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Music

Obituaries: "First Lady of Canadian Jazz" Eleanor Collins & More

We also acknowledge the passing of songwriter/producer Jean-Pierre Isaac, promoter Joe Recchia, plus musicians W.C. Clark, Brian Turrington and Roni Stoneman.

Eleanor Collins Commemorative Stamp

Eleanor Collins Commemorative Stamp

Canada Post

Eleanor Collins, dubbed the first lady of Canadian jazz, died on March 3, at age 104.

CBC Newsnotes that the Edmonton-born Collins "began performing in the 1930s and worked with other greats like Dizzy Gillespie and fellow Canadian Oscar Peterson. By the late 1930s, she moved to Vancouver, where she sang on the radio with the gospel group Swing Low Quartet.


"That group appeared on CBC Radio, and in the early 1940s, Collins began performing with Ray Norris for the jazz series Serenade in Rhythm. In the early 1950s, she started singing with other top musicians of the time, including Chris Gage, Phil Nimmons, Lance Harrison, Doug Parker, Fraser MacPherson, Don Thompson and Dave Robbins."

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Canada Post Magazinereported that "Collins went on to make history in Canadian music and television in the 1950s. Her elegance, charm and moving performances on the airwaves and at clubs earned her the informal title of Canada’s first lady of jazz.

"Collins emerged as world-class performer in the early days of television, when the CBC was scouting for new talent for live TV. After being discovered during a stage production, she made her television debut in a CBC variety series out of Vancouver called Bamboula: A Day in the West Indies, which aired in 1954.

"CBC then showcased her inThe Eleanor Show in 1955, making her Canada’s first female jazz artist to host a national television series. Collins hosted another show, Eleanor, in 1964. She continued to appear on numerous television and radio shows through the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s, performing her last concert in Vancouver when she was in her mid-90s."

In January 2022, Collins was honoured with a commemorative stamp from Canada Post, a tribute to her long life as an artist, musician and mentor. FYI reported on the event here.

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For her services to music and as a role model for race relations, Collins was named a member of the Order of Canada in 2014. She was also inducted into the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame and was the recipient of numerous lifetime achievement awards. Read her Canadian Encyclopedia entry here.

Jean-Pierre Isaac, a Montreal-based bilingual lyricist, composer, programmer, DJ, recording studio owner and music producer, died on Feb. 28, at age 68, of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

Born in Belgium, Isaac emigrated to Quebec in 1961. His work has been featured on seven platinum, double platinum and triple platinum albums and nine gold records, and he earned six Félix Awards, three SOCAN Awards and two 3M Visionary Awards.

A multi-instrumentalist, he also worked as a lead or backup singer on studio sessions.

The long list of artists he wrote and/or produced music for includes Celine Dion, Mitsou, Gilbert Montagné, Les BB, Eve, Elle, Cindy Daniel, Marie Carmen, Mario Pelchat, Kathleen, Rational Youth, France d'Amour and Judith Berard. Scripture, his solo project, was featured on Cafe del Mar, and released one album No Word Needed. He was also the composer and producer of many TV themes and radio-TV commercial spots.

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Isaac wrote and produced Mitsou's first single, "Bye Bye Mon Cowboy," which became a pop hit across Canada in 1989.

On Facebook, Mitsou (Gelinas) posted this tribute: "Bye bye Jean-Pierre. This body played you wrong with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) putting you up a tough fight until this morning. Jean-Pierre Isaac, author, composer, musician and director of my first album El Mundo, has passed away.

"I still picture him on his bike, a milk tray as a vinyl holder attached to his bike, where he cleverly dropped remixes imported from all over the world. He was proud of his musical research, which would make the Belmont dance floor move. Jean-Pierre climbed the coast of St-André street corner Ontario to Sherbrooke in seconds. Long hair in the wind, he was going to do his DJ shift late, to better resume composing music the next morning.

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"We were all at his door, waiting for him to create a song for us from his 4 1/2 half basement studio.This highly talented multi-instrumentalist was very discreet, leaving all the room for the flamingos. In the last few hours, Jean-Pierre hasn't broken his bicycle to make you dance. He did it all your life, without you knowing it. The music of Jean-Pierre Isaac, it was you, it was us. I just have to say thank you."

Check out his discography here.

Joe (Joseph Clare Anthony) Recchia, a prominent music promoter in the Waterloo-Kitchener area, died on Jan. 15, at age 79.

An official obituary noted that Recchia “completed his B.Sc. in Chemical Engineering (1968) and his M.Sc. in Management Sciences and Systems Engineering (1971) at the University of Waterloo.

“Subsequently, he worked in the tire industry for many years, combining a shrewd business acumen with warmth and genuine care for his colleagues and customers. Alongside his professional success, he enriched the Waterloo community in various ways, from his work promoting rock concerts; to his local entrepreneurship such as operating video arcades; to his volunteer service to community organizations such as HopeSpring. He threw great parties and told great stories, and was unwaveringly and fiercely supportive of those he loved.”

A 2023 feature in the University of Waterloo paper recalled Recchia’s early success as a promoter, noting “it started with a first dance. More bookings followed as Waterloo students showed up in droves. And when word spread across the region and beyond to culture-starved students at other campuses, Recchia knew he needed to attract more talent. He reached out to New York agencies with a lot of big acts on their books, and things snowballed from there.

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“They knew Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal,” Recchia said. “They were like, ‘Holy shit, there’s another market in Canada?’

“I developed a relationship, and they believed in me. If your word is good, people will trust you. They started offering me everything under the sun. We were getting calls when they needed a venue in a hurry — and we were making enough money that we could payroll anything we wanted to.”

The impressive list of musical giants Recchia booked into Waterloo campus shows in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s included Chicago Transit Authority, The Bee Gees, Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell, Elton John, Ike and Tina Turner, Cat Stevens, Joe Cocker, Frank Zappa, Steppenwolf, BB King, Chuck Berry and Supertramp.

Some of the many colourful stories involving Recchia’s work as a concert promoter were reprised in a 2020 article by Joel Rubinoff in The Kitchener-Waterloo Record. They include the time he hosted a backyard party attended by Supertramp and his role in offering advice to a young and green Elton John during his first North American tour.

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Other tales are recounted in the film documentary, Rock This Town, in which Recchia has a key role. The University of Waterloo paper wrote that “the film, produced by Waterloo alumnus Betty Anne Keller, shines a spotlight on iconic musicians who performed on campus and around the region in the late ’60s and early ’70s. The film’s narrative thread is woven around the experiences of engineering student Joe Recchia and others who helped put Waterloo on the map."

When the film premiered in Waterloo in 2022, it became something of a hit, running for four months.

International

W.C. (Wesley Curley) Clark, an Austin-based blues guitar legend, died on March 2, at age 84.

On March 2, his manager, Vicky Moerbe, issued this statement: “It is with great sorrow the ‘Godfather of Austin Blues’ W. C. Clark passed from this world this morning. Funeral arrangements will be announced at a later date. The family and I want to thank all who supported WC through his musical career. This is a huge loss for the Austin music community.”

Saving Country Musicreports that "Born and raised in Austin and considered the 'Godfather of Austin Blues,' Clark grew up singing Gospel in church choirs and learning guitar at the age of 14. He found his first major gig playing in the band of Joe Tex, who was famous for fusing R&B with soul and country."

Clark formed his own band called Southern Feeling in the mid/late ’70s in Austin. Those admiring his work included Stevie Ray Vaughan and Lou Ann Barton, and in 1977 the three of them formed the Triple Threat Revue and had a major impact on the local blues scene in its short existence.

Clark played with the likes of B.B. King, James Brown, along with Albert King and Freddie King, in this era, and his fans included brothers Will and Charlie Sexton. In an Austin City Limits TV show in 1990, Stevie Ray and Jimmy Vaughan, Lou Ann Barton, Will Sexton and others all paid their respects to Clark.

He released his first solo album, Something for Everybody, in 1986 on his own label, followed by Heart of Gold in 1994, and Texas Soul in 1996 on the BlackTop label, and 1998's Lover Plea, and the song “Are You Here, Are You There?” dedicated to his late fiancée.

Clark continued to perform and tour in recent decades, with his final gig being at an Austin honkytonk on Feb. 20. Of note: W.C. Clark is the cousin of major blues star Gary Clark Jr.

Veteran Toronto club booker Yvonne Matsell tells Billboard Canada that "I booked him at Ultrasound in the '90s. He was a lovely man and such a great player! I remember that his eyes were very light coloured (greenish?) and I asked because it was so unusual and he told me that he came from a part of Texas where that was part of the genetics. This is sad to hear."

Roni (Veronica Loretta) Stoneman, Hee Haw Star & Stoneman Family musician, died on Feb. 22, at age 85.

"She was a great talent and a strong woman," said Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum CEO Kyle Young in a statement.

Roni Stoneman was part of the family band The Stoneman Family, joining them on banjo in the early '60s.

According to the Country Music Hall of Fame, the group recorded two projects for Starday Records in 1962 and 1963, and then recorded for MGM and World-Pacific. She also performed as part of the group on their syndicated 1960s television show Those Stonemans.

In the 1960s, The Stoneman Family earned Billboard Hot Country Singles chart hits including “Tupelo County Jail” and “The Five Little Johnson Girls.”

A Billboardobituary reports that "In 1967, the first year the Country Music Association (CMA) Awards were held, the Stoneman Family was named vocal group of the year. Roni departed the group in 1971, and soon joined the cast of Hee Haw, working on the country variety program for two decades as a comedian and banjo player, and known for portraying Ida-Lee Nagger, the “Ironing Board Lady.” There, she worked alongside artists and comedians including Minnie Pearl, Buck Owens and Roy Clark. For 18 years on Hee Haw, she stole scenes as both a skillful banjo player and as a comical, gap-toothed country character."

In 2007, Stoneman recounted her life story in the book Pressing On.

Brian Turrington, English bass guitarist with The Winkies, Brian Eno, The Tyla Gang, and more, died on Feb. 26, at age 73.

Notable career highlights included arranging and playing bass on Eno''s 1974 solo debut Here Come The Warm Jets and its successors Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), Another Green World and Before And After Science. Turrington co-wrote an Eno classic, "Third Uncle," featured on Taking Tiger Mountain.

He also played on John Cale's 1974 album Fear and, in 1975, The Winkies' self-titled album, Phil Manzanera's solo album Diamond Head and Robert Calvert's Lucky Leif And The Longships, then playing on two Tyla Gang albums, Yachtless and Moonproof.

The Winkies were fronted by Canadian singer-songwriter Phil Rambow and were tipped for fame when they acted as Eno's backing band for his first solo tour, but Eno's illness and the cancellation of the tour harmed their prospects. Later in the '70s, Turrington played as part of Rambow's band.

Rambow offered Billboard Canada this tribute: "Brian was as solid and effortless as any bass player I’ve known. He also played banjo and mandolin on the Winkies album. I always enjoyed playing with and watching him play. He was a great guy."

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50 Cent

50 Cent

Awards

50 Cent Takes A Victory Lap at Toronto's Cabana Pool Bar: Canadian Concerts of the Week

Also this week: it's festival season, with Hillside, Le Festif! and the Vancouver Folk Music Festival all happening on the same weekend.

Summer is in swing, and that means festival season. While many of the biggest ones take place in August, this weekend sees a handful of folk or adjacent events with the perfect summer vibes. Find those below, after our concert of the week featuring one of the biggest rap success stories of the last two decades.

Concert of the Week

50 Cent at Cabana Pool Bar, Toronto — Saturday, July 20

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