Tag Archives: Toronto Blues Society

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Although he originally made his name as lead singer of the Cameo Blues Band, he joined the Downchild Blues Band in 1990, replacing their original vocalist Hock Walsh, and has been touring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.

Conor Gains Has Impressed The Best From An Early Age

Conor Gains and The Ramblin’ Moon will be bringing another great night of music to The Marsh Street Centre in Clarksburg next weekend, March 25th.

If you close your eyes and listen to Conor Gains play and sing you can hear the history of the blues, from the Mississippi Delta to Chicago.  He’s an old soul, born to sing the blues.

Conor, was born in 1993, two years after his namesake, Conor Clapton, at the age of four-and-a-half, tragically died in a fall from a window forty stories up.  The boy’s father, Eric Clapton, memorialized his son in several songs, including “Circus” and “Tears In Heaven”.  But perhaps a better memorial to the son of the famed blues guitarist is this young talent from Cambridge, Ontario, who has been making an impression on the blues world since he was a pre-teen.

Conor Gains could be called the Mozart of the blues, because, like Amadeus, he was a child prodigy who seems to have been born with a natural talent for the music he loves and continues to impress, not only as a guitarist but as a vocalist and songwriter as well.  He has the appetite of a devoted student, an attribute that was always there.  When he was eight, he picked up his father’s guitar and began to play.  He explored his father’s music collection, absorbing the skills of guitar greats that included not only Clapton but Rory Gallagher, Alvin Lee, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix.  Although he is firmly rooted in the blues, his playing and writing explores the best of other genres as well.  In an interview with Erin McCallum for the Toronto Blues Society Newsletter, he said, “Blues is a soulful, creative, extreme right-brained forum to express or evoke emotion – a way of expressing, despite what you are going through, something beautiful.” But through his two album releases to date, “Junction Sessions” and “Run Away With The Night” he stretches the genre to bring in elements of country, rockabilly and reggae.

Conor’s father, like Mozart’s recognized his son’s talent at an early age and in the fall of 2007 he and his journalist father went on a “father and son ‘rock and roll road trip’” which included music venues in Cleveland, Nashville and Memphis.  By this time Conor had already been impressing local Cambridge musicians, participating in blues jams since the age of twelve.  Within a year of the road trip he was playing shows in Ontario and across the continent, including at the Montreal Jazz Festival and Memphis Blues Festival.  He performed with the BB King All stars, in Nashville and Memphis, and was invited by the late Les Paul to join him on stage at New York’s Iridium Jazz Club.

Along the line he has expanded his original trio to an ensemble called The Ramblin’ Moon, that includes horns and a keyboard, allowing him to expand his songwriting and performance to match his growing sophistication as an artist.  He has also left a string of exclamatory praise in his wake.  Craig Laskey, talent buyer at Toronto’s legendary Horseshoe Tavern, said  “Conor was great, Everyone who saw the show is raving about him.”  He’s since become a regular favourite at the venue.  Following Rambli’ Moon’s high energy show to the Montreal Jazz Festival’s main stage in July 2015, Mark Lepage of the Montreal Gazette raved that “Gains brought… the life force of the music.” Grammy Award winner Dan Hill, after co-writing a song with Conor, commented, ” I swear he’s brilliant.”

The Marsh Street Centre attracts an audience that becomes fully engaged with the performance on stage and reflects back to the band the energy they put out.  This will make next weekend’s performance even more special.  It’s bound to be a sold out show, so you’d better check in as soon as you can to purchase tickets at www.marshstreetcentre.com so you don’t miss your chance of to see this shooting star while he’s still in our stratosphere.

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Click on the album cover to check out Conor Gains’ music: