Music News Digest, Dec. 6, 2021

Via a Facebook post on Saturday, famed Canadian vocalist David Clayton-Thomas (of Blood, Sweat & Tears fame) announced that “I am officially retiring from the concert stage. I am now past my 80th birthday… having survived two heart surgeries and 60 years of rock & roll, it’s time to hang it up. If I can’t perform at the level people expect of me then I won’t perform at all… I won’t embarrass myself or disappoint my fans. My eternal gratitude to all the gifted musicians and hard-working crews who have travelled the world with me for six decades and made every night a magical experience… it’s been a trip. Our musical collaboration will continue… it just won’t be on a concert stage.”

Clayton-Thomas first made a mark on the Toronto scene of the mid-’60s, fronting The Shays. He joined Blood, Sweat & Tears as its vocalist in 1968, and was with the band during the most successful part of its career, one that included platinum sales and multiple Grammy awards. He has had a prolific career as a solo artist, his most recent release being 2019’s Say Somethin’. He is a member of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and in 2010 he received his star on Canada’s Walk of Fame. In 2007 his jazz/rock composition Spinning Wheel entered the Canadian Songwriter’s Hall of Fame.

– MusicNL announced the winners of the 2021 Music NL Awards over the weekend. Taking home two awards each were Ofray Harnoy, Quote the Raven, Kelly McMichaels and Maria Cherwick . The Labrador band The Flummies was presented with the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award, while Music Video of the Year went to Mallory Johnson & Twin Kennedy’s Wise Woman (below). 

– Interest in the deep and rich catalogue of Canadian folk great Bruce Cockburn remains high. That was confirmed with news that his just-released collection, Greatest Hits, 1970-2020, has hit #1 in the Folk department of both Amazon Canada and Amazon US.      



– City and Colour’s Dallas Green has been forced to cancel or postpone shows in several Canadian cities after testing positive for Covid-19. Green stated in a recent Instagram post that he and crew members contracted the virus despite being fully vaccinated and are now isolating and resting. Planned performances in Toronto and Montreal this month have been postponed until Feb., while shows in Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Milwaukee and Saint Paul, MN, were cancelled. Check the itinerary here. CP

– Presented by The American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), the second annual Let’s Get Digital summit runs online, Dec. 9-10. It is designed to connect the independent music community, creating opportunities between independent record labels, digital service providers, technology solutions, and other music industry professionals. Tix here.

– BARN is a new full-length documentary that captures Neil Young and Crazy Horse recording the album of that name. It gets a very limited theatrical release this week, including a Dec. 11 screening at Toronto’s Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema. 

– The Toronto Blues Society’s Blues Summit 10 will run from Jan. 28 – 31, with events and panels at Toronto’s Chelsea Hotel. Prices increase on Jan. 1. Register here.

– Released last Friday, the new single from late hip-hop star Juice WRLD, Wandered to LA, features Justin Bieber. The track will be featured on the forthcoming album, Fighting Demons, out Dec. 10. Dec. 9 will mark the inaugural Juice WRLD Day in Chicago, in partnership with The Live Free 999 Foundation. Streaming links for the single here 

– Joni Mitchell received her Kennedy Center Honor, in recognition of her lifetime contributions to American culture, on Dec 5.

MMF Canada and MMF UK are co-presenting a Virtual Industry Mission next month. Ten managers and self-managed artists based in Canada will connect with 10 managers and self-managed artists based in the UK to build relationships and exchange info via one-to-one meetings, group discussions and workshops. The mission comprises two online sessions, Jan. 19 and Jan. 20 (both 10-noon ET). Apply here by Dec. 17.


Neil Flanz, a famed Canadian-born steel guitar player, died on Dec. 2 in Austin, age 83.

Born in Montreal, he grew up listening to the Grand Ole Opry on the radio and enjoying the music of artists such as Canadian cowboy singer Wilf Carter, first learning guitar at the age of 13, and moving to the steel guitar by the time he was 17. He established himself as one of Canada’s top steel guitarists, with the 1962 – 64 albums His Nashville Steel and Get On The Star Route” released on the Arc Records label. He toured nationally with Dusty King, Jack Kingston, Gary Buck, and more, and played on recordings by Ted Daigle, The McKay Brothers, Dusty King, Allen Trineer, June Pasher and many others.

While playing at the Country Palace in Montreal, Flanz had the opportunity to back up Charlie Louvin. Along with his steel guitar albums, this Louvin connection helped spread the word about Flanz down south, and he eventually moved to Nashville by the late ’60s, where he regularly played behind Louvin, along with other artists such as Billy Walker, Jean Shepard, including on the Grand Ole Opry stage, while also working as a session guitarist and playing in The Kelly Rogers Breed.

Flanz was then selected to perform with The Fallen Angels, playing steel behind Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, including on the legendary six-week tour Parsons embarked on in 1973 behind his album GP.

Saving Country Music writes that “Neil Flanz recalls the tour as one of the most exciting parts of his career with’“thousands of cheering young long-haired fans being introduced to country for the first time … rushing up to the stage just to touch us. It also resulted in the recording Live: 1973 taped in Long Island, New York. Along with Gram’s languid disposition and Emmylou’s harmonies from those recordings, many took away the steel guitar playing of Neil Flanz as foundational to their love of country music.”

By the early 1980s, Flanz became a member of Joe Sun’s touring and recording band Shotgun.

He permanently relocated to Austin from Florida in 2004. A mentor, instructor, and elder in Austin’s country music scene, Flanz played in the band of Alvin Crow and others, and was also a long-time member of the country outfit Fingerpistol. In recent years he had been operating a pedal steel guitar, schooling newcomers with the instrument.

Flanz was inducted into the International Steel Guitar Hall of Fame on June 12, 2016. Sources: Larry Delaney, Saving Country Music

– Stonewall Jackson, a country music hitmaker, died on Dec. 4, of vascular dementia, at age 89.

Some of Jackson’s hits included Life To Go, penned by George Jones, Smoke Along the Track, B.J. the D.J., and Waterloo, which later became his signature song. Over his career, Jackson landed 44 singles on the Billboard country chart. His 1971 Recorded Live at the Grand Ole Opry was the first “live” album ever recorded at Nashville’s country music shrine, The Ryman.

The late Porter Wagoner would introduce Stonewall on his show by saying he came to the Opry “with a heart full of love and a sack full of songs.”

Wide Open Country‘s Bobby Moore profiled Jackson last year, saying “…he’s a representative of the days of smooth-voiced, sharp-dressed country singers who helped position what was once dismissed as “hillbilly” music as a commodity that would move uptown.”

Toronto music journalist and FYI contributor Nick Krewen once profiled Jackson for Country magazine, and he recalls that Jackson “never stopped hoping for another hit.”

He was presented with the Ernest Tubb Memorial Award in 1997 for his contributions to country music.

Artists who quickly posted tributes included Lee Greenwood, the Oak Ridge Boys, David Frizzell, J.D. Shelburne, Rhonda Vincent. Sources: 2911 Media, Wide Open Country, Wikipedia 

Kenneth Proto

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