Father-daughter team and post-punk rock band become latest members of the London Music Hall of Fame

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For Immediate Release

Feb 25, 2016

Father-daughter team and post-punk rock band become latest members of the London Music Hall of Fame, while renowned barbershop singer wins the Dennis Brown Lifetime Achievement Award.

LONDON (Ontario) – The late Don Wright and his daughter Priscilla Wright will be inducted into the London Music Hall of Fame alongside London-based 80’s post-punk band Sheep Look Up. The induction will take place April 17, 2016 at the Jack Richardson London Music Awards Gala. That same night, internationally renowned London barbershop singer Greg Blackwell will receive the Dennis Brown Lifetime Achievement Award for his musical passion and achievements.

Hall of Fame inductees:

Don Wright and Priscilla Wright

It’s almost impossible to truly gauge the impact that Don Wright has had on London music. At age 14, he won a gold medal for his cello performance in a Canada-wide competition at Massey Hall in Toronto. But he also played trumpet, and with his brothers, formed a dance band, The Wright Brothers Orchestra, which played across Ontario. After receiving an Honors BA in Classics from Western in 1933, Wright went on to become a teacher in London and in 1940 was appointed Director of Music for London schools. During World War II, Wright conducted shows for the troops and trained Air Cadet bands in London. In 1946 he became General Manager at radio station CFPL and was one of the first to put an up-and-coming country music star Tommy Hunter on the radio. Along with wife Lillian, who was a crucial behind-the-scenes partner, he formed the Don Wright Chorus, introduced on-air by the legendary Guy Lombardo. The Chorus became so popular it was picked up by radio stations across Canada and the United States. In 1956, the Wright family moved to Toronto where he began a very successful career composing, orchestrating and publishing music educational material. He became known as “The Jingle King” for his many compositions of songs for radio and television commercials. He also was brought on as musical director for several television programs, including The Denny Vaughan Show and the Wayne and Shuster Show. Wright went on to establish a charitable foundation to provide scholarships for music students and was honoured with numerous awards and distinctions, including: the Centennial Medal, Western’s Alumni Award of Merit (1983), an Honorary Doctorate of Music (1986) and in 1990, and was the first recipient of the Purple & White Award (1997), which honours Western alumni for volunteer contributions to their home community. Western’s Faculty of Music is named after him. Don Wright passed away in Toronto on June 27, 2006, at the age of 97.

Priscilla Wright hit it big in 1955 with her international hit single, Man In A Raincoat. The song was recorded at the CFPL radio studios with her farther Don and his septet providing backing vocals, including whistling and footsteps. The song was such a big hit, she was invited to sing it on the Ed Sullivan Show on July 3, 1955 and was selected by Cash Box Magazine as their Most Promising Artist of the Year. Priscilla’s success led to a film contract with Twentieth Century Fox and appearances along with Elvis Presley in a documentary film and several concerts. After that, Wright took a hiatus from the music industry until the 1980’s when she teamed up with legendary producer Jack Richardson to record some songs including Michael Bolton’s “Heartbeat” which hit No. 8 on the Canadian charts. She also re-recorded “Man In A Raincoat” which charted again. Wright’s career has continued to blossom, receiving a Juno nomination as Most Promising Artist in 1993, and going on to perform with Canada’s top musicians and big bands such as Peter Appleyard, Mart Kenney, Moxie Whitney, Eddie Graf, the Toronto Pops Orchestra and Hamilton Philharmonic. She has also performed at the Montreal Jazz Festival and, in 2005, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. She continues to sing with her own band at top venues across Canada.

Sheep Look Up

Eclectic and experimental, Sheep Look Up hit the stage in 1982 and kept rockin’ until 1988. The original band: Matt Guemple (also known as Matt Owen and Will Power) – vocals, Brian Bogue -guitar, Greg Moore – drums, Mark Deroux – bass and John Francom piano & saxophone, was augmented in 1983 when Bogue was replaced by Gilbert Smith and guest appearances by Lisa Patterson – saxophone and keyboards. While Sheep Look Up began as a solid punk band, they soon adopted punk as an attitude, rather than a straight musical style, and began venturing into other musical tastes, even creating their own electronic instruments and sound-making devices. The band’s first release was the four-song cassette Entropic Concern which was played on Canadian university and college radio stations. The band was also featured on various alternative compilation albums including London Underground, a compilation released by CHRW-FM. A self-titled vinyl EP was released in 1986 featuring four songs: “Rapture”, “Falasha”, “Big Heart” and “Spaghetti Western”. It got a good deal of local airplay. That same year they were nominated for a CASBY Award. In 1988 a rough mix of their soon to come full-length LP circulated as a demo tape. It featured four songs recorded and produced with Chris Wardman; “No Good Men”, “Propaganda Train”, “Girl Song A” and “Final Days”. A final version of the LP was never released due to lack of funds and eventual dissolution of the band. Three videos – “Like a Rat”, “Iskra” and “Spaghetti Western” – were all aired on Much Music. Over the course of their career they toured Canada and the U.S., and opened for a number of big acts, including The Fall, The Stranglers, Marianne Faithful, Gene Loves Jezebel, Shriekback, and others.

The Dennis Brown Lifetime Achievement Award winner

Greg Backwell

Back in 1956, Greg Backwell was more concerned with sports than music. But that all changed when the then Physical Education Director at the London YMCA heard a group singing in the distinctive four-part harmony of the barbershop quartet. He had no musical training, but within a year, Backwell was arranging music in four-part harmony, became the Assistant Director of the London Chorus, and sang tenor in an Ontario champion quartet. Singing tenor in 1957, he helped form the legendary Nighthawks. The barbershop quartet went on to win 11 straight Ontario titles and four international medals at competitions. The Nighthawks sang a special Command Performance for HRH Price Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh in London, England in 1960. Blackwell became the London Chorus Director, winning eight Ontario titles and three international medals. Switching to baritone, he sang with the International Champion, Gentlemen’s Agreement. Backwell went on to work with and direct the Sweet Adelines Chorus. He has won virtually every honour that the Barbershop Society can bestow, and in 2013 he received their highest honor when he was inducted into the International Music Hall of Fame in Nashville. Later he was selected as one of the TEN BEST TENORS in the 77-year history of the society. Greg lives in London with his wife Julia who sang in many champion quartets and has directed the London Chorus for the past 20 years.

If You Go

What: The 2016 Jack Richardson London Music Awards – a live, free show recognizing the best in London’s music scene.

When: Sunday, April 17, 2016 – doors open at 6 p.m. – the free show starts at 7 p.m.

Where: The London Music Hall, 185 Queens Ave.

For More Information:

Visit www.fclma.ca or find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @JRMALondon.

Mario Circelli – Chair – Jack Richardson London Music Awards mpcircelli@yahoo.ca

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Mario Circelli

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