Proudly Canadian: Larry Harvey Rest in Peace

Larry Harvey Then and Now - Same suit, guitar and tie (1).jpg

In the early morning of November 30, 2015, Larry Harvey passed away at Toronto East General Hospital. He was a Canadian icon as a successful country singer and musician, and one of the first artists to be signed as a Canadian to an American label in the 1950’s.

Larry had hits on the CHUM Charts, and could have gone on to a huge career but he chose to raise a family instead.

Beloved husband of Vergena, and an inspiration as a father to Gail, Robin and Shane, a grandfather to Rejane, Katie and Kelly, and grandsons Eric, Michael, Rylan and Brooks as well as step-granddad to Zack, and great grandfather to Jesse, Uncle to Laura, Jane, Susan and Paul Jr.

Larry Harvey’s strong will, captivating voice and love of music will live on in all of his family who loved him dearly.

May 27 2011 Larry Harvey Cashbox CoverMay 27 2011 Larry Harvey Cashbox CoverRerun of Story May 27, 2011:
Submitted by Sandy Graham 

Speaking on the telephone with Larry Harvey, you can actually picture the 'twinkle' in his eye when he recounts his life of love, music and family. Although over 80, his voice is young, vibrant and most of all excited about the future.

'I was born in Cornerbrook, Newfoundland but my Mom and Dad moved to Carmanville (about 45 minutes away from Cornerbrook) and that is where I grew up. Nashville reminds me of Carmanville; with all the hills you have to run up and down to get places. The main street in Nashville, which is Broadway, looks like an East Coast town, going up and down the street and visiting Ernest Tubbs Record Store. It hasn't changed in decades and neither has Carmanville. I used to sing in church with my Granddaddy; the South is the same with those traditions.'
Harvey returned to Nashville, over fifty years later to achieve his personal dream of playing The Ryman Theatre, a legendary venue whose stage has been graced by a roster of greats which would read like a Country Music Award Ceremony. This is where the story of "Paper Promises" really begins, as Larry's son Shane decided to give Dad a very special Birthday present. Shane Harvey, Larry's youngest child, had this idea that at the age of 80, his Dad could sing and play again. Somewhere, somehow.

Father and son started rehearsing, and it sounded pretty good. They visited one of Larry's old haunts, just to say that Larry had hit the stage again and the sound kept getting better and better.

Shane wondered aloud why his Dad had never played Country Music's most famous stage, The Ryman Theatre in the heart of downtown old Nashville, the original home of The Grand Ole Opry and a Country music shrine.

But let's take you back to how a talented young singer, who toured with Bobby Helms (Fraulein, My Special Angel, Jingle Bell Rock) and shared the stage with Hank Snow, ('I said hey Hank, I 'll help you out a little bit on stage' quips Harvey) walks way from all of that.

'I moved to Toronto over 60 years ago and fell in love. I first saw Vergena when she came over with my Uncle. It was love at first sight. She has been at my side ever since.'

Larry's young wife Vergena helped get his music to the "right people" at King Records in Nashville. They liked what they heard, and before he knew it Larry Harvey was headed for the "big time". Or so he thought. He recorded and released a number of singles for the label, some even charted in the "Top Ten", but real success eluded him. Reality did not. With two young daughters at home and a son on the way, Larry Harvey had a family to feed. Frustrated by empty promises (and an even emptier bank account) Larry requested a release from his recording contract. For the next twenty years he put his dreams on hold, working for steady wages at a Toronto car-parts factory.

Larry and Vergena raised three talented and successful children; Robin Harvey, journalist and free-lance writer for The Toronto Star, Gail Harvey Director and Graduate of The Norman Jewison Film School, and Shane Harvey, whose idea for the documentary 'Paper Promises' has become a reality.

When Shane started to research who his 'Dad' was he came up with mindboggling facts. Larry Harvey was on the 1956 Country Music Association members list, right along with Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins, Roy Acuff, Gene Autry, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Grandpa Jones, Minnie Pearl, Hank Snow and Ernest Tubb. "I was thinking wow," said the talented journalist and musician, "That's my dad?" But he couldn't help notice while the others were living the Nashville high life his dad was getting up each morning in obscurity to put in a 12-hour shift at the Acme Screw and Gear Factory to keep the family fed.

If you are wondering what happened with Harvey while on the road to success here is what he had to say.

"There were bills to pay and family always came  first," explained Larry from the same home he has lived in near Jones and Danforth in Toronto for over 60 years. Having my three kids Gail, Robin and Shane is like winning the lottery every day of my life. That and the love I share with Vergena; I wouldn't trade a minute of that for anything else in this life.'

Life looked promising when songs like 'The Seasons', 'Rolling Home' and 'When Love Becomes A Burden' were getting airplay. Things were starting to happen for the handsome young country crooner. He even had the support of his own hero, Hank Snow, a fellow Maritimer who two years earlier got a teen named Elvis Presley on the Grand Ole Opry for his one and only appearance.

Larry was on his way. But what happened next is what Shane says is "the best Newfie joke of all time." Larry's songs were getting American airplay but they could not hear them back on The Rock.  "I am a Newfie and always will be. I wanted out of my contract because I wanted people to hear me back home," laughs Larry.

Seemed like a good idea at the time. King Records obliged but Larry learned getting a new deal was not as easy as he'd thought.  When Elvis made his first commercial recordings for RCA in 1956 the music game was already changing.  In the years that followed while Larry performed locally at The Crossroads or The Ulster Arms Tavern he didn't get to release other recorded songs including 'Paper Promises' and 'I want You I Need You.'

On October 21, 2010 Shane Harvey took his Dad to perform at the Ryman Theatre to film footage for the 80 minute documentary 'Paper Promises', which has it all; love, life, tears, laughter and most of all the music of Larry Harvey. It premiered on the Super Channel November 29 2010, and is now available for purchase online at www.paper-promises.com.

When asked what his favourite part of the whole 'Paper Promises' experience was Larry said, 'All of it. Just doing it. And having my son direct and produce it. 'Paper Promises', the song, was originally recorded at the old RCA Studios on Mutual Street in Toronto so I guess you could say it has come full circle. We are in rehearsal now for some live gigs Shane has booked. We are also in the recording studio on June 5. It doesn't get any better than that.'

So father and son, who look so much alike in photos of new and old, have fulfilled a lifelong dream and thanks to Larry Harvey's son, Shane, a promise is kept.

In closing, here's Larry's best advice for up and comers: 'Keep a straight head, believe in what you are doing and most of all, hold the ship straight or you will sink.'

For further information log on www.paper-promises.com