Henderson. “I mean, Shelly Siegel died so that’s what happened to Mushroom and we enjoyed some success at Solid Gold.”
Without a label, Henderson moved on to form UHF with two other Vancouver-based stars; Shari Ulrich and Roy (Bim) Forbes but even during the nine years, Henderson received constant calls from promoters and fans alike, pushing for a band reunion.
“I was doing a lot of acoustic stuff at that time, I’d be rocking my acoustic guitar but I still missed that bass/drums sound “ Henderson reflected. “Our music was still getting played all the time so in 1997 I got together with bassist Jeff Adolphe, drummer Gord Maxwell and originally Roy Forbes (later replace by brother Ed Henderson and we went out and did some festivals”.
And they’ve been together ever since, recording one live album “There And Back Live” in 2003 and a topical single “Take Back This Land” in 2015. Henderson is set to perform February 23th 2020 at Ed Sousa’s Rock N Roll Bowl Intimate and Interactive Charity Concert at the Classic Bowl venue in Mississauga On.
Michael Timmins’ reaction to being informed of The Cowboy Junkies’ induction was typical of the band’s spartan recording style. ‘’Oh really, what’s that! I wasn’t sure what the Canadian Hall Of Fame was at first,”
“It’s nice when you get these things but it’s not like, `yeah you’ve made it’.”
Since marking their debut “Whites Off Earth Now” in 1986 followed by their double-platinum, eye-raising “Trinity Sessions” release in 1987, both recorded live off the floor with the band surrounding a single Amp sonic microphone, members Margo (lead vocals), Michael (guitar/songwriter) and drummer Peter Timmins, along with bassist Alan Anton have created a distinctive progressive country/folk sound which has been reflected in 16 studio albums, the last one coming in 2018 with “All That Reckoning”.
“People in the industry thought we were the anti-hype band because we recorded our albums live around one mic but really it was the most basic way of recording,” Timmins reflected. “It came across as being a somewhat unique approach but really, when you think about recording techniques in the ’20s, ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, that’s how all albums were recorded, yet we were viewed as some sort of marvels of the recording!”
“It’s never been about hype” he continued. “We’ve never been too high or for that matter, too low, we’ve just been proud to be a working band,” Timmins allows. “There was a bit of a push from RCA in the States around the release of `The Trinity Sessions’ and our cover of Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane” and we could have pushed Margo out front and gone for ‘the big single’ but we have always just run our business and let the music do the rest. And after more than 30 years of playing with the same lineup, you get to be a pretty good band.”
By Keith Sharp