Canadian Record industry pioneer Melvyn James Foster Shaw passed away Wednesday, January 19, 2022, in Regina Saskatchewan at age 82. The cause of death is listed as dementia.
Born in Banff Alberta, Mel was an early sparkplug on the Calgary domestic music scene, staging local dance hops, promoting local talent and even staging his own Guy & Dolls television show on CHCT-TV. When the city did not operate its own recording studio in the late 1950’s Shaw convinced an engineer at CFAC Radio station to help him record his debut 45, Mean Lover/The Swinging Sound, considered the first-ever pop single to be recorded in Calgary.
In 1965, Shaw discovered a local six-piece band, The Rebounds, agreed to manage and record them, changed their name to the Stampeders, and when their first single House of Shake didn’t receive any traction, he bundled Rich Dodson, Ronnie King, Kim Berly, Van Louis, Brendan Lyttle and Race Holliday along with Shaw’s wife Fran and two children into a dilapidated Cadillac limo with a U-Haul trailer and headed east to Toronto.
At a time when CRTC regulations promoting domestic talent on radio did not exist and independent labels had not yet established themselves to utilize their new radio exposure opportunities, Shaw established Music World Creations (MWC, now owned by Unidisc), and after a few false starts and the departure of Lyttle, Holliday and Louis, the remaining three members–guitarist /vocalist Rich Dodson, bassist/vocalist Ronnie King and drummer Kim Berly– hit pay dirt in 1971 when Carry Me became their first radio hit single. This was followed by Sweet City Woman and the release of their debut album Against the Grain.
Sweet City Woman proved to be a global hit, topping the Canadian charts, reaching #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. and setting up a European tour and a one-hour Canadian TV special entitled A Visit To Planet Earth, produced by Shaw. Achievements which in 192 earned the band three Junos for Best Group, Best Composition (Sweet City Woman) and Best Producer (Mel Shaw).
Future albums displayed the trio’s individuality, with Dodson’s pop tracks (Devil You) synergizing with King’s more rock side (Wild Eyes) and Berly’s soulful ballads (such as Oh My Lady).
On the industry side, Shaw served as the first president of CARAS, (1975-1978), president of the Canadian Independent Record Producers, and an executive producer for FACTOR–efforts which resulted in his being honoured with the Walt Grealis Special Achievement Juno Award in 1991, and the SOCAN CanCon Guardian Award in 2021.
In 1988, Shaw spearheaded a Canadian Music Publishers campaign to raise the songwriter’s royalty rate in Canada with a slogan of « Two Cents Too Long. » He talked to the Canadian Legislative Assembly with Burton Cummings, Randy Bachman and many other songwriters who successfully raised the royalty rate, which at the time, was one of the lowest in the world.
Shaw moved his family to Nashville in 1992 and he spent 25 years on Music Row before returning to Canada where he and Fran edited and published Under the Living Skies, a collection of 53 short stories by Saskatchewan author Bert McNair.
In 2006, Shaw produced the track Save Your Dreams by Canadian country singer, Justine Stewart, who performed the song at the televised, 2006 World AIDS Day Concert in Beijing. The Central China Television (CCTV) primetime special aired throughout Asia and Europe to an audience of over 500 million.
Shaw is survived by his wife Fran, children David (Marie) and Susan, sister Maureen (Max) and his legacy continues with Dodson, King and Berly who have plans to celebrate their 50th anniversary with a 37-city concert tour that has been re-scheduled twice and is now set to open March 24 in Guelph, ON.