BLOGGING AND VLOGGING FROM CANADA'S BEST KNOWN UNDISCOVERED OLD WHITE BLUESMAN

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Saturday Afternoon: When I left off on the last post, I was hoping I might schmooze my way into the film, "Festival Express" and at the last minute it worked out and I headed downtown at 2:30 in the afternoon. I was trying to think of the cheapest way to park but as I cruised along Shuter St, I saw the point where the free street parkling ended and the metered street parking began - Jarvis Street! So I walked 4 or 5 blocks then at the theatre, there's a huge lineup. I go to the front of the line to get my ticket from media gal Jane Harbury, but then I have to go back to the end of the line to wait. As I'm walking back I say hi to Ray Blake who I had chatted with at the party the previous night. He was part of Mashmakhan, a very big band in Montreal in the 70s - less known in Toronto. At the party, I had introduced him to Toronto music historian/musicologist/archivist Bill Munson who surprised him by telling him he owned several obscure 45s that Ray appeared on.



When the movie starts up, the first band to play is Mashmakhan, and there is Ray in his 70's glory. Looking very dapper. It must have been a great moment for him. I wonder how it was for some of the other "stakeholders" at that premiere. At one point in his remarks, the director said "To the guy that put it all together, wherever you are, Ken Walker...." and just then several people a few rows in front of me stand up and shout "He's right here" pointing to Ken Walker in the aisle seat. He takes a little bow, but as the producers walk back upo the aisle, I notice there is no contact as they walk right by him. No "hi-fives" here. I hear later from Rob Bowman that it's been a lot of struggles getting it out - all the footage for the Toronto concert had been stolen, and I just had the feeling that there was a lot of sour grapes still - after 30 years. Maybe some of them will recover the money they lost 30 years ago. The other partner, Thor Eaton, probably doesn't need the money.



The performances by Janis Joplin in the film are close-up, gritty, full-tilt Janis. The Band casts their spell and the look like they just drove up from Big Pink. The Grateful Dead are stars of the show - especially when they agree to put a couple of flat-bed trucks together outside the stadium and give a free concert to quell a riot. But where were Bonnie & Delaney? We see them jammin' on the train, but was the stage performance too rough? Traffic was also cut out because their songs were way too long and they wouldn't allow them to be edited.



Tuesday 5:30, The Rivoli: It's the CD Launch for the Gordon Lightfoot tribute album, and the house is stunned when Gordon himself is introduced from the stage by Grit Laskin. Word is he's not well, and he looks a little gaunt but he hung in right to the end - even going up to the stage to shake hands with Aengus Finnan who performed an original composition about Lightfoot and told how it helped him understand Canada (he came from U.K) James Keelaghan played a live rendition of the Canadian Railroad Trilogy - imagine doing that with Lightfoot himself in the audience. He pulled it off great. Interespersed between the live performances they played tracks from the album. It's hard enough to get the attention of a media schmooze audience when you're playing live - it's even harder to get them to shut up and listen to recorded music, even if it's a first like the Cowboy Junkies or Bruce Cockburn doing a Lightfoot song.



10:30 After attending two board meetings (my co-op and the end of the Blues Society meeting) I still have enough steam head up to the Iridescent Music Anniversary party. There's sure to be some great folks playing. I drive up with Lily Sazz and Matt, the new TBS admin guy. When I walk in, Blue Willow is playing. They're the only band that ever fired me - but I deserved it. I was so overcomitted doing all these newsletters that I would miss rehearsals and often be late for gigs. Five years later, the girls are still at it and sounding great!



I start talking to London sax player Chris Murphy about the last discussion at the board meeting - the dying blues venmues in Toronto. He travels a lot and sees this happening in many other towns. He said something interesting, though. In his travels in ther States, he founf the really succesful blues bars had a few things in common: They were in the suburbs with lost of free parking, a safe clean environment, good food - establishmenst that did very well all day as restaurants. And the audience was well-heeled professionals who livbed in the area. Well, yuppies deserve the blues, too.



The stage changes over and we're listening to Johnny Wright, one of the finest R&B singers to come out of this town. Michael Fonfara is playing keyboards and Joe Mavety is on guitar. There's another guitar player, short blond hair, very youthful looking - turns out it's the legendary Danny Weiss, moved back to Toronto. Gary Kendall says to me me "That's the guy who's supposed to play on your album" - and I remembered telling him that Frazier M. had offered to remake my album for $1500. and the first thing he said was he was going to get Danny Weiss to play guitar. That was a deal buster. No reflection on Danny - he's a phenomenal musician - but the guitar star on my album has got to be *me*. Producer David Baxter saiud "you hire a guitar player to produce your album then you don't let him play!" Maybe it was a big mistake, Davis is a real creative guita4r player, probably more suited to my songs than a Danny Weiss. But it's up to me now, time to get back to those overdubs.