Les Vogt - The Story
I was a tall, shy kid that became interested in music at the age of 13 when
older brother (Ed) took me to a few "live" concerts... Louis
Armstrong and Wilf Carter were the most memorable. After seeing a Wilf
Carter concert in 1951, I took my older brother's hand-me-down guitar and
learned to play and yodel in the confines of my bedroom.
Les Vogt at age 15 (1953)
I was very shy and becoming interested in girls... but I really
wasn't bold enough to go after them. I remember going to bed with my
radio, listening to songs and dreaming it was me singing in front of the
whole school in the auditorium. And the girls were all coming around
wanting to get to know me... I really looked forward to bedtime. Today,
I firmly believe that you can dream your way into reality...that is,
if you dream long enough and hard enough, it can really happen.
The first band members were Les Vogt - vocals and guitar, Larry Tillyer - guitar, Laurie Bader - drums & Eric Olson on the accordion. And, for a while. Wayne Dinwoodie (another neighbourhood pal) played fiddle in the band. The Drifters repertoire was made up of songs songs by Eddy Arnold, Hank Thompson, Marty Robbins, Guy Mitchell, Frankie Laine and the like. The repertoire evolved into group hits like "Sh-Boom" by the Crew Cuts and "Down By The Riverside" and "Three Coins In The Fountain" by the Four Lads.
One of the youth coordinators at the Fraserview Community Centre introduced the band to a guitar player (Fred Bennett) from Nova Scotia that wanted to play with them. It was Fred (a little older than the rest of us) who would take the group to the next level. Fred was an accomplished guitarist and had been in a real band back in Nova Scotia. We were very lucky to come upon Fred... he knew (or quickly learned) all the lead guitar licks for current hits and taught us the right chord structure to play along with him. The band's very first recording was a remake of a Hank Thompson country tune called "Most Of All".
When Elvis' music first hit the Canadian charts in 1956, the direction of the group took a sharp turn in the same direction. The Prowlers were the very first rock'n'roll "Elvis-style" band in Vancouver. The term "impersonator" wasn't heard of as yet and didn't really apply anyway... All the singers of that era were trying to be like Elvis. Gene Vincent, Conway Twitty, Jerry Lee Lewis and Buddy Holly, etc... they were all trying to look and sound as much like Elvis as they possibly could." One of the Elvis songs the Prowlers always included in their repertoire was "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Cry Over You."
The band's big break came from a fluke telephone call to DJ Jack Cullen's radio program. Cullen's "Owl Prowl" was Vancouver's most popular radio program at the time and pretty much all the teenagers in the city listened to it. One of the girls attending a basement rehearsal for the band took it upon herself to phone Jack Cullen (on the air) and asked him to listen to the band over the phone. He not only listened to the band... he patched the call over the airwaves and all of Vancouver was talking about the band the next day. Cullen received so many phone calls that he brought the band into his small radio studio and recorded several songs which he proceeded to play regularly on the air. This connection resulted in the band naming themselves "The Prowlers" since their popularity came from Jack Cullen's Owl Prowl radio show. These primitive recordings were discovered in 2003 by DJ Red Robinson and rockabilly collector Gary Olsen while appraising the record collection of the late Jack Cullen. This discovery formed the basis for a 2003 CD release of all the music of Les Vogt and the Prowlers. Jack Cullen was the hot DJ in Vancouver at the time and he did his part to launch the band. He included us on a show with Bill Haley & the Comets at Vancouver's Kerrisdale Arena on June 27th, 1956. This was Vancouver's very first rock & roll concert. The band also opened for other Cullen shows such as Ivory Joe Hunter at the PNE Gardens and Gene Vincent at the Silver Moon Ballroom in White Rock, B.C. Jack Cullen died April 27, 2002 at the age of 80.
In May, 1958 The Prowlers released a Les Vogt penned tune "Get A Move On" on Al Reusch's Aragon record label. I think it was the best local rock'n'roll record ever produced at the time. But, it would never receive the attention it deserved. The teen-age airwaves then dominated by a young superstar DJ by the name of Red Robinson at CKWX Radio where management deemed The Prowlers competition (as their name represented a competitive radio station) and the disk was buried without any exposure to speak of... CJOR Radio with an upstart teen jock, Frosty Forst, was the only support the record received. With all the kids listening to Red Robinson... the record died before any life at all.
"Get A Move On" was conceived in a dream... in the dream
myself and guitar
player (Fred Bennett) were driving to a gig with none other than Elvis
Presley seated between the two band members in the front seat of Fred's
old Packard straight eight. At one point Elvis turns up the volume on
the car radio and says "They're playing my new new record" which was a
new song that we had never heard before. I woke up and jotted
down the lyrics immediately (in about 5 minutes) We
recorded the song (Get A Move On) a short time later. I was trying to
write a song similar to "Don't Be Cruel" which was a big hit at the
time. I think I had been challenging myself to find a similar sounding
guitar intro for a song idea I already had in my head. Sometimes, when
you go to bed with a challenge, the answer comes to you in a dream. I
was amazed to be able to receive an entire song... and from Elvis no
|Vancouver songwriter Allen Parker (aka Sipson P.Kloop) was a milkman at Dairyland where I also worked my "day job" as a milkman. Al (Parker) often hired local bands to record demos for some of his original songs and in 1958, when we met at work, we arranged for The Prowlers to record "The Blamers" and "Moon Rocketin" (two Parker penned tunes) at Aragon Studios. Lead guitarist, Fred Bennett, was working out of town (as a pipefitter) and couldn't perform on the session. His replacement, Johnny Faas, turned out to be an important part of making the recording unique enough to attract international interest. Johnny's creative introduction and backing guitar fills gave the record character and were, I believe, the main reason the song would ultimately become the hit it became. But, the recording sat on the shelf and did not resurface for a few years...|
|After the disappointment of no air-play for "Get A Move
On"... and emerging wives and kids, the band members would all
spend more time raising their families (the music business wasn't a
profitable job at the time) and the band members just seemed to drift apart. Irene Buttner (AKA Irene Butler - female singer with the Prowlers)
and I were married and began performing solo with other bands on
weekends. One such band was with our neighbour, Gordy
Cowan, who was the leader of a band called the "Originals" and
it developed into a regular part-time job for both Irene and I.
"The Originals" would later become known as "Les Vogt and the The Blamers" and eventually went their separate ways as my performing opportunities as a freelance "singer with a hit" had faded. Then, along came a new member to the Vogt household... on February 14th, 1961 a little girl, Leslie Marlene Vogt, was born and thoughts of a more secure job were on my mind. The music business wasn't a great business for a new husband and father. So, I was very happy I had a good paying regular job as a milkman. A second daughter Lisa Yvonne Vogt would come along on February 26th, 1965.
|Allen Parker (Sipson P.Kloop) continued to shop his demo tapes to anyone that would listen. In late 1958, when the DeCastro Sisters were performing at the Cave in Vancouver, their manager Jack LeGras agreed to listen to Parker's songs and took them with him. He later decided to pursue a record deal for the two milkmen.|
| In 1960, "The Blamers" was released on a small
independent LA record label (Iona Records) in the USA and on Sparton
Records in Canada. The record was released under the name of Les Vogt
because the band was no longer together and to also avoid any further political
between radio stations.
This period was undoubtedly my finest hour as a performer... "The
Blamers" quickly rose to the top of Vancouver's C-FUN
Top 40 Record Chart. On August 6th, 1960 it knocked off Elvis'
"It's Now Or Never" to become #1... Elvis was now #2 and "Only The Lonely by Roy Orbison was #3. The Blamers remained #1 in Vancouver for a record 11
weeks. Apparently, Big Daddy (Dave McCormick) would later admit that
they had forced the record off the charts or it may have been #1 for
another 11 weeks. The record was later picked up by ABC Paramount
Records and received full release status in the U.S. I
lost track of where it went from there... there were scattered reports
that the record was charted here and there but no royalties were
forthcoming. Inexperience and family responsibilities did not allow for
full pursuit of a musical career and virtually no follow-up promotion
was done. Two more Allen Parker tunes would be recorded by the band
during this period... "Preacher Boy" (which was wasn't one of my favourites) was cut in a private residence with the Winmen
(a folk-style group) as back-up. And, finally my favourite recording of
all "Teenager's Dream" was recorded in Seattle, WA using
Seattle based back-up musicians. It was the same studio where The
Ventures recorded their hits. The studio owner, Joe Boles, asked me if
I would come back to Seattle and record a demo he thought suited my vocal style.
But, lacking confidence, I politely refused and returned
to Canada. I later learned that the song Joe wanted me to record was
"Come Softly To Me" which was recorded by a couple of new
singers (they would ultimately become known as The Fleetwoods) and the
song became a huge hit. I am still kicking himself for not recording that
song... because it truly was a perfect fit for my vocal style.
Les Vogt Promotional Photos (1960)
In 1961 when DJ Red Robinson returned to Vancouver (he worked at KGW in Portland during 1959-1960) he instantly picked up where he left off... the most popular teen DJ in town. At this point, I was the reigning rock & roll promoter running dances and shows with my own band and dabbling with the booking of US recording acts such as Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, Buddy Knox and Ike & Tina Turner... bringing them into Vancouver as an extension of their tour dates ending in Seattle. The Garden Auditorium (Vancouver), Edmonds Rollerway (Burnaby) and Danceland (Vancouver) or Silver Moon Ballroom (White Rock) were some of the venues rented for rock'n'roll dances during this period.
|It was only a matter of time before Red and I would hook up
and become partners in the concert promotion business. In 1962 Red and I formed Jaguar Enterprises Ltd.
We were 50/50
partners in the business which promoted teen-age concerts and dances. It
was a very successful business. One of our first and most successful
concerts was originally scheduled to be a dance at the Garden Auditorium
(at the PNE) in Vancouver, B.C. featuring Roy Orbison and his band.
However, it was discovered that an old city ordinance did not permit
anyone under the age of 18 to attend a dance within the city limits.
This law was left over from the dance hall/cabaret days when people
(over 18) could bring their own bottle and keep it on a shelf under
their table. The house would provide glasses and sell ice and mix
(set-ups) for additional revenues. Even though those days were long
gone... when that devil music rock & roll came along, the city
decided to exercise the old law (still on the books) to prevent those
troublesome teen-age dances happening within the city limits. Of course,
we simply promoted the dances in areas outside the city
limits. The kids would drive for miles to get to those "devil
promoted" dances. However,
back to the Roy Orbison show... it was pretty much sold out when it was
discovered that the city would not issue a license for the dance. So,
the dance became a concert and was completely sold out.
Since there was no stage manager or tour manager (Roy and I were both just learning the business) I dealt directly with Roy on all matters. So, there I was... alone back stage with Roy waiting to show him the way to the stage. He was pacing nervously back and forth. I asked him "Are you always this nervous before you go on stage? and I will never forget his reply." He said "Well, sometimes they laugh at me when I first come on stage." Noticing my shocked response, he grabbed my hand, looked me in the eye and continued " But, don't worry... by the end of the first song, I'll have them in the palm of my hand.
They didn't laugh... there was a rousing audience ovation right from his introduction through the dum-dum-dum-dumdy-doo-wah opening chorus of Only The Lonely. But, it was the back stage event that said a lot about the man and his humble, shy demeanor. Considered homely by rock'n'roll standards at the time, Roy was a loner who simply wrote heart breaking songs about his feelings and insecurities. "Crying" was written when he saw his girlfriend walking with another guy. "Only The Loney"... "In Dreams" (I walk with you)... "Love Hurts" and "It's Over" were songs also inspired from Roy's heartaches and ultimate break-ups.
There were two additional Show & Dance events on Vancouver Island (after the Garden Auditorium show) on that 1962 mini-tour. One of the events was a dance held at Midnight on the Sunday (12am Monday/holiday) at the old Athletic Hall in Port Alberni. It was against the law to stage dances on Sundays in Canada at the time. So, it was not uncommon to schedule “teen” events that began at 12:01am on Sundays when the next day was a holiday. Roy was deeply concerned that this show would be a total flop since he had never heard of such a thing. And, when they pulled into town the streets were totally bare without a soul to be seen anywhere. Roy became even more certain that this was not a good idea... and commented... "Les... I don't think this is going to end very well" And then, we rounded the corner toward the Athletic Hall and the kids were lined up around the whole block as far as the eye could see. We would wind up with over 1000 paid attendance. Roy's fee at the time was $800 per night for him and the whole band. Roy received a $1,000 bonus from the young promoters... a gesture that Roy would later say had never happened to him before or since that weekend. Roy would never forget the only promoters to ever give him more than the performance contract had called for. Whenever Roy toured in Canada he insisted that Red and I be the promoters of any Roy Orbison shows that came near the Vancouver area. Roy and I would later become involved in a show business partnership that would change both of our lives.
In 1963 I accompanied the Roy Orbison entourage to England just to hang out with the tour and look for promotional opportunities. The Beatles were the opening act for Roy in 1963 as Roy was a major recording star while the Beatles were still up and coming. I remember "Brian Epstein (Beatles Manager) asking Roy if he would mind letting the Beatles close the show because they played Rock & Roll while Roy played mostly ballads. What a mistake that turned out to be... On the first show Roy Orbison had 14 encores. By the time the Beatles came on the crowd was ready to go home. Obviously, Roy closed the show for the remainder of the tour. At a chance meeting with Brian Epstein, I was offered the Beatles for bookings in Canada for $300 per show plus expenses. I refused because flights were too costly and they looked weird and were unknown in America at the time. Their appearance on Ed Sullivan changed all that. And so, I missed a timely opportunity of being the first promoter to book the Beatles in North America.
About this time Roy experienced a series of heart-breaking events. Firstly, he reluctantly divorced his first wife (Claudette) and then, after he and Claudette had reconciled and ultimately remarried in 1966. They had purchased dual motorcycles as a wedding gift to themselves and she was killed in a freak accident on their maiden ride just two weeks after their reconciliation. And two years later, while Roy was on tour overseas, two of his three children died in a tragic house fire at his home in Hendersonville, TN. Roy was, understandably depressed and inactive for several years afterward.
I returned to England with Roy in 1967. Roy and the band (me included) were invited to an entertainers club in the Soho/London area called "The Bag O' Nails" which was quite exciting. Tom Jones was there and joined their table. The Jimi Hendrix Experience was the house band at the club. John Lennon was also there at another table. The band were not the same guys that were on the '63 tour when the Beatles opened for Roy, so they were anxious to meet him. They were self-conscious about going over to his table so they followed him into the men's room to pretend bumping into him... when they said hello and told him they were with the Roy Orbison show, Lennon said "So what" and when they asked him to come over and say hi to Roy, he said "Why?" Anyway, befuddled by what just happened, they came back to the table and commented "What an asshole John Lennon was."
Throughout the early sixties Red and I continued to promote "teen-age" shows in the Vancouver area on a regular basis. It was a promoter's dream... Your partner (Red) being the most popular DJ in town telling the kids where and when the shows would be playing. I would do all the leg work, set-up, etc. and Red would MC the events. It was a little goldmine until competition sprung up and station management had to terminate the "free" radio promotion for their star attraction. It was unfair competition and major advertisers with heavy clout were beginning to complain. Little did they know that we would then get fully produced spots at a super wholesale rate... for awhile anyway. It wasn't long before all the station's DJ's wanted similar "extras" and management had no choice but to level the playing field. Some of the other acts we promoted were Jerry Lee Lewis, Dick & Dee Dee, Dorsey & Johnny Burnette, Donnie Brooks, Buddy Knox and many more. Jaguar Enterprises would become the biggest agency for teenage bands in western Canada.
In 1964 I convinced the PNE to provide the Garden Auditorium for a teen-age "Dance-Party" (during the annual Exhibition) that would become the place to be if you were a teenager in Vancouver. The C-FUN Classics were formed to become the radio station band and they would be the featured band in '64 and would provide backing for the Canadian heart-throb Bobby Curtola. In 1965, The Nocturnals would be featured with a rising US recording star Glen Campbell. In 1966 I would manage the much larger "Teenage Fair"... a fair within a fair at the PNE that featured bands and teen entertainment all day long. The Gardens would become one of my favorite venues for teenage events because of the permanent stage and large dance area with bleacher seating all around. It was also convenient for public transit and had unlimited parking facilities. Some of the performers I promoted at the Gardens were Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ike & Tina Turner, Little Richard, Wilson Pickett, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Gerry & the Pacemakers, Dusty Springfield, Billy J Kramer and others.
In 1965 I converted the old Hollywood Bowl (759 Carnavon Street in New Westminster) into the most popular teen hang-out in the lower mainland... The Grooveyard which featured "live" bands every Friday & Saturday night. All the bands that were anybody played The Grooveyard. Some of the Vancouver bands included Lil' Daddy & the Bachelors, the Night Train Revue, The Nocturnals, The Epics, The Soul Unlimited, The Stags, The Shockers and The Shantelles. Ike & Tina Turner were featured one weekend when their group was cancelled at the last minute in Seattle. Bo Diddley, Paul Revere & the Raiders, The Sonics. The Frantics and the Kingsmen were some of the US bands featured there. I would open a second Grooveyard at the former Embassy Ballroom on Davie Street (Vancouver) until Imperial Oil purchased the building and served notice that a major service centre would be built on the site. The Grooveyard moved out but the site was never developed and the building has been restored and operates today (2020) as Celebrities.
The Grooveyard allowed me to maintain a stable of all the best local bands which were exclusively represented by my Jaguar Booking Agency. Using the popularity of the Grooveyard, I was able to establish a circuit of other venues (Civic Centres, Arenas and Community Centres) throughout the Province. I would book the bands into the Grooveyard and then the next weekend promote or book them in Victoria & Nanaimo... then Penticton & Vernon... then Kamloops & Prince George... and Terrace & Prince Rupert, etc.
A Vancouver DJ at the time (Douglas Miller) was hired to manage the Grooveyard and oversee the Jaguar Booking Agency to allow me to focus on growing other entertainment projects. This eventually spelled the end of my agency business. Doug became more focused on his career as a television host and didn’t have the time required to keep the ball rolling. He eventually became the long-time weatherman on CTV News. Other hired agents were never able to sustain the agency without my full-time supervision. And, it was becoming evident that I would have to let go of the agency if I was to continue on with the many other exciting new projects on the horizon.
This was also a troublesome time at home… separation and a short reconciliation with my first wife, Irene, ultimately led to divorce in 1971. I remember leaving with only my car and my clothes. I gave her our Burnaby house (with serious equity) and a modest alimony payment. I lived at my office where I had installed a sofa-bed and armoire which became my temporary place of residence. It was particularly hard on our children, Leslie (now Jaromey) aged 10 and Lisa (now Rae) aged 5. I had the kids on most weekends, but I would often force them to share my time with a girl-friend… an experience they would later refer to as their Dad’s “Flavour of the Month.” Looking back, I am not proud of my behaviour during that time. I had been quite successful financially and was able to quickly put a down payment on another home in North Vancouver. I would eventually add a wraparound deck and custom in-ground swimming pool and show it off at parties pretty much every weekend. As all of my projects came together more and more, I thought of myself as a bit of a “Big Shot” with a purple Cadillac as a symbol of my success with a county music night club called the Purple Steer. This was also a period of time where I changed from my regular barber to a hair stylist… I began wearing tailored suits with custom made shirts and slacks and expensive jewellery. Wow… what an asshole I turned out to be!
Buddy Knox would eventually move to Canada and become my partner in a country music night club called the Purple Steer... the club opened in October, 1969 and became one of the most popular night spots in Vancouver until it was sold for a profit in 1972. Some of the entertainers I brought in to perform at the club included Buddy Knox (regularly), Charlie Rich, Bob Luman, The Coasters, Bobby Freeman, Dorsey Burnett, Jerry Wallace and many more. Charlie Rich was one of the all-time favourite acts to play at The Purple Steer. The staff and customers alike all loved this down-home southern gentleman with the soulful voice. What a talent... I remember Charlie's second appearance at the "Steer" in 1970, he called from San Franciso to tell me his arrival in Vancouver was delayed due to a mechanical malfunction... He said the flight would be late and they would be leaving in 15 minutes. He phoned me again about 45 minutes later, just as I was leaving for the airport to pick him up, and told me he was still in San Francisco. I said "What do you mean, I thought you said the plane was leaving 30 minutes ago." Charlie, who was known to take a drink every now and then, had been in the bar, and he says to me... "Yeah, the plane left alright... but I don't think I'm on it."
Charlie's after hours jam-sessions at the "Steer" with local musicians have become legendary, often lasting until the sun came up the next morning. Rich was a superb musician (piano) and a bluesy vocalist with jazz and R&B influences. One night, he was laying on the stage drunk with his head on the lap of one of our waitresses who was holding the microphone near his mouth... Charlie never missed a beat... inebriated as he was, his timing was perfect. I asked him once, why he jammed so often with musicians that weren't even near his caliber of musicianship. He said "These young guys have new ideas they bring to the stage. They can't always perform the unique lick they're trying to play... but I can. I learn a lot from them. It's a process that benefits me in the end."
Charlie's luck changed shortly after his Purple Steer days, He had those huge hits and was booked at the Coliseum in Vancouver. I was in attendance. When I came in, the Coliseum manager called me over and said "Charlie wants to see you" and he took me down to the underbelly of the venue where the dressing rooms were. There were about 100 press people waiting outside Charlie's door. I knew many of them and it was embarrassing to be escorted in to see Charlie right in front of them all. I immediately suggested to Charlie that we could visit afterward if he needed to talk with the press. He looked at me and said simply "Fuck 'em... where were they when we needed them?" We reminisced about the "Steer" days and hugged for the last time. He never did talk with any of the press people on that day. I felt extremely privileged." Charlie Rich died on July 25, 1995.
Buddy Knox (my partner at the Purple Steer) was very well liked... always polite and kind to everyone. His performance was always happy and filled with hit songs. He was a good friend... He lived with me when in Vancouver to play the Steer and again later in Kelowna (where I had moved) during a couple of bad times in his life. But, during the Steer days we enjoyed life and had a lot of fun. I went to England and hung out with Buddy on a UK tour in 1971. The UK promoter took us to the very first Hard Rock Cafe in London which featured loud music and American-style hamburgers. We met the owner (can't remember his name) and talked show biz with him. He seemed keen to know more about our Purple Steer success and thought the purple coloured promo was very unique. He said he was going to include purple in his Hard Rock Cafe theme as well. I think he did eventually. But I don't know for sure.
Buddy Knox died of cancer on February 14, 1999 in Bremerton, WA.
At this point, I was managing the Jaguar Booking Agency, Purple Steer night club, Grooveyard dance hall and concert promotions all at the same time. It was necessary to make some changes in order to maintain my sanity. The Grooveyard was sold for a small profit in 1969 and the Purple Steer was ultimately sold in 1972. All the while my concert promotions had gained momentum with James Brown, Ike & Tina Turner and Little Richard concerts all being promoted by Jaguar Entertainment in Vancouver.
In 1976, while browsing thru an entertainment magazine, I discovered an item that advertised Roy Orbison and his band performing at a bar in Thunder Bay, Ontario. This was unbelievable to me... I knew that Roy Orbison belonged in the concert theatres. He was travelling around from gig to gig in a station wagon with the band and a U-Haul trailer. So, I set out to find out what was going on and possibly to arrange some concert dates for him.
I tracked Roy down and offered him a cross-Canada concert tour. A deal was made to pay Roy 80% of the box office proceeds after expenses and I would retain 20%. To make a long story short... we filled up the concert halls right across Canada and Roy would later ask me to move to Nashville and manage his US tour schedule on the same partnership basis... a similar 80/20 basis.
My brother in law looked after our house (plus the dog & cat) in Vancouver and Elaina (my wife at the time) and I moved in with Terry Widlake (Roy's Band Leader) who lived near Roy in Hendersonville, TN. We would later rent a small house on our own in the same area. Roy's success wasn't so great in the US. The Americans have a tendency to place their former hit makers in the "has been" category fairly soon after the hits are no longer coming. Roy had strong hot beds of popularity... but only one in three events would make money... one in three would break even and one in three would be a failure.
Roy had always told me never to book him in Los Angeles or New York as he thought they were all crooks and plastic people... that's why he lived in Nashville. But, one time while Roy was touring in Australia, in 1977, I had the opportunity to book Roy into the Santa Monica Civic Centre with a giant LA "oldies" radio station there presenting the show with unlimited ads for free. They were prepared to make the concert a feature radio station promotion with TV support included. It was too good of an opportunity to pass up. So, I agreed to the booking. When Roy returned home he wasn't thrilled but he agreed to do it anyway, probably, for fear that a cancelation would harm his reputation."
However, that Santa Monica (Los Angeles) performance was about to kick-start Roy's resurgence into the upper echelon of the current music scene once again. Anyone who was anyone in the LA Music Biz was in attendance... The Beach Boys, The Eagles, Huey Lewis, Bruce Springsteen, Linda Ronstadt, Boz Skaggs, George Harrison and Jeff Lynne among others. All of them requested to visit with Roy backstage and they offered opportunities to write songs and perform together. They were all telling him of their admiration for him and wanted to be his friend. My assessment was... Roy... you have to get a real manager and begin working with this current bunch of LA recording stars. I had been a great stepping stone for him to get back on track. But, I wasn’t a fully qualified manager and it was time for Roy to take the next step. It took a while, but Roy eventually got an LA manager… moved to Malibu and began co-writing songs with the top recording acts in the business. This networking with the current music business stars led to the formation of the Traveling Wilburys which would put Roy Orbison right back on top once again. This was, obviously, the best bit of advice I could have ever given to my friend and famous associate.
After Roy's recovery period, doctors advised him to work but not to go
on any strenuous tours right away. I booked a 10 day sit-down run at the
Cave Supper Club in Vancouver and later... a 10 day sit-down run at
the former Seaway Beverly Hills Hotel in Toronto. Both events were very
successful. Shortly afterward, Roy moved to LA... and rejuvenated his
career to it's highest point.
During Roy's run at the Cave Supper Club in Vancouver, I had his whole group over to my North Vancouver house for a Barbeque on the Sunday... Roy wanted to watch an NFL game and I had a big screen TV and satellite system. Roy got the big recliner right in front of the TV... he loved it! After the game, I took the opportunity to play him a video of my "Elvis, Elvis, Elvis" production since Roy had been Elvis' friend and Roy had also played a big part in the reason I created the show. Afterward, Roy said (in front of everyone) "If you are still alive when I die... I want you to promise me you will produce a tribute show like that for me." It was a request I was able to fullfil after Roy passed away in 1988.
This is the point where Roy and I basically separated company... I was devoting full-time to promoting tribute shows... and Roy would reach his maximum potential with the "The Travelling Wilburys" and eventual hit solo album "Mystery Girl." I promoted my last concert with Roy Orbison at the Expo Theatre in Vancouver in 1986. Roy Orbison died of a heart attack on December 6, 1988.
At one point during the early 1980's, I had three different Elvis, Elvis, Elvis casts touring somewhere in the world. The tours were strong until 1986 when all the copy-cats starting promoting 3 act Elvis shows. I continued staging the Elvis shows but to a lesser degree... and I would continually modify the cast to include many different popular Elvis tribute artists. See below...
Click on poster image to see larger view
In 1989 I produced and promoted a tribute to The Legends of Rock'n'Roll starring Buddy Holly... Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley. It was my tribute to Roy... the friend I so admired. The show would also surpass all the copy-cat 3 Elvis shows out there at the time. It was a very successful combination that would eventually attract the copy-cat nation as well. Almost simultaneously, I produced This Lonely Heart a show that was entirely dedicated to Roy Orbison.
Eventually, I began promoting a variety of package shows featuring Elvis and many different Legends tributes from 50's & 60's oldies to the present including Buddy, Roy & Elvis plus others. See below...
An amicable indifference caused Larry to leave the UK cast of “Only The Lonely” in 1995. Basically, Barbara Orbison had demanded such a large royalty that the producers had to cut Larry's salary in half. And, since he could earn the same amount at home doing only a 40 minute set in any one of the Legends tribute shows... he quit. But, because of his UK "star status" Larry was able to successfully tour England for six different tours during the years after he left the production. The tours were promoted by Mark Howes… who is the son of Arthur Howes who promoted the original Roy Orbison tours in the UK during the 1960’s.
In 1995 I began promoting THIS LONELY HEART... a musical biography of the life and times of Roy Orbison starring Larry Branson. Larry and Chris Bradley (local writer and musician) co-wrote the title song This Lonely Heart. which became a hit locally. I would later produce An Orbison Christmas starring Larry Branson who also recorded the Christmas CD that Orbison never lived to record... "An Orbison Christmas" which featured the legendary Jordanaires as backing vocalists. And, because of the uncanny Orbison sound Branson was able to capture, I am certain that one day this CD will ultimately be discovered and claimed to be an actual long, lost Christmas Album of the late Roy Orbison that was never ever released.
In the 1990's I was one of the original partners in the Hedley Blast Country Music Festival and I was very much involved with the event. The inaugural festival in 1990 featured Sawyer Brown... Lee Greenwood... Patty Loveless... Patricia Conroy and others. I created the Exploding BLAST Poster Image which became a critical marketing hook for the Hedley Blast. See Below...
Once the dust had cleared, we made an attempt to take over the festival operation in its entirety. But, the Hedley Recreation Association were not amicable to such a solution and they fired us as producers of the event. They ran the 1992 Hedley Blast with another production company. We were royally screwed... But, we came up with a competitive festival in Merritt for 1993.
I personally printed up a few thousand flyers and put them on all the parked vehicles on and off the '92 festival site... advertising the Merritt Blast coming to Merritt July 8 thru 11, 1993... Starring Tanya Tucker... Ricky Van Shelton and More. I also hired a small plane to fly over the Hedley site with a trailing banner that read... "See You at the Merritt Blast in '93"
In 1993, I was a major investor/partner in the Merritt Mountain Music Festival... a former Site Manager, Associate Producer and Director of Marketing. I would eventually resign in 2008 due to serious indifferences with future direction. I wished I hadn't invested as much as I did... because I lost it all eventually.
During the early years of the Merritt Festival, I had arranged a booking for Larry Branson in the UK (starring role in the Roy Orbison Story musical) and I was earning a regular $4k per month management fee from1993 thru 1995. This lasted for over 3 years during which time I had married (third wife) Debbie Jensen in Las Vegas and toured around the U.S. in a 38’ Motor Home. As it turned out, she had never divorced her previous husband and the marriage was ultimately terminated... without the necessity for a divorce proceeding. Anyway, while I was gallivanting around the country living off Larry's UK booking fees, I had lost touch with all my event buyers and contacts in the process.
I returned to Vancouver to work with Bobby Curtola and Robert Hubbard which was a job offer promoting Bobby Curtola that included a downtown apartment and a company car. I enjoyed my time with Curtola but with limited success. I began to realize that the Curtola / Hubbard situation was a dream that would not likely end well. I was in the room when Hubbard was on the phone exaggerating every deal made… sometimes he would stretch reality beyond any shred of believability. This deception with prospective associates made me extremely wary of my future with the project. It wasn’t long before my displeasure was becoming hard to hide and a mutual termination arrangement was reached.
During my time with Curtola (1998) I met Randi Kramer (an old acquaintance from my Purple Steer days) at a picnic organized by Gary Taylor (my former partner at the Purple Steer.) Gary knew that I was always fond of Randi who was no longer married to a mutual friend of ours. He was also aware that both Randi and I were available (as in unattached) and planned for us to unknowingly reunite at this gathering. It worked… we have been together ever since. Thank you Gary Taylor! This has been the most rewarding relationship of my life and we still love each other dearly today. And... thank you Randi Kramer for picking me up and restoring my confidence and self esteem once again.
After the Bobby Curtola fiasco, I was struggling to earn a living and once the last of my money was running low, I didn't know what to do. This was undoubtedly one of the lowest times in my life... I was almost homeless. I moved in with long-time friend Ken Squires… He provided (for free) a tiny self-contained apartment at the rear of his house on Commercial Drive in Vancouver. It was an old rooming house he inherited from his mother when she passed away. The house was in serious disrepair, but my room (with sink, hotplate and bathroom) did have a private entrance (rickety staircase) off the alley at the back. I had arranged for a small office space at the Merritt Festival offices in New Westminster. This gave me a business telephone, reception and an office to work from. I would take the transit system to the office and back every day. I was on a $5 per day food budget which didn’t allow for a very nourishing diet. Fortunately, on the weekends, I would stay with Randi at her apartment. I always had Randi pick me up at the office because I didn’t want her to see where I was living. At one point I had to tell her why I didn’t want to show her where I was living. It was for fear that it would break her heart… that was a very touching moment for both of us. Thank God I had Randi to help me thru this difficult period. Eventually, Randi invited me to move into her apartment with her in Richmond to help me restore my self-esteem. I eventually began to see the light and was beginning to get ahead financially. But, Randi’s son lived with her in her Richmond two bedroom apartment and it became uncomfortable. So, once I was able to afford a small apartment, I moved to New Westminster near the Merritt Festival office. Randi was about to get a new lease car and she agreed to sell me her little old red mustang for payments… whenever I could. I was barely able to sustain myself. I remember Randi sliding me money under the table at restaurants (when dining out with friends) in order for me to contribute to the bill when the check came. I will be forever thankful for the faith Randi had in me thru this period in my life.
Also, at this time, my good friend Ken Squires had sold his family home (inherited from his mother) and he talked me into letting him invest $20k for me to promote some shows to help me get back on my feet. He remembered the days when he accompanied me on tours with Roy Orbison, Bobby Curtola and many other celebrity performers during the good times. I was reluctant to accept his money… but thankfully, I finally agreed... but only if he would accept 50% of the profits, and if we lost money, he would be responsible for the entire loss. As it turned out, we lost on the first few shows but got rolling after that and I was able to return his full $20k investment to his next of kin (daughter) after Ken’s death in 2011.
During my stay operating out of the Merritt Festival office in New Westminster, I met up with Wayne Webb… a retired Firefighter who was doing some business with Don Adams (another Merritt Festival partner working at the same office) and we eventually began partnering on some tribute show events. This was a critical opportunity… and it was Wayne Webb’s partnership that allowed the business to eventually expand Canada-wide and flourish for many more years. He continually encouraged me to develop more shows and keep doing more and more events... most of which were always successful. We have continued the partnership to this day.
Click on poster image to see larger view
Click on poster image to see larger view
August 1st, 2003 was the beginning of another chapter in my life. This was the day Randi and I moved in together at Mariner’s Village – a townhouse at #96 – 11491 7th Avenue in Richmond… where we resided thru until March, 2010. By this time, I was working pretty well full time out of a home office. Larry Branson had been touring annually in the UK on the strength of his starring role in the UK hit musical “The Roy Orbison Story.” And, I resurrected the “Buddy, Roy & Elvis” concert shows at home, utilizing Larry’s newly acquired international status to sell the tours in Canada and the U.S.
About this time Randi won a $53k secondary prize in the lottery. Wow, what a surprise! But, really, I can’t think of a more deserving human being. We used the money to build Randi’s very own beauty salon (Remark Hair Design) in Steveston. We feel remarkably blessed that she has been able to operate the shop very successfully ever since. It has been especially rewarding for me (as the expected bread winner) to have a life partner willing and able to share some of the bills.
Sometime during the early stages of our stay at Mariner’s Village, we were introduced to a beautiful, almost pure white, stray cat that wandered into our lives. He had steel blue eyes and loved to be held. We called him Christofur. During a vet visit early on, we discovered that he was about 2 years old and had a heart condition which meant he would not likely live very long. He went thru several exams and scans with specialists, etc. and we got all the instruction and medications to extend his life as long as possible… and we had a great time spoiling him with love and affection. Unfortunately, he passed away a few years later. It was too short of an existence for such a deserving little soul. After a reasonable mourning period… it was time to find another kitty to love. Enter Foxy… a 2 month old orange fluff-ball that seemed to pick me, rather than me picking him at the rescue centre. While I was viewing the available kittys… this little guy came right over to me and began purring and rubbing against my leg. What could I do? I was hooked! And 10 years later, he is still with us. He knows I am his daddy… the one who rescued him. He still follows me everywhere… and quietly lays on my desk in front of the computer screen while I am working at it. He is still a fluff-ball… only much bigger. He’s a real cutie that’s for sure.
On March 15th, 2010 we moved into our current home… another townhouse at #2 – 11860 No. 1 Road in Richmond. At about the same time I was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in my digestive tract. It was detected early and the surgery happened quickly thereafter. The results were very positive and after the follow-up chemotherapy, I continued to get regular scans to check up on any spreading of the cancer until, after the 5 year mark when I was given a clean bill of health… still clean today as of July, 2020.
In March, 2019 the Covid-19 Pandemic body-slammed the music industry...we
were forced to cancel all scheduled shows for
the year. It is uncertain if we will restart promotions in the future. If not... it has been one hell of a