Tag Archives: Gayety Theatre

Chuck Jackson’s All Star Band Plays Meaford Summer Concert Series

By Bill Monahan

On Friday, July 27th, Chuck Jackson and The All Stars headline the second concert in the free Meaford Summer Concert Series, at Market Square in downtown Meaford (beside Meaford Hall).

Chuck Jackson, from his home base in Port Credit, has become familiar to fans of the blues in the Southern Georgian Bay area, where he has brought his talents to a number of different venues, with different band line-ups.  He is a highly respected blues singer and harmonica player, honoured in 2002 with a Blues With A Feeling Award from the Toronto Blues Society in recognition of his distinguished career.  He’s also won Maple Blues Awards in 1999 and 2007 for Male Vocalist of the Year.

Chuck Jackson with Donny Walsh of Downchild

Although he originally made his name as lead singer of the Cameo Blues Band, he joined the Downchild Blues Band in 1990, replacing their original vocalist Hock Walsh, and has been touring with the band ever since, along with contributing original songs to the band’s repertoire.  His All-Stars line-up usually includes Michael Fonfara and Pat Carey from Downchild as well.  He has often teamed up with Tyler Yarema, including a duo concert last year which packed the Gayety Theatre in Collingwood as a Chris Scerri Presents event.

In addition to his busy career as a performing musician, Chuck is the founder and director of Port Credit’s popular annual fall bluesfest, called the Southside Shuffle, which has been running for twenty years.  He relishes the opportunity through the festival to introduce some new acts to a devoted audience alongside the well-known headliners.  In an interview last year with Mississauga News, he pointed out the he had introduced Jimmy Bowskill to the festival when he was just eleven years old, and since then Bowskill has gone on to win Maple Blues Awards and has become a member of the Sheepdogs.

Chuck Jackson and Tyler Yarema

Chuck Jackson and Tyler Yarema

It’s expected that Tyler Yarema will join the All-Stars for the show in Meaford, which starts at 7 pm and runs rain or shine.

Opening for the band will be Sophie Wensley, a rising local talent with an engaging R & B style.

Blackie And The Rodeo Kings To Play In Collingwood

Blackie And The Rodeo Kings will be playing at concert at Collingwood’s Historic Gayety Theatre on Sunday, Feb. 26th, the second stop on their new tour to promote their latest album “Kings And Kings”, released late last year.  After the kickoff concert at Massey Hall the night before, they will coming up to the southern shore of Georgian Bay at the behest local music promoter Steven Vipond.  “Steve’s an angel,” says Blackie co-founder Tom Wilson, “and you need guys like that in the community who do it for the music”.  Local fans can be grateful indeed to have a chance to see a band of this quality.

Willie P. Bennett

Although they are categorized as “Americana” music, Blackie And The Rodeo Kings are to some extent the archtypical Canadian band.  They began as a gesture of love toward the legendary singer-songwriter Willie P. Bennett (taking their name from one of his songs), who ranked high in their collective esteem.  “Willie’s music was just so powerful,” says Wilson, “but just when it looked like success for him was just down the road, he would always take a turn right into the ditch.  This was our way of supporting what he gave all of us”

The three principals who came together to make up Blackie And The Rodeo Kings, Stephen Fearing, Colin Linden, and Tom Wilson were already highly respected Canadian talents at the time, with Junos, platinum sales and even film appearances in their individual histories.  It wasn’t so much a matter of them hitching their fortunes to Willie P. Bennett’s as it was of hitching his star to theirs.  And this reflects an essential element of the band’s mindset: they exist not just to promote their own (formidable) talents but to share with their audience the talents of other (mainly Canadian) artists for whom they have the greatest respect.

It began with “High or Hurtin’: The Songs of Willie P. Bennett” twenty years ago.  As they continued to record new albums, they added tributes to other great and sometimes underrated Canadian tunesmiths such as Bruce Cockburn, Fred J. Eaglesmith and David Wiffen.  In a band that had excellent songwriters built in, it was inevitable that they would eventually record albums that were all originals of their own.  But that would never be a permanent situation.  Their sixth album, “Kings and Queens” was a collection that brought their favourite female artists to join them on each track.  Along with high profile American artists like Roseanne Cash and Emmylou Harris, they included such Canadian treasures as Mary Margaret O’Hara, Holly Cole, and Serena Ryder.  Their sequel, “Kings And Kings” teams them up with another mix of great talents, male this time, that includes vocal as well as composition credits from Bruce Cockburn, Rodney Crowell, Nick Lowe and Dallas Green, among others.  And they haven’t forgotten Willie P., including on the album his song “This Lonesome Feeling” brought to life by Vince Gill.

Blackie And The Rodeo Kings have become, as a band, a great Canadian treasure in their own right.  But they have never forgotten nor ignored the idols of their youth, stretching back to the days when Colin and Tom haunted the coffee houses of the day to catch performance by the artists they continue to pay tribute to.

These days you can count the Canadians winning Grammy Awards to find ample evidence that Canadian music is appreciated well beyond our borders, but it wasn’t always that way and these three guys have been around long enough to remember how tough it has always been for Canadian talent.  If you listen to songs like David Wiffen’s “Coast To Coast Fever” or Willie P. Bennett’s “White Lines” you get a stark portrait of how difficult it has been in the past for Canadian original talent to succeed.  Wilson says they still end every concert with “White Lines”, a song that inspired him to make music his life’s work.

Tom Wilson with his paintings

Tom Wilson has always been a triple threat creative artists and, like his bandmates, he pursues other projects outside of Blackie.  One of Colin Linden’s recent gigs has been as technical supervisor on the TV show “Nashville”.  And Stephen Fearing, in order to join the others on this tour, has had to insert it into his own solo tour, flying in from the U.K. just before the kickoff Massey Hall show, and then picking up his own tour after this tour ends in mid-March.  Tom Wilson has always been musician, artist, and writer simultaneously.  These days he earns a third of his income from his paintings and he’s currently contracted to Random House for a memoir he’s writing with Dave Bidini of The Rheostatics, due out this fall.

To itemize the careers of these three extraordinary creative artists would require a book in itself but it is worth spending a few moments looking at another Tom Wilson project because of what it says about Canadian music and his personal dedication to it.  That project is a band called LeE HARVey OsMond, formed by Wilson in 2009 as a collective that includes members of The Cowboy Junkies, The Skydiggers and 3’s a Crowd (along with Suzie Vinnick).  Like Blackie And The Rodeo Kings, it’s a band that also carries the history of Canadian folk-rock in its personnel, and it is a band built around a specific vision.

Dave Russell’s Special Valentine’s Show

One of the busiest and most popular local musicians, David J. Russell, will be the star of a special Valentine’s Day Show at The Gayety Theatre in Collingwood.  For this one night, our local guitar hero will transform himself into Jim Croce (maybe he’ll rent a big black moustache) to create an evening featuring the late songwriter’s most popular tunes.

If you aren’t a fan of Dave Russell it’s probably because you haven’t seen him perform, and if you haven’t seen him perform then you aren’t getting out enough.

For many years he has performed somewhere practically every day of the week, almost always in our local area.  Up until recently many of the shows he did were for free, but he is now enough in demand to string together paying gigs at local pubs and restaurants, sometimes with his band The Rockafellers but often solo.  You might have seen him at M. J. Byrne’s in the Blue Mountain Village, or at the weekly jam he hosts on Thursdays at The Corner Café in Thornbury, but you are just as likely to see him hosting or co-hosting various open stages, including Sundays at The Barn, Tuesday’s with Chris Scerri at The Leeky Canoe, or Wednesday nights up at Ted’s Range Road Diner.  But this show is special, in a concert setting with him at the centre of it.

Dave has been playing music for a long time and has put out two CDs of his original songs.  His big break is long overdue.  How this show came about is a story in itself.  The catalyst is a man named David Maxwell.  Serendipity played a part as well.

“I met Dave Russell through a mutual friend, David Wilding-Davies of Ashanti Coffee, at a street festival in Thornbury,” says Dave Maxwell, “I met Dave Russell and Sid Dickinson, owner of the Gayety, literally at exactly the same time when they were sitting outside the Ashanti coffee shop.”   He heard Dave play on a Sunday afternoon at the Thornbury market. “He he was singing ‘Hallelujah’ by Leonard Cohen.  For whatever reason, as I was driving home I was trying to figure out who he reminded me of.   Three days later it hit me…it was Jim Croce.”

Like many people, he saw in Dave Russell a talent that deserves to go places.  Ideas rattled around in his imagination as several months went by and then, eighteen months later, he ran into Sid Dickinson again at a dinner party.  And around the same time he ran into Dave Russell again.  Dave Maxwell had been involved in hospital fundraising over the years and he found a kindred spirit in Sid, who had “completed a coast to coast bike run raising over $42,000 for the Collingwood hospitals.  So our thought was to continue with Sid’s fundraising efforts in particular given the Gayety is the centre of it all.”  He wondered if Dave Russell would agree to do a Jim Croce tribute at The Gayety as a fundraiser for the Collingwood Hospital.  Sid had an open date at The Gayety on Valentine’s Day and it all seemed to fit together perfectly. The first thing he did was get in contact with Jim Croce’s widow and he obtained permission to use his songs.  When he approached Dave Russell with the idea he got a positive response.  And the rest is history.

“Those of us who know the musical talent of Dave Russell truly enjoy him both as a musician and as a tremendous personality,” he says, “We believe it is now ‘Dave Russell’s Time’, and we want to do everything we can to help promote and elevate his career profile.”

The music of Jim Croce is in a class by itself, sincere ballads and rocking story songs.  He died in a plane crash in 1973 at the height of his popularity, leaving behind a legacy of unforgettable songs.

David Maxwell is hoping for big things to happen for David J. Russell as a result of this undertaking.   “There are two things we are hoping will come out of this project,” he says, “The first being the potential of a national series of fundraising for hospitals which are the centre of our communities.  And secondly, the Gayety is to be ‘the Home Of Dave Russell’ for concerts once a month.”

The concert will begin at 8 p.m. on Valentine’s Evening, and “both Dave and Sid are very excited about their special guests”.  Tickets are $35.

So if you’re looking for a special night out with your sweetie, this is your chance to let Dave Russell speak for you, to “say I love you in a song”.

Return to Front Page for today’s update