Home is where the hall is.
And the Canadian Music Hall of Fame — as well as the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, Quebec’s ADISQ Hall of Fame, and the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame — is in the heart of Calgary, housed in the National Music Centre’s East Village home Studio Bell.
It is the first bricks and mortar digs for the hall, and on Sunday, Oct. 27 the nation’s recording industry came home for a visit and to celebrate the inaugural Canadian Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
The evening featured the feting of a quartet of Cancon royalty: late teen idol and vocalist Bobby Curtola, who struck it big with the ’60s chart topper Fortune Teller; singer-songwriter Andy Kim, known for hits such as Sugar Sugar, Baby I Love You and Rock Me Gently; ’70s/‘80s classic rockers Chilliwack, who produced such radio staples as My Girl (Gone, Gone, Gone), Arms of Mary and Fly at Night; and the Cowboy Junkies, the moody alt-country project of siblings Margo and Michael Timmins, responsible for the enduring and endearing 1988 treasure The Trinity Session.
Also celebrated was Alberta country artist Gord Bamford, who received the MusiCounts Inspired Minds Ambassador Award, which “recognizes an individual who has had an extraordinary impact on education and” MusiCounts — he and his foundation donated an incredible $200,000 to the charity, the largest in its existence.
All acts were in attendance — save, of course, Curtola, who passed away in 2016, represented on this night by his two sons — along with such industry names and luminaries as Mayor Nenshi, NMC president and CEO Andrew Mosker, president and CEO of Canadian Academy of Arts and Sciences, The JUNO Awards and MusiCounts Allan Reid, and those responsible for inducting the artists, Barenaked Lady Ed Robertson (Kim), Ron Sexsmith (Curtola), Randy Bachman (Chilliwack) and Andy Maize from the Skydiggers (Cowboy Junkies).
It was a lively evening hosted by opera singer and CBC personality Julie Nesrallah, with several highlights, both musical and non over the course of the two hours of speeches, performances and video tributes.
An early one was the acceptance speech by the Margo Timmins, with her using her five minutes onstage not for the traditional thanks, but to go “rogue,” as she said.
“I’d rather sing,” Timmins began, before turning to the topic of women in the music industry and the fact that they are still “so poorly represented” in all aspects.
In a speech that Reid would later term “brave,” she also pointed out the elephant in the room, the fact that she was the only female inductee of the almost dozen artists joining the hall Sunday, and that by her reckoning that the ratio of plaques for men to women on the wall was 10-1.
It was message that she said was still worth noting, with little having changed in her three decades in the industry.
Her speech on behalf of the Junkies was then followed by a gorgeous, typically simmering performance of their tune A Common Disaster from their ’96 album Lay It Down.
Also of note was Sexsmith’s wonderfully self-deprecating and charming speech before Curtola’s honours, the singer-songwriter noting he was surprised to be invited to do it as the last time he inducted anyone was when he helped usher kd lang into the Canadian Walk of Fame and, having forgotten his glasses, couldn’t read the teleprompter, and got lang’s date of birth wrong by two decades.
He also opined that Curtola — as well as the rest of the inductees — were from the time of “real singers,” before he showed that he is very much of that lineage by performing a simply stunning and beautiful acoustic version of Fortune Teller.
The evening wrapped up with the physical placing of the plaques on the wall in an upstairs space of Studio Bell, the 2019 class joining the greats of Canadian music, such as Gordon Lightfoot, Rush and Anne Murray, followed by a private party at the King Eddy.
A broadcast of the ceremony will be available to stream on Nov. 2 on CBC Gem, and a special featuring in-depth interviews with the inductees will air as part of Music Day on CBC, Sunday, March 15, 2020, prior to the 2020 JUNO Awards on CBC.
(Photos courtesy CARAS/Neil Zeller.)
Mike Bell has been covering the Calgary music scene for the past 25 years with publications such as VOX, Fast Forward, the Calgary Sun and, most recently, the Calgary Herald. He is currently the music writer and content editor for theYYSCENE.ca. He likes beer. Buy him one.