It goes without saying that a project of the magnitude of an Encyclopedia will have its shortcomings. Though it’s been 24 years of steady research since the reference went online in 1998 (and another 12 years of research pre-internet), other websites have surfaced since then, and in all honesty, may contain more or even better data than what’s presented here. With that said, it is the rare exception that those reference sites don’t trace their lineage back to the original Encyclopedia when it was at Canoe.ca. It’s true that you can’t copyright history, and so a lot of our research is built on the backs of giants like Martin Melhuish, Larry LeBlanc, Rick Jackson, Nicholas Jennings, John Einarson, Ritchie Yorke, Martin Popoff, Bill Munson, Ron Hall, Nanda Lwin, Bob Mersereau, Mark Kearney, Alan Cross, Ted Kennedy, David Farrell, Keith Sharp, Tom Harrison, Darryl Sterdan, Richard Flohil, Drew Masters, Howard Druckman, Ralph Alfonso, Frank Manley, Lenny Stoute, Gary Pig Gold, Nick Warburton, Jason Schneider, Liz Worth, Michael Barclay, Ian A.D. Jack, Karen Bliss, Marc Coulavin, Chris Walter, and Vernon Joynson among others. In fact, many of these writers have personally assisted and contributed to the Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia.
There is also a lot of poorly researched resource sites out there; open-ended wiki websites that are user driven tend to not only be subjective (…”the members of Braids knew that destiny and fame awaited them after the girls shared a blueberry muffin during lunch in the high school cafeteria…”) but are over-populated with glaring errors that are, unfortunately, replicated all over the internet (The Cycle’s self-titled debut album is often cited as ‘Saturday Morning Rummage Sale’). So, the battle for accuracy in an interconnected global community where opinion, hearsay, and conjecture is often mistaken for fact is one mission of this Canadian music resource. That’s not to say we haven’t had our share of gaffs and blunders as well; the most common being grammar and spelling mistakes. However, overall, we have been cited as one of the most referenced and accurate of all the Canadian music resources (short of the National Archive’s “Canadian Encyclopedia” itself) that exists at this time. Others will most certainly come along to challenge the mantle, but that will just keep us on our toes! Through the old online version of the Encyclopedia we received over 5 million ‘hits’ a year. We fielded between 1,000 and 1,500 emails annually from readers applauding us or lauding us. As is the human condition, many of these emails are in the form of belligerent comments questioning our version of the truth. There are, however, a few Canadian musical ‘truths’ and urban myths that may never be satisfactorily resolved and how they are dealt with here will most certainly raise the hackles with some readers.
THE CANADIAN CONTENT QUESTION
The impetus behind this entire project is the cataloging of Canadian artists. Purists and acolytes disagree on what constitutes the definition of a “Canadian” artist. Is it an artist that was born here? Performed here? Recorded here? Became a landed immigrant here? The answer is yes, and no, to all of these criteria. For the purposes here, it is the combination of these things as it defines an artist’s career as a whole. Much has been made about the number of Canadian acts who’ve gone stateside or even abroad to reap the rewards of success. Did Dr. Norman Bethune’s groundbreaking medical work in China make him any less a Canadian? No. Similarly, a Canadian musician or songwriter or producer that has ventured beyond the confines of our borders to take Canadian music into the world still exemplifies the Canadian spirit – even if his house is in Bel Air or England. Every act listed has been weighed and judged based on contributions to our heritage. They may not fit the text book definition of the CRTC’s CanCon regulations (i.e. The DeFranco Family who never earned a MAPL logo on any of their singles, for instance), but they are still held in high regard as Canadian cultural contributors.
That, of course, leaves the question of Ann & Nancy Wilson’s band Heart. In its earliest incarnation it consisted of both American and Canadian players. It’s a complicated story framed by one band member’s need to escape the Vietnam draft. With amnesty given in the mid-1970s to conscientious objectors, Heart headed back to the US permanently. The band’s debut LP ‘Dreamboat Annie’ and a portion of the follow-up album, ‘Magazine’ were designated MAPL by the band’s label Mushroom Records. For the purposes of fire-walling the debate about this unique situation we’ve made an editorial decision to leave them out of the Encyclopedia. Similarly, funkmeister Rick James who spent his early career in Canadian bands The Mynah Birds and Great White Cane both of whom do appear in these pages, but James’ solo years stateside have been omitted.
WEEDING OUT THE IMPOSTERS
There is a long tradition of musicians claiming they were in bands that they never were. Maybe it’s the bragging rights built on the presumption that the average music listener will buy the musician’s story or even a beer. With the internet and a record collection of 3500 LPs and another 2500 7″ singles that were (until recently) at my disposal and filing cabinets worth of paper proof, it’s hard to pull the “I was an original member of Rush” story and make it stick [unless you’re Jeff Jones who pre-dated Geddy Lee…but you can read about that under the Rush entry]. Many a battle has been waged by me with those claiming affiliations or credentials of dubious merit. I’ve made every attempt to weed them out. The moral of the story here is that in the internet age, you can’t fool anyone anymore. No one should have to validate their careers, but by the same token, you cannot take anything at face value – especially in the music business.
RE-IMAGINING HISTORY THROUGH OMISSION
On no less than two occasions I’ve been asked by Bryan Adams’ and 54.40’s reps to take out the list of singles from their discographies. The reasons were never clarified. Would removing the information change the fact that these records were actually released? Gentlemen, your legacies are already written in permanent marker. Reference to Adams’ stint in Sweeney Todd and his disco track “Let Me Take You Dancing” or the early MoDaMu and Warner Music releases by 54.40 are the modest foundations of long and successful careers. Celebrate them, don’t bury them. Regardless, the entries remain.
THE RICK DANKO STORY
Not long after the passing of THE BAND’s Rick Danko, his official biographer contacted me and wanted my version of Mr. Danko’s life pulled from the site in favour of Rick’s official, and personally approved, version. Normally, I do not agree to such a manipulation of what is essentially an objective, academic look at historical events. Worse still is that most artist promo is spun to reflect ONLY the positive and usually only highlights recent relevant events in the artist’s’ on-going career moving forward. In the case of Mr. Danko, I have made an exception as a matter of respect to his legacy. It is the only biography in the book not written or adapted by myself or Sharon Vernon. A special thanks to Carol Caffin for allowing us the use of her words.
TWO. TWO. TWO BANDS IN ONE.
One of the more unique quandaries in the Encyclopedia is the case of replicated names. It’s not unusual for warring, ex-members of bands to steal a name and claim ownership (The Diamonds come to mind). There are at least two versions of The Esquires, House of Commons, The Blue Shadows, Helix, The Sceptres, and The Phantoms…each respectively unrelated to each other. Though, Don Norman, who was once in the Ottawa version of The Esquires did briefly use that name after leaving the group, and found himself at the receiving end of a court action preventing him from continuing to do so. Sometimes a good name gets recycled. Duplicate acts are identified by era or city as a matter of distinguishing them apart.
(c) 1998 – 2023 Jaimie Vernon.
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