Music News Digest, Dec. 14, 2020
The Screen X Screen online conference launches shortly, Music NL announces its awards nominees, and the APA presents ShiftChange 2021. Others in the news include Alanis Morissette, The Glenn Gould Foundation, Petula Clark, FACTOR, Liona Boyd, Mike Carr, PoLe featuring NLX, Neil Peart, Madisyn Whajne, and farewell Charley Pride (pictured) and Mojo Morganfield.
By Kerry Doole
The organisers of Toronto’s annual Indie Week conference have announced the launch of Screen X Screen, a new online conference that premieres Feb. 16-20. This event explores live-streaming, gaming, AI, virtual reality and tech in the music industry. Darryl Hurs (founder of Indie Week) states that “after the success of moving Indie Week online, it just made sense to launch a new event that focuses on the future and new business models. I believe that this is an amazing time for businesses and artists to grow at an explosive rate with an engaged global online audience. Live-streaming, gaming, VR, and AI are going to play an integral role." Tickets here.
– MusicNL has announced the nominees for its 2020 awards. Leading the way with six nominations apiece are Rube & Rake and The Heavy Horses, followed by Jason Benoit (five) and Rachel Cousins and Rum Ragged (four each). See the full list of nominees here. Online celebrations will take place during MusicNL Week, Feb. 1-7. “There will be something for everyone in the music industry at the conference,” stated Chair Amy House. “It will have a focus on topics such as publishing and sync, hip hop, growing your business online, women and gender minorities and mental health supports.” MusicNL will release its full Conference, Awards and AGM schedule early in the New Year.
– Atlantic Presenters Association (APA) is pledging to present APA ShiftChange 2021 this coming Feb. "whether Covid likes it or not!" The org promises a conference with a strong lineup of programming for Festival and Event presenters and producers. It hopes a hybrid event in Halifax is possible, while acknowledging that the pandemic situation may force it to go virtual. Jan. 29 is the deadline for this decision.
– On Dec. 11, Alanis Morissette released the Such Pretty Forks in the Mix EP, one featuring remixes of songs from her 2020 album Such Pretty Forks in the Road. Featured on the EP are a number of trans-inclusive women artists, including Lauren Faith, MUNA, Girlpool, Muhsinah, Eris Drew and MNDR. A portion of the proceeds from the new EP will be donated to Safe Place International, which helps LGBTQ refugees in Turkey and Greece.
– The Glenn Gould Foundation has recruited veteran pop star Petula Clark for its current fundraising campaign. It turns out Clark and the visionary pianist were fans of each other's work, and Clark was on the 2015 jury for The Glenn Gould Prize. In a message to the media, Clark explains "The Foundation featured me in an in-depth conversation for the debut episode of their wonderful new podcast, The Gould Standard," and adds that "The Glenn Gould Foundation needs your help. Please consider making a gift, because, for a limited time, your donation will be matched dollar-for-dollar thanks to other generous supporters." More info on the Foundation here.
– FACTOR is now accepting applications for the Envelope Funding for Music Companies, with a deadline of Jan. 28, 2021, 5 pm EST. The program returns to its original design of a revenue and investment model, with some modifications in acknowledgment of the continued impact of Covid-19 on the music industry. Apply here.
– Canada’s ‘First Lady of the Classical Guitar,’ Liona Boyd, has partnered with acclaimed Toronto singer/songwriter Amanda Martinez to record a new and timely single, Happy New Year. Boyd suggests you “play this happy song, and be sure to sing along and dance around, even if you’re on your own. I guarantee it will lift your spirits!”
– Canadian music historian Mike Carr has just published the second book in his series Rock My World Canada, the Canadian Blues Reference & Collectors Guide. Over 700 artists and almost 2,800 album covers are featured, along with valuable info on blues societies, festivals, societies, and record labels. In 2018, Carr launched the series with the Canadian Alternative & Indie Reference & Collectors Guide. More info here
– PoLe featuring NLX is a new project from Canadian singer/songwriter NLX (Natasha Alexandra) and collaborator Rick Coluccio. During this lockdown period, they recorded a Christmas EP, with the timely title of Chestnuts Roasting On A Dumpster Fire. NLX describes it as “familiar melodies with completely different music, much like our lives in 2020." The EP is released on vinyl (info here), and here's a taste.
– Ontario singer/songwriters are being warned about an Instagram-based scam targeting them. The Ottawa Citizenreports that artists in Ottawa, Kingston, London, and beyond have been approached via Instagram by a fraudster seeking to commission them to write a birthday song for the son of the scammer.
–The drum kit played by late Rush drummer Neil Peart between 1974-1977 has sold at auction for just over US$500,000. The chrome Slingerland set, used by Peart for recordings and live performances, was part of Bonhams’ Music Memorabilia auction last week. It had been expected to fetch between $100K and $160K. The famed kit was purchased by Peart in 1974 from Toronto’s Long & McQuade music store shortly after he joined the band. Source: NME
– Indigenous indie rock artist Madisyn Whajne released her debut album, Save Our Hearts, last week. Now based in Toronto, she hails from the Whitefish River First Nation (Manitoulin District of Ontario) but was forcibly removed from her family by the government as a toddler, growing up without knowing her real name or anything of her heritage. She cites the likes of The Primitives, Alvvays, and The Go-Go's as reference points for her sound.
Charley Pride, the first Black superstar of country music, died on Dec. 12, age 86, of complications from Covid-19.
News of Pride's death quickly sparked speculation as to whether he contracted the virus at the Country Music Association Awards (CMAs), which took place, socially distanced, in Nashville on Nov. 11. The CMAs and representatives of Charley Pride issued a statement detailing the Covid protocols put in place for the awards show, which honoured Pride with the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award.
Prior to his CMA honour, Pride also came back into the limelight in early 2019 as he promoted American Masters — Charley Pride: I’m Just Me, a public television documentary that included interviews with acolytes like Garth Brooks, Willie Nelson, Brad Paisley, Dolly Parton and others as well as Pride himself. He was also featured in Ken Burns’ Country Music series
A 2000 inductee in the Country Music Hall of Fame and a three-time Grammy winner, Pride was by far the most successful Black artist in country music.
He tallied 29 No. 1 country chart hits and another 21 top-10 country entries for RCA Records between 1966 and 1984. Chart guru Joel Whitburn ranks him as the No. 3 hit-producing artist of the ’70s, behind Conway Twitty and Merle Haggard.
Pride was the first Black artist of the day to be signed and marketed by the country division of a major American label. Though his first work was promoted by RCA without images that would divulge his race, Pride found his music quickly embraced by a Southern, white, working-class audience that found it could identify with the singer’s sharecropping roots and universal aspirations. His keen interpretation of deftly penned honky-tonk songs kept him at the top for nearly two decades.
Born in Sledge, Miss., Pride was one of 11 children, and he laboured as a boy as a cotton picker on a tenant farm.
Though Pride began playing guitar in his teens, he was a gifted athlete, and he first set his sights on a career in baseball. During nearly a decade of playing interrupted by Army service, he pitched for Memphis’ Negro League team, the New York Yankees’ farm club, Birmingham’s Black Barons and the Missoula Timberjacks, the Cincinnati Reds’ Montana-based farm team. He also tried out for the California Angels and the New York Mets.
He still entertained thoughts of a music career, and his first recording session, cut in 1958 at Memphis’ Sun Studio, found him working in an R&B mode. It would be another seven years before Pride was signed to a recording contract after injuries had ended his pursuit of a life in baseball.
His singing attracted the interest of country star Red Sovine, who advised him to seek work in Nashville. He was ultimately signed to RCA by Chet Atkins, head of the label’s country division and its chief producer.
By 1967 he became a member of WSM’s phenomenally popular Grand Ole Opry stage and radio show; at that time, he was its only Black performer.
He notched two No. 1 hits in 1969, three in 1970 and five in 1971; in the latter year, he released his biggest single, Kiss An Angel Good Morning, which held the pinnacle for five weeks.
He received the Country Music Association’s coveted entertainer of the year award in 1971 and was voted best male vocalist by the CMA in 1971 and 1972.
In all Pride had 20 No. 1 hits and nine more top-10 entries during the ’70s, including Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone (soon heard in a well-known cover by rock’s Sir Douglas Quintet).
Both sides of Pride’s 1971 gospel single, Let Me Live and Did You Think to Pray, received Grammys in 1972. He also captured a trophy in 1973 for best male country vocal performance, for the album Charley Pride Sings Heart Songs.
In the early ’80s, he collected No. 1 singles with covers of Hank Williams’ Honky Tonk Blues and You Win Again and George Jones’ Why Baby Why. A 1983 disco-country fusion, Night Games would be his last No. 1 hit.
Pride moved into semi-retirement in the late ’80s, emerging sporadically for releases on independent labels like Honest and Music City. His autobiography Pride, co-written by Jim Henderson, was published in 1994, and he continued to tour late in life.
Former president George W Bush led the tributes to Pride, describing the Mississippian as ”a fine gentleman with a great voice.”
As Canadian country music authority Larry Delaney explained to FYI, Pride had a close relationship with Canada. "In addition to his career-long extensive touring across Canada, Charley Pride also dipped into the Canadian country songbook for his recordings, most notably his 1978 #1 hit Someone Loves You Honey, penned by Canadian-born Don Devaney. Pride also recorded songs written by Dick Damron, Ray Griff, Scott Turner, Larry Mercey and Lee Bach.
"In 2005 the Peterborough-based Pillar Records released the 30-song CD Charley Pride - Live In Canada featuring selections from his Canadian show dates. For the past two decades, most of Charley Pride's Canadian tour dates were booked by Brian Edwards of Rocklands Entertainment. Edwards dedicates a chapter to his friendship with Charley Pride in his just-released biography, Brian Edwards - The Promoter."
On Facebook, Canadian country queen Carroll Baker posted about her friendship with Pride: "Charley Pride was in the audience when I sang I’ve Never Been This Far Before on the Juno Awards in 1975. He was on RCA Records at the time. He told me after the awards show that he suggested to the folks at RCA they better sign me to a record deal before I signed with someone else. Later in the evening, he asked me 'what’s your sign?' I said 'I am a Pisces'. His response - 'so am I.' This began a friendship that lasted until now."
Sources: Variety, The Guardian, Larry Delaney, Carroll Baker
– Joseph 'Mojo' Morganfield, a singer and a son of blues legend Muddy Waters, died on Dec. 10, age 56. No cause has been reported.
Mojo is the youngest son of Muddy Waters. He began his career as a young boy following in his father’s footsteps, travelling and performing with him and growing up in the blues. He learned guitar from Muddy and Muddy’s guitarist Bob Margolin.
Mojo put music temporarily behind him in favour of playing college basketball after winning a scholarship at the University of Northern Iowa and starting a family. He returned to music, performing once again in clubs and festivals around Chicago, the US, and in Europe.
Morganfield performed on stage with Grammy Award Winners Don Was, Jamey Johnson, and Warren Haynes at The Chicago Theater (The Last Waltz) and with his brother Big Bill Morganfield at the Chicago Blues Fest.
He was an ambassador, supporter, and promoter inductee in the prestigious Chicago Blues Hall of Fame. He attended many public events on behalf of his father, Muddy Waters, keeping his name and legacy alive.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Morganfield "was looking forward to publicizing his new Delmark single It’s Good to Be King and to a new full-length CD that was being produced by Grammy winner Michael Freeman." In a Sun-Times story published last week, Morganfield said he planned to complete the album next year with his band, the Mannish Boyz.
Sources: Chicago Sun-Times, Delmark website