Past Present and Future for Crack of Dawn

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Submitted by Michael E. Williams

In 1974, upon arriving in Montreal from Cleveland, I immediately sought out the soul music and music with soul. I found it in Montreal clubs and discos like Rockhead's Paradise, In Concert, and The Esquire Show Bar.

In the same year, CBS Records Canada headhunted producer Bob Gallo to become head of A&R. A musician, arranger and composer himself, Bob was impressive in his ability to spot and nurture talent. He wrote for and produced such legends as Otis Redding, James Brown, Ben E. King, Patti LaBelle, Aretha Franklin, Big Mabel, The Rascals, The Drifters and Bo Diddley.

Bob Gallo was the right man for the job to beef up Canada’s soul music scene by signing Crack of Dawn, as the first Canadian Black Band to be signed to a major record deal.

In 1975, they released a well-received single produced by Bob Gallo, a song originally meant for Otis Redding called “The Key”. It was followed by “It’s Alright Feel that Feeling” and the album “Crack of Dawn”. The band broke up in 1977, reformed in 1981 for “Horizons” under Dwight Gabriel. Different band but great record and songs.

I stayed in contact with Glen Ricketts, the Harvey Brothers, and Trevor Daley always bugging them through the years about a Crack of Dawn Reunion. This Canada Day I got my wish. I was asked to host their reunion shows at Ontario Place and the Phoenix Club. I was honoured! The band was great, with Michael Dunston on vocals replacing Glen Ricketts.

Behind the Scene with Last Tango


Submitted by Sandy Graham

To be successful in the music industry, there is so much to do to make it so. Besides the fact that you need to have amazing product, you also need to hire the right people to promote your music. With a slogan that says 'breaking artists - making names' Last Tango Productions  is just that company.Yvonne Valnea, founder and whiz kid behind Last Tango is actually born and bred here. "I was born at St. Michael's Hospital in downtown TO. I have spent most of my life here, except for a few years when I went to live in Italy. I am happy here, I have raised my son here, I work here. TO is my home."

When asked how Valnea felt about the current way music is delivered and promoted to radio she said " I actually think it has evolved to be something quite amazing. I find music directors are more accessible now. It is all about building a relationship with them. Once they begin to trust your judgement (and product) it is a new version of the old way of promoting music. In the old days promo reps would go across the country, visiting stations, mom & pop stores, record stores. Now the social media is so up to date and so quick to deliver, you can promote yourself the same way, only online."

Lincoln Alexander and Quincy Jones An Evening to Remember


Submitted by Michael E. Williams
Photo: Quincy Jones and Lincoln Alexander

I was standing outside the back stage of Roy Thomson Hall for the Oscar Peterson Public Memorial, chatting with Jack Layton and Olivia Chow, waiting for a friend.

My friend, a lifelong friend of Oscar’s and featured guest speaker of the night, was Quincy Jones.

As usual, Quincy was brilliant that night as he gave us wonderful memories of his private and public moments with Oscar. Two of Oscar’s favorite pianists performed - the great Oliver Jones from Montreal and former Studio One pianist, Monty Alexander. Nobody swings harder than Monty Alexander known for his West-Indian swing Flavor.

I sat backstage left next to the amazing Phil Nimmons. Soprano, Measha Brueggergosman, was sitting on my lap. Quincy said to me “beware of the singers they can break your heart”. She is an amazingly wonderful lady with a voice as big as her heart.

I was literally surrounded by musical royalty and history.

The Editor in Chief and COO Speaks Out on Cashbox Canada

Sandy Graham COO - Editor in Chief

We live in an 'instant' world and the days of writing, creating and publishing have become so much faster than the old way of operating a magazine. We have an online issue of Cashbox Magazine, the magazine that started decades ago in the United States and was famous for coining the phrase 'With A Bullet' when a song was making fast moves up the radio charts.

There are days when the electronic world comes crashing down and the October 5 issue fell into that slot. From one of our employees being hacked, to my submitting files being corrupt, late submissions and other issues that seem to only happen when that word 'Deadline' is flashing in front of you. In my haste to publish on time, I made a “clerical” error that saw us publishing the wrong story and caused a maelstrom of activity on the social network FaceBook. I was prepared to move on but in light of the attack on myself, our staff and our publication,  I felt it necessary to respond. My silence might be conceived as guilt.

Bill Wood Eyes on the Prize


Submitted by Michael E. Williams

Photo Credit: Camelia Linta

Needless to say, surviving the business in Canada is not easy. MuchMusic gave new hope to all in 1984.   Record companies scrambled to fill the airwaves with Canadian artists.

Occasionally the music business executives attempted to manufacture groups to fill a certain need or void in the pop landscape.  In Montreal, it was the disco business that created music with no artist attached to the music, just a producer, while in Toronto successful bands created to fill The New Romantics. The trend was big and MuchMusic put a face to that just in time for the video age.

I remember sitting in Bruce Barrow’s office, discussing Platinum Blonde’s explosion upon the scene, fuelled by young girls, cool tunes and Celtic accents...musically they got better. They survived; most did not and for good reason. Manufactured music and bands is where the music business sucks the soul out of music and at its best, it becomes music by committee not a band.

How One Independent Record Label Defied the Odds in Difficult Times

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Submitted by Evelyn Robinson

Seeing Stars

On October 2nd, nearly a decade since their last release, the eight-piece Canadian instrumental rock band Godspeed You! Black Emperor (Godspeed for short) announced a new album, Allelujah! Don't bend! Ascend! The announcement came without any pre-publicity and without any hype, but fans were certain about the album’s quality before they’d heard a single note, and the band’s record label was forced to suspend pre-orders a mere 24 hours after the announcement due to the sheer volume of requests.

Memories of Michael Love!

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Submitted by Michael E. Williams

My chance meeting with Mike Love of the Beach Boy at WNCR, in the Penthouse of the old Stouffers Hotel in downtown Cleveland's Playhouse Square, went down Saturday, November 20th 1971.

I was an intern at the station answering phones and learning radio from David Spero who was a pioneering Dj and manager. (He is currently with The Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame.).

I would go to hang out with the Dj’s (David, Billy Bass, Doyle, Shauna, Denny Saunders and Jeff Gelb, Martin Perlich). The place was pure magic high above city where the view was great. The smell of sandalwood and patchouli permeated the air, when you got off the elevator.

One night The Beach Boys were in town at The Music Hall in support of their classic new release, "Surfs Up”. After the show Mike Love was stopping by the station to say hi and go on the air. The salesmen, record company staff and announcers would often invite artists back to the station after concerts to go live on air and to hang out. Not like today where interviews are never heard on air, just on line. But in 1971 it was all the fun, going live was the way we did it!

The action and studio buzz elevated as Mike Love came in. We ordered food and got comfortable as he talked about his devotion to Transcendental Meditation and the new record.

Kevin Kelly’s Ultimate Heavy Metal Photo Show

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Toronto experimentalist art photographer Kevin Kelly's never been one to rest on his considerable laurels.  He's more about creating works which fuse form, content and cultural relevance into a narrative sustained and developed by each of the show's works. The current exhibition, Rock and Religion, at Akasha Art Projects (511 Church St.) till Saturday Oct. 13, offers images of pop music icons and Biblical billboards on a canvas of brushed steel. With pieces averaging 40 llbs, Kelly's art is weighty in form and content, the later being a meditation on the similarities and differences between Rock and Religion.

"On a drive down to Kentucky I saw the two signs:"If you died today, where would you spend eternity?" and 'HELL IS REAL'  We were late for a dinner engagement so we couldn't stop. The billboards made me angry and on the way back, we retraced the route. After I photographed one sign I discovered they were double sided signs. So the four pieces were all shot in minutes.

"The signs made me angry because they were all about manipulation through fear. The presumption of some to believe they have some kind of de facto authority over others.

"I'm hoping the show will generate discussion along those lines."

The consummate experimentalist, Kelly spent months belt-sanding specially prepared pieces of steel in various shapes and sizes, working like an old time sculptor visualizing the image within the marble. Onto these are printed images of a variety of rock icons, having only in common that he's a fan of their music.

Radio Radio!

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By Michael E. Williams

First there was “Soul in the City”, a radio show in Montreal, that ran every Saturday from 6-midnight on CKGM from about 1981-1984. I designed it to showcase all types of musical talent. There was no music or guest off limits. Our guest list included: Stray Cats, Tina Turner, Fat Boys, Run DMC, Gladys Knight, and all the other artist of the day, local and international. I booked them, called them, engineered, hosted and edited the interviews. It became a hit live radio show with ratings that were historic considering that people pretty much stopped listening to AM Radio once the great Ralph Lockwood era ended (1972-1981). Geoff Sterling had actually declared at a staff meeting that he could broadcast to more people by standing on top of the station, using a bullhorn. He was right, until “Soul in the City” (originally called “Club 980”).

Recently I thought of reviving the show ‘til I talked to a local (Toronto) Program Director that referred to the music as geriatric…?   Today, however, most radio stations (greatest hits formats) are in the hands of people half the age of the music they are being told to play on air.  Part of the deal for me is that you have to trust me to select the music I play!

Mel Shaw and his Freedom For The Song

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It is hard to believe that it has been twenty five years since the "Two Cents Too Long" songwriters and publishers copyright campaign successfully played a part in the passage of Bill-C60 on June 8th 1988. Next year will be the 25th anniversary of the passing of the law.

Mel Shaw, who headed up and directed the campaign, will be publishing a book entitled, Freedom For the Song. The self-penned book will chronicle the entire happening from the inside,  beginning with the first meeting with CMRRA General Manager Paul Berry, and CMPA President, Greg Hambleton, to the Celebration of Songwriters debut evening. It will be a thorough and factual book with perspectives by industry participants, the artists,and the songwriters who stepped up to be counted. The forward will be written by Oscar Brand, the writer of "Something to Sing About".

Freedom For The Song is scheduled for publication through Voice Magazine Books in 2013 in time for the 25th anniversary celebration. The company was started in 1961 when Mel Shaw began to be active publishing and editing the Canadian Voice Magazine in Calgary ( it was published every two weeks until 1964.) The newly activated company will concentrate on Canada's Music Business Books and has other titles scheduled for 2013. They will come out in soft cover and will also be available in eBooks.

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