Obituaries, Dec. 7, 2023: Chad Allan of The Guess Who, Denny Laine of The Moody Blues & More
This week, we acknowledge the passing of the co-founder of two famed Canadian bands, an English Rock Hall of Famer and more.
Chad Allan (born Allan Kowbel), a Winnipeg-born singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist known as the first lead singer of The Guess Who, died on Nov. 21, at the age of 80.
Allan took on his stage name in tribute to a favourite 1950s singer, Chad Mitchell. His first band, Allan and the Silvertones, formed in 1958, then morphed into Chad Allan and the Expressions before finally becoming The Guess Who.
CBC notes that "Allan played with the band until the mid-1960s — a few years before 'American Woman,' 'These Eyes' and other signature Guess Who tracks became hits and eventual staples of classic rock." It was his voice that can be heard on the group's cover of Shakin' All Over, a No. 1 hit that helped The Guess Who gain national attention in 1965.
Allan left in 1966 to attend college, and it was the tandem of Burton Cummings and Randy Bachman that would drive The Guess Who to international success.
In 1967, Allan hosted the weekly CBC TV music program, Let's Go. With Bachman, he later launched the band Brave Belt, playing on its first two albums. After Allan's departure, that group became Bachman-Turner Overdrive (BTO), going onto global success.
Allan later moved to Canada's West Coast, and CBC reports that "he released occasional solo albums over the years while also playing local gigs and living life outside of the rock spotlight." In 2007, he released the album, Chad Allan and the Reflections — Early Roots, a compilation of the early '60s material. He continued to write and perform until a stroke in 2017.
Allan received the Order of Manitoba in 2015 for his contributions to the Canadian music industry.
Bachman shared some memories of Allan on social media on Friday, issuing a Facebook post in which he said he was grateful to have known and worked with Allan. He described his former bandmate as “a quiet, gentle soul with a peaceful voice.”
Cummings also posted a tribute to Allan on Facebook, calling him "an inspiration to all of us in bands in Winnipeg... I learned a lot from watching and listening to Chad," Cummings said. "He was very talented and one of a kind. He will always be remembered."
Towa (Towela) Beer, a Toronto-based former music industry executive, marketer, events producer and TV host died on Nov. 25 due to diabetes-related complications. Her age has not been reported.
Beer’s diverse career included stints at EMI Music Publishing, Flow 93.5 FM, Caribana, the Urban Music Association of Canada, Parks Canada and Ontario Ministry of Tourism.
Career highlights included the creation and production of UrbanAIDS, a 2004 HIV awareness concert with Alicia Keys and the Stephen Lewis Foundation, and the inaugural NBA Steve Nash Charity Classic, which raised $280,000 in one day in 2005.
Beer also created such companies as My Mentor Said (a digital marketing agency fueled by entrepreneurs & mentors), Pitch Your Tech (the GTHA's 1st Tech Conference for Diverse Youth), and CULTIV8TO (Creative Co-working spaces with Childcare).
On Facebook, Toronto music industry executive David 'Click' Cox posted this tribute: "I'm saddened to hear about Towa. She was a big inspiration for me when I started working with labels. She always had a big heart, and the last time we spoke about a year ago she was in great spirits. Sending love to family and friends."
A GoFundMe campaign has been set up here to assist Beer's daughter Siena.
Myles Goodwyn, a singer/songwriter, producer and author who fronted April Wine, died on Dec. 3 at age 75.
New Brunswick native Goodwyn formed April Wine in 1969. The rock band sold an estimated 10 million records in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K., and released 22 studio and live albums. Goodwyn has been inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame and Canada's walk of Fame, and has received Juno and East Coast Music Lifetime Achievement Awards.
Read the full Billboard Canada/FYI obituary here.
Armand Larrivée Monroe, a queer pioneer and trailblazer in the Montreal nightlife and drag scene, has died at age 88.
Pivotal moments in Montreal gay history can be attributed to Monroe. Read a full Billboard Canada obituary here.
Charles Officer, a Canadian film, TV, and video director, died on Dec. 1, at age 48. His work included the CBC series The Porter, documentaries The Mighty Jerome, and Unarmed Verses, and acclaimed feature films Nurse.Fighter.Boy and Akilla's Escape.
Read a full Billboard Canada obituary here
Scott “Top Ten” Kempner, guitarist/songwriter/vocalist and founding member of influential American rock bands The Dictators and The Del Lords, died on Nov. 29,of complications from early onset dementia. He was 69.
Variety notes that “Kempner began playing music with Andy Shernoff and Ross “The Boss” Friedman in college, and they formed the rock band The Dictators in 1974. Their debut album, The Dictators Go Girl Crazy!, is now considered by many to be the precursor to the punk rock genre, with Kempner an early punk pioneer.”
After releasing three albums, The Dictators broke up, though later re-united, with Kempner an active member until 2019.
Kempner formed The Del-Lords with Manny Caiati and Eric Ambel in 1982. That group recorded seven albums, and Kempner later performed with other bands, including The Brandos, The Paradise Brothers, The Helen Wheels Band, and Little Kings (featuring Dion DiMucci). Of note: the band was named after Canadian Delmer "Del" Lord,director of Three Stooges films. Kempner also released three solo albums.
On social media, DiMucci called Kempner “the quintessential rocker, a free abandoned guitar player, a superb arranger, a prolific songwriter, with the great sense of rhythm. But most of all he is a dear friend and brother whom I love and will truly miss. Eternal rest my friend."
Kempner made Canadian friends via gigs here. Hamilton concert promoter Lou Molinaro booked Kempner into his This Ain't Hollywood club in 2023 and remained in contact. He posted this tribute on Facebook: "Top Ten - THANK YOU for your music with The Dics, The Del-Lords and your solo work. Also.. I'm grateful for our hangouts and conversations over the years. Faster & Louder."
Fellow Hamiltonian Lori Yates posted on Facebook also: "We kept in touch after the Evelyn Dicks opened for him. He was planning a solo Canadian tour before he got sick and wanted me to open. He was the real deal, a rock 'n roll hero."
Veteran Toronto concert promoter Elliott Lefko recalls (on Facebook) booking The Del-Lords as part of a country/roots fest he curated at The Bamboo club in the mid '80s. "They were tough and serious with amazing songs and glorious harmonies," says Lefko. "The band were dressed in dark jackets except for the singer Scott Kempner in white with a sleeveless t shirt. This was The Clash by way of Nashville and Lou Reed’s New York. If there ever was a real hall of fame, like on the wall of one of Eric Ambel’s dive bars, then Scott would be up there with the best of them."
Denny Laine, co-founder of Wings and The Moody Blues, died on Dec. 5, at age 79. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer had been suffering from health complications, including COVID and a subsequent bacterial infection.
Billboard reports that "Laine became a co-founder of the legendary British rock outfit The Moody Blues in 1964 alongside singer Mike Pinder. Laine lent a lilting lead vocal performance to the group’s first hit, a smash cover of 'Go Now,” which topped the U.K. singles chart and reached No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. Laine’s tenure with the group was brief – following 1965’s The Magnificent Moodies, he left the band, but his membership in the Moody Blues ensured his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018.)"
After stints in the Electric String Band and Ginger Baker’s Air Force, in 1971 Laine was invited by Paul and Linda McCartney to join them in a new band, Wings. But an unexpected phone call from an old friend returned Laine to the top in 1971. The following debut album, 1973’s Band on the Run, became one of the band’s five Billboard 200-topping albums, with the title song becoming one of Wings’ six Hot 100-topping singles.
Billboard notes that "on follow-up album Venus and Mars, and every Wings album thereafter, Laine would contribute lead vocals and/or writing credits to at least one song."
Wings called it a day in 1980, but Laine played on McCartney's solo albums, Tug of War (1982) and Pipes of Peace (1983), and co-wrote the “Ebony and Ivory” b-side, “Rainclouds.”
Read more in the Billboard obituary here.
Moody Blues - Go Now [HD]
Shane (Patrick Lysaght) MacGowan, an Irish singer/songwriter who fronted Celtic punk/roots band The Pogues, died on Nov. 30, at age 65. He had recently been hospitalized after a bout of viral encephalitis.
He was also a member of the Nipple Erectors and Shane MacGowan and the Popes, as well as producing his own solo material and collaborating with artists such as Kirsty MacColl, Joe Strummer, Nick Cave, Steve Earle, Johnny Depp and Sinéad O'Connor.
Read a full Billboard obituary here.