Music News Digest, Jan. 17, 2022
The North by Northeast (NXNE) Music Festival is slated to return to Toronto June 14-19, with showcase performances in more than 25 venues. In a statement, NXNE founder Michael Hollett notes “After two years of Covid it’s more important than ever to showcase emerging new musicians and to support the incredible live music scene of Toronto. To ensure that NXNE 2022 is as inclusive as possible, there will be no fees to apply to play the Festival." Hollett also promises the shows will be free or low-priced. Apply here
– The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra is postponing its Winnipeg New Music Festival to Jan. 25, 26 and 28. The event features composers such as Harry Stafylakis, Kelly-Marie Murphy, Nicole Lizée, Eliot Britton, Michael Oesterle and more, plus a tribute to legendary composer Sofia Gubaidulina. Three in-person concerts will be presented at the Centennial Concert Hall; capacity will be limited to 50 per cent, up to a max of 250 patrons. All performances will also be available as a livestream option on My WSO TV.
– Canadian folk singer/songwriter turned arts administrator Aengus Finnan will step away from his role as Folk Alliance International’s Executive Director, later this year, after nearly eight years in the position. On FB, Finnan posted that "Being in this role has been a profound personal and professional honour and it has been an absolute joy to work with the staff and board over the past 8 years. Very proud of all we have accomplished and how we have grown. I'm not sure what is on the horizon for me after this year's conference in May, but I know the future is bright for us all."
–The Toronto Symphony Orchestra has appointed Mark Williams as its new chief executive officer. The American comes over from the highly-regarded Cleveland Orchestra, where he is chief artistic and operations officer. Williams replaces Matthew Loden, who resigned from the post last July.
– Now based in LA, highly-touted singer-songwriter Jadea Kelly is preparing to release her new full-length album in a couple of months. An advance single came out on Friday, and you can check it out here.
– Each year, the Forest City London Music Hall of Fame inducts a handful of elite musicians, and it now allows the public to suggest worthy candidates from the London, ON region. For a full list of Hall of Fame members, visit here. Make your suggestion here or via FB here by Jan. 31.
– Canadian touring is on hold now, but Juno-winning prairie bluegrass faves The Dead South are continuing an extensive US trek, in advance of the release of the new album, Easy Listening for Jerks Parts I & II, on March 4. The Served Cold tour runs from Jan. 14 to Feb. 4, with an excellent opening act, folk trio Rainbow Girls, then continues, May 11-21, produced by Live Nation. Full itinerary here. The group's new single is a fresh take on bluegrass/country classic Will The Circle Be Unbroken. Listen here.
– Powerhouse Toronto soul/blues combo Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar has postponed its Jan 26 - Feb 5 Western Canada tour (you know why) until Nov. Details on new dates will be available soon.
– Last week, SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival announced Shannon Josdal as the organization’s new Executive Director. Josdal is also currently SaskMusic's President. The 35th SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival plans to run June 30- July 10.
– Adventurous Toronto singer/songwriter Maylee Todd has signed to prestigious US label Stones Throw, and her debut album for the label, Maloo.Maloo, is coming soon. It is termed a concept album of “science fiction lullabies” named after Maylee Todd’s digital avatar. Here is an advance track.
Tyrone Gabriel, a Toronto vocalist best known as a member of The Nylons, died on Jan. 11. Age and cause of death have not been reported.
Gabriel joined the veteran a capella vocal group in 2005, replacing Mark Cassius as baritone. He moved to the bass position to replace Arnold Robinson a year later. He remained a member of the group through to its farewell tour in 2016. Sources: Wikipedia, Ottawa Citizen
– R. (Richard) Dean Taylor, Canadian recording artist, songwriter and producer who wrote hits for himself and others, died on Jan. 7 at his longtime home in LA. He was 82.
Unsubstantiated reports of his passing had been circulating last week, and veteran music publisher Frank Davies contacted FYI on Jan. 13 to confirm the news. “I called his wife Janee this morning,” wrote Davies. “She told me that a year ago R. Dean had been hospitalized with Covid but after two weeks returned home and had been there since, under hospice care.”
“R. Dean and Janee were married for 52 years. They had no children and since Janee is not on any of the social media she has had no way to advise anyone in the industry.”
As founder of the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, Davies was able to induct Taylor’s song Love Child, a major hit for The Supremes, into the CSHF in 2008.
Taylor had his own hits, including Indiana Wants Me, Let’s Talk It Over, Gotta See Jane, and There’s A Ghost In My House. Those who scored hits with his compositions included The Temptations (All I Need), The Four Tops (I’ll Turn To Stone), and Brenda Holloway (Just Look What You've Done).
The Classic Motown site states that "Mentored by Holland, Dozier and Holland in songwriting and production techniques, Canadian-born singer R. Dean Taylor also became a hit composer in his own right. As an artist, he specialized in songs that told stories like his international 1970 smash Indiana Wants Me, which became a popular attraction on both sides of the Atlantic, giving Motown its first success in the growing genre of white pop-rock singer-songwriters." That song hit No. 1 in Cashbox in the US and was also No. 1 in Canada and No. 2 in the UK, making R. Dean Taylor the first white artist in the history of Motown to have a million-selling hit.
Taylor was born in Toronto, and he began his career in 1961, as a pianist and singer with several local country music bands. He also made his first recordings in 1961, for the Audiomaster record label. 1962's At The High School Dance, a single for Amy-Mala Records, was a minor success, and was followed by I'll Remember, on the Barry label, a No. 23 success for Toronto rock radio station CHUM.
Taylor then decided to relocate to Detroit to further his career. There, Taylor auditioned for and was hired by Motown in 1964 as a songwriter and recording artist for the subsidiary V.I.P. label. In Nov. 1965, his debut V.I.P. single, Let's Go Somewhere, was issued. It was written by Taylor in conjunction with Brian Holland, and produced by the team of Holland and Lamont Dozier, who had already produced five No. 1 hits for The Supremes. However, the song was only a regional success in several U.S. cities and Toronto.
Taylor's next single, 1967's There's A Ghost In My House, was written by the team of Holland–Dozier–Holland along with Taylor, and again produced by Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier. It was a commercial disappointment in the US, but it was a No. 3 hit in the UK Singles Chart in 1974. Taylor was also beginning to become a songwriter for other acts, and in 1968, Taylor's self-produced single Gotta See Jane, co-written with Brian Holland, became a Top 20 hit in the UK.
After Holland, Dozier and Holland left Motown, more success for Taylor came as a member of the Motown writing and production team known as "The Clan", together with Frank Wilson, Pam Sawyer and Deke Richards. Among Taylor's successful co-compositions and co-productions during 1968 and 1969 as a member of The Clan were Diana Ross & the Supremes' No. 1 US hit Love Child and their Top 10 follow-up hit I'm Livin' In Shame.
Taylor resumed his recording career in 1970, becoming one of the first artists assigned to Motown's new subsidiary Rare Earth, which was dedicated to white artists, and his major hit Indiana Wants Me followed.
He continued recording for Rare Earth and working as a writer/producer for other artists until Rare Earth was ended in 1976. Though he never again scored high on the charts, his subsequent releases did moderately well, especially in Canada.
Taylor attempted a comeback during the early 1980s, after which he had a hiatus from the music industry. He also established his own record company, Jane Records, in 1973. He built a recording studio at his home in Los Angeles and worked on an unpublished memoir of his time at Motown.
Frank Davies informs that "R. Dean had a website he put together many years ago and not updated since but anyone wishing to contact Janee can do so through that site here." Sources: Frank Davies, Classic Motown, Wikipedia
– Jerry Crutchfield, an American country and pop record producer, songwriter, and musician, died on Jan. 11, age 87.
Notable albums produced by Crutchfield that obtained gold, platinum, and multi-platinum status include records by Lee Greenwood, Tanya Tucker, Chris LeDoux, Tracy Byrd, and Lisa Brokop. He also produced artists such as Anne Murray, Dottie West, Tammy Wynette, Glen Campbell, Brenda Lee, Buck Owens, The Gatlin Brothers, and Mylon LeFevre, and he produced Dave Loggins’ No. 1 pop hit, Please Come to Boston.
Nominated multiple times as producer of the Country Music Association's (CMA) Song of the Year award, Crutchfield won that honor twice. He was also nominated for the Dove Award for three Gospel/Christian albums, having won the award for Traditional Gospel Record of the Year by The Hemphills.
An award-winning songwriter, Crutchfield had over 150 songs recorded by such major artists as Elvis Presley, The Crickets, Brenda Lee, Eddy Arnold, Tanya Tucker, Lee Greenwood, Lou Rawls, Ricky Nelson, Tammy Wynette, Ernest Tubb, Faron Young, Charley Pride, and Lefty Frizzell. His song My Whole World Is Falling Down was a top ten pop hit by Brenda Lee, and a European hit for French singer Sylvie Vartan.
Crutchfield is credited with establishing MCA Music Publishing as a major publishing house during a 25-year career there. He left to serve as Executive Vice President/General Manager of Capitol Records for four years, then returned to MCA Music Publishing for a three-year period as president of its Nashville division.
Crutchfield has served as national trustee for The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) and has served on the board of directors of the Nashville chapter of NARAS, the Country Music Association, and the Gospel Music Association. Sources: Wikipedia, Lightner Comms.
– Ralph Emery, a legendary disc jockey and country music television host, died on Jan. 15, age 88.
A member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, Emery rose to fame during the late-night hours on Nashville's WSM Radio (home of the Grand Ole Opry), where he hosted and allowed many new artists a chance to be heard for the first time. Throughout his career, Emery hosted Pop! Goes The Country, Nashville Now, Ralph Emery Live, Ralph Emery’s Memories, and more. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2007 and in 2010, he was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame.
Rolling Stone notes that "Emery became the face of The Nashville Network (TNN). From 1983 until 1993, he hosted the cable channel’s primetime talk show Nashville Now, interviewing legends of the genre: Waylon Jennings, Chet Atkins, Neil Young, John Prine, Keith Whitley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Crystal Gayle, and Barbara Mandrell all sat across from Emery’s desk."
Dubbed “The Dean of Country Music Broadcasters,” Emery published his best-selling memoir, Memories: The Autobiography of Ralph Emery, in 1991. From 2007 to 2015, Emery hosted the weekly program, Ralph Emery Live, on RFD-TV, a satellite and cable television channel devoted to rural American culture.
Emery was married to Grand Ole Opry star Skeeter Davis, from 1960-64.
Noted music stars paying their respects include David Frizzell, Sam Moore, The Oak Ridge Boys, Don McLean, T.G. Sheppard, Janie Fricke, T. Graham Brown, and Rhonda Vincent.
In a press release, Kyle Young, CEO of Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, stated “Ralph Emery’s impact in expanding country music’s audience is incalculable. On radio and on television, he allowed fans to get to know the people behind the songs. Ralph was more a grand conversationalist than a calculated interviewer, and it was his conversations that revealed the humour and humanity of Tom T. Hall, Barbara Mandrell, Tex Ritter, Marty Robbins, and many more. Above all, he believed in music and in the people who make it.” Sources: Rolling Stone, 2911 Media, Wikipedia
– Dallas Frazier, a songwriter known for penning hits including The Oak Ridge Boys‘ 1981 classic Elvira, and Gene Watson‘s Fourteen Carat Mind, died on Jan. 14, age 82.
By age 14, Frazier was writing songs and recording for Capitol Records. In 1960, Frazier had his first success as a songwriter, when Alley Oop became a pop hit for the Hollywood Argyles. Three years later, he moved to Nashville.
In 1967, the Frazier-penned There Goes My Everything, recorded by Jack Greene, was named song of the year by the Country Music Association.
Frazier also found success co-writing songs with A.L. “Doodle” Owens, including Charley Pride‘s first No. 1 Billboard Hot Country Songs hit, 1969’s All I Have to Offer You (Is Me).
Connie Smith and George Jones were also among those who recorded several of Frazier’s hits. Another’s of Frazier’s best-known songs, Elvira, was previously recorded by Rodney Crowell before it became a smash hit for the Oak Ridge Boys in 1981. The group’s recording of the song earned the Country Music Association’s single of the year honour.
During his career, Frazier earned three Grammy nominations, for his work on There Goes My Everything, All I Have To Offer You (Is Me), and Elvira. In 1980, Frazier’s Beneath Still Waters became a No. 1 country hit for Emmylou Harris, and Frazier also co-wrote Tanya Tucker‘s first No. 1 hit, What’s Your Mama’s Name? Frazier was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1976.
“Dallas Frazier is among the greatest country songwriters of all time,” said Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Source: Billboard
– Jon Lind, writer of hits for Earth, Wind & Fire and Madonna and an A&R exec, died on Jan. 15, of cancer, aged 73.
Lind’s catalogue, in which Primary Wave acquired a majority stake last year, included such songs as Boogie Wonderland and Sun Goddess by Earth, Wind & Fire, Save the Best for Last by Vanessa Williams (an ASCAP Song of the Year) and Crazy for You by Madonna, the latter two of which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
He also co-wrote hits for Cher, Deniece Williams, Atlantic Starr, Aaron Neville, the Emotions, Rick Astley, and others.
Lind also was head of A&R for Hollywood Records, where he worked closely with Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato and Jesse McCartney, among others. Source: Variety
– James Mtume, a jazz musician who became an R&B hitmaker, died on Jan. 9, at 76.
Mtume was best known for his work with Miles Davis and for his R&B hit Juicy Fruit. As a percussionist, Mtume rose to prominence as a sideman for jazz greats McCoy Tyner, Freddie Hubbard, and Miles Davis. He ended up joining Davis’s group and recorded seven albums between 1971 and 1975.
He then founded his own R&B group, also called Mtume, with which he developed a blend of soul, jazz and funk that he dubbed “Sophistifunk.” The band is best known for their 1983 hit Juicy Fruit, which went on to become a staple among hip-hop producers and was sampled in songs by Alicia Keys, Lil’ Kim, Snoop Dogg and the Notorious B.I.G.
As a songwriter, Mtume, often in collaboration with Reggie Lucas, wrote hits for a variety of artists including Phyllis Hyman, Roberta Flack (The Closer I Get To You, Back Together Again), Donny Hathaway, Stephanie Mills, Mary J. Blige and Teddy Pendergrass.
Born in Philadelphia, Mtume was the son of saxophonist Jimmy Heath but was raised by his mother Bertha Forman and stepfather James “Hen Gates” Forman, a pianist with Charlie Parker’s band.
In addition to his work as a musician, songwriter and producer, Mtume was also an activist, radio personality and political commentator who prominently promoted Black empowerment and racial justice.
Mtume’s embrace of African culture and roots proved influential on other musicians throughout his career. “We called each other by our Swahili names, and over time we started embracing other visible symbols of the Black diaspora,” Herbie Hancock recalled in Possibilities, his autobiography published in 2014. “I had never spent much time thinking about my African roots, but all of us became increasingly influenced by African culture, religion and music.” Sources: JazzTimes, JazzFM