I do an open format radio show on Radio Regent online out of Regent Park in Toronto every Friday from 5 p.m. til 7,called CORBY's ORBIT playing everymusic, so far no Death Metal or light opera but who knows?http://www.radioregent.com/ Illustration by John Kricfalusi
Wednesday, June 30, 2021
Music Weeps. Ellen McIlwaine Passes. Nicholas Jennings Writes An Obit For The Globe & Mail.
Ellen McIlwaine was the epitome of an adventurous spirit: fierce and independent, the flame-haired artist took her musical gifts in surprising directions, defying expectations at every turn. As a virtuoso slide guitarist with a seismic voice, she excelled in a male-dominated field, leading her bands with a bold musical style that transcended genre and culture.
“There is a deep well of the music spirit that lives in me and comes out when I play,” Ms. McIlwaine told interviewer Paul Corby in 2019, when she was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Toronto Blues Society. “I think a lot of people play with me and through me, and sing with me and through me. It’s really a mystical experience.” One of those she channelled was Jimi Hendrix, a friend from their Greenwich Village days whom Ms. McIlwaine credited with teaching her that what she had to express was unique. Another was Johnny Winter, from whom she learned to create her own unconventional open tunings.
Her musical expression wasn’t restricted to blues, rock or funk but drew from a strong affinity for jazz, folk, country and what came to be called world music, developed while attending an international school in Japan and growing up with families from around the world. Ms. McIlwaine, who became fluent in Japanese, absorbed all those cultural influences and incorporated them into her recordings. Her most recent album, 2006′s Mystic Bridge, was a collaboration with Canadian tabla player Cassius Khan.
Loud, powerful and flamboyant onstage, Ms. McIlwaine was kind, gentle and open-hearted offstage, and made friends easily wherever she went. After getting sober in 1982, she moved to Canada, living in Montreal and Toronto before settling in Calgary a decade later. There, while pursuing her career and teaching guitar and voice (including Arabic scales and yodelling), Ms. McIlwaine volunteered at the Alberta Children’s Hospital. For the past eight years, she drove a school bus – as much for her love of children as the steady income. When she died at 75 in a Calgary hospice of esophageal cancer on June 23, after a diagnosis only six weeks earlier, many mourned the loss of a revolutionary artist and generous soul.
Blues and world music legend Taj Mahal told The Globe and Mail that witnessing Ms. McIlwaine perform was, for him, a revelation. “She was the first contemporary female musician that I heard play it all, sing it all, slide and do it solo on top of all that talent,” said Mr. Mahal, who appeared on Ms. McIlwaine’s Spontaneous Combustion album in 2000. “Many a night I watched would-be guitar slingers sneak out the door of a club, coffeehouse or concert hall where she was playing because they couldn’t take the heat!”
“Ellen was way ahead of her time,” said blues guitarist and singer Sue Foley, who toured with Ms. McIlwaine and interviewed her for her forthcoming book on female guitarists. “Everything she did musically was by her own design, her slide technique, open tunings and the whole thing she was doing with world music and semi-tones. She could play her ass off and sing really well with a multioctave range. She blazed a trail for me and other women. I owe her a huge debt.”
Grammy-winning producer-guitarist Colin Linden calls her an inspirational artist: “Ellen was a pioneer who combined acoustic and electric sounds in a way no one had done before. And her singing was the perfect companion to her playing, capable of great tenderness, joy, anger and empathy.”
Meanwhile friends of Ms. McIlwaine tell of her other qualities. “Ellen was always a strong person and personality,” Sharron Toews said. “She was completely non-judgmental of everybody. It didn’t matter whether you were young or old, black or white, transgender or had no arms and legs. To her, everybody was a person – she saw through all façades.”
Ms. McIlwaine’s death came just as her career seemed to be undergoing a renaissance. She was working on her autobiography and planned to record a new album this fall. Mojo, the prestigious British music magazine, just published a feature article on her titled “Still Blazing Up the Bottleneck Blues.” And Montreal filmmaker Alfonso Maiorana, co-director of the award-winning Rumble: Indians Who Rocked the World, is developing a documentary on her titled Goddess of Slide.
The only adopted child of Southern Presbyterians, Frances Ellen McIlwaine was born in Nashville, Tenn., on Oct. 1, 1945. When she was two, her missionary parents, William and Aurine, took her to Kobe, Japan, where she lived for the next 15 years, attending the Canadian Academy international school. She started playing piano at the age of five and later snare drum in the marching band while singing in the school choir. Ms. McIlwaine credited listening to the American Forces Network radio with her discovery of Ray Charles, Fats Domino and Professor Longhair.
When Ms. McIlwaine was 11, her father, who’d been born in Japan in 1893 to missionary parents himself, took her to a performance of Kabuki, the highly stylized classical form of Japanese dance-drama. “I will never forget it,” she wrote on Facebook. “It was a great privilege to be taught so many things about Old Japan.”
Returning to the United States in 1963, Ms. McIlwaine studied history at a Christian school in Tennessee but dropped out to take art classes in Atlanta. There, she discovered guitar and began performing at local coffeehouses; in 1966, folk singer Patrick Sky urged her to move to Greenwich Village. Ms. McIlwaine landed work at the Café Au Go Go six nights a week, opening for blues artists such as Muddy Waters and John Hammond. It was there she met Mr. Hendrix, who jammed with Ms. McIlwaine during her sets; she later painted his portrait on one of her albums and covered his Up From the Skies.
After fronting the blues rock band Fear Itself, Ms. McIlwaine went solo, garnering acclaim for her recordings. Her 1972 album Honky Tonk Angel showcased her dazzling style and featured a mesmerizing version of Blind Faith’s Can’t Find My Way Home that many critics call definitive. The following year, she released We the People, which included her song Underground River about Mr. Hendrix and the explosive title track, an Indian raga-style workout recorded live at Carnegie Hall with Ms. McIlwaine scat-singing – in Japanese, no less.
At a time when radio had freer formats, Ms. McIlwaine built on airplay and toured widely – including several dates with an unknown Tom Waits opening – and attracted a strong following. When The Guitar Album appeared in 1974, she was the only female guitarist on a compilation that included the likes of Eric Clapton, John McLaughlin, T-Bone Walker, Link Wray and Roy Buchanan. But, as Alan Niester wrote in The Globe and Mail, “with the advent of structured playlists and few risk-taking disc jockeys, she seemed to disappear from the spotlight.” Ms. McIlwaine recently told Mojo: “It’s always been a hindrance as well as an asset to be completely original.”
Ms. McIlwaine was always aware of the gender bias. When she was volunteering at the children’s hospital in Calgary, often in the cancer ward, she met Paul Brandt, who was working there. They bonded as guitarists. She told the future Canadian country star: “Well, I get called a female guitar player and I bet you get called a male nurse.”
Ms. McIlwaine decamped to Montreal in 1975. There, she recorded The Real Ellen McIlwaine with the Ville Émard Blues Band and made her next album, Everybody Needs It, with one of her biggest heroes, legendary Cream bassist Jack Bruce. One night, while appearing at the Rising Sun in Montreal, Ms. McIlwaine reconnected with an old friend, singer Lisa Hartt. “I was at a low point in my life,” Ms. Hartt recalls, “and just wanted to go out and get drunk with Ellen. But the minute I saw her I knew that wasn’t going to happen. She was absolutely glowing. Turns out, she’d gotten clean and sober. Ellen saved my life that night by introducing me to Alcoholics Anonymous.”
During the 1980s, Ms. McIlwaine settled in Toronto, befriending guitarist Jeff Healey. She performed with local musicians Terry Wilkins and Bucky Berger, embracing reggae music. For her next album, Looking for Trouble, she recruited and toured with bassist Kit Johnson, drummer Michelle Josef and percussionist Quammie Williams. Mr. Williams remembers her as a force of nature, always one with the music and comfortable in her own skin. “Ellen was an imposing figure,” he recalls. “She looked like a mother of 15 kids, but embraced being a woman, with eyelashes, makeup and long, painted fingernails, very frilly – even her amplifier had a lace covering she’d made. She absolutely slayed on the slide guitar. She was the real deal.”
In the early 2000s, Ms. McIlwaine’s music was discovered by a new generation. DJs sampled her work, including England’s Fatboy Slim and Japan’s Kenichi Yanai, with whom she toured Japanese dance clubs in 2002 and ’05. Meanwhile, younger female artists from Suzie Vinnick and Jackie Venson to acclaimed guitarists Susan Tedeschi and Jennifer Batten have begun citing her as a major influence. Bebe Buckskin, a Nêhiyaw singer-songwriter from Northern Alberta, calls her simply “the original bad-ass mama.”
Ms. Toews says that her close friend will be remembered as much for her huge heart as her immense talent. “Ellen was someone who immediately related to people from other cultures,” Ms. Toews said. “She could talk to anyone, whether they were from Nigeria or Afghanistan – she was a bridge.” Added Ms. Toews (Ms. McIlwaine is godmother to her son, Max Austin, now a DJ in Nelson, B.C.): “Children loved Ellen and she loved them. She would have had 12 kids if she hadn’t chosen music and had the money.”
Holger Petersen, who released Ms. McIlwaine’s albums on his Stony Plain record label, spoke to her the week before she died. “She was so appreciative of the life she’d led,” Mr. Petersen said. “She was in a great place, really positive.”
With no surviving family, Ms. McIlwaine leaves behind a large circle of friends.
Monday, June 28, 2021
Fond Memories of Toronto’s Michael Laderoute (1947-2021)
mystery of the root, in its mud and manure, with all its worms and groundwater working away, the blossom appears, and draws us, with all of its beauty and fragrance, into the realms of a particular magic. What attracts us is a gorgeous expression of the complex and invisible spirit of that one spot.
But some plants develop from rhizomes, which are sort of horizontal trunks growing and spreading underground, manifesting at the surface only at those opportune places where their blossoms can survive and thrive.
Michael Laderoute (Dec. 29, 1947 – May 29, 2021)
“Michael and I were fans of each other’s work for 30 years. He could pack a room and only sing his own songs. We played together many times. I’ll miss him.” – John Jackson
Michael will be remembered fondly for his kindness, humour, generosity and honest friendship. He was a poet, songwriter, fisherman, and all-around good guy to hang out with. He was also a brother extraordinaire. Michael worked for 17 years in the educational department at TD Bank. Before that, he rocked a telecaster in various Ontario bands. He attended Arnprior District High School, and graduated in English Literature from the University of Toronto at Erindale. This is from his obituary at: https://pilonfamily.ca/tribute/details/2615/Michael-Laderoute/obituary.html?fbclid=IwAR0UlpeUxJdATvIEb0FJkyKZYpj6JZI3MIRo2VzR378X4zuFUwE2D94c-uo
From an appreciation by Kerry Doole at FYIMusicNews:
“His debut CD, A River I Know, was recorded in 2004, with David Baxter producing and playing alongside Michael and Bazil Donovan, and it was well-received in North America and Europe.
David forwarded this eloquent tribute to FYI: “In 2004 I was fortunate enough to produce A River I Know for my friend Michael Laderoute. It turned out to be his only album, but it was full of some of the best crafted songs I’ve had the pleasure to work on. Michael mined the same vein as the romantic Texas poet/singers he admired so much, with just enough Ottawa Valley mixed in to make his own unique sound. He loved songs and the people who wrote them, he loved his old guitars, he loved Mexico and fishing for marlin every winter. He was never in it for fame and fortune. The process for him was its own reward. I will miss him terribly.”
Over the last 20 years, Michael could be seen performing his own music at local clubs in Toronto. His monthly shows at the Tranzac Club were a thing of magic. He had a strong love for Mexico and had many friends all across North America.
Howard Gladstone remembers: “I knew Michael Laderoute for about 20 years and heard him play dozens of times. By then, he was a fully developed artist/songwriter/performer. He was always enthusiastic about performing and deeply committed to his art. He wrote moving, simple and powerful songs that always rang true and spoke truth. He was an excellent guitar player and had a voice perfectly suited to deliver his own brand of folk/country/Americana. With such a strong catalogue of original songs, Michael’s reluctance to record his songs was surprising. He fought every encouragement given him to do so until finally he didn’t. He recorded an excellent album. Listen to the title track “The River I Know” and you hear a song that will last until “we all meet again on the other side.”
In December 2020, a stellar line-up of Michael’s musical friends and colleagues came together and produced a compelling compilation tribute featuring some of Michael’s finest songs (Hats off to Greg Hobbs for organizing it all.)
You can listen to it here.
Greg Hobbs recalls, “When Ben Sures came to me saying we had to do something for Michael, I put the word out to a few mutual friends, and before long, suggestions and volunteers came calling. In terms of organization, this was the easiest project I’d ever worked on. Dave Lang and Rob Fenton shared board tapes from some of Michael’s shows, people listened to Michael’s CD, and the next thing I knew, songs were picked and musicians got to work.
The enthusiasm and efficiency with which people came onboard says a lot about Michael’s talent and character. He affected more people than he ever knew. Michael was private about his health, so I didn’t spread the word too wide about this project, but I can guarantee that many more tributes could be done by groups of completely different songwriters and musicians who were just as moved by Michael and his music. Maybe it’ll happen down the road. Adios.”
We shared an affinity for Texas songwriters, blues music, tequila and Telecasters. We also shared a birthday, Dec. 29. He was exactly 20 years older than me though it felt more like five. His tastes and activities seemed quite clear. He liked fishing, he was a bit of a loner but had a lot of friends and people that liked him. My partner Shauna and I visited him in Melaque, Mexico one winter. He picked us up in his jeep at the airport, stuck a mini beer in each of our hands and whisked us off to our hotel. There were quite a few Canadians that frequented Melaque, musicians as well, but he wasn’t one to congregate with them, I never knew why. He was a puzzle in some ways, I kept asking him if he was going to record another album or document his songs? he would just answer ‘why?’ I didn’t press it.
I know he liked Stetson hats and concerts. I lived in his apartment every February for a dozen years or so while he was away. The place hardly changed in all that time. What I discovered was his home environment only changed if his health was affected or things were thrust upon him. He had some heart trouble a few years back so a walker was added to the apartment. I think he had to use it briefly while recovering, then after that it served as a table to put clothing on. Otherwise it was unchanging: a bike showed up a few years later when he started working on his heart health. I found a life-sized hula girl in a grass dress at a drug store in northern Ontario, I left it with all the other gifts I would leave at the end of each visit; she became a permanent and unchanging fixture hanging on one of the doors. There were a couple posters on the wall but no art really. I think he was concerned the landlord would give him a hard time if he put holes in the wall. I would have bought him some kind of black velvet Mexican-flavoured Jesus painting otherwise.
His guitar stuff was always meticulously organized, guitar cables perfectly rolled. There were at least seven espresso makers in the cupboard. I think he got a new TV at one point, but otherwise the furniture remained in the same spots year in year out. I don’t think he liked to trouble the landlord but he did get a new fridge, well an old fridge from the laundry room when the plug of the old one caught fire during one of my stays.
When he was in town, we’d usually have a visit, I played him my blues album when we had just finished it. He loved it. Maybe the drinks helped, but it was nice to see the otherwise steady demeanour perk up a little. He also gave me a monster embrace once after a concert I did at Hugh’s room. The gesture was sincere and, as a result, meaningful. Maybe that’s what I learned about Michael, when he really felt a thing he showed it. I will miss him and his apartment. Our friendship was tied into both. I am so glad we recorded his songs to share with him. [I’m] also glad his musical partner, slide player Rob Fenton, recorded a bunch of their shows in secret, so we had a document of songs that would otherwise have been lost. I know that record meant a lot to him and that meant a lot to me, to be able to give something back. He told me he couldn’t breathe for a couple days after it was presented to him. After he got his breath back, he would choose one of the songs, listen to it three or four times and then send a heartfelt note to the artist that had covered his song. He wasn’t really allowed many visitors while in the hospital. I asked him if he missed his guitars. He said he missed hugging people more. The pandemic robbed him of affection at the end of his life, but I think that the recording was helpful. Rest in Peace Michael.”
“Michael Laderoute and I go back a long way – we found each other at Norm Hacking’s open mic at various places. Norm was a good host and his open mic was almost like a workshop. He was the hub. He was the center of songwriting in Toronto. He had the best open mic.
We cheered each other on as we attempted to make our one and only CD https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_msNWoSmzg_LSl8qOZ8M0D5pi4cExDUVwY < (listen here on YouTube) that would do justice to our music. It was a very expensive process if you were to do it right. He sure made a good one – should have won a Juno – but hey, little guys don’t win Junos. He was a great songwriter – “A River I Know” being one of the best songs about dying ever written – a perfect song – Michael knew all about “crossing that river” – he was always full of beans and full of great stories. Always sitting at the bar with a Molson’s in front of him – he always made fun of my drinking Coronas. He actually met Townes and Guy and John Prine during his travels – now that’s pretty cool, and it was fitting, since his music always had that inflection of Texas Blues. He should have lived in Austin, not Toronto. He used to talk about playing in Dallas at the Sons of Herman bar – sort of like a Legion in Canada – sitting in a song-circle guitar pull with Guy Clark and the boys – that’s I think how he accidentally ended up with Guy Clark’s capo. I’ll have to get there someday. Maybe he’s somewhere right now playing with those guys, taking turns playing tunes. He was a great songwriter and despite his sometimes cranky demeanor, he really had a heart of gold. See you along the way Amigo – you brought a lot of love and laughter to the world – you will be sorely missed – but always remembered in our hearts.”
Memories from Nancy Dutra:
” I met him first at the Free Times Cafe, but I got to know him at the Tranzac. I was just starting out and I performed a song of mine called Mama Taught Me How To Pray, and he came up and offered to record it for me. And I was a bit scared to go to his apartment to do it, because I was young woman. But he was such a gentleman. It was all about getting a good recording. He became a friend and a mentor and he would invite me up when he was playing, and he was just fun to hang out with , you know? So a few years into our friendship, I found out he was going to Texas for this songwriting workshop, and I ended up going with him. Michael drove all the way to Wimberly Texas. I remember we were driving along the freeway past where they used to have a Willie Nelson radio station and he pointed it out to me and we kept going. Then there was this silence in the car, and after a minute he looked at me and said ‘Oh no. Are you about to cry?’, and he immediately got off and turned around and we went back and spent a few hours there. It was such a magical time, and it was so good to have my buddy there with me. It was one of the deepest honours of my life to perform on that tribute album. David Baxter made the process so easy, so when I went in I just tried my best to sing to Michael. It’s about that loneliness you feel when that person is gone.”
Steve Paul Simms:
“I met Michael Laderoute sometime in the late ’80s at the Free Times Cafe. He was a friend of Norm Hacking’s, and he always seemed like a very cool dude. A magnetic performer and great storyteller in song, he seemed to have fully lived the life he wrote about. An English major, he had a deep knowledge of literature. He loved Moby Dick and Cormac McCarthy. He loved old movies too, and whenever I tried a line of obscure dialogue from some Bogart or Cagney flick on him, he’d know the comeback line right on cue. Michael seemed to know a lot more than he said. Most of the time, he was joking around, occasionally grouchy, but never pompous or self-important. I learned a whole lot from watching him onstage and off, and I never spent an unpleasant hour in his company. He’ll be missed for a long time.”
Bill Heffernan reminisces: “Michael possessed a wry sense of humour, a sharp wit, and a keen appreciation for language and its proper use and purpose. You had to be on your toes at all times. You couldn’t get anything by him, and he would always one-up you or trump you in any wordplay. As serious as he was about it, he was always playful. In that sense he was a wonderful teacher.”
“I’m a singer-songwriter from out in Vancouver, BC. Michael was actually my cousin (my mother’s first cousin, so I guess that makes him my first cousin once removed). We sure had some great times over the years, and I’ll sure miss him. I learned about life and music from him. He was a fine singer and songwriter and has left some great music behind. He always had a cool story to share about meeting a country singer, or catching a giant fish, or about his travels in Mexico. ”
<<< Michael with cousin Pat Chessell at the Tranzac
And finally, from Marianne Girard:
“Michael was a profound and gentle presence in my life, a quiet champion. We flowed in and out of each other’s lives, easily, always picking up where we’d left off. He was very private. I wanted to know more about him, but he held his deeper self somewhere inside his chest, and I was content to know that. He was fragile and strong at the same time. His sweet nature remained a constant for as long as I knew him. We played the same Tranzac Sundays for years. He triumphed over his heart attack and was able to go back to his beloved Mexico. I always wondered if he had a lover in Mexico, where no one knew, where it could be just for him. Maybe that was part of his fragileness.
His leaving hit me very hard. I could feel it a thousand miles away. I felt a sudden absence, a void that took my breath from me. It was like someone had opened a window and a backdraft of flame blasted him onwards and then, empty.
Adios, sweet Michael. Vaya con Dios.”
The blossom fades and leaves behind traces of its fragrance and maybe a photo or a painting by someone that it has truly touched as a symbolic remembrance of its meaning to them. But beyond the senses, under the ground, the rhizome continues to search for fresh new spaces to adorn.
Saturday, June 19, 2021
Playlist For Corby's Orbit Show of 18 June 2021 with A Tribute To Michael Laderoute
Commissioner of Selection: Paul Corby
Tuesday, June 15, 2021
Wednesday, June 9, 2021
Saturday, June 5, 2021
Playlist For Corby`s Orbit Show of 4 June 2021 with Tony Quarrington & Zoey Adams of Q&A
Commissioner of Selection: Paul Corby