Toronto Blues Society | » Loose Blues News – January 2017

Loose Blues News – January 2017

Published January 1, 2017 in Loose Blues News, News


Following a difficult month with the loss of several favourite blues-friendly icons like Mose Alison and Leon Russell, the local blues community has been hit hard with the passing of two beloved bluesmen, John Mays and Brian Cober. Social media has been blowing up with loving tributes to two of the most humble and dedicated musicians and all-around great human beings that ever surfaced on the Toronto blues scene. TBS boarders Mike Smith, Ken Whiteley, Gary Kendall, Lori Murray and Mark Stafford paid their respects and Gary reports that both John and Brian’s services were well attended by members of the blues community saying their final goodbye to beloved colleagues. ”


“It was a moving send off for John Mays,” said Gary, ” with eulogys and songs by Jackie Richardson, Anthony Adams, Shakura S`Aida, Diana Braithwaite & Chris Whiteley with Lance Anderson at the piano and organ. Omar Tunnoch spoke for Fathead and John was eulogized by many family members. The church was standing room only and everyone participated in the singing and hand clapping. The service had a real Baptist gospel feel. It was powerful.”

Andrew Galloway of Electro-Fi Records, a great friend and supporter of John Mays wrote about him in a previous Maple Blues: “Genuine Southern Soulmen are a rare breed these days, and we in Toronto have been blessed for many years by having here in our midst one of the finest ever. I speak of John Mays, a two time Juno Award winning lead vocalist with Fathead. John was born in Dawson, Georgia in 1941 (same year and hometown as Otis Redding). John discovered his love of music singing Gospel in southern churches, as a child in the 1940’s.He graduated to singing Doo-Wop on the streets of New York in the 50’s, R&B on the club scene in the 60’s, and Soul and Funk in the 70’s while touring with James Brown. A warm, intelligent, and charismatic artist, John Mays lights up any room he’s in with both his voice and his sense of humour. He’s a six time MapleBlues “Male Vocalist of the Year” award winner. John’s also been known to sing mighty soulful versions of the Canadian and American national anthems before Toronto Blue Jays home games.”

Fathead bandmate Al Lerman left this message on the band’s website: “Fathead will be on an indefinite hiatus. When Fathead singer John Mays became ill over a year ago, Since early summer, the rest of the band had been doing the gigs without him, sending his pay home. This past Saturday night, we played our last booked show to an appreciative, sold-out crowd in Sutton, Quebec at the Auberge Appalaches. It was a great night. Two encores and three standing ovations. Bitter sweet.”

In the same week, we lost the master of the double slide, Brian Cober. Gary 17 of reported, “Brian Cober, who had been ailing off and on for the past couple of years, passed away peacefully in his sleep overnight according to a post on his Facebook timeline by his wife, Dianna. While he had announced just over a month ago following a brief stint in hospital that he had been diagnosed with incurable cancer, few expected the end to come so soon. He noted at the time that he would be forced to give up performing, particularly since the cancer that had plagued him for two years had spread to his windpipe, leaving him unable to sing. It was the final blow in a series of medical woes that had beset the 60 year-old songwriter and Blues guitar innovator over the past two years. Cober recorded several albums of his originals both with his longtime group The Nationals and later, after the passing of his bass player and longtime best friend, Paul McNamara in 2008, under his own name, including his most recent release, 2014’s Austin Wired, which has been hailed by many music critics. In addition to his prodigious musical abilities, Brian is also being remembered as someone who was completely likeable. Despite his talents and some renown they produced, he never exhibited an ounce of pretentiousness or haughtiness. His boyish grin reflected an affable, easy-going fellow who was a pleasure to be around. He was also generous to other artists, in particular to up-and-coming players, in sharing his stage and time.”

Gary Kendall attended the memorial and said, “Brian Cober`s service took place at the Cardinal Funeral Home and was well attended by family, fans, friends and musicians filling the large room and overflowing into the hall way. Brian`s signature Fender Telecaster sat in a stand at the front surrounded by photos, candles and a video collage. Heartfelt eulogys and readings were offered by family members and old friends, including musicians Colin Taylor, Mike Daley(Brian`s brother-in-law) and Noah Zacharin.

The Toronto Blues Society sends their condolence to Tina, John Mays’ wife and daughter Kendyl Mays and Brian Cober’s wife Dianna, his parents, Ken & Marilyn and sisters Ellen and Charlene.

Awards Night News

Presenters at the Maple Blues Awards gala will include musicians Spencer MacKenzie, Raven Kanatakta (Digging Roots), Ann Vriend (Rooster Davis) and Dione Taylor as well as journalists Denise Donlon and Errol Nazareth, Barbara Newman President of the Blues Foundation,Iris Nemani from Harbourfront Centre and Peter North from the Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival.

The Maple Blues Band will add trumpeter Howard Moore to the lineup for this years Maple Blue Awards. Howard has toured with The Maple Blues Revue for years and will permanently fill the spot vacated by Chris Whiteley who is currently promoting and touring in support of the new Braithwaite & Whiteley recording.

Goin’ to Kansas City

The TBS, in collaboration with the Blues Foundation, is sponsor ing a showcase at the Folk Alliance Conference in Kansas City on Thursday, February 16, 2017. The showcase features Suzie Vinnick (6:15pm); Dione Taylor & The Backsliderz (7:00pm); Marquise Knox (7:45pm); Rita Chiarelli (8:30pm); Ray Bonneville (9:15pm) and Harpdog Brown & The Travelin’ Blues Show (10:00pm). TBS General Manager Alice Sellwood will be joining the Blues Foundation’s Barbara Newman and blues industry pioneers Jim O’Neil and Mary Katharine Aldin in a panel discussion called “The Folk Roots of the Blues”.

More Talking Music from Holger Petersen

Holger Petersen, host of CBC Radio’s “Saturday Night Blues” in Canada for 30 years (which also airs on SiriusXM channel 169 in the U.S.), has released his second book of interviews for Insomniac Press titled Talking Music 2: Blues and Roots Music Mavericks. It is his second collection of conversations with musicians, he talks music and life with a variety of roots music artists who have made significant impacts on popular music, ranging from American artists B.B. King to Steve Miller, Wanda Jackson, Solomon Burke, Townes Van Zandt, Dan Hicks, Charlie Musselwhite, Ronnie Earl and Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers. David Clayton-Thomas and Ronnie Hawkins describe the early days of Toronto’s pop music scene, and influential guitarists David Wilcox and Amos Garrett (together) offer insights from their lengthy careers. The book will get an official launch at the Blues Summit in Toronto in January and at signing events in Edmonton and Calgary, and at SXSW in Austin, Texas in March.

Rockabilly Radio

Gary Tate, former contributor to Maple Blues magazine, is now heavily involved in roots music broadcasting and is pleased to report that his Whistle Bait show which originally debuted on has now been picked up by the world’s leading Rockabilly internet station Rockabilly Radio ( where it can heard on Sundays from 3-4 pm. A sister station of RbR, Jive Time Radio ( is also featuring WB on Wednesdays from 3-4 pm. 40 DJs from 20 countries are featured on Rockabilly Radio and Gary (under the nom de plume Shakey-T) is part of the small Canadian contingent on RbR. Whistle Bait features a vast array of high energy vintage tracks, mainly from the era between 1946 and 1962, including rockabilly chestnuts, boogie blues, doo-wop shakers, hillbilly rockers, barrelhouse blues, western swing nuggets, surf-drenched instrumentals and golden oldies.

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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.