By Adam Bunch
ANOTHER NO. 1 FOR HANK SNOW
It was originally written by an Australian; the 1950s country song “I’ve Been Everywhere” was penned by singer-songwriter Geoff Mack. It was a travelling tune listing off a cornucopia of cities, towns and villages from around Mack’s homeland of Australia. Not long after it was first released, the song caught the attention of one of the biggest country music stars in the entire world: Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee Hank Snow.
Snow decided to record his own version of the tune. But first, he rewrote it a bit. This time, instead of verses about Australian places, it would feature places from North America. Instead of singing about spots such as Mooloolaba, Wallumbilla, Woolloomooloo, Tuggerawong and Yeerongpilly, he’d sing about places like Toronto, Ottawa, Kingston, Waterloo and Fond du Lac.
It proved to be a very good decision. Snow’s version of “I’ve Been Everywhere” was a smash hit produced by the legendary Chet Atkins. During this week in 1962, it was sitting right at the very top of the Billboard country chart.
“I’VE BEEN EVERYWHERE” BY HANK SNOW
THE BIRTH OF THREE WESTERN CANADIAN SYMPHONIES
Three of Western Canada’s biggest cities can trace the roots of their symphony orchestras back to this particular week in history.
The oldest is the one that started in Vancouver all the way back during this week in 1897 – 117 years ago – when 23 musicians teamed up with a conductor to play classical music at an old theatrical venue called Dunn Hall. They called themselves the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, but they didn’t last very long: the group disbanded after only three performances. The modern version of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra wouldn’t be permanently revived until 1930 and, before long, it had established itself as one of the most successful groups in Canada. By the end of the 1970s, the VSO had more subscribers than any other symphony orchestra on the entire continent. As recently as 2008, the VSO walked away with the JUNO Award for Classical Album of the Year.
By the time Vancouver’s was back up and running, the other two orchestras were well under way. It was during this week in 1913 that the Calgary Symphony Orchestra gave its very first performance. Decades later, it would merge with the Alberta Philharmonic to become the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. Today, 101 years after that first performance, it’s still going strong.
The youngest of the three is the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, which turns 94 years old this week. It started off as a community orchestra in 1910, was suspended in the ’20s and revived in the ’50s. In the time since, Edmonton’s orchestra hasn’t been afraid to crossover and collaborate with stars from the world of pop music. It’s performed with everyone from Frank Zappa to Ben Folds and with Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductees including k.d. lang and Tom Cochrane. In 1976, the ESO even teamed up with Procol Harum to record Procol Harum Live with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. The album’s biggest single, “Conquistador,” became the very first “classical” recording ever to go Platinum.
“CONQUISTADOR” BY PROCOL HARUM AND THE EDMONTON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
By Adam Bunch
TWO CANADIANS TOP THE CHARTS AT THE VERY SAME TIME
They came from very different backgrounds. The Crew-Cuts were a doo-wop group from the heart of the big city: choir students in downtown Toronto. Hank Snow was born in small-town Nova Scotia and spent much of his youth as a cabin boy on a fishing schooner before becoming a country crooner. But during this week in the summer of 1954, both Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductees were sitting at the top of the Billboard charts.
It started with Snow. “I Don’t Hurt Anymore” was released in early 1954 and by the middle of June it had climbed all the way to the top of Billboard’s Country and Western chart – and that was just the beginning. The song spent an amazing 20 weeks at No. 1: throughout the entire summer of 1954 and all the way to the end of October. The tune would eventually be covered by everyone from Johnny Cash to Bob Dylan to Dinah Washington. Even Snow himself released another version of the same song years later.
The Crew-Cuts soon joined him as chart-toppers. A couple of weeks after “I Don’t Hurt Anymore” claimed the top spot on the Country and Western chart, the Toronto group arrived on the Hot 100 with the song that would prove to be their biggest hit: “Sh-Boom.” It immediately leapt all the way up to No. 8, knocking another one of their own tunes, “Crazy ’Bout You Baby,” out of the Top 10 – and “Sh-Boom” kept climbing. Just a few weeks after it debuted, the song was sitting at No. 1. It would stay there for the next seven straight weeks and continue to be the most-played song on the radio and on jukeboxes for weeks after that.
So during this week in 1954 – and for a span of seven straight weeks through nearly all of August and September – there were two Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductees sitting atop the Billboard charts at the very same time.
“SH-BOOM” BY THE CREW-CUTS
“I DON’T HURT ANYMORE” BY HANK SNOW
“THE SUMMER OF ’69” IN THE SUMMER OF ’85
More than 30 years after Snow and The Crew-Cuts topped the charts, another Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee found himself sitting high on the Billboard Hot 100. It was during this week in the summer of 1985 that Bryan Adams reached No. 5 with his smash hit “Summer of ’69.” In fact, the nostalgic tune raced up pop charts all over the world: in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Austria….
Even today, three decades after the song was first released, it’s still remembered as one of Adams’ greatest hits. It regularly ranks on best-of lists: the best songs of the ’80s, the best Canadian songs ever and even, quite simply, one of the best songs of all time.
“SUMMER OF ’69” BY BRYAN ADAMS
By Adam Bunch
THE LOVIN’ SPOONFUL’S BIGGEST HIT
During the summer of 1966, The Lovin’ Spoonful was at the height of its powers. The group had only been around for a couple of years, but was already one of the most popular bands in the world. The band had first formed as part of the early 1960s folk scene in New York City’s Greenwich Village. American John Sebastian (son of a classical harmonica player) teamed up with Toronto’s Zal Yanovsky (who once lived in a dryer in a Yorkville laundromat, played in a folk-pop band with Mama Cass and fellow Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee Papa Denny Doherty, and was also the husband of future “Road To Avonlea” actor Jackie Burroughs). It only took the Spoonful about a year to release its very first single and it was a smash hit: in the summer of 1965, “Do You Believe In Magic” raced up the Billboard charts all the way into the Top 10.
That was just the beginning. “Do You Believe In Magic” was the first of seven straight Lovin’ Spoonful singles to reach the Top 10, including “Daydream,” “You Didn’t Have to Be so Nice” and “Did You Ever Have to Make up Your Mind?” The group was one of only two 1960s bands to get off to such an impressive start on the charts. The other was Gary Lewis and The Playboys. Not even The Beatles or The Rolling Stones were able to match their record.
The biggest hit of them all was “Summer in the City.” It was released during the summer of 1966 and nearly 50 years later is still one of the most iconic songs of the season, played on radio stations all over the world when the weather gets warm. During this week in August 1966, the song climbed all the way to the very top spot on the Billboard Hot 100, where it would stay for three consecutive weeks.
Zal Yanovsky was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1996.
“SUMMER IN THE CITY” BY THE LOVIN’ SPOONFUL
THE KING OF THE BANJO
Canada’s “King of the Banjo” was born in New Brunswick during the winter of 1920. His name was Maurice Bolyer. Growing up, he learned to play a wide range of instruments, including the piano, but as a teenager he picked up the one that would make him famous.
By the time he was in his early twenties, Bolyer was making appearances playing banjo on a local radio station, performing with Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee Hank Snow. Before long, he would be heard in kitchens and living rooms all across the country as a regular guest on the CBC’s “Tommy Hunter Show” – first on radio and then TV – and then all across the continent thanks to American programs like “The Lawrence Welk Show.” By the time his career came to an end, Bolyer had earned a place as one of the greats in the history of his favourite instrument and in Canadian country music as a whole.
Maurice Bolyer, the King of the Banjo, passed away during this week in 1978.
By Adam Bunch
HANK SNOW GETS HIS BIG BREAK
By the time Hank Snow was 22 years old, he had already lived quite a life. Born in Nova Scotia to a working class family who struggled to make ends meet, he suffered at the hands of an abusive stepfather and grandfather. The frequent beatings were enough to drive him away from home when he was just 12 years old. He found a job on the high seas, serving as a cabin boy on a fishing schooner, but it wasn’t easy work and when a storm nearly wrecked the ship off of Sable Island, the graveyard of the Atlantic, the young Snow decided he’d rather live on land. He headed back home to his mother and stepfather, where he picked up a new job selling fish door to door.
Luckily, his parents had also given him a love of music. His father sang and his mother played piano at silent film screenings. Snow bought his first guitar from the Eaton’s catalogue as a teenager and he was soon ready to make his public debut: playing in blackface at a charity minstrel show in Bridgewater, N.S. The performance earned him a standing ovation. Before long, he would be playing a regular Saturday night gig for a local Halifax radio station – this time, without the racist face paint.
It was during this week in 1936 that Snow finally got his big break as a 22-year-old: an audition with RCA Victor in Montreal. It was the beginning of a 45-year relationship with the label. Snow would go on to record more than 100 albums, land a weekly spot on CBC Radio and become a featured star on the “Grand Ole Opry” (it was Snow who convinced them to let Elvis Presley appear and who introduced him to Colonel Tom Parker). He scored more than 80 hits on the Billboard country charts and made it all the way to the top on seven different occasions. He was one of the most famous and beloved country singers of all time.
In 1979, Hank Snow was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. He called it “the highest honour I feel I could ever hope to have in a lifetime.” He passed away in 1999 at the age of 85.
SHIRLEY MATTHEWS AND THE YONGE STREET STRIP
One of the hottest spots in 1960s Toronto was an after-hours soul club on the Yonge Street strip. Club Bluenote was where all of the local rock and soul musicians would meet after their regular gigs, jamming with an all-star house band long into the night. Visiting musicians would make regular appearances too, stopping by while they were in town on tour. At the Bluenote, the best acts in Toronto shared the stage with legends such as Stevie Wonder, Jackie Wilson and The Supremes. Edwin Starr once called it his favourite music venue in the world.
The Bluenote’s house bands produced some of the city’s finest musical talents and one of them was Shirley Matthews. She got her start performing at night on Toronto’s high-school dance circuit after spending her days working as a switchboard operator for Bell. But it was singing with the Bluenote’s house band that led to her own solo career. Her biggest hit was a handclapping showstopper of a tune called “Big Town Boy,” which would also launch a recording career for her backing band (they took their name from the song and went on to become one of the city’s best fuzzed-up rock acts).
It was on Halloween of 1963 that Matthews appeared on CBC’s “Music Hop” show, hosted by Alex Trebek. That evening, she performed “Big Town Boy” on television sets across the country.
By James Sandham
Well folks, it’s definitely autumn. There’s a crispness to the air and the leaves are changing colour – and it makes me want to get out into the woods to mosey along the trails, maybe with a little acoustic guitar playing in my ears. I guess what I’m saying is that this is the season for folk music, which is perfect timing, because the nominees for the Canadian Folk Music Awards were just announced and there are some great musicians on the list. But it’s not just guitar plucking you’ll find – this is real folk, representing traditional music from around the world.
“This year’s nominated artists are all marked by a startling enthusiasm,” says Grit Laskin, president of the Canadian Folk Music Awards. “We’ve got Appalachian dulcimers, five-stringed violins, punk-inspired folk, classical-inspired folk, Irish hand drums, Iraqi oud fusionists, world-renowned step-dancers and heart-wrenching songwriters – all of whom are releasing and performing some of Canada’s best folk music.”
It’s a nominee list as multi-ethnic as Canada itself and it seems as though there’s something for everyone, so let’s check out a few of the artists who happened to catch our ear.
Three years ago, Toronto’s Lemon Bucket Orkestra was a quartet of buskers; the group has since grown into a 16-member guerrilla folk force, with members including Mark Marczyk, James McKay, Emilyn Stam, Anastasia Baczynskyj, Tangi Ropars, Alex Nahirny, Jaash Singh, Stephania Woloshyn, Oskar Lambarri, Rob Teehan, Chris Weatherstone, Karl Silveira, Michael Louis Johnson, Nic Buligan, John David Williams and Mike Romaniak (phew). Audiences from New York City to Budapest to Berlin have been hailing them as folk-music revolutionaries. They’ve received multiple nominations at this year’s awards, including for Instrumental Group of the Year, New/Emerging Artist of the Year, Best Traditional Album of the Year (for 2012’s Lune, Lune) and World Group of the Year.
The Lemon Bucket Orkestra – “Tomu Kosa’
Born and raised in Toronto, Anabelle Chvostek is a versatile multi-instrumentalist who made her professional debut with the Canadian Opera Company at just seven years of age. After years as a solo artist, she joined the JUNO Award–winning group The Wailin’ Jennys in 2004, a gig that took her from relative obscurity to international acclaim. During her years with the Jennys, Chvostek toured Europe, performed on “A Prairie Home Companion” and sang on the JUNO Awards telecast. Leaving the Jennys in 2007, she reprised her solo career and signed to Borealis Records, with whom she released Resilience in 2008. She’s since been touring the United Kingdom on a yearly basis, as well as crisscrossing Canada, the United States and Europe. She’s nominated in the Contemporary Album of the Year category for her latest album, Rise.
Annabelle Chvostek – “Resilience”
Hailing from the red shores of Prince Edward Island, Ashley Condon is the grandchild of Canadian country pioneer Bill Leblanc, who – interesting fact – once spent the night in jail with 1979 Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee Hank Snow. Felonious pseudo-associations aside, suffice it to say that Condon’s musical upbringing has included everything from old-time country to folk, blues and southern rock – and her music reflects it. She’s been nominated in the New/Emerging Artist of the Year category. The track below comes from her 2013 release, This Great Compromise.
Ashley Condon – “Your Love is Beautiful”
Nominated in the category of World Solo Artist of the Year, Lenka Lichtenberg is a composer, vocalist (Yiddish, English, Czech, French, Russian and Hebrew) and bandleader. She has six solo albums to her name, along with several collaborations, and she creates a uniquely Canadian sort of world music, channeling the rich soundscapes of the Middle East, India, Brazil, her own East European heritage and, of course, the influences of her current place of residence, Toronto. Get a taste of her eclectic style with the track below.
Lenka Lichtenberg – “Avinu Malkeinu”
Nominated in the Vocal Group of the Year category, Victoria, BC’s The Sweet Lowdown is comprised of Amanda Blied, Shanti Bremer and Miriam Sonstenes. They do a Dixie Chicks-ish sort of bluegrass-country music that is heart-wrenching in its beauty. Their self-titled debut LP, from which the track below comes, was nominated for the Vancouver Island Music Awards’ 2012 Album of the Year, and their 2013 follow-up, May, won the festival’s award for Roots Album or EP of the Year.
The Sweet Lowdown – “Red Shift Blues”