Music News Digest, April 20, 2020

Inductees in the London Music Hall of Fame include Grant Smith, The Dead South (pictured) grab US gold, and Toronto venue The Hideout closes. Also in the news are Ruby Waters, Zaftig, Dr. Dre, Montreal International Poetry Prize, Elephant Stone, My Chemical Romance, Rich Aucoin, and farewell to Matthew Seligman, Knox Phillips, Barney Ales, and Sibel Thrasher. With video.

Music News Digest, April 20, 2020

By Kerry Doole

Three London brothers from the big band era, Bert, Joe and John Niosi, and R&B singer Grant Smith are being inducted into the London Music Hall of Fame. Smith fronted Grant Smith and The Power, which had a hit in the late 1960s with Keep On Running, one that brought US attention and led Smith to lengthy stays at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas in the 1970s. “The Niosis and Grant Smith had a profound impact on London music and their addition to the Hall of Fame captures their contribution,” said Rena O’Halloran, London Music Hall of Fame curator. The inductees will be celebrated at events during London Music Week 2020 in the fall.


Also announced on Facebook Live was the awarding of lifetime achievement awards to the late Martin Boundy, a British-born conductor and organist who led a number of music groups in London, and Terry McManus, a retired professor at Fanshawe College’s Music Industry Arts program who was also an artist manager, musician, and songwriter.

– Regina bluegrass combo The Dead South is now celebrating a major feat. Released back in 2014 and then boosted by a viral video, the band’s calling card single, In Hell, I’ll Be In Good Company,  has just received gold certification in the US and is approaching 200 million YouTube views. The Dead South is now sharing a new live version of the cover, recorded separately in isolation from various locations across Canada. Read an earlier FYI feature on the hit here. The band is also pushing the track This Little Light Of Mine, its version of a folk classic.

– Oshawa’s Zaftig was named Emerging Band of The Year (presented by 94.9 The Rock’s Generation Next) on Saturday's third online presentation of the 2020 Oshawa Music Awards. Next week sees the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Hall-of-Fame awards.


– The Montreal International Poetry Prize is a competition originally funded by $50K from famed citizen Leonard Cohen in 2011. To help ensure its long-term viability it’s just been moved under the auspices of McGill University’s English department. The award is crowdfunded with a $20 entrant fee and offers a prize of $20K to one winner. Enter here by May 15. Source: Toronto Star

– Toronto-based Metis songsmith Ruby Waters has released a new acoustic-driven single, Quantum Physics, the second from her forthcoming EP (summer 2020). Last year, Waters made a splash as the opening act on a major City and Colour tour. Get physical here.

– Toronto rock club The Hideout is closing its doors, in the wake of the covid pandemic. The bar resided on Queen Street West for a decade, then relocated to College and Bathurst in 2017. Both sites were often used for music biz events, and it will be missed. A farewell post on its website noted that "the forced (and necessary) closure of bars and other non-essential business throughout the country has taken a toll on many, many lives and the long term effects are, and will be profound." Source: Blog T.O.


– Given that 4/20 is a milestone date for pot lovers, it is perfect timing that Entertainment One is making The ChronicDr. Dre’s groundbreaking debut album, available on all digital service providers today. Chris Taylor, eOne’s Global President, Music & Live, says, “Fans now have another reason to celebrate on what has become a national holiday, celebrating all things cannabis-related – where legally allowed and in moderation, of course.  Working with the Death Row catalogue is like working with the legendary recordings of Elvis, Chuck Berry and the Beatles. These historic artifacts should be heard by all music lovers and we are so happy Dr. Dre has opened this door so everyone can experience the brilliance of this seminal work.” The Chronic, released in Dec. 1992, on Death Row Records, redefined West Coast rap and introduced the world to Snoop Dogg, Daz Dillinger, Kurupt, Nate Dogg, Warren G,  RBX, and others. 


– Elephant Stone, the psych-inflected band led by Rishi Dhir, has a Sacred Sounds Session on Tuesday (April 21 at 9 pm EST)) included as part of the National Arts Center (NAC) #canadaperforms live stream series. It will be live-streamed on the Elephant Stone socials as well as on NAC's Facebook page. Here's a brand new video.

– US rock band My Chemical Romance is selling face masks and donating profits to Musicares’ covid fund. This charity was set up to help techs, sound engineers, drivers, tour managers and many others whose work is currently on hold. The MCR masks had been designed for an intended desert show, to keep fans dust-free. Source: Kerrang

– East Coast Indie rocker Rich Aucoin has released a new single How it Breaks, out via Haven Sounds, with a video. It is described as "a call to action that references several classic songs of protest." Recorded in Toronto by Thomas D’arcy (TWRP/Yukon Blonde), it features an all-star vocal group: Kyla Charter (Patrick Watson/July Talk), Simone Denny (Love Inc.), James Baley (U.S. Girls), Maylee Todd and Tarik Henry.


Matthew Seligman, a UK bassist, died on April 17 after a battle with covid, at age 64.

The musician is best known for his work during the ‘80s, including material with the Soft Boys, Thompson Twins, Thomas Dolby and David Bowie. He also played and recorded with Chrissie Hynde and Morrissey.

Dolby shed light on Seligman’s dire situation two weeks ago with the first in a series of Facebook posts chronicling his friend and former bandmate's condition. He later relayed a message he’d received regarding Seligman, stating that the bassist had suffered “a catastrophic hemorrhagic stroke from which he won't recover.”


On Facebook, Soft Boys leader Robyn Hitchock offered a touching tribute to Seligman, calling him "a joyous and funky bass player.”

As well as playing on The Soft Boys’ 1980 masterpiece Underwater Moonlight, Seligman was briefly a member of '80s pop outfit The Thompson Twins and played bass for David Bowie at Live Aid in 1985. After The Soft Boys disbanded, he would go on to play with the band’s frontman Robyn Hitchcock on his first two solo albums. Sources: Ultimate Classic Rock, NME

– Knox Phillips, the son of renowned music producer Sam Phillips and an enthusiastic ambassador of Memphis music, died on April 13, age 74.

Phillips worked on records by Jerry Lee Lewis, Willie Nelson and John Prine during more than 50 years in the industry. 

Knox Phillips grew up at Sun Studio, the recording capital founded by his father, Sam Phillips. As a boy, he hung out at Elvis Presley’s house. Later in life, he became a producer, engineer, studio owner and unabashed promoter of his father’s legacy.


Phillips co-produced Prine’s 1979 album Pink Cadillac with his brother Jerry. He worked on the Amazing Rhythm Aces’ Third Rate Romance, a Grammy winner. Phillips also engineered parts of Willie Nelson’s Shotgun Willie and Jerry Jeff Walker’s Mr. Bojangles. He also worked on several albums by Lewis and, at Sam Phillips Recording Studio in Memphis, Phillips brought in producers and musicians like Jim Dickinson and Big Star’s Alex Chilton.

Phillips was instrumental in bringing a chapter of a National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences to Memphis in the early 1970s. He’s also in the Memphis Music Hall of Fame. Source: AP

– Baldassare "Barney" Ales, the charismatic sales chief who helped turn Motown Records into a music industry powerhouse as Berry Gordy's right-hand man, died of natural causes on April 17, age 85.

The Detroit-born Ales began his career in music began at 21 years old, when he joined the stockroom of Capitol Records' local branch, then joining Warner Bros. Records in 1959 as its Detroit branch manager. The following year, Ales met Motown Records founder Berry Gordy Jr., who offered him the job of national sales manager and promotion director at the then-fledgling company.

From there, Ales played a key role in growing Motown from a young upstart to the frontline of the record industry, helping break nationwide hits by The Marvelettes, Stevie Wonder, The Miracles, Mary Wells, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, The Four Tops and The Supremes -- who scored five consecutive Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 hits in 1964-65. In 1969, Ales was promoted to executive VP and general manager, and in 1970, Motown scored seven more No. 1 hits on the Hot 100, an annual record for the independent company.

When Motown moved its headquarters to California in 1972, Ales stayed in Detroit to launch his own label, Prodigal Records -- but by 1975, Gordy brought him back as executive VP of Motown in Los Angeles, where Ales later rose to its president. Under Ales' leadership, Motown achieved another eight Hot 100 chart-topping singles.

After departing Motown in 1979, Ales headed several independent labels, including Elton John’s Rocket Records, Bob Guccione’s Penthouse Records and Norman Granz’s Pablo Records. He retired at the end of the century. Source: Billboard

– Sibel Thrasher, a BC singer and actor, died April 9, age 67. No cause of death is reported.

It was music that first brought Sibel Thrasher to BC. During an international tour with the American vocal group The Platters that kicked off in 1979, the entertainer found herself in Vancouver for a month-long performance at the Holiday Inn. She fell in love with the city during that time in 1981 — and eventually moved here to pursue her dream of becoming a solo singer.

During her decades-spanning career, the “jumbo voiced actor-singer with the four-octave range” (this according to a Victoria Times Colonist article from 2002) worked with music greats such as Roy Ayers, Long John Baldry, Donna Summer, Linton Garner and Etta James. She became a fast fixture in the local jazz and blues music scenes, and also carved out a spot for herself onstage.

It was her turn in the cast of Thomas (Fats) Waller’s musical revue Ain’t Misbehavin’ that firmly affixed Thrasher’s star on the theatre scene. The production ran in Vancouver for more than 1,000 performances and was considered to be “the longest-running musical in Vancouver theatre history,” according to a 1993 article Vancouver Sun article. Thrasher also went on the road with the production on a tour across Canada.

Thrasher went on to have a series of roles in local productions  all at the Arts Club. She also worked on various film and TV projects, according to her IMDB page, including the TV series The Lone Gunman, Jackie Chan’s Rumble in the Bronx, Death Wish II and the 2005 film Fierce People, which starred Diane Lane and Donald Sutherland.

Throughout her career, she garnered several accolades, including two nominations for Best Performer at the Jessie Awards, as well as a nod for the Best Gospel Singer of the Year in 1994. She was inducted into the B.C. Entertainment Hall of Fame in 2004. Source: Vancouver Sun

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