Music News Digest, May 20, 2020

Jocelyn Alice (pictured) is featured on a charity cover, The Hunter Brothers win big at the SCMA Awards, and Dropkick Murphys play Fenway. Also making news are jazz festivals, TommyGunn, Keram Malicki-Sanchez, Oh Susanna, Oshawa Music Awards, Buddy Holly, The Jerry Cans, Neil Young, MMF, and farewell Phil May, Jorge Santana, Astrid Kirchherr, Lucky Peterson, and Denny De Marchi.

Music News Digest, May 20, 2020

By Kerry Doole

Platinum-selling pop artist Jocelyn Alice recently teamed up with The Darcys and Tafari Anthony for a cover of Kacey Musgraves' Oh, What A World, designed to raise money for The Unison Benevolent Fund. All streaming royalties will be donated to Unison. The track came out last Friday.

– The Hunter Brothers were the big winners at the Saskatchewan Country Music Association Awards, taking home four awards, followed by Tenille Arts and J.J. Voss, with two trophies apiece. The awards were held in virtual form on May 16. A full list of winners here

– Boston punk favourites Dropkick Murphys will perform at baseball stadium Fenway Park for the Streaming Outta Fenway live event on May 29. The band will socially distance, and no in-person audience will be present, while pal Bruce Springsteen will join them remotely for two songs. The show will be simulcast worldwide at 6 pm  PST on the band's Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Twitch pages. Source: CNN


– The Beaches Jazz Fest is one of the many covid casualties of the Toronto summer. The City of Toronto is extending the cancellation of City-led and City-permitted major festivals and events with an attendance of more than 250 people through July 31, and those with attendance of 25K or more through August 31. Such other well-attended events as The Honda Indy and Taste of the Danforth are also now off the calendar.

– The TD Niagara Jazz Festival, now in its seventh year, continues this summer, albeit in revised form in the wake of covid-19. The fest’s popular Niagara’s Summer Mardi Gras event will be presented in a “virtually possible” version. This will feature nine sessions curated and hosted by Christopher Butcher, of Heavyweights Brass Band and now a New Orleans resident. These began yesterday (May 19) and culminate in the  Mardi Gras event itself on July 18. More info here.


– After first making a mark in Toronto with his band Blue Dog Pict, Keram Malicki-Sanchez has branched into writing for film and TV and creating and programming virtual reality events. His latest rock single, That Light, was recorded in LA and features such ace players as Alex Lifeson (Rush), Carmine Rojas (David Bowie), and Ryan Brown (Zappa Plays Zappa). Out now on the usual platforms and

– Bowmanville’s Valdii  (aka Daniel Waldi Richter) was named Best Songwriter at the Oshawa Music Awards in a show segment hosted online on May 16. The other finalists were Barbara Lynn Doran and Hunter Sheridan. The final OMA presentation, for Song of the Year, happens May 23.

– Good news for fans of the late great Buddy Holly. Oscar-nominated director Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy, Tender Mercies) is signed to direct the Holly biopic Clear Lake, slated to begin production in the fall. Of note: The Buddy Holly Hall of Performing Arts and Sciences in his hometown of Lubbock, Texas, is now under construction and is designed by Toronto-based Diamond Schmitt Architects. Source: Variety

– Iqaluit roots group The Jerry Cans released a new album, Echoes, on May 15 via Pheromone Recordings. Check out the video for focus track Swell (My Brother). In a press release, the band explains that "this is a song that breaks our hearts to sing, and that broke our heart to write. Over the course of creating our new album, two of our childhood friends died by suicide. Before the current pandemic, Nunavut has been struggling with a pandemic of its own."


– Neil Young fans should note the June 19 release date of Homegrown, viewed as a lost ‘70s treasure. Described by Young as “the unheard bridge between Harvest and Comes a Time,” it was scheduled for a 1975 release until Young cancelled that. Album guests include Levon Helm, Ben Keith, Emmylou Harris and Robbie Robertson, and seven of the album’s 12 songs have never been released. The first recorded version of Love Is A Rose (below) is also featured.


– Toronto rocker TommyGunn (aka Tommy Grasley) recently released his album I Believe In Love, now available for download and streaming on iTunes and streaming on Spotify. Local notables featured include Michael Wekerle, Greg Godovitz, Dale Harrison, Kim Deschamps, and Kevin Fox, while Grasley's dad, Sonny Del Rio (of Crowbar fame), makes a cameo on sax. Well worth checking out.

– Music Managers Forum (MMF) Canada presents an online community chat entitled Moms In Music on May 22 (1-2 pm). The conversation features Samantha Slattery (Women in Music Canada), Christine Rogerson (Live Nation), Ryhna Thompson (Envision Management + Production), with more guests TBA. Register here

– Now based back in Vancouver, acclaimed roots songstress Oh Susanna has announced the deluxe reissue edition of her 2001 album, Sleepy Little Sailor, on Sept. 4, on MVKA. It will be available on CD, digital and, for the first time, on vinyl. Acoustic recordings of five songs from the album will feature alongside the original 11 songs.  


Phil May, frontman of notorious UK rock band the Pretty Things, died on May 15, aged 75. He passed away from complications following hip surgery after a cycling accident.

Born in Dartford, Kent, May formed the Pretty Things in 1963 with guitarist Dick Taylor, who had recently left the nascent Rolling Stones. The band’s lineup coalesced with John Stax, Brian Pendleton and Viv Andrews, with May as frontman.

The group became a key part of the London blues-rock scene who were in thrall to US blues players but were also bringing in new elements of pop and psychedelia. They had an early Top 10 hit in Don’t Bring Me Down and other moderately successful songs like Honey I Need and Cry to Me, and became known for their drug-taking and raucous on-stage behaviour.


May was bisexual, wore his hair long and marked himself out as a countercultural figure.

The band earned its most enduring fame for their 1968 album SF Sorrow, regarded as the first rock opera album, ahead of similar experiments like the Who’s album Tommy. The record was released by Motown offshoot Rare Earth, making them Motown’s first-ever UK signing, though it was a flop on release and only later became a cult favourite.

They were revered by artists as diverse as Jimi Hendrix, Aerosmith, David Bowie, and the Ramones, and while there were spells of inactivity, the band never split up, enjoying a 55-year career. They played their final concert in 2018, with guest appearances by David Gilmour and Van Morrison.

May also released a solo blues-rock album as Phil May & the Fallen Angels in 1976.

In 2014, he was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and emphysema, and took a break from touring. He recovered, and the following year the band released their most recent album, The Sweet Pretty Things (Are in Bed Now, of Course…).​ An album of new material is slated for release this year. Source: The Guardian


Astrid Kirchherr, a German photographer best known for influencing the Beatles image, died on May 12, age 81, of cancer.

Before Ringo Starr joined the Beatles in 1962, when Stuart Sutcliffe and Pete Best were still around, the lads owed a major part of their success to Kirchherr, a German photographer who first stumbled upon them when she heard music coming from a club in her hometown of Hamburg.

After flattering them with a request to photograph the group, leading to a trip to a local fairground that would produce their first-ever group photo, she became intimately close to its members: She was, for example, the one to first cut their hair into their iconic mop tops, which were initially favoured by the local German boys Kirchherr grew up around.

As the group found more and more fame, Kirchherr began to resent being known as “the Beatles’ photographer” and consistently having her other work dismissed, in part because she was a rare woman in the field.

In 2018, her photos of the Beatles were collected in a book published by Damiani, Astrid Kirchherr with the Beatles. . Sources:

Jorge Santana, guitarist in the Latin rock band Malo and the youngest brother of guitar star Carlos Santana, died on May 14, of natural causes, at age 68.

Carlos Santana announced the death of his brother on his Facebook page on Friday.

Born in Jalisco, Mexico, Santana, at age 14, joined a high school band in San Francisco called The Malibus in the 1960s. The band later changed its name to Malo, Spanish for “bad.”

The band signed with Warner Brothers and in 1972, became known for their top 20 hit for the song Suavecito. 

Malo produced three more albums before the band broke up. Santana had also been playing with the New York-based salsa collective Fania All-Stars and got to play at the Yankee Stadium in 1973. Five years later, he released two solo albums, Jorge Santana and It’s All About Love.

Santana also went on to work with Carlos and his management company as a director of artist relations. In 1993, Santana toured with his famous brother, and the following year they recorded an album, Santana Brothers, with their cousin, Carlos Hernandez. 

Jorge Santana's new album Restoration was set to be released this summer. Malo is still active and pledges to continue. Sources: VarietyBest Classic Bands, American Blues Scene

Lucky (Judge Kenneth) Peterson, American blues guitarist and recording artist, died on May 17, at age 55.

Born in Buffalo, New York, Lucky was a child prodigy. His father, James Peterson, was a renowned guitarist and owner of The Governor’s Inn, a popular roadhouse club in the city and regular stop for some of the most famous bluesmen of the day. One of those artists was Willie Dixon, who recognized the youngster's talent and produced Little Lucky Peterson’s first album when he was only 5 years old — Our Future — released on the label Today/Perception Records.

Peterson then performed on The Tonight ShowThe Ed Sullivan Show and What’s My Line?.

As a teen, he studied at the Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts, where he played the French horn with the school symphony. Soon, he was playing backup guitar and keyboards for Etta James, Bobby “Blue” Bland, and Little Milton.

In 1989, Peterson released his first album on Alligator Records, Lucky Strikes!,  followed by Triple Play in 1991. He released five albums on the Verve label, including Spirituals & Gospel: Dedicated to Mahalia Jackson (with Mavis Staples). He also recorded Deep Down with Carey Bell, again on the Alligator label, in 1995. Several more albums followed on various labels including Blue Thumb, Dreyfus, JSP, Jazz Village and more. 

In October 2019, Peterson celebrated his 50th anniversary as a professional musician with the album release 50 – Just Warming Up! (Jazz Village / PIAS). Peterson combined contemporary blues with soul, R&B, gospel and rock to create his unique sound.  Sources: American Blues Scene, Billboard

Denny (Dennis) De Marchi, a Toronto-based multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter who worked with Alias and The Cranberries, died on May 15, of cancer, at age 57.

De Marchi was featured on the recording of the 1990 number one Billboard hit More Than Words Can Say by the band Alias, which featured his brother Steve on guitar. He also co-wrote a song on the Alias album, Standing in the Darkness, and assisted with some of the production and engineering work.

DeMarchi played keyboards and bass and did some production and engineering on Freddy Curci's 1994 Dreamer's Road album. He co-wrote and produced the song Diamonds on the record.

He was a touring musician for the well known Irish band The Cranberries during their reunion tour (2009-2011) and performed with that group’s singer Dolores O'Riordan on both TV and radio internationally as her keyboardist/guitarist during her solo world tour in 2007.

He continued to compose and produce music from various genres including classical. He also created and grew Prism Dental Laboratory, operating successfully in Mississauga for 27 years, employing over 25 people. A celebration of his life will be held at a later date when larger gatherings can be held. Sources: Legacy, Wikipedia

Myles Smith attends the Sony Music's The BRIT Awards 2024 After Party at the Nobu Hotel on March 02, 2024 in London, England.
Shane Anthony Sinclair/Getty Images

Myles Smith attends the Sony Music's The BRIT Awards 2024 After Party at the Nobu Hotel on March 02, 2024 in London, England.

Chart Beat

Hot 100 First-Timers: Myles Smith Shines With Breakthrough Single ‘Stargazing’

The song debuts at No. 77.

English singer-songwriter Myles Smith lands his first career entry on the Billboard Hot 100 chart (dated May 25), as his breakout single “Stargazing” debuts at No. 77.

Released May 10 on It’s Okay To Feel/RCA Records, the track arrives on the chart with 6.7 million official U.S. streams, 34,000 in radio airplay audience and 6,000 downloads sold in its opening week (through May 16), according to Luminate. It also starts at No. 10 on Digital Song Sales.

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