RIP: Continental Drifter Joe Hall
The maverick Peterborough-based folk-rock singer/songwriter passed away last Friday, at age 71. He may not have broken big commercially, but he certainly earned the respect of peers and music scribes.
By Kerry Doole
Joe Hall, a Peterborough-based folk-rock singer/songwriter best known for his group Joe Hall and the Continental Drift, died on March 22, at age 71, from cancer.
The news was announced by Hall's friend and longtime collaborator Tony Quarrington on Facebook.
Joe Hall and the Continental Drift were very active on the Toronto scene in the late '70s and '80s. Playing alongside Hall in the group were Paul and Tony Quarrington, Martin Worthy, and George Dobo. Their albums included a 1976 debut release, HJ Boenke, recorded by brothers Bob and Daniel Lanois, and two albums on Harvey Glatt's label, Posterity, 1978's On The Avenue and 1980's Rancho Banano. A compilation album, Travelling Without Deodorant: The Best of Joe Hall (1972-1988), came out in 1999.
Harvey Glatt recalled to FYI that " I first met Joe around the mid-'70s when I was visiting Edmonton, and I went with Holger Petersen to a little club called The Hovel. All I can say is that Joe was brilliant." Glatt was impressed enough to release those two records, though he acknowledges that "they did not get much airplay, except for CBC and some on CHEZ-106, which in its early years was very eclectic."
Stony Plain records head Holger Petersen tells FYI that "Joe Hall and Eyeball Wine Company were regular visitors to Alberta in the '70s. I recorded them for CKUA several times and in fact produced an album that we couldn't get released at the time. Michael Burke eventually used one of those tracks on the wonderful compilation, Travelling Without Deodorant on Cordova Bay. Joe was one of my favourite singer/songwriters. He deserved much more success and attention. Thanks to Harvey Glatt and Michael Burke we have Joe's music available."
Music journalist Nicholas Jennings termed the group "an eccentric cult-rock band," quoting Tony Quarrington as describing the group as “an acquired taste that no one acquired.”
Former Toronto Star music scribe Craig Macinnis was a major Hall fan. He posted on FB that " I hope he receives a fittingly glowing newspaper tribute somewhere in the days to come, but it's enough to know how deeply he moved those of us who cared. It's not a corny thing to say that his music was the soundtrack to our lives when we were young, and nothing seemed impossible."
Hall relocated to Peterborough 30 years ago and performed there frequently. He also regularly played the Tranzac Club in Toronto, with the venue suggesting he had the longest-running residency ever there. He kept putting out independent records, releasing a final Joe Hall and the Continental Drift album last December. Tony Quarrington told FYI that "it is his best work ever." He adds that "we’re working out the details for a Toronto memorial/celebration."