Road Notes from Bob: Promo Tour Rolls into Amherst

Bob Mersereau | Author's Notes | Monday, October 29th, 2007

Date: Friday, Oct. 26/2007
Dateline: Amherst, NS

The last stop on this leg of the book tour brings me close to home and it actually feels like home in many ways. From Winnipeg I fly to Moncton, which is where I lived and worked for several years for the CBC; where I was married and saw my first son born. Although I moved to Fredericton almost 14 years ago, I’m in Moncton almost weekly as part of my job covering arts stories for the CBC News for New Brunswick. When I land, instead having to grab the shuttle or a cab, I’m greeted by family - my sister-in-law Wendy and mother-in-law Alice.

Remember the last posting, where I mentioned the odd coincidence of sharing a book store appearance in Winnipeg with a fellow New Brunswicker, a man I had met just two weeks previously while doing a story on his book? The story continued this morning. When I arrived at the Winnipeg airport, to my great delight I discovered that Arthur Motyer was not only on the same flight, he was seated right next to me on the plane! We swaped book tour stories until Hamilton, where he continued on to Halifax, and I changed planes for Moncton. I half-expect to see him today in a Tim Horton’s somewhere. Arthur, at 81 years old, looks and sounds much better than I do after our times on the road. He is a man of great vigor and a keen interest in knowledge.

The event in Amherst may be in the smallest centre on the tour but is the most special in many ways. Nestled on the provincial border with Sackville, NB, I’m quite fond of the area. I was invited to appear at the Four Fathers Memorial Library many weeks back, when the book was first announced to booksellers and libraries. It was an invitation readily accepted, since there can be no more appropriate or important spot to speak about books. As it turned out, there was no other audience as appreciative or excited about the evening. To my great delight, the library was decked out in celebration of Canadian music. A large sandwich board announced the event at the door. The colours red and black, from the design of the book, covered tables; a large stage with more signs had been set up for the talk and best of all, a huge display wall of original Canadian albums had been put together. Greeting the visitors were the original sleeves of The Band, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Bryan Adams, and even non-book but equally important albums by Valdy, A Foot in Cold Water, and many more. Playing over the sound system were songs from the Top 100.

The MC for the evening was a long-time friend and Amherst native, actor and teacher Charlie Rhindress. Charlie and I first met in the early 90s when I began covering the Sackville theatre troupe he co-founded called Live Bait. Over the years, I’ve done several more stories on this professional theatre company, but more importantly, have seen more plays and kept in touch, enjoying his friendship. We share a similar sense of humour, and don’t take ourselves too seriously, so I knew it would be light-hearted and fun. Charlie asked many questions, all of them insightful, and we could have talked all night.

The audience was equally impressive. To a person, everyone was interested in music and in the process behind the book. We opened the floor to questions and got as good or better than most of the national media have thrown my way. People actually said they would have enjoyed a longer talk! But I always figure there’s only so much of me one audience can stand.

And what better way to end a great evening than wirh snacks. A deli tray, squares and carrot cake, I was really excited. But then I spent so much time signing books and talking to people, I missed the cake completely. As anyone who knows me will attest, this would prove to be the only disappointment of the night.

Cheers and thanks go to the wonderful people I met, and to the group who put the event together: Head Librarian Francis Newman who invited me and set up the evening; Assistant Librarian Beth Clinton made everyone feel at home with her charm; Lynn Jones did both design and catering; Sheila MacLeod and Steve Weatherbee provided the vinyl, with Steve acting as Official Tour Photographer; Myrna Smith made Goose Lane Editions happy by selling a whole lot of copies for the local Coles book store. A nod to Raissa Tetanish from the Amherst Daily News as well, working on a Friday night.

I thought this might mark the end of the book tour, aside from the Fredericton launch on November 8th, the hometown event. But it seems the publicity department of Goose Lane is doing its job in the usual highly-efficient manner: I’m now told to keep my suitcase ready, for events in Saint John and Moncton, NB, back to Toronto, and even Hamilton. Plus, the interviews continue non-stop, with requests from Quebec City, Montreal, even Buffalo, NY on the agenda for next week. I’ll keep blogging and now that I’m back home I’ll try to answer as many postings as possible.

Thanks again to Amherst!

Road Notes from Bob: Promo Tour Rocks the ‘Peg.

Bob Mersereau | Author's Notes | Friday, October 26th, 2007

Thursday, Oct. 25, 2007
Dateline: Winnipeg

It’s sunny and warm in Winnipeg, and everyone’s relieved, since it has been cold the last few days. So the early winter weather is behind them, at least for now. However, we got a surprise in Calgary this morning, as the city woke up to a few inches of fresh snow. That’s Calgary weather for you. It had been about 20 degrees through the day on Wednesday.

It was an early flight to Manitoba’s capitol, which allowed me to stop by Radio Noon in Winnipeg for a phone-in about favourite Canadian music with host Marilyn Maki. The phone lines were jammed, with lots of great suggestions about what should have been in the Top 100. Sorry about Streetheart folks, but at least all the callers were great about it. Very warm and welcoming people in this Prairie town. I also stopped by the University of Manitoba’s station for a good long chat with one of the book jurors, announcer Michael Elves, who had lots of great questions. The I slipped over to do Rock Talk with another juror, Power 97’s Dave Wheeler. You’ll find him quoted in the book about one of his choices, Sarah McLachlan.

Then it was off to the flagship McNally Robinson bookstore for a book chat. It’s a beautiful store, as are all the MR outlets. I love the mix of books, CDs and DVDs; it has a lovely layout, and best of all, great big posters of me! Kudos to the staff, who have placed the book not just with non-fiction titles, but over in the music/CD area, so people can find it in both areas. Thanks! The staff were really great, friendly, and interested in having music folk in their midst.

The biggest surprise happened when I saw who was also there for a reading, an hour earlier than mine. It was none other than another New Brunswicker, Sackville’s Arthur Motyer. He has a new book out, The Staircase Letters, which collects his correspondence with two friends who were dying of cancer, one of them the celebrated Canadian author Carol Shields. In a great coincidence, I just met Arthur two weeks ago when I did a CBC TV story about his book. At the time, we both mentioned we were going out on the road to do readings, but we didn’t compare dates, and here we were in the same room. I stopped for a while at his event and then he came by mine, but since they clashed, we couldn’t speak to each other. I hope Arthur liked the TV story, and I highly recommend his book.

Speaking of fellow writers (it still feels odd to include myself in that fraternity), I had the honour of being hosted by Winnipeg’s own John Einarson, one of the finest music scribes the country has ever known. He’s the author of 13 books, including important work on Neil Young, The Byrds, and of course, his definitive writing on The Guess Who. John’s book, written with Randy Bachman, has just been reissued in paperback, now called Still Takin’ Care Of Business. The update includes a new 50-page chapter updating the latest career highlights for Randy, especially the highly successful tours and albums with Burton Cummings, as Bachman-Cummings. Again, highly recommended. John put me through the paces with a lively series of questions about The Top 100 Canadian Albums, and wasn’t gentle: He grilled me on cultural diversity in the choices, bands that weren’t there, and the many points of debate in the book. John’s contributions to the book are many, from initial support, to his own strong list of Top Ten Manitoba artists. I’m anxiously awaiting his next project, a book on my long-time favourites The Flying Burrito Brothers, with group member and former Byrd Chris Hillman. John’s work is respected in this country of course, as well as the US, England and elsewhere.

In the audience: Juror Stafford Swain, who won a free copy of the book by stumping both John and myself with a trivia question, and my wife’s cousin Ronnie Kitts and wife Debra. Check out this photo of Ronnie’s new wheels, a 1964 classic. It’s great to see friends on the road, but there’s nothing like family.

There’s one more day on this leg of the book tour. Friday morning sees me jet back to the East Coast, where I’ll be visiting the Founding Fathers Public Library in Amherst, NS. My longtime great friend, actor Charlie Rhindress, is doing the Q&A hosting job, which should be full of laughs, since Charlie and I always love to cut each other up. So Amherst, Sackville and even Moncton folks, come on down!

Road Notes from Bob: Promo Tour Hits Calgary

Bob Mersereau | Author's Notes | Thursday, October 25th, 2007

Dateline Calgary, Oct 24
For photos from the Calgary launch, visit the Top 100 Albums flickr page.

The last two days have been spent wrapping up the Vancouver leg of the book tour then heading off to Calgary. I had to wake up ridiculously early on Tuesday and Wednesday to appear on City TV’s Breakfast Television in both cities. I have to say it’s the most fun you can have making a TV appearance, with all the folks at the stations running around happy, doing their jobs with great enthusiasm. You can tell they enjoy their work, and each other’s company, which is a tough thing in ego-driven television. Everyone seemed genuinely interested in the book and in playing lots of Canadian music to promote the appearances.

It’s quite gratifying to find out that each media location has been devoting their programming to Canadian tunes around my guest slots. Even if I’m not actually on their shows, other stations (papers too) have been devoted airspace and copy space to CanCon talk, running contests and having fun with the debates around the book. CBC Radio’s afternoon program in Calgary featured a contest and lots of chat by associate producer and entertainment beat reporter, Danielle Nerman, who just happens to be an old friend (I’m old, she’s a kid) from Fredericton, where we worked together at CBC. She said on air that I was a crabby boss, but that I liked donuts. This is a brief, but accurate description. I also checked in to the home station, doing a phone hit with Paul Castle back at Shift, the CBC Radio afternoon show in NB. It seems they’ve been running a contest all this week, Name Your Top Canadian Albums, to be entered for a draw for a copy of the book. Producer Elaine Bateman says its been wild, the number of entries. I say it’s a typical example of just how cheap my family can be, trying to win a copy instead of buying it.

Gotta say, thinking back on the Vancouver time, just how beautiful the city is. It finally stopped raining and cleared up Tuesday morning, so after my BT appearance, I decided to walk back to my hotel, along the wonderful seawall beside False Creek, and across the Granville Street bridge. With the mountains finally visible I got to appreciate the city at its best. Someone who has travelled extensively called it the most beautiful city in the world, and although I can claim only limited travel in my life, I can believe it.

That’s not to say I don’t love Calgary. I’ve been to the city several times, as my sister lives here, and I’m always impressed. It’s boom time again, so the building cranes have popped up all over, more office complexes and condos going up. I had a couple of great meals, did the round of interviews, and then met up with my good pal J.J. Duplacey, my old roommate and Best Man at the wedding, to do what we’ve done since 1979: Shop for music and talk about music. J.J. is the author of some 50 books, mostly about hockey, having been writer and editor of such works as the NHL Guide and Record Book, Total Hockey, lots of kids books on the sport, as well as a tome on the Oakland A’s, and a travel guide to his former hometown of Toronto. Watch for his latest soon, baseball again, a guide to every Major League ballpark. His knowledge of sports history is unmatched. Plus, he’s turned me on to more great music in 30 years than any magazine or reviewer. J.J. holds a place of honour in the Top 100 book, for a remarkable story you can find in the chapter on The Tragically Hip’s Fully Completely (#5).

From the music store, we head to the book launch. I’ve been invited to Calgary by the McNally Robinson chain, which has several stores in the Prairies, plus one in NYC. It’s a beautiful bookstore in the city centre, and a very civilized place for a launch, in the store’s restaurant. The crowd is great, it fills each table and extra seats have to be added. I’m asked to speak about 20 minutes, but to be honest, I couldn’t tell you how long I did talk, I can talk all night about music. In the audience were some of the jurors who helped make up the panel for The Top 100: music writer Ian Scott, now living in Calgary, lyricist Ellen Mably, Mr. Duplacey of course, Aubrey McInnis from CJSW, and earlier in the day I had a chance to check in with Russman from CJAY. A big thanks for all your panel votes.

It also helps to have your sister in your corner for such events, as she called on all her friends to come out, and she has a lot of them. I won’t remember them all, and she’s gone to bed so I can’t ask her, but off the top of my head there was Larry and Dorothy, Bryande, Dali, Liz, Killer, I better stop, ’cause I’m already forgetting too many. A big thanks to you all. Sister Dorothy’s significant other, phony Uncle Dave (that’s what the kids call him, since they’re NOT MARRIED), brought in some of his pals too, and I especially liked them as they were the book-buying type. Nice people, too.

And I found out I still have friends, some of them not seen in years. A great thanks and nod to Mr. & Mrs. Derek McKenzie, Derek a fellow Frederictonian. And to my great delight, the unexpected appearance of Zulekha Nathoo, whom I believed was going to be out of town, but was in fact able to arrive. Check out her highly-polished and professional reporting on CBC TV in Calgary - I taught her everything.

The wildest surprise came right at the end of the little talk I gave, when a booming voice from the back of the store was heard to yell “Lies, all lies!” To my great delight, in strode current Calgarian, and one of the great Canadian musicians of all time, Kelly Jay. You’ll find him in two Top 100 albums, with Crowbar for Bad Manors, and on King Biscuit Boy with Crowbar, Official Music. Kelly wrote a little song called “Oh What A Feeling”, which you may recognize from a million hockey games, and is perhaps the definitive rockin’ Canadian anthem. It was great to see him, and the audience loved him too, getting his autograph on their copies of the book. Kelly came to say hi, as a special favour, and I’m forever grateful. With him were his two fine boys, which he calls the greatest production of his life. You can tell how proud he is of those two kids, and quite justifiably. Kelly tells the best stories in Canadian music, only a fraction of which are in the book.

We have some pictures to be posted soon, or may be up by the time you read this, and I leave Calgary a happy man, having seen friends, family and famous musicians. Winnipeg awaits on Thursday, the 25th of October, and if you’re nearby, there’s another book launch at the Grant Park McNally Robinson, 8 PM, hosted by the great John Einarson. I can’t wait to see who shows up to that one!


Road Notes from Bob: Promo Tour days 5 & 6.

Bob Mersereau | Author's Notes | Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

Weather: Rainy

Sunday starts early on one coast and within a few hours I’m on the other. It’s strange to travel right across the country so quickly, but at least the weather was pretty much the same. Halifax was pouring rain Saturday and Vancouver was exactly the same today. My only disappointment was not being able to see the mountains. I’m told by my hosts it’s an incredible sight.

It’s my first visit to Vancouver, having never been past Calgary before. My longtime friends Andrew and Joanne play tour guides and fill me with Left Coast info. It strikes me what a small country Canada is; Saturday I saw Andrew’s brother, poet and book juror Brian Bartlett, at the Halifax book launch. Brian took the terrific photos of the launch you see on this website as well as on The Top 100 Canadian Albums flickr page.

A fine dinner is had by all at a great Malaysian place, Banana Leaf. Very affordable too. We’re joined by another old Fredericton friend, Grace Bauer.

Monday sees the interview schedule crank up again. The Fox rocks, of course, as does Rock 101. Phone interviews come in from contacts I’ve made among jurors who sent in lists for the book. I hear from Bruce LePerre in Dauphin, Manitoba, Steve Sutherland checks in from CBC Cape Breton, Scott Alan at CFOX here in Vancouver, John Threlfall in Victoria, the Jenn and Joe show at Vancouver’s CFUN, Jenna Chow at CBC Vancouver, and Rob Pingle at UVic. Breakfast Television awaits me Tuesday morning in Vancouver and then I’ll be off to Calgary and more of the media.

One other important note. There’s a book launch in Calgary on Wednesday night, so if you’re in the area, please stop by and say hello. It’s at 6 PM at the McNally Robinson store at 120 8 Avenue SW. We’ll be doing a Q & A about your favourite Canadian music.

One other great thing about this tour is that I get to connect with people whom I’ve worked, and who’ve helped with the book. As I’ve never been to Vancouver before, I had only limited contacts on the west coast, and needed help getting the proper amount of jurors. Someone who helped me immensely was Ken Beattie. Ken runs a music publicity company called Killbeat. Ken gladly offered up names, and not only that, sent the request out to many of his contacts, both journalists and musicians. That’s how I got people such as Mark Browning of Ox and Geoff Berner to take part.

I have to stop here and say hats off to those hard-working promo people. When an artist isn’t signed to a major record label they have to find some way to get the word out about their new disc or tour. They go to people such as Ken. He has contacts across the country and into the States, and works hard to promote these artists, to tip off reviewers to good shows coming through their town, or quality albums that fit their style. I certainly have profited musically from knowing Ken and being on his mailing list. When I hear the wild and Tom Waits-ian Klezmer music of Geoff Berner, it’s a startling discovery, and one I would never have enjoyed without Ken.

And tonight, I also got to enjoy a couple of fine red draughts in his company on Granville Ave. It’s always such a pleasure to sit for a couple of hours over refreshments and talk about all the music we love. Ken grilled me non-stop about the various aspects of the book — where was this band, what about that, and he put me through the paces just like all the other interviewers, only longer! But there’s nothing I like doing better. Of course, I knew we were on the right foot, in the right bar, when as we entered some good old Clash was on the sound system.

Ken mentioned he was just back from the Western Canadian Music Awards in Moose Jaw. It’s an excellent idea to move these events around. Ken reports the scene was great, with all the venues being within a five-minute walk of each other, so he and others got to see plenty of music, and that’s the point, isn’t it? I hear former Walton, Jason Plumb, has a cool new disc coming, and he was at the event. Ken also reports plenty of talk about the Top 100 book, still causing plenty of debate and chatter.

The National Post featured the book today (Monday), with a full-page write-up, a great layout listing all the albums, and the story prepared by Vancouver’s Tom Harrison, who had interviewed me last week for the Vancouver Province. Nice to see it picked up nationally; I liked Tom’s article a lot.

So, get ready Calgary, I head your way Tuesday, for two fun-filled days, and a family reunion with my much older sister, Dorothy.

- Bob

Road Notes from Bob: Promo Tour, Day 4 and Reintroducing Eric’s Trip

Bob Mersereau | Author's Notes | Monday, October 22nd, 2007

Eric's Trip onstage at Tribeca at the Launch

Halifax, Oct. 20th.
Tribeca Club

It’s the first official book launch and Halifax is a fitting place for a party.  Thanks to an invite from The Halifax Pop Explosion, and sponsorship from Coast Magazine and Frog Hollow Books, we held a happy gathering for many friends, colleagues and interested festival-goers.  The place was crowded with familiar faces and even a few camera crews and reporters.

Of course, they weren’t just there to see some author.  The promise of a surprise musical guest drew some and they weren’t disappointed.  My long-standing and good friends, Eric’s Trip, took to the stage to perform a four-song set, including a number from their landmark Love,Tara album, which you’ll find in The Top 100 Canadian Albums book at #39.  My great thanks go out to the band, whom I’ve  known since 1992, when I was a CBC TV reporter in Moncton and they were being signed to Sub Pop records, the hottest label in the world at the time thanks to the Nirvana explosion.  The Trip were the first Canadian act signed to the label, and the Love, Tara disc has gone on to influence musicians all over.  In the book, Hayden pays tribute to the influential DIY recording techniques of the group, and of course, not many acts have The Tragically Hip referencing them in their lyrics.

Julie and Chris of Eric's Trip at TribecaEric’s Trip has reunited several times for one-off shows, and even lengthy tours, including this year’s trek.  Halifax was the final gig of the tour later in the night, and it was already sold out.  It’s been an honour to watch them play and develop over the years in their many offshoots and incarnations.  Rick White’s artwork has graced album covers by Blue Rodeo and The Sadies (Top 100 entrants themselves); he’s also made several excellent discs with Elevator, The Rick White Album, and the Rodeo-Sadies-White supergroup, The Unintended.  Chris Thompson, as Moonsocket, has blown my mind with his solo work – he’s the George Harrison-type ‘Quiet One’ of the group.  Mark Gaudet, a drummer admired by artists and music heads coast-to-coast, anchors several bands. Julie Doiron continues to charm the world with her albums as a Juno-winner, a Polaris Prize nominee this year, and currently as the drummer (!) for the new act Blue Heeler.  Julie’s off to Europe next.  Too bad Tribeca’s stage didn’t allow for Mark’s drums, so it was really a unique three-piece Trip that took the podium, but if you know Mark, you know he can always use the extra sleep.  A great thanks to one of my oldest friends, Peter Rowan, for making this happen, as well as the Pop Explosion’s Waye Mason, and the crew at Tribeca. You can see more Eric’s Trip and launch photos at  The Top 100 Canadian Albums flickr page.

Folks in the crowd included many of the people who helped with the book, from providing lists to long-time support and friendship, including John Poirier of Warner Music; Kirk Lahey of Universal; Nicole Asaff of Select/Outside/Fusion 3/Naxox;  Ruth Minnikin - solo artist, Heavy Blinker and session player of choice in Halifax;  Dave MacIsaac, the noted guitar player;  Ron Hynes’s manager Lynn Horne;  writers Lesley Choyce and Brian Bartlett and their significant others; Matt Charlton of Pidgeon Row Records - home of Sackville, NB’s Shotgun Jimmy; Goose Lane’s art director Julie Scriver and whiz kid designer Kent Fackenthall who were responsible for the incredible look of the book;  Halifax pop/rock artist Jon Mullane, who just released his new disc (haven’t had a chance to think, let alone listen yet JM); beloved friends Wendy Salsman and Phil Secord; my first cousin once-removed Michelle Mersereau from the Halifax Daily News; my new boss Andrew Cochran, the regional director of CBC TV in the Maritimes; TV producer Rhona Delfrari; Goose Lane’s fantastic Halifax sales rep (and my Halifax handler) Genevieve Loughlin; buddy Jeff Cotter and charming family; my sisters-in-law Wendy Kitts and Cynthia Cain and her husband Rob; Steve Cooke from the Chronicle-Herald (escorting the Australian delegation); and Halifax scene-maker himself, the near-legendary broadcaster, writer, musician’s friend and Joel Plaskett co-manager, the man who introduced me so eloquently, Mike Campbell.

A great night and thanks to all - sorry if I’ve missed anyone. It’s late and I’m already off to Vancouver.


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