By Graham Rockingham / The Hamilton Spectator

with files from Leonard Turnevicius

Hamilton isn’t known for creating pop stars. It’s hard to imagine a Justin Bieber, or even a Michael Bublé, rising to fame from the shadows of the steel mills.

We tend to like our music a little more real. We do it in rock, country, folk, blues, jazz and classical. In each one of those musical fields, this city has had a major impact on Canadian culture.

Some of our musical history might be well known to readers — the 1980 Teenage Head punk rock riot, for instance, or Daniel Lanois’ Grant Avenue Studio — but many others, no less significant, have faded with time.

So, on the eve of Hamilton hosting its sixth Juno Awards, we’ve compiled a list of the city’s musical milestones spanning almost 165 years. We’ve probably missed a few. If so, let us know. And, yes, for the purposes of this timeline we’ve excluded the many contributions that have come from our neighbours in Burlington. We’ll leave that for another time.  See more about Juno Awards week in Hamilton on thespec.com

The Hamilton Music Timeline

1851

A census reports that 36 musicians make their home in Hamilton.

The George Washington Johnson memorial
The George Washington Johnson memorial

1864

Hamilton school teacher George Washington Johnson writes the poem “When You and I Were Young, Maggie,” for his wife and former pupil Margaret “Maggie” Clark who died a year later. The poem was set to music by American James Austin Butterfield and became one of the most popular songs of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Among the many artists who record it are Perry Como, Gene Autry, the Stanley Brothers, David Grisman, Bing Crosby, Fats Waller, Benny Goodman and John McDermott. In 2005, Johnson is inducted posthumously into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.

1866

Peter Grossmann, a German-born bandmaster, music publisher and instrument dealer, forms the 13th Battalion Band which in time becomes the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry Band. Grossmann is succeeded in 1869 by bandmaster George R. Robinson who runs the band from 1871 to 1916. The Gage Park bandshell is named after him. Currently, the RHLI Band is led by Major Michael A. Rehill.

1889

Ellen Ambrose forms the Duet Club at which her students perform Haydn symphonies as duets at the piano. The Duet Club is still going strong today, offering scholarships and performance opportunities to young musicians.

Opera Hamilton performs La Boheme.
Opera Hamilton performs La Boheme.

1898

The Hamilton Opera Company is formed.

1899

Hamilton-born balladeer Harry Macdonough (born John Scantlebury Macdonald) scores his first hit with “Mid the Green Fields of Virginia.” Macdonough moves to the United States and becomes one of the most popular tenors of the earlier years of recorded music. He also manages the New York studio of the Victor Talking Machine Company.

1903

Harry Stares forms the 91st Highlanders which eventually becomes the Argyll and Sutherland Band.

1904

Hamilton Conservatory of Music settles into a red-brick building at 126 James St. S. The teaching institution was established in 1897 by C.M. Harris, organist-choirmaster at St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church. The conservatory receives a royal charter in 1965 and is renamed the Royal Hamilton College of Music. In 1980, the college closes due to financial difficulties.

1905

The Bach-Elgar Choir is founded by Bruce Carey under the name the Elgar Choir. In 1947, it joins with the Bach Choir (founded 1931 by Graham Godfrey), to form the renamed Bach-Elgar Choir. The Bach-Elgar Choir made its debut in 1947 in “Handel’s Messiah” under Charles Peaker at Hamilton’s Centenary United Church.

The English words to O' Canada were written by Hamilton native Robert Stanley Weir in 1908.
The English words to O’ Canada were written by Hamilton native Robert Stanley Weir in 1908.

1908

Hamilton native Robert Stanley Weir writes the English version of “O Canada.” The song officially became Canada’s national anthem in 1980. Weir was born in Hamilton in 1856, and moved to Montreal with his family as a child. Weir practised law in Montreal and went on to serve as a municipal court judge.

Jackie Washington smiles as he jokes with fans while waiting for the Friends of Jackie Washington tribute concert to begin at the Tivoli Theatre
Jackie Washington smiles as he jokes with fans while waiting for the Friends of Jackie Washington tribute concert to begin at the Tivoli Theatre

1919

Singer Jackie Washington is born in Hamilton, becoming Canada’s first black disc jockey in 1948 at radio station CHML. Washington, who had a repertoire of more than 1,200 songs, became an inspiration for generations of Hamilton musicians. He was inducted into the Canadian Jazz and Blues Hall of Fame in 2002 and received a honorary doctorate at McMaster University in 2003. Washington died at the age of 89 in 2009.

1928

Connie Fisher is born. She goes on to become a soprano with the Canadian Opera Company, and makes her directorial debut with them in a production of “La Bohème” in 1968.

RICK <abbr><figcaption class=WILKINS" width="960" height="644" srcset="http://thespec-stories.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/RICK-WILKINS-1024x687.jpg 1024w, http://thespec-stories.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/RICK-WILKINS-300x201.jpg 300w, http://thespec-stories.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/RICK-WILKINS-200x134.jpg 200w, http://thespec-stories.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/RICK-WILKINS-900x603.jpg 900w" sizes="(max-width: 960px) 100vw, 960px" /> Rick Wilkins

1937

Rick Wilkins is born in Hamilton. He becomes one of the country’s most sought after jazz arrangers. Wilkins’s 1979 scoring of Oscar Peterson’s “Canadiana Suite” for CBC TV is one of his many high-profile projects.

1939

Saxophonist Fred Purser forms Fred Purser and his Orchestra with his brother Jack on trumpet.

1941

Cyril Hampshire forms the Stelco Male Chorus which ran until 1953.

1945

The Dofasco Male Chorus is established under the leadership of Edward Stewart. Today, it is under the direction of Geoff Bullivant.

1949

The Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra is founded as an amateur community ensemble. It debuts Jan. 16, 1950, at Hamilton’s Memorial School Auditorium.

 

Sax player Fred Purser
Sax player Fred Purser

1950

Fred Purser and the Washingtons form with Delbert, Dick and Rose Washington, and Hughie Wayner, then Larry Brown, and much later Brian Griffith. They play just about every room in Hamilton, and most of them from St. Catharines to Chatham to Bobcaygeon before calling it a night in 2000.

Gordie Tapp, host of Main Street Jamboree on <abbr><figcaption class=CHML radio" width="811" height="1024" srcset="http://thespec-stories.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/GORDIE-TAPP-811x1024.jpg 811w, http://thespec-stories.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/GORDIE-TAPP-238x300.jpg 238w, http://thespec-stories.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/GORDIE-TAPP-158x200.jpg 158w, http://thespec-stories.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/GORDIE-TAPP-900x1136.jpg 900w" sizes="(max-width: 811px) 100vw, 811px" /> Gordie Tapp, host of Main Street Jamboree on CHML radio

1952

“Main Street Jamboree” debuts on Hamilton’s CHML radio, hosted by Gordie Tapp. The show receives a national audience and later moves to CHCH TV. Musical guests include Brenda Lee, Hank Snow, Lefty Frizzell, Ray Price and Sonny James. Tapp goes on to be one of the stars of the American TV show Hee Haw. Tapp, a Burlington resident, is inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame in 1990 and receives the Order of Canada in 1998.

Neil Peart and Rush at Copps Coliseum
Neil Peart and Rush at Copps Coliseum

1952

Neil Peart is born in Hamilton to Glen and Betty Peart of Hagersville on Sept. 12. It was a Friday. Four years later, the future Rush drummer and his family would move to Port Dalhousie, but he was born here, in Hamilton.

1952

A four-year-old Marjan Mozetich moves with his family from Italy to Hamilton. In 2010, his “Lament in the Trampled Garden” wins the Juno award for Classical Composition of the Year.

1953

McMaster University begins offering music courses, establishing a music department in 1965 with Frank Thorolfson as its first chair.

1956

Reginald Godden gives the first integral performance in Canada of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas for the Hamilton Chamber Music Society, which he helped found in 1951. The society’s 91st and final presentation is a concert by the Beaux Arts Trio on April 23, 1977.

1957

CHCH TV debuts “Tiny Talent Time.” The show, hosted by Bill Lawrence, runs until 1992. The show is relaunched by CHCH in 2014.

 

CONWAY <abbr><figcaption class=TWITTY" width="960" height="625" srcset="http://thespec-stories.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/CONWAY-TWITTY-e1425660041892-1024x667.jpg 1024w, http://thespec-stories.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/CONWAY-TWITTY-e1425660041892-300x195.jpg 300w, http://thespec-stories.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/CONWAY-TWITTY-e1425660041892-200x130.jpg 200w, http://thespec-stories.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/CONWAY-TWITTY-e1425660041892-900x586.jpg 900w" sizes="(max-width: 960px) 100vw, 960px" /> Family photo of Conway Twitty in Hamilton

1957

Hamilton promoter Harold Kudlets books American country singer Conway Twitty into the Flamingo Club. Twitty stays several months, living at the Fisher Hotel, and writes his biggest hit, “It’s Only Make Believe.”

RONNIE <abbr>HAWKINS</abbr>

1958

Arkansas rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins performs his first Canadian show at Hamilton’s Golden Rail Tavern. He later settles permanently in Canada, selecting many of his backing band members from the Hamilton music scene.

1959

Former Hamilton Spectator reporter Gene Lees is named editor of Downbeat magazine. The Hamilton native goes on to become one of the world’s most respected jazz journalists and critics. Lees writes definitive biographies of Woody Herman, Johnny Mercer and Oscar Peterson. He also writes song lyrics with such well-known composers as Antonio Carlos Jobim and pianist Bill Evans. His songs are recorded by Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Diana Krall and dozens of others. Lees dies at his California home in 2009 at the age of 82.

1960

Hamilton-born guitarist Sonny Greenwich begins his jazz career, performing in Toronto clubs such as The Cellar and the Bohemian Embassy. He goes on to perform and record with some of the greatest names in jazz, including Wayne Shorter, Charles Lloyd, John Handy, Miles Davis and Chick Corea. He receives four Juno nominations during the ’90s.

1961

June Kowalchuk and Clifford Fox re-establish the Hamilton Opera Company. Their first production is “The Gypsy Baron” at Hill Park Secondary School. The company is active for nine years, presenting the works of Smetana, Puccini, Mascagni, Quesnel and others conducted by Lee Hepner, George Crum and William Santor.

 

Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, Garth Hudson and Levon Helm of The Band.
Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, Garth Hudson and Levon Helm of The Band.

1963

Members of Ronnie Hawkins’ band The Hawks — Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Robbie Robertson, Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson — walk into Harold Kudlets’ booking agency in Hamilton’s Royal Connaught Hotel and announce they are starting their own group. Kudlets agrees to manage Levon and the Hawks and books them into gigs across North America. The following year, the group would become Bob Dylan’s backing band, known simply as The Band. The Band was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1989.

1965

Music teacher Glenn Mallory establishes the Hamilton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra as a student-based symphony. The HPYO celebrates its 50th anniversary in June 2014, with a special alumni concert.

1965

Hamilton drummer Skip Prokop forms The Paupers, a four-piece rock band that builds a following in Toronto’s Yorkville club scene. The band signs with MGM Records in New York and performs extensively throughout the United States, including the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival.

Don Messer
Don Messer

1969

CHCH-TV picks up Don Messer’s Jubilee after the fiddle player’s show is cancelled by CBC. CHCH broadcasts it weekly until Messer’s death four years later.

Lighthouse circa 1970
Lighthouse circa 1970. Skip Prokop is centre in hat with cane.

1969

Skip Prokop returns to Canada and forms the 13-piece rock orchestra Lighthouse with keyboard player Paul Hoffert. Lighthouse dominates Canadian radio charts in the early ’70s, winning Junos for group of the year in 1972 and 1973.

Boris Brott
Boris Brott

1969

Montreal native Boris Brott takes over the leadership of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra. Brott raises the HPO’s profile with innovative performances, including one held in the Dofasco steel mills and another featuring local folk-rock group Tranquility Base, led by Ian Thomas. Brott continues as the HPO’s artistic director until 1990.

Harrison Kennedy
Harrison Kennedy

1970

Detroit-based group Chairmen of the Board, featuring Hamilton singer Harrison Kennedy, scores an international hit with “Give Me Just A Little More Time.” After six years touring and recording with the group, Kennedy returns to Hamilton and establishes a solo career, earning five Juno nominations for blues album of the year.

King Biscuit Boy
King Biscuit Boy

1970

Ronnie Hawkins fires another backing band. They regroup in a communal house in Ancaster they dub Bad Manors. The band releases its first album, “Official Music,” under the name King Biscuit Boy with Crowbar. Hamilton harmonica player Richard Newell, a.k.a. King Biscuit Boy, would leave the band the next year.

STAN <abbr><figcaption class=ROGERS" width="730" height="1024" srcset="http://thespec-stories.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/STAN-ROGERS-730x1024.jpg 730w, http://thespec-stories.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/STAN-ROGERS-214x300.jpg 214w, http://thespec-stories.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/STAN-ROGERS-143x200.jpg 143w, http://thespec-stories.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/STAN-ROGERS-900x1262.jpg 900w, http://thespec-stories.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/STAN-ROGERS.jpg 1426w" sizes="(max-width: 730px) 100vw, 730px" /> Stan Rogers

1970

Hamilton folksinger Stan Rogers records his first song, “Here’s To You Santa Claus.”

1971

Canadian Brass Ensemble changes its name to the Canadian Brass and become artists-in-residence with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra until 1977.

Kelly Jay Fordham of Crowbar, 1971.
Kelly Jay  of Crowbar, 1971.

1971

Crowbar scores a national hit with “Oh What a Feeling,” Hamilton’s Kelly Jay (Blake Fordham) is now fronting the band. King Biscuit Boy goes on to record several solo albums and be praised as one of the country’s top blues harmonica players.

Daniel Lanois, left and Brian Eno.
Daniel Lanois, left and Brian Eno.

1971

Daniel Lanois and his brother Bob build a recording studio in the basement of their mother’s Ancaster home. In 1976, they relocate to an old Edwardian house in downtown Hamilton, the now legendary Grant Avenue Studio, recording albums by Raffi, Willie P. Bennett, Parachute Club and Martha and the Muffins. Daniel Lanois forges a partnership with British musician Brian Eno and produces Grammy-winning albums with U2 and Peter Gabriel. Lanois goes on to become one of the most influential producers in pop music, working with Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Robbie Robertson and Neil Young. Lanois wins seven Producer of the Year Junos and another for Most Promising Male Vocalist of the Year in 1990.

1972

Harold Kudlets books John Ellison, writer of the popular soul song “Some Kind of Wonderful” for a string of dates in southern Ontario. Ellison decides to settle in the Hamilton area. Ellison continues performing around the world and around Hamilton. The West Virginia native publishes an autobiography in 2009 detailing the racism he met in his early years in the U.S. music industry.

Hamilton Place.
Hamilton Place

1973

Hamilton Place opens, built at a cost of $11 million by the City of Hamilton. The Sept. 22 inaugural concert includes premières of works by Louis Applebaum and Galt MacDermot performed by the HPO under Boris Brott.

1973

Dundas native Ian Thomas scores a U.S. Top-40 hit with his song “Painted Ladies.” A year later, Thomas, brother of comedian Dave Thomas, wins the Juno for most promising male vocalist. Many of Thomas’s songs would be recorded by internationally popular acts such as Santana (“Hold On”), Manfred Mann (“The Runner”), America (“Right Before Your Eyes”) and Chicago (“Chains”). Thomas also writes the theme song for his brother’s film “Strange Brew.”

1973

Lee Hepner, a key player in Hamilton’s classical music scene since 1961, establishes the McMaster Symphony Orchestra, a community group with ties to the university. They often collaborate in concerts with the Mohawk College Singers, founded by his wife Pat Rolston.

1974

Hamilton singer-songwriter Ray Materick scores a national hit with “Linda Put the Coffee On.” The song is from Materick’s second album, “Neon Rain.”

SIMPLY <abbr>SAUCER</abbr>

1975

Hamilton proto-punk band Simply Saucer performs a concert on the rooftop of Jackson Square. In 1989 a live recording of the concert is combined with a 1974 recording session recorded by Daniel and Bob Lanois and released as “Cyborgs Revisited.” The record gains international underground cult status and is rated at No. 36 in Bob Mersereau’s 2007 book “The Top 100 Canadian Albums.”

1975

Hamilton-based country singer Dallas Harms writes and records “Paper Rosie.” It peaks at 21 on the Canadian RPM country charts. Two years later, Gene Watson’s cover of the song becomes an international hit. In 1982, Harms scores a No. 1 Canadian hit with Honky Tonkin’ (All Night Long). Harms is inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame in 1989.

Pink Floyd played Ivor Wynne Stadium in 1975
Pink Floyd played Ivor Wynne Stadium in 1975

1975

Pink Floyd plays before a crowd of more than 50,000 at Ivor Wynne Stadium. Unruly fans anger the neighbours, and the band’s pyrotechnics damage the stadium scoreboard and burn the Astroturf. With the exception of a 1979 Rush concert, civic outrage closes Ivor Wynne to rock concerts until 2012 when the Tragically Hip perform shortly before the football stadium’s demolition.

Teenage Head

1975

Teenage Head plays its first gig in the cafeteria of Westdale High School.

 

HAMILTON <abbr>CHILDRENS</abbr> <abbr>CHOIR</abbr>

1975

Donald Kendrick, organist at Christ’s Church Cathedral, establishes the Hamilton Children’s Choir. The choir has since gone on to win international competitions, produce several recordings, tour across North America, Europe and Asia. HCC artistic directors include John Laing, David Davis and current director Zimfira Poloz. The HCC performed in Hamilton at the 1999 Junos with Celine Dion.

1976

Hamilton folksinger Stan Rogers releases his first album, “Fogarty’s Cove,” on the independent Barn Swallow Records label. Rogers later takes over the label and retitles it Fogarty’s Cove. On his own label, he releases three more classic Canadian folk albums, “Turnaround” (1978), “Between The Breaks Live” (1979) and “Northwest Passage” (1981).

The Festival of Friends at the Ancaster Fair Grounds
Today, the Festival of Friends at the Ancaster Fair Grounds

1976

Hamilton folk music promoter Bill Powell organizes the first Festival of Friends in Hamilton’s Gage Park. The free event grows from a modest folk festival into a multi-stage show drawing more than 200,000 people to the park over its three-day run.

Valerie Tryon
Valerie Tryon

1976

Acclaimed British concert pianist Valerie Tryon accepts a post as an associate professor of music at McMaster University. Tryon, who settled in Ancaster in 1971, and continues to record and perform at major venues across North America and her native England.

1977

The Canadian Brass become the first Western classical musicians to perform in China after Mao’s Cultural Revolution when then prime minister Pierre Trudeau sends them on a cultural exchange between the two countries.

1977

Willie P. Bennett writes “Blackie and the Rodeo Kings” at Hamilton’s Rebecca Street bus terminal en route to a gig at Bill Powell’s Knight II coffee house.

1977

Guitarist Jerry Doucette, a Montreal native raised in Hamilton, scores a platinum-selling hit with “Mama Let Him Play.” His band Doucette wins the 1979 Juno for most promising group of the year.

The Canadian Orpheus Male Choir
The Canadian Orpheus Male Choir

1977

Lyn Harry founds the Canadian Orpheus Male Choir with eight members. By 1990, there are 100 singers. The group is currently led by Simon Irving.

John Laing
John Laing

1978

John Laing, a chorister and organist trained at Corpus Christi College in Cambridge, England, moves to Hamilton as organist and choirmaster at Christ’s Church Cathedral. In 1982, he establishes the John Laing Singers, a professional quality chamber choir. Laing remains as artistic director until his retirement in 2011.

1978

Teenage Head’s performance at the Last Pogo at The Horseshoe in Toronto ends in a riot and is shut down by police.

1978

Violinist Marta Hidy forms Trio Canada with pianist Valerie Tryon and cellist Zdenek Konicek. Hidy is also a member of the McMaster String Quartet from 1978-1989. Among her other groups is the Hamilton-based Ensemble Sir Ernest MacMillan, formed in 1974.

Teenage Head Album

1979

Teenage Head releases its eponymous debut album, the first of three consecutive gold albums for the Hamilton punk band.

1979

Dave (Rave) Desroches, Rick Andrews and Tim Gibbons form The Shakers, a harmonizing pop-rock trio that records with producers Daniel Lanois and Jack Richardson (the Guess Who), as well as touring extensively with Teenage Head.

 

Mickey DeSadist and The Forgotten Rebels in Hamilton
Mickey DeSadist and The Forgotten Rebels in Hamilton

1979

Hamilton punk band The Forgotten Rebels release the album “In Love with the System,” followed by “This Ain’t Hollywood” in 1981. The two albums contained punk classics such as “Surfin’ on Heroin” and “Elvis Is Dead.”

1980

Teenage Head draws some 15,000 fans to Ontario Place. A riot ensues, sparking headlines across the country. Rock concerts are banned from the venue.

1980

Opera Hamilton makes its debut performances, staging two operas in its first season. In 1995, it re-incorporates as Opera Ontario, partnering with its offshoot, Kitchener-Waterloo Opera. In 2008, the company files for protection from creditors and re-emerges as Opera Hamilton the following year. In January 2014, burdened by a substantial debt, Opera Hamilton ceases operations.

1980

Hamilton-based composer Elma Miller wins the Swedish Els Kaljot-Vaarman prize for chamber music along with Arvo Part. A year later, she takes home CAPAC’s Sir Ernest MacMillan award for her orchestral work “Genesis.” The HPO premières her “Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra” in 1987.

1983

On June 2, Stan Rogers dies at the age of 33 with 22 other passengers in a fire aboard an Air Canada airliner on the ground at the Greater Cincinnati Airport. Rogers was returning home after performing at the Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas. The Stan Rogers Folk Festival is held every year in Canso, N.S., in his memory.

 

Lorraine Segato circa 1982
Lorraine Segato circa 1982

1984

Parachute Cub, fronted by Hamilton native Lorraine Segato, wins the Juno for single of the year for “Rise Up.” The song beats out two Bryan Adams’ hits, “Cuts Like a Knife” and “Straight From The Heart,” as well as Corey Hart’s “Sunglasses At Night” and Men Without Hats’ “Safety Dance.” “Rise Up” was produced by Daniel Lanois at his Grant Avenue Studio.

 

Weil is founder and conductor of the Hamilton All Star Jazz Band
Russ Weil is founder and conductor of the Hamilton All Star Jazz Band

1984

Music teacher Russ Weil forms the Hamilton All Star Jazz Band, a development program aimed at high school and college musicians. The group, now based in Ancaster, goes on to win multiple national competitions, performs at Expo 86 and is invited to jazz festivals throughout North America and Europe. The group plays the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland five times (1995, 2000, 2003, 2007 and 2012). Among the band’s alumnae are Polaris Prize winner Dan Snaith (Caribou), two-time Juno winner David Braid and Juno nominees Jeremy Fisher and Diana Panton.

1985

Lorne Betts dies. He served as music director at St. Paul’s Presbyterian and Melrose United churches. He was also principal of the Hamilton Conservatory, and music critic for The Spectator from 1965 to 1979.

1986

Hamilton-born composer and McMaster music professor Hugh Hartwell’s “Waltz Inventions” is performed at Washington’s John F. Kennedy Center in celebration of the International Year of Canadian Music.

1988

Boris Brott launches the Brott Music Festival, which continues as one of the key music summer festivals in the area. A year later, Brott forms the National Academy Orchestra of Canada, a professional training orchestra based in Hamilton. The NAO becomes the orchestra-in-residence for the festival.

1988

Hamilton’s Leila Fletcher dies at age 88. The pianist/composer is best known for her method books, “The Leila Fletcher Piano Course.”

Junkhouse
Junkhouse

1989

Lead singer/guitarist Tom Wilson, bassist Russ Wilson (no relation), lead guitarist Dan Achen and drummer Ray Farrugia form Junkhouse. The band gains national exposure opening for Crash Vegas, which feature Hamilton guitarist Colin Cripps.

Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead
Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead

1990

The Grateful Dead perform two concerts at Copps Coliseum as part of the band’s 25th anniversary tour. Out-of-town fans are allowed to camp at Chedoke Golf Course. Six songs from the March 22 concert make it on the Dead’s live album So Glad You Made It.

1991

Ian Thomas forms The Boomers with Hamilton guitarist Bill Dillon, bassist Peter Cardinali and drummer Rick Gratton. The Boomers release four albums over the next ten years.

Canadian country star George Fox
Canadian country star George Fox

1991

Hamilton hosts the Canadian Country Music Awards. George Fox is the host. Hamilton would go on to host the CCMAs in 1993, 1995, 1997 and 2011.

1992

The Grateful Dead return to Copps for two more shows. Bruce Hornsby plays piano with the band. The four 1990 and 1992 dates are the only concerts the band performs in Canada during its final 10 years of existence.

 

Sonic Unyon Records co-owner Mark Milne and Tim Potocic at their Wilson Ave. location
Sonic Unyon Records co-owner Mark Milne and Tim Potocic at their Wilson Ave. location

1992

The Sonic Unyon Recording Company is established by Mark Milne, Sandy McIntosh and Tim Potocic of the Hamilton band Tristan Psionic. From its Wilson Street headquarters, Sonic Unyon (pronounced “onion”), releases albums by independent bands including Sianspheric, Shallow North Dakota, Eric’s Trip, Hayden, Chore, Frank Black and the Catholics, A Northern Chorus, Raising the Fawn, Teenage Head, The Dinner Belles, Terra Lightfoot and Voivod.

Jim Witter
Jim Witter

1993

Hamilton country singer Jim Witter releases his debut self-titled album. It scores four Top 10 hits on the Canadian country charts, including “Distant Drum” and “Everything and More.” Witter records two more albums, wins three Canadian Country Music Awards and is nominated for five Junos.

1993

Junkhouse signs with Sony Records and releases the album “Strays,” produced by Daniel Lanois associate Malcolm Burn. The album produces the radio hits “Out of My Head,” “The Sky is Falling” and “Praying for the Rain.”

1993

Frank Sinatra, 77, comes to Copps Coliseum, backed by a 30-piece orchestra.

1994

Valerie Tryon shares a Juno for best classical album, vocal or choral performance, for “Debussy Songs.” Tryon performs piano for soprano Laudette Leblanc. Tryon is also nominated the following year for her record “The Joy of Piano.”

1994

Cellist Jack Mendelsohn founds chamberWORKS! and remains its artistic director for 18 seasons.

1995

Junkhouse releases “Birthday Boy,” gaining radio play with “Be Someone.”

1995

The first of five Juno Awards shows are held at Hamilton’s Copps Coliseum. It is only the second time the awards have been held outside of Toronto and marks a major shift in format to a nationally televised arena show. Copps also hosts the Junos in 1996, 1997, 1999 and 2001. The March 15 Junos at First Ontario Centre will be the sixth held in Hamilton.

1996

Financial problems force the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra to close its doors and declare bankruptcy. It re-emerges a year later as the New Hamilton Orchestra. The company operates as the New Hamilton Orchestra through 1999 with Mario Bernardi as part-time artistic adviser. In 2000 it reclaimed the name Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra.

1996

Junkhouse releases its third and final studio album, “Fuzz,” containing the songs “Pearly White” and “Shine.”

1996

Daniel Lanois produces the soundtrack album for the Billy Bob Thornton film “Sling Blade.” The soundtrack includes the song “Lonely One,” written and performed by Hamilton’s Tim Gibbons.

Blackie and the Rodeo Kings. from left Tom Wilson, Colin Linden and Stephen Fearing. Photo courtesy of <abbr><figcaption class=BARK." width="481" height="547" srcset="http://thespec-stories.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/BLACKIE-2-.jpg 481w, http://thespec-stories.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/BLACKIE-2--264x300.jpg 264w, http://thespec-stories.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/BLACKIE-2--176x200.jpg 176w" sizes="(max-width: 481px) 100vw, 481px" /> Blackie and the Rodeo Kings. from left Tom Wilson, Colin Linden and Stephen Fearing. Photo courtesy of BARK.

1996

Tom Wilson forms Blackie and the Rodeo Kings with Stephen Fearing and Colin Linden to celebrate the songs of Willie P. Bennett. The trio release several albums over the next 19 years and tour extensively through North America and Europe.

1996

Canadian country music star George Fox marries Copetown native Monica Presta and settles down on a farm in Ancaster. Fox won Junos for country male vocalist of the year in 1990, 1991 and 1992.

1997

Dancer and choreographer Vitek Wincza takes over the old Conservatory building on James Street South and establishes the Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts, with more than 100 programs in music, dance, drama and visual arts.

 

Mike Trebilcock and bassist Shelly Woods of The Killjoys
Mike Trebilcock and bassist Shelly Woods of The Killjoys

1997

Hamilton pop-rock trio The Killjoys (Mike Trebilcock, Gene Champagne and Shelley Woods) wins the Juno for best new group. The band is also nominated for best video for the song “Soaked.”

1997

Junkhouse wins best video Juno for “Burned Out Car.”

1999

Complaining of a cough, Luciano Pavarotti cancels a Valentine’s Day concert at Copps Coliseum an hour before show time, 14,800 people had purchased tickets. “Pavarotti is the albatross that hangs around my neck,” concert promoter Gabe Macaluso says 15 years later.

 Luciano Pavarotti, who cancelled his Hamilton performance twice, with Bob Bratina
Luciano Pavarotti, who cancelled his Hamilton performance twice, with Bob Bratina

1999

Six months after cancelling his concert at Copps, Luciano Pavarotti cancels his makeup show, this time with two days notice. The great tenor had a cold.

2000

At Vatican City, Boris Brott conducts Leonard Bernstein’s “Mass” for an audience that includes Pope John Paul II.

2000

Hamilton glass artist Shirley Elford designs a new Juno statuette. Elford would individually handcraft every Juno award for the next ten years. The current Juno statute incorporates Elford’s original design with a solid crystal tower. Elford dies of cancer in 2011.

2000

Blackie and the Rodeo Kings win the Juno for best roots and traditional album (group) for “Kings of Love.”

2001

Jacksoul, fronted by Hamilton native Haydain Neale, wins the Juno for R&B/soul Recording of the Year for “Sleepless.” Jacksoul also wins the category in 2007 for “mySOUL” and in 2010 for “Lonesome Highway.”

2002

Daniel Lanois is inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame at the Juno awards in Ottawa.

Gordon Lightfoot performs at the 2013 Greenbelt Harvest Picnic
Gordon Lightfoot performs at the 2013 Greenbelt Harvest Picnic

2002

Gordon Lightfoot spends three months at McMaster University Medical Centre after being struck down by a near-fatal aneurysm on Sept. 7, shortly before he was to perform in his hometown of Orillia. He is flown by helicopter to McMaster where a team of doctors fight to stem the flow of blood into his abdominal cavity. Lightfoot remains in a coma for almost six weeks. During Lightfoot’s stay at MUMC, Grant Avenue Studio owner Bob Doidge completes work on “Harmony,” Lightfoot’s 20th album. In 2004, Lightfoot performs two sold-out performances at Hamilton Place as a benefit for the Hamilton Health Sciences Foundation. About 100 tickets were given free to hospital staff involved in Lightfoot’s care at the McMaster site.

MARTIN <abbr><figcaption class=BEAVER" width="512" height="781" srcset="http://thespec-stories.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/MARTIN-BEAVER.jpg 512w, http://thespec-stories.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/MARTIN-BEAVER-197x300.jpg 197w, http://thespec-stories.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/MARTIN-BEAVER-131x200.jpg 131w" sizes="(max-width: 512px) 100vw, 512px" /> Martin Beaver

 

2002

Hamilton-raised violinist Martin Beaver becomes first violinist with the Tokyo String Quartet and remains with them until they disband in 2013.

2003

On Jan. 5, Richard “King Biscuit Boy” Newell dies at his Hamilton home at the age of 58. Some 800 people attend a special tribute show held in his honour five weeks later at Club 77 in downtown Hamilton. A committee called “The Friends of Richard Newell” would continue the tradition every year with a special “Blues With a Feeling” concert to raise money for a Mohawk College scholarship fund in his honour.

2003

Shania Twain takes over Copps Coliseum for two weeks rehearsing for her North American “Up Tour.” Her tour-opening concert at the arena still holds the Copps’ attendance record of 18,573.

2004

Hamilton guitarist Colin Cripps marries Ottawa singer-songwriter Kathleen Edwards. Junkhouse members Dan Achen and Tom Wilson are in the wedding party. The couple purchase a house in Hamilton and Cripps produces two of Edwards’ albums. The marriage ends six years later.

2004

Hamilton music promoter Jean-Paul Gauthier organizes the first annual Hamilton Music Awards. The show, at the Dofasco Centre for the Arts, is hosted by Tom Wilson and CHTV’s Wendy Wolfe. Jackie Washington receives the inaugural HMA lifetime achievement award. Daniel Lanois receives it the following year.

2004

CBC Radio’s popular “Saturday Afternoon at the Opera” records its weekly “Opera Quiz” at Hamilton’s Buchanan Park Elementary School with world-renowned tenor Ben Heppner and the 230 members of the school’s Opera Club. Under the direction of teacher Dawn Martens, the Grade 1 to 6 students of the school go on to perform their 20th annual opera, Bizet’s “Carmen,” ten years later in 2014.

2005

Pianist David Braid, a Hamilton All Star Jazz Band alumnus, wins a Juno for traditional jazz album of the year for “Vivid.” He also wins the same Juno category in 2012 for “Verge.”

2005

Hamilton-raised saxophonist Darcy Hepner returns home to take a position on the faculty of music at Mohawk College after a decade freelancing in New York City.

Tomi Swick at the Junos in 2007
Tomi Swick at the Junos in 2007

2006

“A Night Like This,” written and performed by Hamilton’s Tomi Swick, earns platinum status for sales of more than 80,000.

Saxophonist, Sonny Del Rio
Saxophonist, Sonny Del Rio

2006

Sonny Del-Rio, a veteran Hamilton saxophone player who has played with Crowbar, Trickbag, King Biscuit Boy and Ray Materick, is named the 11th “Greatest Hamiltonian of all time” in a Hamilton Spectator readers’ poll. Former Ontario lieutenant governor Lincoln Alexander takes the top spot.

JOHN <abbr><figcaption class=FANNING" width="699" height="1024" srcset="http://thespec-stories.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/JOHN-FANNING-699x1024.jpg 699w, http://thespec-stories.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/JOHN-FANNING-205x300.jpg 205w, http://thespec-stories.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/JOHN-FANNING-137x200.jpg 137w, http://thespec-stories.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/JOHN-FANNING-900x1318.jpg 900w" sizes="(max-width: 699px) 100vw, 699px" /> John Fanning

 

2007

Dundas baritone John Fanning is made a member of the Order of Canada. Fanning began his singing career in 1980 as a member of the Opera Hamilton Chorus and joined the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble in 1983. Since then he has appeared with major opera companies and orchestras across North America.

2007

Tomi Swick wins the Juno for New Artist of The Year. He wears a T-shirt emblazoned with “Hamilton” as he accepts the award on national television in Calgary. Swick’s debut album, “Stalled Out in the Doorway,” was also nominated for pop album of the year.

Brian Melo
Brian Melo

2007

Brian Melo, lead singer for the Hamilton band Stoked, wins the fifth season of Canadian Idol. The show’s finale is watched by more than 2 million viewers. The City of Hamilton declares Oct. 12 “Brian Melo Day.” Melo releases two albums, “Livin’ It” in 2007, and “The Truth” in 2010.

Caribou
Caribou

2008 – Dundas native Dan Snaith, recording under the name Caribou, wins the $20,000 Polaris Prize for Canadian album of the year for “Andorra.”

2008

Bruce Springsteen sets a Copps Coliseum record for gross revenues, pulling in $1.9 million in ticket sales. The Boss, however, fails to break the attendance record, drawing 18,254 fans, 319 fewer than Shania Twain in 2003.

 

Frankie Venom of Teenage Head in 2007
Frankie Venom of Teenage Head in 2007

2008

On Oct. 15, Teenage Head singer Frankie “Venom” Kerr dies of cancer at the age of 52. Less than a month later, the surviving members of Teenage Head (Gord Lewis, Steve Mahon and Jack Pedler) are presented with the HMA lifetime achievement award. During an HMA concert at Hamilton Place, several local singers, including Tom Wilson, Chris Houston and Dave Rave, perform with Teenage Head in tribute to Frankie Venom.

Supercrawl 2014
Supercrawl 2014

2009

About 3,000 people turn out on a rainy Friday night in October for the first annual Supercrawl. More than 20 musical acts, including Jeremy Fisher, John Ellison and Terra Lightfoot, perform on three stages set up along James Street North. The one-day street fest is put together by a team of artists, community builders and music promoters, led by Tim Potocic of Sonic Unyon Records.

2009

“Parkside” Mike Renaud establishes Hidden Pony Records in the Sonic Unyon building on Wilson Street. The label releases albums by several independent acts, including Said The Whale, Jeremy Fisher, Hannah Georgas, Rah Rah, The Odds, Imaginary Cities.

Haydain Neale, of Jacksoul, waves after winning for best R&B/Soul Recording at the 2001 Juno Awards in Hamilton.
Haydain Neale, of Jacksoul, waves after winning for best R&B/Soul Recording at the 2001 Juno Awards in Hamilton.

2009

On Nov. 22, Haydain Neale dies of cancer at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital. Jacksoul’s final single, “Lost Highway,” is released two weeks before his death.

Arkells
Arkells

 

2010

Hamilton rock group Arkells, which took its name from a Westdale street, wins the New Group of The Year Juno in St. John’s, NL, after extensively touring the band’s debut album, “Jackson Square.”

2010

Blues guitarist Jack de Keyzer wins his second Juno for “The Corktown Sessions,” recorded live at the Corktown Pub in Hamilton. De Keyzer, although born in England, was raised on Hamilton’s east Mountain.

2010

Hamilton blues singer Rita Chiarelli, a three-time Juno nominee, performs a concert with the inmates of Louisiana’s Angola state prison farm. The concert is filmed by Canadian director Bruce McDonald and released as the acclaimed documentary film “Music from the Big House.”

2010

On March 16, Dan Achen, Junkhouse lead guitarist and owner of Hamilton’s Catherine North Studio, dies of a heart attack while playing hockey with friends. He was 51. Achen’s niece Leslie Feist is among the many musicians attending Achen’s funeral.

 

Sheepdogs

2011

Festival of Friends moves to the Ancaster Fairgrounds after 35 years in Hamilton’s Gage Park. The Aug. 5, Friday night opening features Canadian acts The Sheepdogs (which made the cover of Rolling Stone that same day) and City and Colour (which was riding a No. 1 hit). Interest in the festival lineup caused a huge traffic jam on Highway 403 leading to Ancaster. Organizers say the festival drew its largest Friday night crowd ever. “At the end of the day, (Friday) night was too successful,” says festival general manager Loren Lieberman.

2011 – About 7,500 people attend the first annual Greenbelt Harvest Picnic  held at Christie Lake Conservation Area. Featured performers include Ray Lamontagne, Emmylou Harris, Daniel Lanois and Sarah Harmer.

2011

With headliners Broken Social Scene, the third annual Supercrawl draws more than 50,000 people to James Street North.

2012

The Arkells win Group of The Year honours at the Juno awards in Ottawa. Rock colossus Nickelback is among the other acts the Arkells beat. The Arkells’ second album, “Michigan Left” is also nominated for Rock Record of The Year.

2012

Supercrawl expands to a two-day event with a four-block closure of James Street North, drawing an estimated crowd of 80,000. The headline act is Canadian hip-hop star K’naan.

Steve Strongman
Steve Strongman

2013

It’s a good year for Hamilton at the Junos in Regina. The four members of Monster Truck chant Oskee Wee Wee in the media room after winning the award for New Group of the Year. Guitarist Steve Strongman wins Blues Album of The Year. City Harmonic, a band that got its start at Redeemer University College in Ancaster, wins Contemporary Christian/Gospel Album of The Year. Elliott Brood wins in the roots and traditional category. Two of Elliott Brood’s three members had recently moved to Hamilton from Toronto.

2013

Neil Young and Crazy Horse withdraw from the lineup of the third annual Greenbelt Harvest Picnic at Christie Lake Conservation Area, when guitarist Frank Sampedro injures his hand. Gordon Lightfoot replaces Young as headliner.

2013

In its fifth year, Supercrawl attracts more than 100,000 people. Headliners include American alt-rock band Passion Pit.

Boris Brott at the Vatican / Brott Music Festival
Boris Brott at the Vatican / Brott Music Festival

2013

Boris Brott returns to the Vatican to conduct a special concert celebrating the 96th birthday of Cardinal Domenico Bartolucci, the music director for the Sistine Chapel.

2014

On Nov. 14, guitarist Brian Griffith dies of a suspected heart attack at the age of 60. Griffith, a favourite on the local club scene for more than 30 years, played and recorded with a wide range of artists including Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Daniel Lanois, Lori Yates, Tom Wilson, Dave Rave, Jackie Washington and Harrison Kennedy.

 

grockingham@thespec.com

905-526-3331 | @RockatTheSpec

16 thoughts on “Hamilton Music through the Ages

  1. Wow! I can’t believe how many of these people I either know, or have met in non-fan settings. Nice compilation.

  2. While I find your article very interesting I feel that there is a big part of the sixties that was missed. I speaking of all the Hamilton bands that played the bars & high schools & hockey rinks through out Ontario & New York State. Perhaps they needn’t be mentioned on the page with Ian Thomas but I feel that they played a significant role in the Hamilton music scene. Some of these bands are Smyle, Roots of all Evil, The Brethren, Bobby Washington & the Soul Society, Buxton Kastle, The Reefers. The Mingles, The Looking Glass, Flapping and many more should at the very least be mentioned. A number of these guys are still in town. You should touch base with the like of Russ McAlister who managed Pedlar Music ( owned by Bobby Pedlar, Jack’s dad). Bobby Johnston of Race Records, Jim Skarratt owner of the Lazy Flamingo on Hess St. who did a lot of the on campus booking at Mc Master, Brent Malseed still playing regularly and I believe is president of the Hamilton Musicians Guild. Lightfoot’s hospital stay is not really a musical event. You maybe could have mentioned Count Basie’s gig at the Musicians Guild ball in 1969 or 1970.

  3. I’m really confused about paragraph on the shakers considering the band had four members and wouldn’t a band sound really shitty without a drummer JS

  4. Let’s not forget the 30 year plus influence of the Hamilton All Star Jazz Band organization. Unique to Hamilton, students have the opportunity to grow their musical talents from the ages of 12 to 25. It is the only jazz band organization from coast to coast that offers three different yet complimentary band level groupings. The Hamilton All Star Jazz is a powerful venue which inspires youth to be proficient players and one day; leaders in the International Jazz scene.

  5. How about Svengalli? They won a gold record and their bassist is currently working with The Forgotten Rebels. So much talent comes from Hamilton, it truly is amazing!

  6. Wonderful work…though people mention many who did not make it in here, I am one of them and I get completely that the list is so vast you would never get it finished…Great job

  7. Haven’t heard much about Hamilton having the “Rock ‘n Roll” Hall of Fame here, but I would think this article would seal the deal….SO much music history here! Great article, Graham!

  8. Ray Lyell
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Jump to: navigation, search This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. Please help by adding reliable sources. Contentious material about living persons that is unsourced or poorly sourced must be removed immediately, especially if potentially libelous or harmful. (February 2012)

    Ray Lyell (born 1962, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada) is a Canadian singer, songwriter, and vocal coach.

    Contents [hide]
    1 Career
    2 Vocal Coach
    3 Songwriter
    4 Discography
    5 References
    6 External links

    Career[edit]Ray Lyell came to prominence with his band, The Storm, in the late 1980s. Ray Lyell and the Storm released their self-titled debut album in 1989. Its first single, Another Man’s Gun, scored No. 6 on the AOR charts. The second single released by Lyell, Carry Me, was a Top 40 hit on the CHR charts and still gets airplay in Canada. Lyell was nominated for a Juno Award as Most Promising Male Vocalist in 1990. Shortly after the nomination, he began an international tour in Australia.[1]

    In 1992, Lyell sold the rights to the name “The Storm” after a legal conflict in the United States. Desert Winds, his next album, was released under his own name, even though the members of the band continued to tour and perform with him. Gypsy Wind was the album’s first successful single. In 1994, Ray Lyell traveled to Nashville, TN to begin working on his third album, Working Man, with writers, Billy Crain and Todd Cerney. Working Man was released in 1995. A decade later, Lyell released his fourth album, Running on Faith, with CMC Canada.[1]

    Vocal Coach[edit]In 1996, Lyell developed The Dynamic System of Vocal Teaching. His experience as a performer, with thousands of shows under his belt, meshed perfectly with his ability to coach singers toward better and healthier vocal performance.[1]

    In an effort to expand his own knowledge, Lyell has studied with some of the most prominent vocal coaches in North America. He continues to teach, write and record out of his studio, Rayne Records, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.[1]

    Songwriter[edit]In 1987, radio station, HTZ-FM sponsored a songwriting contest. Ray Lyell won first place with his song, “Take This Heart”.

    Later that year, he co-wrote with Paul Hackman of the band Helix the title track to their album, Wild In The Streets. The success of Wild In The Streets earned Ray Lyell a gold album. He also co-wrote tracks on half-ALIVE and It’s a Business Doing Pleasure with Hackman.

    Ray Lyell wrote all of the songs from his four albums, with an occasional collaboration with other writers such as Billy Crain.

    Discography[edit]Albums

    1989 – Ray Lyell & the Storm – Spy Records/A&M
    1993 – Desert Winds – Spy Records/A&M
    1995 – Working Man – Spy Records/A&M
    2005 – Running On Faith – Rayne Records/CMC
    Singles

    1989 – “Another Man’s Gun” – Spy Records/A&M
    1990 – “Cruel Life” – Spy Records/A&M
    1990 – “Carry Me” – Spy Records/A&M
    1993 – “Gypsy Wind” – Spy Records/A&M
    1993 – “Desert Nights” – Spy Records/A&M
    1993 – “Don’t Let Go” – Spy Records/A&M
    1993 – “Bitter Creek” – Spy Records/A&M
    1995 – “Wishing Big (Ray’s Theme)” – Mohawk Records
    Videos

    1989 – “Another Man’s Gun”
    1990 – “Cruel Life”
    1990 – “Carry Me”
    1993 – “Gypsy Wind”

  9. Very disappointed that you don’t mention all of the top notch country groups that played the local bars for years and years and brought many people good times and many memories. Groups like my fathers: Ron Westlake and the Country Gents from 1970 -1975 – Butch Bagnell and the Common People, Blue Water Country, Something Country – how about Steve Petrie who played with Stompin’ Tom for years or Mark Laformme who sang at Tom’s funeral. How about George Belmore – who toured USA with his Dwight Yoakam tribute and now is one of the best backup guitar players around. Yes, a lot of memories and very disappointed they did not garner mention here!

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