Toronto Blues Society | » Jan 2021 – Loose Blues News

Jan 2021 – Loose Blues News

Published January 6, 2021 in Loose Blues News, News

Blues Booster John Valenteyn. The annual Blues Booster Award determined by the TBS Board of Directors has been renamed in honour of John Valenteyn the late co-founder of the organization. John’s untimely passing in October continues to reverberate in the community as he left a huge legacy. As you can see in this publication we have recruited a pool or scribes to cover off his monthly “John’s Picks” review column, a group that includes Richard Flohil, Sandra Tooze, Eric Thom, Terry Parson and others including the recipient of the the booster, Cindy McLeod. As mentioned last month, CIUT’s Ken Stowar is considering options to fill John’s spot on the air at 89.5 and others are dealing with his enormous collection of recordings, books, magazines that were acquired over the years. He attended virtually every edition of the Chicago Blues Festival which included a store at Bob Koester’s Blues and Jazz Mart, but he was serviced by all the labels with box sets and all the latest including his penchant for Rolling Stones, Dylan and even classical music. The TBS plans to assist in the process of handling the cumbersome archive which spans a complete history of Canadian blues and beyond.

Borealis Records Bows Out: The Borealis imprint remains (via Linus Entertainment) but after 25 years of putting out some of the best Canadian folk and roots music, the principals of Borealis Records, Grit Laskin and Bill Garrett, have announced that as of January 1, 2021 the Borealis catalogue will shift to the management of Linus Entertainment, a leading Canadian rights management company whose portfolio of labels includes True North Records, Stony Plain Records, The Children’s Group, and Solid Gold Records.
In a joint statement, Laskin and Garrett said of the transition, “We have partnered with Linus Entertainment for some 13 years in distribution and they have been our partners in the best sense.”
Geoff Kulawick, President & CEO of Linus Entertainment, said of the transition, “It has been a joy to work with Grit and Bill and their wonderful artists. Taking on the responsibility of managing the Borealis catalog, which includes many ever-green musical gems of Canadian culture and folklore was a natural fit as we know the music well, so transition for the artists and our global distribution partners will be seamless.”
Ken Whiteley stated, “Certainly as an artist I will will miss the great work that Linda Turu did running the the day-to-day operation and I’ve had one good conversation with Geoff Kulawick and looking forward to seeing where that goes.”
Laskin & Garrett continued, “We have been most fortunate in being able to work with a large number of very fine artists over the years. Their music has been a constant source of inspiration and the friendships made will be life-long. Grit Laskin continues to craft some of the best acoustic guitars made anywhere and Bill Garrett is in demand as a producer.

Ken Whiteley remembers Amoy Levy: “I first heard Amoy Levy as a soloist with the Youth Outreach Mass Choir in the summer of 1992 and felt awe in her vocal prowess and spiritual intensity. She’d been singing all her life, starting as a young girl in a family group, “Zion’s Youth” and soon she took over from her older sister, Pauline, as the director of Youth Outreach Mass Choir. I was working on an album eventually titled “Thank You, Lord”, showcasing Toronto gospel artists. As well as her solo with the choir, Amoy sang backup for several artists on that project. Her incredible ear for harmonies impressed me so much I began using her on different sessions and asking her to accompany me on stage, usually with her younger sister, Ciceal Levy.
Word soon got out and it wasn’t long before others began putting her amazing voice to work. She would go on to become a full time singer, harmonizing with pop singers including Celine Dion, Andy Kim, Ron Sexsmith, Michael Bolton, Olivia Newton John and Tom Cochrane.
She could authoritatively sing blues, jazz, pop, R&B or rock but Gospel music remained her passion. She got a Juno nomination in 1998 for her work with Youth Outreach Mass Choir. A few of the gospel artists Amoy worked with include Toronto Mass Choir, Danny Brooks, Fred Hammond, Hezekiah Walker and John P. Kee. She released one solo album, “Testimony”, which came out in 2014.
Totally fluent in contemporary styles, she could also effortlessly reach back to older, traditional styles. One of the highlights of running the Sunday Gospel series at Hugh’s Room for many years was sitting in the office/dressing room before the show, singing with Amoy and Ciceal as we’d pull out one old song after another. Many times those unplanned tunes would spontaneously make it to the stage for moments of spiritual magic.
She is survived by her three sisters, Sonia, Pauline and Ciceal and many beloved nieces and nephews. She leaves family, friends, fans and a large group of singers and musicians all over the world who are already missing that voice and spirit. I feel overwhelmed knowing that my dear Amoy, with that fearless voice, won’t be joining me again in person. ”

More Passings: Roly (Roland Harold) Greenway was bassist for Crowbar and co-wrote the Canrock anthem “Oh, What A Feeling” with bandmate Kelly Jay, for which they were inducted into the Canadian Songwriting Hall of Fame. He died on December 22, after a long battle with cancer, at age 78.
Greenway was born in Guelph and was a much-beloved member of that city’s music scene. He picked up the guitar in 1958 when he was 16 years old and two years later, he was working as a professional musician, Guelph Today reports. He played with such visiting stars as Zsa Zsa Gabor and Liberace, and in 1969 Greenway joined the backup band for Ronnie Hawkins. When he and his bandmates were fired a year later, they formed Crowbar. Crowbar disbanded and reunited several times before Kelly Jay’s death in June 2019.
Greenway continued to perform, write and record with a number of groups over the years but he never enjoyed the same level of success and was forced to pick up a side gig as a landscape contractor to pay the bills.
Over the holidays, the local music scene also lost a couple of folks who were always around at music events, mostly in the audience supporting local players. Gerry Lebrun was an excellent photographer and often provided photos for his favourite musicians to use for promotion. He was a regular at the Local, Gate 403 and is fondly remembered by the Roncesvales crew.
Gary 17 was a great supporter of the local music scene, and faithfully published a series of newsletters that listed every live music event in every corner of the city.
Julian Taylor remembers, “He was like a circus ring master and he knew the whole Toronto music scene like the back of of his bicycle gloves. Being just kids the scene felt like the swinging sixties to us and in a lot of ways it was. Gary would write about it and you’d see his T.O. Night magazines everywhere… An odd duck, a real character and a one of a kind individual who tried his best because at the end of the day he cared a lot about the music, the musicians and the scene. If there was ever an unsung hero for the Toronto Music Scene he would certainly be one of them.”
Buckside Blues News: Patrick Monaghan whose radio show, Buckslide Blues Cruise, just honoured for best Jazz and Blues Programming from the National Campus and Community Radio Association is part of a group of blues music enthusiasts who are starting a blues society in Haliburton.
Blues from the ‘Soo: The Sault Blues Society is presenting a virtual Blues Miniseries which has been in the works for several months. What a great way to bring in 2021 with 5 concerts with all local musicians playing all original songs. The first band Blues Shop will be released on Thursday January 7th at 8 pm on 3 different platforms. The following 4 bands will be released the following 4 Thursdays at 8pm. Details at

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The Toronto Blues Society acknowledges the annual support of the Ontario Arts Council, the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council and the Department of Canadian Heritage, and project support from FACTOR< and the Government of Canada through the Department of Canadian Heritage (Canada Music Fund) and of Canada’s Private Broadcasters, The Canada Council for the Arts, the SOCAN Foundation, SOCAN, the Ontario Media Development Corporation, and the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport.