RIP Gerry Lacoursiere
Germain Robert Joseph (Gerry) Lacoursiere, the man responsible for the launch of A&M Records in Canada, died last night with his family at his home in Windsor, ON. He was 80.
The legendary Canadian record label executive was inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame in 1997, just after he retired from the position of Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Polygram Group. He was also presented the Billboard International Business Achievement Award by the trade publication.
Lacoursiere was appointed to that position in October 1990 to oversee the amalgamation of Polygram, A&M, and Island Records.
A & M Records Canada was established in 1970 under Lacoursiere’s direction. It was headquartered in Toronto, and, by 1990, had branch offices in six other cities.
Lacoursiere was born in Sturgeon Falls in northern Ontario, the 14th of 16 children.
His start in the record business began as a stock clerk at Decca Records in Detroit. In 1963 he joined Liberty Records as their Detroit promo rep and was promoted to Midwest Promotion Manager, in 1967. After a stint in Atlanta, he moved to Chicago as the Midwest Regional Manager, and was then hired in September 1969 by Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss (the 'A' and the 'M' of A&M Records) to open, as Managing Director, the Canadian division of their company.
On April 1, 1970, A&M Records Canada opened at 255 Yorkland Boulevard, Toronto, with three employees.
In 1973 Lacoursiere’s title changed to Vice-President & General Manager of A&M Records, Canada and then, in 1977, he became President.
Lacoursiere’s leadership and savvy instincts helped A&M quickly become a significant force in the Canadian music business. The label’s primary focus was to distribute and promote A & M's US releases in Canada, but he took pride in signing and developing Canadian artists. Homegrown success stories included Bryan Adams, Cano, Gino Vannelli, Veronique Beliveau, Bim, Chilliwack, Offenbach, Payola$, Peter Pringle, Ian Tyson and Valdy.
Lacoursiere also had a perceptive ear in terms of finding potential hits. He once told RPM that "I was such a bad [record] salesman, they made me a promotion man--and I think that basically turned out to be my mission in life. I got a kick out of taking a record, I believe in--not because it was happening in Los Angeles or any other market, but that I personally believed in, and going out and getting somebody to play it, and then finding out later that the consumer or the mass public was buying it--and that it was a hit record."
"I still get kicks going [to radio stations] and talking up a record and trying to convey my belief to that program director...I really care. That's why I go there. I believe in the record. I think it's a hit record and I show them what proof I might have other than my belief."
One example of that skill came when he came across the track “Der Kommisar” by Austrian electro-pop artist Falco. A version by British group After The Fire became a big hit in the UK and US, but A&M Canada pushed the Falco version and was rewarded with a sizeable hit here. Falco would go on to score an international chart-topper with “Rock Me Amadeus,” while After The Fire was quickly extinguished.
Another example was provided by “Ode To Joy,” a pop adaptation to a classical chestnut by Spanish artist Miguel Rios. It had been turned down by A&M in Los Angeles, but the Canadian label turned it into a major domestic hit, and the song went on to sell over four million copies worldwide.
After his retirement from the Polygram Group, Lacoursiere served as a director on the boards of Yangaroo and Musicrypt.
He is survived by wife Gay and children Lizette, Robert, Ann Marie, Cathy and Dean.
FYI will be capturing some of the stories and memories people have to share about Gerry Lacoursiere in the days to come.