This has been an incredible two weeks for Carole and me. First, the Juno Awards came to town and we took part in the celebrations from March 27 to March 29.
The Friday night celebration was more or less a welcome to town for the industry. The theme was a roast co-hosted by Sam Feldman and Bruce Allen. The two entered the small theatre in flak jackets. It carried on from there with insults aimed at just about everyone in the industry. It was supposed to be in good fun but many from Ontario didn’t appreciate the rough humor. Terry David Mulligan acted as emcee for the evening. The room was a veritable Who’s Who of the industry with many music and radio people present: CBC Radio executive director Denise Donlon, Vicki Gabereau, record producer Bob Rock, JACK-FM‘s Larry & Willy, and JJ Johnston, General Manager of CKNW, CFMI CFOX and AM 730. Also in attendance was Jim Byrnes, a Juno winner last year.
The next night was the Gala at the Westin Bayshore. This is the evening where over 36 awards are handed out and various categories of music are recognized. Some ask why this isn’t part of the big show that is televised. The truth is if you did this in conjunction with the larger show held this year at GM Place, the television show would last for over 7 hours. To be fair they highlight these awards the next night in the midst of the major awards. The whole week was topped off by the excitement at GM Place where fans got to see a great assortment of talent that on their own demand major ticket prices. If you had to pay for each individual act you would max out your credit card. Russell Peters was a great host. Highlights for me were Michael Bublé and his backstage encounter and Bryan Adams‘ duet. All in all… kudos to the Junos.
Next… what a weekend in Cleveland, Ohio! Rock and Roll Hall of Fame President Terry Stewart sent us VIP tickets and passes to the main event and the auxiliary event the night before. This was the 24th annual induction ceremony held at the Public Hall in Cleveland, and only the second time the Induction ceremonies were held in Cleveland. Word is that Cleveland will host the event every three years from now on. Because New York is the headquarters for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum Foundation they get to call the shots. I think wiser heads prevailed and the decision was made to go to Cleveland where the actual hall exists. It just makes sense.
Some of the personal highlights for me and Carole occurred at the Renaissance Hotel, where we stayed. Many of the major stars stayed here or at the Ritz Carlton next door.
At breakfast the first morning Carole spotted Scotty Moore (Elvis’ original guitar player) and we talked about the event. Scotty had sneaked into town to surprise fellow sideman DJ Fontana at the induction. Scotty looked better than I had seen him in years. He was so happy for the inductions of DJ and the late Bill Black (Elvis’ bass player). This completes the legacy of the King of Rock and Roll. Now all are represented in the hall.
Sitting behind me at breakfast the next morning was Little Anthony. I approached him and congratulated him on the forthcoming induction. He remarked how he loved to come to Canada and in particular Vancouver. He played the PNE three summers ago and at the River Rock a year ago. His opening at the actual show was a blockbuster, bringing the audience to its feet.
The man who arranged the entire show, musically, was David Letterman‘s band leader, Paul Shaffer. Paul was at our hotel and we had a great discussion about Vancouver and the fact that he was originally from Thunder Bay, Ontario. He asked me if I ever see Bobby Curtola and I had to say no. Carole and I both remarked on the fabulous job he did on stage during the Inductions, arranging for such a diversified set of acts. He is a most cordial man.
DJ Fontana and his wife Karen joined us for lunch in Cleveland. DJ is still that down to earth gentleman from the south. Karen is a delight too. When I asked him if he was excited about the induction, he sort of shrugged it off , but when I asked him how many family members were in Cleveland for the event he told me 40. This told the whole story. DJ never appears to be excited about anything but he truly is and was in Cleveland.
Carole and I lined-up at the rock hall to meet Bobby Womack. He had an autograph session for his new CD The Poet 1&2. We stood in line to get an autograph for good friend Jim Byrnes who is a big fan. I told Bobby that I had worked with his idol and mentor Sam Cooke and had met Sam and his manager Bumps Blackwell. Bobby was excited as he loved Sam so much and Sam was taken from us at such a young age. I would love to see Bobby perform here.
At the cocktail party just before the black tie show we had the pleasure of sitting with Bill Black‘s son and daughter. Lewis Black was so excited he said he thought he would break down on stage. I said, “Just be yourself, speak from the heart, and if you cry so what?” Lewis did just that with his poignant words: “I am so happy to have lived long enough to see my daddy inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”
The actual show was outstanding. For the first time in the 24 year history of this event the public was invited to attend. Picture a large hall with 1,200 special guests on the floor for dinner and another 5,000 in the balcony area surrounding the entire hall. The energy of having the public take part was special. The artists seemed to appreciate it too. I hope they continue this tradition as it makes for a better show and not a display for a few from the music business and various corporations, after all, Rock and Roll is all about people.
Other performers inducted were Jeff Beck, inducted by old friend Jimmy Page, RUN DMC, Metallica, Wanda Jackson (inducted by Roseanne Cash), and songwriter, singer and multi-instrumentalist Spooner Oldham, He can be heard on major hits such as Cry Like A Baby with the Box Tops, Percy Sledge‘s When A Man Loves A Woman and so many more.
Words cannot describe the experience but it ranks right up there with some of the best I have enjoyed in my lifetime. Thank you, Terry Stewart, for the invitation.