Today, Jim Jj Johnston Salutes Jo Faloona
Welcome to JJ-365 Salutes. Over 2018, we pay tribute daily to one of “The Good Ones”.
By Jim Jj Johnston
Welcome to JJ-365 Salutes. Over 2018, we pay tribute daily to one of “The Good Ones”. Today we are shining the light on Jo Faloona.
I had met Jo around various record company functions when she was very young. She carried herself as an old soul and was a strong advocate for her artists.
Once a few years back on Facebook she texted me after I posted some nervous thoughts about being but a few miles away from a vicious tornado in the Bradenton Florida area, that her mom and dad had a place there.
Imagine my surprise a few days later when I was out for a walk when I saw a car with custom Ontario licence plates that said ‘CFaloona’. I jumped in front of the slow-moving vehicle, and they stopped looking at this lunatic in front of them. They were nervous about this guy until he (me) said: “Are you the parents of Jo Faloona?” You could have knocked them over with a feather, and I couldn’t believe that not only were we in the same city but staying in the same complex. We since have gotten to know them well and can see where that Jo gets her rich character from. Her folks are Irish to the core and so proud of Jo, her brother Connor and his wife and their grandkids Aiden and Simone.
For someone who is an extrovert, Jo is is very reluctant about doing anything public. She’s always shied away from talking about work and what she does, and takes a lot of pride in "not being defined by my job". I hear most saying they are not comfortable talking about themselves. I understand that, and I take pleasure in the job of talking about them.
In 1983 Jo’s first job was working for Rogers Cable as a Telemarketer where she was introducing and selling the Super Channel and MuchMusic. The highlight was attending a dinner event hosted by Jeanie Becker and JD Roberts, two people who she thought had the coolest jobs in town.
In 1984 she was placed at CFNY radio in Brampton as part of a high school work experience week. On her first day, she filed, sorted & organized. By day two she was offered a summer job. A month into her summer job, she was offered a full-time job as a receptionist and worked at the station for around a year: “I roll my eyes, thinking about my 18-year old self, deciding to leave because I wasn’t being paid enough and feeling under appreciated.”
She went to live in England for six months, and when she returned she worked a few other full-time jobs and along with doing part-time work for Live Earl Jive, Beverly Hills and Chris Shepard at the clubs.
Eventually, she returned to CFNY full time in the late 80’s, back on reception for a short time and then joining Doug Barron aka Hal Harbour in the Canadian Development Department. They helped many young acts (BNL, The Tea Party, Wild Strawberries, The Saddletramps and so many more) get off the ground. Introducing them to record company reps & SOCAN, playlisting them, supporting their local club gigs, and in some cases financially supported their first independent recordings.
She worked at the radio station during The Spirit of Radio and Modern Rock Era. She described the camaraderie at “the station” as incredible and loaded with so many talented, crazy, caring, beautiful characters. She is grateful for Facebook to be able to keep in touch with so many and very appreciative of the lifetime friendships of Ivar Hamilton, Earl Jive & Beverly Hills and 365’ers Phil Evans and Neil Morrison.
Her next venture at Warner Music Canada was similar to CFNY in that she would work there twice. First time around with 365’er Randy Stark who hired her as Marketing Coordinator Domestic / Int’l in 1992. She held four positions over the eight years: Marketing Coordinator TV Marketing, Marketing Manager International Repertoire and Marketing Manager Atlantic / Electra Records. They were good times as she loved the fact there was money to spend on promotion and marketing, the company had tons of hits on the radio, nobody asked about budgets, and she says “thank God because I couldn’t balance one.”
She received some great advice in her early years. The first was from Dave Tollington, who told her to learn the job, develop the skill and the fun will come. And she made sure she learned how it all worked and the fun did certainly come. And then there was the great Stan Kulin, whose advice I have followed to this day “Say hello to everyone, and goodbye to nobody.”
Being a part of the careers of so many amazing artists was enthralling she says, and honestly too many to mention but there are a few from those years that are still special to her like Tori Amos, The Corrs, Matchbox 20 and Brandy.
She met Steve Kane (long-time Warner Canada President) one night at The Only Café on the Danforth, and he scribbled their negotiations on a napkin, and then officially hired her for a marketing role at Universal Music. It was a weird time, as it was the merger year between Universal Music and Polygram. She would be working domestic repertoire for the first time and loved it! She learned a different side to the business working with I Mother Earth and Jann Arden in that role. She only stayed with the company for 13 months as the job didn’t challenge her enough in the end, “But boy it was a ton of fun with some seriously good times and laughs with that team!”
In 2000 Kim Cooke hired her back to Warner Music Canada to fill the Warner Bros marketing role, the only label at WMC she hadn’t worked yet. She remembers feeling like she was home and genuinely thought of this team as her family. The three years in this job were nothing short of amazing for her: “I met Madonna. I sat on the rooftop of the El Mocambo with Damien Rice philosophizing about whether or not to do press interviews. With the help of the amazing Steve Herman, we shut down Yonge & Dundas to host a free R.E.M. concert, following an amazing experience at Rockin’ Rio with the band. I went full circle with the Barenaked Ladies, from yellow cassette days to their Greatest Hits package, career & heart fulfilled.”
Fifteen years ago this month she left Warner Music and remembers the day she gave her notice so clearly. She was told to call and let the legendary Bruce Allen know. She had met Bruce for the first time that year, working on Michael Buble’s debut release. “I didn’t know Bruce cared to be honest. If you know Bruce, it may be difficult to tell whether he likes you or not. It was a very emotional day for me, giving notice to a company I loved, and to a group of people who had become like family. In typical Bruce fashion, his boisterous voice boomed angrily that she was leaving, and was loudly suggesting something like 'these f***ing record companies are destroying young people!' I thought she wasn’t that young, and I was only emotional because he was wound up and I supposed he believed they had destroyed me and I just rolled with it."
Over the next five months, Bruce would call on a few occasions to see if she was ready to come back to the business and that he needed her to interpret what the record company people were talking about. When she accepted the job, she was warned by many that she was going into let's say, a rambunctious environment. Well this young lady is pretty damn strong and can certainly hold her own, and she has, and she does. Her dad says Buble (who loves working with her) once said to him “when that Irish temper starts to rise, I get the hell out of the way.”
365’er Randy Stark calls Jo one of his all-time favourites: “Jo has a passion for her artists, tremendous sensibilities and the drive to make things happen. Confidence was never a question with Jo, she stands up for what she believes is right and more importantly, right for her artist. Given her strong will and a wee bit of a temper, there were some long days where battles were fought. She stood her ground knowing where to pick her fights and how to win them. I’m sure that Bruce has seen this a time or two, I sure did! Best attribute though is her sense of humour. She knows how to take everything in stride and has the ability to laugh with others and more importantly to laugh at herself. She truly is one of the good ones if not one of the best ones.”
Jo talks about working with Bruce: “I think it’s an odd statement when I say this….but I left the music business 15 years ago. I’m now in the Bruce Allen Business. It’s an industry on its own. There’s the old saying, ‘think outside the box’. At BAT we’re always outside the box doing things differently. The Bruce Allen Way. Not always the traditional way, not without its challenges but always with great achievement and success. It was a big risk when I decided to move out to the coast and take this job. But the bigger the risk, sometimes the bigger the win. I did exactly the right thing to go work with Bruce. The shared respect and love we have is amazing. It doesn’t stop at the job. He once got in a cage with me at the BCSPCA to help with my fundraising campaign. I’ve proudly raised over 30k through the years for this charity.”
Jo sums up: “Bruce has always been very generous with me, allowing me a lot of freedom to do my job. He is kind to my family and always goes out of his way to take care of my parents, Joe Faloona (who just turned 80) and my mom Colete. He’s also kind to my dog Keely. Bruce will never really understand my passion for life, work, and balance. After all these years, he still hates that I leave the office at 5 pm. He gave me the nickname 'Hoffa' because of course, only union workers would expect the office to close on stat holidays and feel entitled to their vacation time every year.
It’s such a privilege to work with Bruce and Canada’s greatest talent and best humans! Jann Arden, Michael Bublé, Bryan Adams, Anne Murray and Bob Rock.
About Bruce’s retirement plan…well in a recent conversation about retirement, Bruce said, ‘wouldn’t that be something Jo if you retired before me’, considering I’m 52 and he’s 73. I’d say that really would be something!”
I haven’t spent a ton of time with Jo, but feel like I know her pretty well through various interactions over the years, and, of course, from the stories only your parents can tell. This is one very talented, strong, smart and committed person who has a genuine passion for music and the artists she works with. We’ve all heard someone at one time, or another say that if they were going into war they would definitely want ‘X’ person with them? Well, that’s her! Atta be Jo and keep it going.
Thank you, Jo Faloona for being one of “The Good Ones”. Feel free to like and share Jo’s positive story. Who is the subject of tomorrow’s JJ-365 Salutes? As they say, stay tuned.
-- Jim JJ Johnston is the CEO, President and Chief Talent/Content Coach for JJIMS INC. and works with talent in many different industries.