Still MORE Music Stories!

June 21, 2015


(Originally published on February 28, 2011)

Stories Flohil tells: Even more true tales from 60 years of musi

THIS WEEK: Ed McCurdy, Chuck Berry, Ed Glinert, Bob Dylan, Andrea Ramolo and other independent women, Rob Ford (maybe Toronto’s next mayor), Bob Mersereau, Nigel Best, Andrea England, surprising new books to read, The Beatles, Dave Gunning, Kendel Carson, and Soko a French artist you’ve probably never heard of…

Old, difficult and in the way

Someone asked me last night who were the most difficult people I’ve ever had to deal with.

Right up there was the late Ed McCurdy, the folk artist who wrote the wonderful song “Last Night I had the Strangest Dream” (which Serena Ryder covered more recently). I’d hired him for the 30th annual Mariposa Folk Festival — Jeez, was that really 20 years ago? — as one of the four acts still alive who had played the very first one.

McCurdy was old, grumpy and demanding,  and  made numerous demands that kept the volunteers hopping. “Oh God, he’s an irascible old fart,” I moaned.

Later that day, he came up to me. “Young man,” he said in a stentorian voice. “I hear that you’ve been calling me an irascible old fart.”  Blushing, stammering and stuttering, I apologized.

“No need for that,” he said grandly. “I AM an irascible old fart. And I LIKE that description. I shall use it again!” 

Young, demanding and on the phone

“Hello…  have your girl go to the drugstore and get me 12 hair clips, a pair of scissors and three douche kits.” This instruction, relayed via mobile phone from a tour bus on the way to Toronto, came from a well-known singer who shall remain anonymous.

Apart from the fact that I would rightly get into serious trouble if I ever referred to my assistant as my “girl,” this was, by any standards, an unusual request.

“Three douche kits?” I queried. “Don’t ask” the singer hissed.

Later, when the bill was included as a show cost, her manager — one of many who have dealt with this artist — told me I was a crook and a charlatan and would never work with his “talent” ever again. Within six months, however she changed management (and agency) once again — and I still work with her.


And, of course, there has to be a Chuck Berry story

Not, indeed, an unusual one. Don’t ask me the date, but I was involved with a Saturday night show at Convocation Hall in with lawyer and music publisher Ed Glinert — who was, in those distant days, an agent.

Berry, wandered into the hall 15 minutes before show time; his local band was a popular local blues-based outfit called Whiskey Howl. He looked at the band, nodded, and gave his instructions: “When I raise my knee like that” — and he demonstrated — “just quit playing. You know all the songs….”

Turning to Glinert, he said: “Where’s the cash?”  A quick scoop from the box office raised the other half of the fee (the 50 per cent deposit had already been paid, weeks before, to Berry’s agent).  Berry looked sourly at the green, brown, blue and red notes.  “The AMERICAN money…” he said.  “Or no show,” he muttered as he went to his dressing room.

Banks, of course, were not open on Saturday, but a quick taxi ride to Sam’s and A&A on Yonge Street — in those days flush with American cash from tourists who flocked to the city — solved the problem. Thirty minutes after the show was due to start, Chuck Berry finished counting the U.S. cash and went on stage.

Hail hail rock and roll….

And, next week, the most boring artists…


Yet another week in the music biz:

Sunday: The NY Times lands on the doorstep, these days, with a whisper rather than a thump. There’s a note about some upcoming Bob Dylan releases, including the fact that his first eight albums — from Bob Dylan to John Wesley Hardin are being released as a set, in mono, October 19. Let’s take the horse to water, again.

Monday: Women rule!  New indie CDs arrive from Stacy Burke (Like a Good Woman Might), Jenny Berkel (Gather Your Bones), Lynn Jackson (Coming Down), Lady Hayes (Opening Hearts & Apertures)… and a stunning three-song demo fromSamantha Martin & The Haggard. You may not heave heard — or even heard of — these people, but, by golly, you should check ‘em out!

Tuesday: Off to see Andrea Ramolo, back from more than 80 self-booked dates across the country, at the Cameron. If you play that many dates, you get better than you were when you set out. And, this time, the van didn’t break down, and she actually had money in her pocket when she got home!

Wednesday: Singer Alejandra Ribera and I couldn’t get into the “mayoral debate on the arts” at wish the four remaining candidates for Mayor of Toronto faced a packed — but apparently skeptical — audience. For those fortunate not to live here, the leading candidate is a porcine, loudmouthed bozo called Rob Ford, who makes the average Tea Party member in the States look like a reasonable, reasoning, intelligent, thoughtful individual. Don’t get him a book for Christmas, as my mom used to say about my father — he’s already read one.

Thursday: A Toronto launch for Bob Mersereau’s excellent new coffee table book, The Top 100 Canadian Singles. Far too few music biz people and far too few artists were there (although Ron Hynes sang “Sonny’s Dream” a capella). Afterwards, in the bar next door, I met Nigel Best — the ground-breaking manager who took the Barenaked Ladiesfrom busking to a major career, and got fired for his pains. He’s now a special ed teacher in Oshawa, and he DJs electronica on weekends. One of the good ones, who got away….

Friday: Drinks with Andrea England. Her day job’s with the CMRRA, her avocation is songwriting. A transplanted Maritimer, this is a young woman with a lot of irons in the fire, and you heard it here first.


Things to look for:

New autobiographies from Bernie Finkelstein, David Clayton ThomasIan Tyson, and a novel (with accompanying CD) from Sylvia Tyson.  And a smashing book — written for young people — by Cindy Watson called Out of Darkness: The Jeff Healey Story, of which more next week.


Seriously interesting factoid of the week:

Between 1964 and 2009 The Beatles (and its individual members and associates) earned 32 Grammy nominations. However, no less than 33 times between 1965 and 1970 they lost out to other nominees.  In 1969, for instance, Abbey Road lost out to the second, and self-titled, Blood Sweat & Tears album (and the first one that featured David Clayton Thomas as the band’s singer).

And, in 1967, Sgt. Pepper lost out to The Fifth Dimensions’ Up Up and Away in two separate catelgories.

It’s amazing, all these years later, and with hundreds of questionable decisions since, that the Grammies have any credibility and significance at all.


Finally, this week’s video:

The delicious transience of most pop music is illustrated by this odd, strangely appealing video by a French actress, singer and songwriter called Soko (Stephanie Sokjolinski). Recorded in France in 2007, she now lives in LA, but stopped performing earlier this year.

Her MySpace page, however, says she’s playing the Mile End Cabaret in Montreal October 25, and the too-cool-for-its-own-good Drake Hotel in Toronto the next day. Be warned: Both shows will be packed.