CLASS OF 2021

Johnny Stevens and The Canadians

Johnny Stevens and The Canadians

2021 Inductee

The Johnny Stevens Sextet grew out of several local bands including the Belaires and the Hi-Fi’s. Johnny Stevens the band’s charismatic talented lead singer hailed from Nova Scotia, the sole black member of this R&B styled outfit. According to bass player, Reini Strasser, Stevens was well spoken, polite, handsome and a great singer but, unlike most front men, not egotistical. The band was rounded out by drummer Billy Hilton, lead guitarist Ken Gough, organist Lou Crockett, piano player Joe Dengler and sax player David Atwood. They drew influence from late hour broadcasts on WLAC out of Nashville, where host John R played “real Blues”. The underage band members also snuck into the Brass Rail to listen to “The Hawk” where Ken Gough would steal funky licks off Robbie Robertson and Bill Hilton learned to twirl drumsticks like Levon. For several years they mostly played area dances and rock shows, including acting as opening band for Dave Clark Five and The Supremes in London. As popularity grew, the group began to play nightly at several local and area clubs, mainly Campbell’s and The 400 Club. At this point they signed with Saul Holiff, who notably managed Johnny Cash. Holiff, made arrangements to have the group record their 45 single for Columbia Records in New York City. It was at this time the group renamed themselves Johnny and the Canadians. “A Million Tears Ago” and “Say Yeah” were written by the Gough and Crockett in the 60’s British Invasion style. Local popularity surged and the group quit their jobs and went on the road, performing at clubs and stage shows throughout Ontario and Quebec, frequently sharing stages with contemporary musicians like Ronnie Hawkins, David Clayton Thomas and Bobby Curtola. They once rejected a month-long tour of Florida when the promoter suggested they needed to replace their singer, who was black. Johnny and the Canadians were a “ground-breaking” band who helped bring down racial barriers, the late Stevens one of the few Black front men in Canada in the early days of rock ’n roll.

EARL HEYWOOD

EARL HEYWOOD

2021 Inductee

Earl (Carlyle) Heywood, born in Exeter in 1917, was a singer-songwriter, guitarist, and broadcaster. Along with Wilf Carter and Hank Snow, Heywood is considered one of the pioneers of Canadian country music. Dubbed 'Canada's No. 1 Cowboy Singer,' he is also regarded as one of the leading country musicians in Canadian radio. Heywood learned guitar at age 10, but he began his career playing tenor euphonium with the Exeter Brass Band. He served in the army during World War II, and his experiences were expressed in the song ‘Living in the Army,' which became the theme of his first radio show on CFCO in Chatham in 1941. In 1942 he relocated to station CKNX in Wingham, where he remained for the next four decades. As lead vocalist and musical director for the weekly series CKNX Barn Dance, Heywood quickly emerged as the station's highest-rated performer. He built on his popularity through live appearances at dances and events throughout Southwestern Ontario. In 1946, he became host of CKNX's Serenade Ranch, which ran for seven years. As CKNX began expanding into television, Heywood was tapped to headline the musical showcase Circle 8 Ranch. He also appeared on other series including The Range Riders Show and Western Roundup. In 1948 Heywood and the Serenade Ranch Gang signed to RCA Victor, and released self-penned hits including the "The Alberta Waltz" and "The Tears of St. Anne." In 1954 RCA Victor declared a National Earl Heywood Week. Heywood also made three albums for Dominion Records, including the popular “Tales of the Donnelly Feud” for which a corresponding song folio was published by Canadian Music Sales in 1971. In all, he wrote and recorded some 300 songs across the span of his career, including sessions for Rodeo and Banff released under the name The Heywood Family featuring wife Martha and children Patricia and Grant. His last recording was the 2006 CD “The Heywood Family: Canada's First Family of Song.” Heywood was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame in 1989. Heywood also co-founded the Wingham-based Barndance Museum and Entertainment Society, and with Martha continued hosting traditional country dances throughout the 1990s. He passed away on September 17, 2006, at the age of 89.

Lara St. John

Lara St. John

2021 Inductee

Lara St. John was born and raised in London. She earned the title of child prodigy when she began playing the violin at the age of two and gave her first public performance as soloist with an orchestra at four. In 1980, at the age of 9, she won grand prize at the Canadian Music Competition. At age 10, St. John made her European debut and spent three years touring the continent. Accepted at the age of thirteen, St. John entered the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where she earned her degree. While at Curtis, St. John was sexually assaulted by a teacher. Despite reporting this to the headmaster repeatedly, her complaints were ignored. It was not until an article was done by a newspaper in 2020 that St. John’s complaints were taken seriously. An independent report finally acknowledged that her complaint was credible, and she was issued an apology almost 35 years later. She hopes the outcome will protect future students. In 1988, at sixteen, she moved on her own to the former Soviet Union, becoming the youngest post-graduate student at the Moscow Conservatory. She traveled throughout the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. St. John eventually returned to her studies and attended three different academies: the Guildhall School in London, Mannes College of Music in New York and the New England Conservatory in Boston. She has performed at some of the world’s greatest venues and with major symphony orchestras including Cleveland, Philadelphia, Minnesota, Seattle, San Francisco, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, the Boston Pops, the Knights, the National Arts Centre Orchestra (Ottawa) and with major orchestras across South America, Europe and Asia. St John has released thirteen albums Her first release “Bach Works for Violin Solo” in 1996 was controversial. The cover features an image of her holding her violin across her seemingly unclothed body. Although in her mid twenties, her youthful looks generated talk of child abuse. The album sold over 25,000 copies, a best seller by the standards of the classical music industry. She founded her own record company Ancalagon Records in 1999. St. John's recordings are popular on iTunes. Her Bach: The Six Sonatas and Partitas for Violin Solo was iTunes' best-selling double album of 2007. Her previous recording, Bach: The Concerto Album, rose to number one in the iTunes' classical category in 2005. St. John has won a wide variety of competitions. In 1997, upon winning the Canada Council Stradivarius Prize, St. John was given the two-year use of a Lyall Stradivarius built in 1702. In 1999, an anonymous donor made a permanent loan to St. John of the 1779 "Salabue" Guadagnini. Lara and her brother Scott St. John won a Juno in 2011 for Classical Album of the Year (Large Ensemble or Soloist with Large Ensemble Accompaniment.) In 2021 Lara was invested with the Order of Canada for service to society and innovations which ignite the imagination. She has often stated that her mission is to bring younger listeners to classical music.

Paul Mills

Paul Mills

2021 Inductee

Paul Mills is a graduate engineer, musician, musical arranger, graphic designer and recently retired record producer/engineer. He has been part of the Canadian folk music scene and recording industry for over forty years. Raised in London, he graduated from Oakridge Secondary School and The University of Western Ontario. As a teenager Mills dabbled in rock and roll, but eventually the local vibrant folk music scene of the sixties and early seventies caught his attention, shaping his musical tastes and setting the course for his future. During his university days, it was music that kept him busy at night. He frequented Smales Pace, a local coffeehouse, where he hung out and played with the likes of Stan Rogers, Willie P. Bennett, David Essig, David Bradstreet, Doug MacArthur and Laura Smith. Following in the footsteps of his friend Victor Garber he mastered the finger-style approach to guitar playing and went on to perform in folk music groups such as The Balladeers, The Windy Sprinkle and The Paisley Giraffe.. Although he got a Masters degree as a chemical engineer, Mills ultimately chose to follow his love of music and joined CBC Radio in 1972. In 1975 he created a national folk music program called “Touch the Earth” hosted by Sylvia Tyson and this put him in the position to promote and record folk musicians across Canada. After that he became Executive Producer of Radio Drama and later went into management. In the mid-nineties, he left the CBC to open his own production company and recording studio “The Millstream.” Mills has produced close to 200 albums working with artists such as the late Stan Rogers, Sharon, Lois and Bram, Terry Kelly, Ron Hynes and John Allan Cameron. Albums produced or engineered by Paul have earned six gold records, two platinum records, six Juno nominations with two wins, and five East Coast Music Awards. He is also a founding partner of the Borealis Recording Company, an artist-friendly home for Canadian Folk and Roots music. As an accomplished performer and songwriter, he has been playing both solo and back-up in small clubs, concert halls and folk festivals across Canada. His primary instrument is guitar, but he also plays mandolin, banjo, bass and ukulele. He has appeared on many of the albums he produced under the name of Curly Boy Stubbs and in 2006, Paul finally released a solo album, “The Other Side of the Glass”. He also performed with Joanne Crabtree in the duo Crabtree & Mills which put out three albums. He and his son Trevor collaborated on an album called “This Boat That I Built With My Father” in 2017. In addition to his work as a producer and performer, Paul has served on various Boards: he is the Past President of the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals (now Folk Music Ontario) and has served on the Boards of Folk Music Canada and the Canadian Folk Music Awards. Since moving back to London in 2014, Paul served on the Board of the Home County Music and Art Festival for six years, the last three as Chair. In 2011, Paul was awarded the Estelle Klein Award by Folk Music Ontario, an award which recognizes the work of an individual who has made significant contributions to Ontario’s folk music community. More recently, in May of 2017, Paul was named as a Member of the Order of Canada, a prestigious honour given to those whose life work has made a significant contribution to Canada.

B.W. Pawley and Plum Loco

B.W. Pawley and Plum Loco

2021 Inductee

Plum Loco played the bar circuit across the province for more than three decades with interruptions and personnel changes along the way. The band featured some of London’s most talented musicians including Brian B. W. Pawley, Ken Kalmusky, John Till and Chuck Grover, all of whom have been considered individually for induction into the Hall of Fame. Having played in a wide range of garage bands throughout the sixties, the musicians morphed into Plum Loco in 1976 featuring Pawley, lead singer and rhythm guitar, John Till (who backed Janis Joplin in the Full Tilt Boogie band) on guitar, Ken Kalmusky (who played in Ian and Sylvia Tyson’s Great Speckled Bird) on bass, Billy Hilton on drums (who had played with the Johnny and the Canadians) along with Dave Warner on piano. Their music was what Pawley described as “cow rock” or “crock, Texas-style stuff, sort of rock and country.” They pounded away on the club circuit year after year, which is how you made it back then. They played most of the venues in South Western Ontario including Fryfogles, The Firehall, Kelly’s Boogie Parlour in London where they always drew a crowd. Plum Loco never got around to recording an album: “We were too busy having a good time,” said Pawley of the band that became one of the most popular in the province. Pawley left the band in 1980 to play with Ronnie Hawkins and in 1983, Pawley got a record deal releasing “Too Many Parties” and “Livin Lovin’ and Drinkin’ and toured extensively until 1990. He then returned to the region and reformed Plum Loco. When Ken Kalmusky died in 2005, John's son Shawn became Plum Loco's bass player. Billy Hilton passed away in 2009 and Plum Loco retired his position. A new permanent drummer to replace him was never hired. “We had some fun, I’ll tell you,” said Pawley, who moved to Prince Edward Island a few years ago.

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