Dr. John with Mavis and Yolanda Staples, Toronto Jazz Festival, 2013. Photo: Bill King
Dr. John with Mavis and Yolanda Staples, Toronto Jazz Festival, 2013. Photo: Bill King

Music News Digest, June 7, 2019

Vérité Films (Corner Gas) has announced its return to children’s television with Jeremy and Tunebug. The animated children’s television, music, and multi-platform digital brand stars Juno-nominated singer/songwriter Jeremy Fisher Junior and is produced in association with Jeremy Fisher Music and Hidden Pony Records & Management. With support from the Canada Media Fund-Shaw Rocket Fund Kids Digital Animated Series Program, Jeremy and Tunebug will begin its first phase of production in fall 2019.

Jeremy and Tunebug brings to life the whimsical characters, stories, and songs from Fisher's acclaimed debut children’s album Highway to Spell. The series revolves around Jeremy, a story-telling singer-songwriter (voiced by Fisher), and Tunebug, his best friend and magical recording studio on wheels. It is designed as a multi-platform entertainment brand that includes fully-animated television half hours, digital shorts, a play-to-play-music/play-to-read-stories app, and a website where kids can interact with Fisher.

– Ole Media Management, one of the world’s leading independent music and entertainment content and services companies, has announced the change of its name to Anthem Entertainment, effective immediately. A press release states that "Embracing some of the legacies of its past, the rebranding of ole reflects the evolution of the company and its vision for the future."

Led by CEO Helen Murphy, Anthem Entertainment’s ownership, staff and offices will remain the same, as will all of the sub-brands - Cavendish Music, Compact Media, Jingle Punks and 5 Alarm Music. As part of the rebrand, Anthem has released its new company logo and website at anthementertainment.com. Anthem Records was founded by renowned artist manager Ray Danniels (Rush) in 1977. As part of the acquisition of the Rush masters and publishing in 2015, ole acquired The Anthem Entertainment Group, comprising Anthem Records, and Anthem Film & Television Productions. Anthem Entertainment is home to Rush, Big Wreck, Max Webster, Kim Mitchell, and more. Source: Anthem Entertainment

– The Canadian Music Publishers Association has announced its Create Canada song camp and expanded presence at the Banff World Media Festival (BANFF40) that runs through June 9 at Calgary's National Music Centre. Participating songwriters include Bobby John (Bloc Notes), Chris Kirby (Sound Of Pop), Claire Ridgely (Outloud), GUS (Cadence/MapleCore), James Baley (Six Shooter), Joshua Moreno (Bloc Notes), Reeny Smith (Cymba Music Publishing), and SORAN (Editorial Avenue). Producers participating include Corey LeRue (Hyvetown Music), Denise De’ion, MYYA, and Dan Davidson (Redbrick). De’ion and MYYA are participants in CMPA’s Women in the Studio program, which aims to increase the presence of female producers in the music industry.

– NXNE has announced the addition of 94 acts to its Club Land 2019 lineup. They include Swamp Dogg,  Single Mothers,  Oh Susanna, and Total Freedom. Club Land shows will be performed at noted music venues across Toronto from June 7-16. The official NXNE app is available to download from Apple Store and Google Play.

– Veteran Quebec progressive sci-fi metal band Voivod has announced an upcoming North America tour with Revocation. Show dates begin Sept. 14th in Toronto and conclude in Brooklyn on Oct. 12. Dates here

Voivod has just been nominated for International Artist of the Year in the 2019 Progressive Music Awards, held Sept. 12 in London at the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. The band recently won a Juno Award for Metal/Hard Music Album Of The Year” for their recent album The Wake.

– The Canadian Football League (CFL) and Universal Music Canada have announced the return of the Thursday Night Football Concert Series this summer. Major Canadian acts entertaining fans at the games include The Trews (who open the series on June 13), The Reklaws, The Northern Pikes, Jade Eagleson, Zach Zoya, Tim Hicks, Classified, Chad Brownlee, and Crown Lands. More details here

– A celebration of life gathering has been set for longtime ASCAP executive and songwriter champion Ralph Murphy, who died May 28 at age 75. The event will be held June 25 from 2-4 pm at Nashville’s 3rd & Lindsley (818 3rd Ave. S). Murphy’s family, friends, and colleagues are invited to join for a time of sharing favorite memories, stories, and music. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to Alive Hospice or Habitat for Humanity.

–  WILD 953 and Alberta Music host a free Project Wild 2019 Orientation afternoon event at the King Eddy in Calgary on June 15. Meet this year's Top 12 finalists and hear a performance from last year's first place winners, The Prairie States

– The TD Markham Jazz Festival has announced 10-piece funk band Oakland Stroke as the headline act for its 2019 Opening Night Concert and Party, held at Markham Museum on Aug. 14. The 22nd edition of this fest runs Aug. 14-18. Full lineup TBA.

– Another sign of the impact the Toronto Raptors' playoffs run has had on the city is provided by hit local rapper Nav. He had a show skedded at Echo Beach that coincided with the Raptors playing the Golden State Warriors in Toronto in Game 5 of the NBA finals, June 10, and Nav decided to reschedule his show to avoid that conflict. The new show is on July 6.

– The Stephen Stanley Band (headed by the former Lowest Of The Low member) has signed a two album deal with CRS/Continental Record Services out of The Netherlands. The label will be releasing the SSB's 2018 album Jimmy & the Moon throughout Europe on June 14.

– The annual Roncy Rocks free street fest on Roncesvalles Ave in Toronto's west end typically attracts top-notch music acts, and this year's event is no exception. Those set to perform on Saturday (June 8) include NQ Arbuckle, Damhnait Doyle, KC Roberts, and Royal Wood.

– Polaris Prize winner Tanya Tagaq plays the Niagara Stage Concert Series, Queen Victoria Park in Niagara Falls on June 28, a free show to the public as part of National Indigenous Month.

RIP

Brian Doherty, guitarist and co-founder of Big Wreck, died on June 5, age 51.

In a joint statement, Big Wreck wrote the following: "It is with a heavy heart that we share the news that our brother, Brian Doherty, passed away peacefully yesterday after a prolonged and brave struggle with cancer. Brian started Big Wreck with Ian in their dorm in Boston, and his passing is a profound loss to us all.  Our deepest condolences go out to Brian's family.  He was a good soul who will be missed by all who knew him personally or through the beautiful music he performed."

Big Wreck was formed in Boston in 1994 by singer/guitarist Ian Thornley, with Doherty, Dave Henning, and Forrest Williams. Following a pair of albums and multiple radio hits, the group disbanded in 2002.

After a few years of gigging in the Boston area, the band signed to Atlantic Records and released their debut album In Loving Memory Of... In the US, their single The Oaf (My Luck Is Wasted) reached the top ten on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart in early 1998. Four months later, their follow-up single That Song reached the top 40 on that same chart. The band found even more significant commercial success in Canada, scoring four top 40 hits on the Canadian Singles Chart.

Big Wreck released their second album, The Pleasure and the Greed, in June 2001. 

The band broke up in 2002. Ian Thornley moved back to Toronto and formed the band, Thornley. Doherty moved to Camlachie, a small community near Sarnia, Ontario, where he taught guitar and prepared students for University or Conservatory entrance requirements. He also went on to form the indie band Death of 8.

In 2010, Thornley and Doherty reunited for a cross-Canada tour. In 2012, Big Wreck released a comeback album, Albatross, followed by 2014's Ghosts and 2017's Grace Street.

Doherty's family will receive friends at the D.J. Robb Funeral Home at 102 North Victoria St. in Sarnia-Lambton, ON, on Saturday (June 7) from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sources: Expedia, Facebook

Dr. John (born Malcolm John Rebennack, Jr.), the flamboyant New Orleans singer-pianist whose hoodoo-drenched music made him the summarizing figure of the grand Crescent City R&B/rock ‘n’ roll tradition, died June 6 of a heart attack at age 77, after years of declining health.

Rebennack had already tallied more than a decade of experience as a session musician in his hometown and Los Angeles when he rose to solo fame in the late ‘60s after concocting his voodoo-influenced, patois-laced persona of “the Night Tripper.”

New Orleans music journalist Keith Spera writes that "Dr. John, initially aspired to be a professional songwriter, producer and sideman, like the utilitarian New Orleans musicians who forged his creative worldview in the 1950s. He wanted to work behind the scenes, not out front.

"But after assuming the persona of Dr. John the Night Tripper in the late 1960s, Rebennack was behind the scenes no more. His idiosyncratic style and sound – the gravelly growl, the sly, deceptively leisurely phrasing, the hipster patois, the hybrid Big Easy piano – embodied New Orleans and its music."

Active as a session musician since the late 1950s, he gained a following in the late 1960s after the release of his album Gris-Gris

He made a splash by performing a lively, theatrical stage show inspired by medicine shows, Mardi Gras costumes and voodoo ceremonies.

Rebennack recorded more than 20 albums and in 1973 produced a top-10 hit, Right Place, Wrong Time.

The winner of six Grammy Awards, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by singer John Legend in March 2011. His most recent Grammy came in 2012 for the best blues album, Locked Down."

Dr. John frequently performed in Toronto over many decades. As news of his passing spread on social media, many affectionate anecdotes and tributes were posted. Pianist/composer/journalist Bill King tells FYI that "one of my favourite all time conversations was with the good doctor some years back. Doc was penciling notes on a music chart, prepping a set list and smoking a Sherman cigarette. I admit being a shy/nervous but the moment I saw him locked into pad and paper I felt a genuine calmness. The good doctor was gracious, and we spoke mostly the same language, the mysteries of life and music."

 Sources: Variety, New Orleans Advocate, Bill King

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