Obituaries, June 22, 2023

Douglas G. Caldwell, a veteran Canadian record label executive, died on June 11, at age 64, after a battle with mental illness.  

Obituaries, June 22, 2023

By Kerry Doole

Douglas G. Caldwell, a veteran Canadian record label executive, died on June 11, at age 64, after a battle with mental illness.  

His career in the Canadian radio and record industry began in 1981, with a stint as Asst. Music Director, show host, and copywriter at Annapolis Valley Radio in Kentville, NS. From 1983-89, Caldwell worked on air and as Music Director at Q104 Radio in Halifax. 

He then moved to Toronto and into the record label side of the business as National Promotion Director at Island Music Canada, 1989-1991, followed by 10 years as head of National Marketing at Virgin Music Canada. In that role, he worked with such noted artists as Spice Girls, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Lenny Kravitz, The Rolling Stones, Smashing Pumpkins, Tina Turner, Simple Minds, Janet Jackson, The Verve, and more.


Caldwell then went to EMI Music Canada, working as National Marketing Manager from 2001 to 2007. From there he moved to Toronto-based independent label Sparks Music, working in marketing and sales for such label signings as Chin Injeti, JF Robitaille, Morgan Cameron Ross, Papermaps, Brad Fillatre, Fred, and Tin Star Orphans.

Caldwell also had a long stint as an instructor at Metalworks Institute of Sound & Music Production (2008-16), as well as at George Brown College (2008-12) and Trebas Institute (2005-08), and he was a contributing writer for Jeff Woods' nationally syndicated radio show, Legends Of Classic Rock.

As news of his passing spread last week, former colleagues and friends of Caldwell took to social media to express both sadness at their loss and affection for the passion Caldwell had for music and his work within the industry.

In an interview with FYI, one of his closest friends, former CBC Music programmer Julian Tuck, reminisced fondly. "Back when he was at Virgin, and I was at A&M, we bonded on a radio promo trip to Sarnia. We were both music nuts who had got into radio and then subsequently needed a better mainline, so we both landed at labels. He wore his music on his sleeve, and he was a natural promo guy cos he couldn’t stop talking about the music he loved! His enthusiasm rubbed off, and that's why he got into that job."


During his long career, Caldwell earned the affection of both his colleagues and artists he worked with, as Tuck confirms. "I've been clearing his apartment, and I found a handwritten note from Julian Cope to him. The photos with him and Iggy are crazy, as the look on Doug's face in every one goes ‘Can you f-in believe this!’ He had something to do with the sequencing of an Iggy greatest hits package for Canada, and he is the second person thanked after Iggy’s manager. That's pretty cool. Doug got to work with all his heroes, like Iggy and David Bowie."

One of many music road trips the pair took was to Akron to see Todd Rundgren in concert. Caldwell was a huge lover of progressive rock, often posting Sunday prog tips on his Facebook page..


Former Warner Music Canada head Steve Kane recalled on Facebook that "during my two tours of duty at Virgin Music Canada, Douglas G. Caldwell and I were as thick as thieves. I met him prior to moving in with the Virgin gang at Rundle House after EMI purchased IRS, probably when he was at Island Records. Whenever it was, we hit it off immediately. This was a man who was so passionate about music, so passionate about “getting the add” and was like an Evangelist when it came to getting you to “get” something he loved."


"Imagine being there the first time Doug got to meet and interact with Iggy Pop and later David Bowie… moments of beauty. He (well we) kept it together and put on our professional game faces, but Doug (well we) exploded with giddiness and joy as soon as we left the room. In the case of those two gents it went beyond fandom; Doug absorbed the presentation of their art and was fascinated by the fact that these two men turned themselves into great works of art. I wasn’t surprised when Caldwell took up painting.

He was uproariously funny and at times over the top intense - and if your timing was on you could get him to laugh at his own intensity; I think those are my favourite of his smiles and when he laughed, he laughed hard and loud. Doug did a lot of things loudly. When Doug loved you …you knew you were loved. I hope he is at peace and that for those of us that are here without him…take care of each other, make that phone call when someone pops into your thoughts."

On FB, Mike McFarland posted this: "Doug, I'll never forget our time together at Q104. As Music Director, you showed me the ropes and left a lasting impression on me, more than you probably knew. Your passion was always palpable and showed me there was so much more good music out there than I knew existed at the time. I'll never forget those times. They were special. As Bon Scott sang, Rock In Peace.'"

Erik Hodgson offered this tribute on Facebook: "I’m going to park a few memories here while I think of you. Mid 90’s, you walked around your desk and handed me a box set of King Crimson’s Larks’ Tongues In Aspic. I reached out to take it, and you hung on to it and said ‘This music is to be appreciated, don’t just take this because it's free.’ 


"Your attention meant the world to a kid just wanting to work at a record company. You were different from the others. Your taste in music was different from most. The way you would lean back in your chair, tilt your head back and close your eyes while cranking a song.  I’ll leave you here in my mind at the end of the day at Virgin, shooting the shit and your daily call came in from Skinny or Julian. That was my cue to go. You would give me a thumbs-up and a wink. Rest easy, my friend."

David MacMillan (to FYI): "In the fall of 1986, when I worked at Duke Street Records, I travelled to The Maritimes as several of our acts were on tour there. After picking up my rental car, I tuned the radio to Halifax's Q104 and heard Wild Child by Iggy Pop. As a major fan, I was very excited to hear Iggy for the first time on a commercial radio station! A few days later at a Chalk Circle show in Dartmouth, I met a way bigger Iggy fan, Doug Caldwell, the music director who added that song. I didn't see him again until the early '90s when he moved to Toronto. Over the years we became good friends, working together at Virgin and EMI Music, sharing our love of music every day.


"I have so many great memories of Doug, at shows, visiting record stores, road trips and listening to music at his loft, along with Yoko, his beloved Pugg. Our musical tastes were similar: Bowie, The Stones, Cracker, Television, and many more, well except for his love for Prog Rock. Doug will always come to mind when I listen to the many artists we loved, worked with and listened to together. Thanks so much for being part of my life will not be forgotten.  'Without music, life would be a mistake.' ― Friedrich Nietzsche."

Lori Chappell-Scarborough (on Facebook) noted "Doug was such an amazing guy, I have a ton of memories. He was such a good friend, the kind you could have some really deep conversations with, I will miss that the most."

On Facebook, Laura Bartlett stressed that "Doug has a daughter, named Azure (pronounced Awe-zur-ay) that he loved deeply and was extremely proud of. It was NOT an easy decision for him to move from Halifax to Toronto. He always beamed with pride and joy about her."

A Celebration of Life event in honour of Douglas Caldwell will be held at The Rivoli in Toronto on July 5, from 7 pm. There will be a silent auction with proceeds going to Unison.

Sources: Linkedin, Facebook, Julian Tuck, David MacMillan


Blackie Onassis (born Johnny Rowan), Urge Overkill drummer, died at age 57.  No cause of death has been reported.

On June 15, the band took to social media to share a statement announcing Rowan’s death. “Urge Overkill is saddened to report that Blackie has passed away. We are sending much love to his family and all his fans. We know he will be missed,” the band wrote on Instagram.

Blackie Onassis joined Urge Overkill in the early 1990s and drummed and sang on three of the band’s albums – The Supersonic Storybook (1991), Saturation (1993) and Exit The Dragon (1995) – as well as their 1992 EP Stull’. He famously contributed to the band's cover of Neil Diamond's Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon for the Pulp Fiction soundtrack 

Urge Overkill disbanded in 1997 and reformed in 2004 without Onassis.

Sources: NME, Chicago Sun-Times

 Big Pokey (born Milton Powell), a legendary Houston rapper, died overnight on June 18 after collapsing at a bar in Beaumont, Texas. He was 48 years old.

The Guardian wrote "he was a pioneer of the ‘chopped-and-screwed’ approach to hip-hop and was once a part of Houston’s Screwed Up Clic, a collective that once included George Floyd.

Big Pokey released his debut album Hardest Pit in the Litter in 1999. He put out two subsequent albums, D-Game 2000 and Da Sky’s Da Limit, over the next three years.

Source: The Guardian

Teresa Nervosa (aka Teresa Taylor), the former drummer of Butthole Surfers, has died of lung disease at age 60. Her partner Cheryl Curtice announced the news on Facebook.

Taylor had three stints as drummer for the famed US rock band, from 1983 to 1985, again from 1986 to 1989, and back for a year in 2008 to 2009.

She played on the albums Psychic … Powerless … Another Mac’s Sac (1984), Rembrandt Pussyhorse (1986), Locust Abortion Technician (1987) and Hairway To Stephen (1988). She also had a role in the popular film Slacker.

Sources: Noise11, Rolling Stone


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