Tag Archives: The Johnny Max Band

Cheryl Lescom is Canada’s Queen of The Blues

It was three decades ago that Cheryl Lescom was a student at Canada’s one true rock and roll university: Ronnie Hawkins band.  That puts her in a league with alumni that ranges from Robbie Robertson to David Foster.  Then she toured with Long John Baldry, another legend who, among other things, nurtured the talents of Rod Stewart and Reginald Dwight (a.k.a. Elton John) when they were first starting out.  As a highly admired backup singer she toured with Canadian icons Jeff Healy, Matt Minglewood, Dutch Mason and the Downchild Blues Band.  She’s recorded songs written by Jack De Keyzer, Donnie Walsh, Matt Minglewood.  With a CV like that, it’s no exaggeration to say that Cheryl Lescom is right up there on the Mount Rushmore of Canadian rock and blues.

Check out her moving evocation of an Etta James song (be prepared to shed a tear):

And she’s playing Saturday night at The Harbour Street Fish Bar in Collingwood, along with The Matt Weidinger Band.  He’s a young singer-songwriter from Kitchener who has been building his own reputation with a 60’s inspired sound that grabs the attention of both the old, young and everyone in between. He’s an “old soul” who easily commands the attention of any crowd.  His passion for music and performing is contagious.

The Harbour Street Fish Bar is a venue unlike any other in the area.  Located at The Cranberry Mews in the east end of Collingwood, it’s just a twenty minute drive from downtown Meaford.  It’s a spacious, glittery room at night, with a night club atmosphere and a crowded dance floor.  They’ve been specializing this past month in bringing in Toronto based names that are familiar to anyone who is a fan of the blues , including the legendary Tony Springer, The Johnny Max Band,Jack de Keyser and (still to come) Jerome Godboo.  You know that when you see a performer who has been rocking audiences for decades they know how to get you up on your feet. And every week they feature a house band with another blues veteran, Tamica Herod.  On top of all that, there are people who actually travel miles just for the food!

Be there or be square!

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The Thursday Outlook – Mar. 1 to 5, 2017

Tyler Yarema is co-hosting with Chris Scerri again this week at The Leeky Canoe, for tonight’s open stage.  He’s such a fine keyboard player, the joint is always jumping when he’s on board.  And fifteen minutes down the road you know that Dave Russell knows how to make the joint jump as well with his open stage at The Corner Café.

Gerry Markman

Friday night at The Red Door, Gerry Markman, journeyman guitarist, will be there, making up for the show he had to cancel three weeks ago due to scary weather.  The Red Door has become a great local place for music, with enthusiastic crowds out for a good time.  Last week they were blown away by the talents of Jenie Thai.  One of the convenient things about the shows at The Red Door is that they start early, at 7 p.m., and run to 10, so you can enjoy a great night out and still get home early.

If you want a chance to see the stars of tomorrow, make your way to the high school on Friday night.  It’s the Battle of The Bands, with thirteen acts competing, and judges that include local music luminaries like Tara Mackenzie, Rich Fletcher and Chris Scerri.  One of the acts in the contest is Cry For Ophelia, a band that impressed the crowd at last summer’s Concert Series and it’s rumoured that Max Breadner also has a band lined up to play.  It starts at 7 p.m. and the $5 admission charge will go to support the music program at the school.

Sohaya Smith

Sohaya Smith this weekend at Bruce Wine Bar

Sohayla Smith and The Smith Brothers will be playing at Bruce Wine Bar on Friday night before heading into Red Room Studios on Saturday to work on some new recordings.

And in Owen Sound at The Heartwood on Friday, RPR, which includes Meaford’s own Beaker Granger, will be rockin’ and folkin’ around with a bunch of great songs and stories.

Mark Reeves is holding court at the latest gallery concert at Meaford Hall on Saturday night.  And when that show finishes, head across the street to see Amanda Dorey at The Leeky Canoe, with her band Northern Country.

If you’re looking for a real nightclub experience, big city style with small town friendliness, The Harbour Street Fish Bar is the place to dance the night away.  It has a great vibe.  Last Saturday The Johnny Max Band tore the place up and packed the dance floor.  This Saturday it’s the amazing Cheryl Lescom, who has provided vocals for Ronny Hawkins and Long John Baldry as well as a stellar catalogue of performers from David Wilcox to Del Shannon.  When you consider that Long John Baldry once employed Rod Stewart and Elton John in his band, it’s quite an accolade when he says  “Cheryl Lescom has one of the best and biggest voices in Canada. I’ve had many great singers with me over the years and Cheryl is by far one of my favourites!”

No reason to sit home this weekend when the music is so hot it’ll be melting the ski hills.

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Celebrate The New Johnny Max Band Release at The Harbour Street Fish Bar

Saturday night at The Harbour Street Fish Bar in Collingwood, join the party to celebrate the release of the 7th album from The Johnny Max Band, “Roadhouse Soul”.  You know you’ll be in for a good time.  This band plays music that meanders across several genres with a strong element of blues and soul.  The new album reflects that.


“What we wanted was more of a roadhouse,” says Johnny, “say down in the southern states where you know you’re not just going to get one style of music, you’ll get a lot of good songs.”

He says this is more of a guitar oriented album than his previous releases, and that is due in large part to the involvement of his guitar player Kevin Vinneau throughout the creative process.  “I was supposed to release it last year, but I just couldn’t get it together, with a bunch of stuff happening.   So this year Kevin and I got into the studio and we finished it up, writing the songs together”

There are two things in particular that stand out when you see the Johnny Max Band live.  One of them is that Johnny himself is a great front man, the kind of performer who draws you in to be part of the experience, with a little bit of humour and a lot of enthusiasm, reminiscent of the way Ronnie Hawkins works an audience (without the southern drawl and the good ol’ boy personna).  The other standout feature of this band is the playing of Kevin Vinneau.

“Kevin is a fantastic guitar player,” says Johnny. “I recruited him after my guitar player John Findlay had to take a job, which meant that he couldn’t travel.  John was writing film soundtracks but when that business kind of dried up, he had to get a full time job.  Kevin and I met up and hit it off.  He’s become my songwriting partner and a really good friend.”

The skills that make Johnny Max such a great performer have their own genesis.  Before he began to sing professionally, he was already a gifted master of ceremonies.  “I didn’t start until I was about 34 or 35,” he says, “I grew up loving music, essentially a record collector for a number of years, became a bad DJ and karaoke host.  My friend went to his guitar teacher and said you’ve got to check this guy out.  I ended up in his band and eventually it morphed into my band.”

His warm and energetic personality makes rapport with an audience a natural extension of his talents.  It’s opened up a few side projects along the way.

He hosts the syndicated radio program “Sunday Morning Soul” which plays weekly in several markets including KCOR in Kansas City, and within local earshot at 97.7 The Beach FM.  It’s a show designed to “bring you that feeling you had when you first started listening to the radio. Remember? Those summer days when you heard a brand new tune and you ran down to Sam’s or A&A’s store to buy the single?”  It gives Johnny a chance to share his extensive record collection, as well as interviews and news about the goings on in your area.

Another interesting side project he created was the “Storyteller Nights” songwriter series. “I got the idea off BBC radio,” he says, “and it was a series about songwriters telling about their songs. I tried the same thing with basically Toronto guys, and I’d have the guys come in and tell some stories. It was very intriguing.  We did about 70 or 80 shows.  We’d have a couple of stories, a couple of songs, putting the focus more on the artist.”  He found that setting up these shows in bars wasn’t always conducive to the kind of attention you’d want from the audience, but he’d love to run it in small theatres.  It would be ideal in this area, where the audiences are something special.  Johnny appreciates that.

“I started about seven or eight years ago playing outside Toronto,” he says, “In Toronto most of the bars are set up where you play for the door or pass the hat.  I think that’s demeaning to the musicians.  But that’s how it is there and you have to put up with it if you want to play. I went out to the smaller areas outside Toronto because there is more of a community. People go out on a Friday or Saturday to hear bands even if they don’t know them.  If I come to places like Collingwood or Thornbury or Meaford there’s a community of people who just like live music and they’ll take a flyer on a new band even if they’ve never heard of them.”  It not only means paying gigs, it provides his band with the experience of playing to enthusiastic crowds, often in beautiful settings.  “If the people are happy you get a vibe off those people.”

Anyone in this area who attends live shows knows that.  We are lucky to have some great bands who are willing to make the trek to our shores knowing that they’ll get the love they deserve.

So head out to Collingwood’s hottest new music venue on Saturday night, hear a great band, catch a great vibe and buy a great CD to take home for a souvenir.

The party starts at 8 pm, $15 in advance or $20 at the door.  It’s a bargain.

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Click on the album cover to check out “Roadhouse Soul”


The Thursday Outlook – Feb. 23 to 26, 2017

A couple of outstanding female artists top the list of this weekend’s live music picks in Meaford, with Jenie Thai on Friday at The Red Door Grille and Franny Wisp at Meaford Hall on Saturday.

Jenie Thai offers up virtuoso piano playing, with a beautifully expressive and sensitive voice and evocative songs, to make up a very special package in this small venue.

And with the balcony renos at Meaford Hall still going on, it is presenting live music in a small venue as well with Franny Wisp and her Washboard.  A local phenomenon who combines spoken word, music and satire, it may be difficult at this point to get a ticket but it’s definitely worth checking out if you can.

And The Leeky Canoe will be rocking on Saturday with Rob Elder.  Don’t forget that the open mic has changed to Thursday nights with Chris Scerri, whose cohost this week will be Rich Fletcher, lead guitarist from Bored of Education.  On Saturday night Chris is going to be at Gustav’s in Collingwood.

Another option for this evening is the young singer-songwriter Austin McCarthy at The Huron Club.  Austin, who has been referred to as “an old soul” has been diligently building his career rung by rung with his gentle, introspective songs and hot blues licks.  He’s won over fans opening for Coldjack at The Gayety Theatre, and for Kim Mitchell at The Village at Blue, and he’s won the Collingwood Idol contest.

There are a couple of exciting shows happening on the weekend in Collingwood and Owen Sound.

On Saturday night The Johnny Max Band is having a CD release party at the Harbour Street Fish Bar in Collingwood.  This is their 7th album, which they call, fittingly, “Roadhouse Soul”.  With excellent players and the charismatic presence of Johnny Max, this band is pure joy.

And then on Sunday night, at the Historic Gayety Theatre in Collingwood, one of the best concerts to hit our region in a long time will be Blackie And the Rodeo Kings playing to a packed house.  Promoter Steve Vipond has been daily counting down the number of tickets left and as of yesterday only a handful remained.  This is the second date of a short tour by the band which they are kicking off the night before with a sold out concert at Massey Hall.  This is a concert that people will be talking about for a long time.

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