Once again Paddy was reading a book as I joined him at our favourite table in the corner coffee shop. This time it was Anne Murray’s fine autobiography All of Me, which she wrote with Michael Posner.
“You’re in this book a lot,” Paddy said as I sat down.
“Well, I was her business manager for almost twenty-five years,” I defended myself.
“So, she got you started in the entertainment business,” Paddy suggested.
“Not at all,” I corrected him.
“Do tell,” he urged.
“My first entertainment-business client was the Canadian international opera star Jon Vickers,” I told him, “and that was over three years before I met Anne Murray.”
“How did that come about?” he asked.
“When I joined the tax department of the accounting firm Coopers & Lybrand in the spring of 1968,” I explained, “Vickers was already a client of the firm and I inherited him from one of the partners.”
“Were you his business manager?” Paddy inquired.
“No,” I explained, “I just did tax planning for Mr. Vickers. But as he was a huge international star with residences in Paris and New York, as well as ties to Canada, and who performed all over the world, his tax situation was fairly complex.”
“So Anne was number two,” Paddy suggested.
“Nope,” I again corrected him, “Anne was number four. I also did a lot of work with another opera singer, Toronto’s Riki Turofsky; and well before Anne became a client I’d been doing work for the Hamilton-based rock group Crowbar.”
“I vaguely remember them,” Paddy said. “As I recall, they had a very colourful leader. And didn’t they have a monster hit?”
“They did have a monster hit,” I assured him, “I think it was in 1971; a song called Oh What a Feeling.”
“Who was that leader I sort of remember?” Paddy probed.
“You’re probably thinking about Kelly Jay,” I responded. “His real name is Blake Fordham, and he’s one of my favourite people in the entertainment world.”
“He was their main man, though, wasn’t he?” Paddy said.
“Well,” I replied, “another band member, the late Richard Newell, might argue with you about that if he was still alive.”
“Don’t remember him,” Paddy said.
“You probably knew him as King Biscuit Boy,” I suggested.
“Yeah,” Paddy beamed, “he was with Ronnie Hawkins wasn’t he?”
“Yes,” I agreed. “Crowbar backed up Ronnie for a bit. Rumour has it that when he fired them he said it was because he didn’t want people around who were crazier than he was.”
“Then you ran Labatt’s entertainment business for a while, didn’t you?” Paddy suggested.
“Yes,” I acknowledged, “I was president of Labatt Sports and Entertainment in 1990-91, and for a number of years before that I was an advisor to their management committee on entertainment matters.”
“Why did you leave?” he asked.
“I was comfortable as a consultant to Labatts,” I explained, “but I couldn’t stand being an employee and having to deal with all the bureaucracy.”
“But didn’t you have to deal with the bureaucracy as a consultant? Paddy argued.
“No,” I replied. “I just gave them my advice and whether they acted on it was of little consequence to me. But as an employee, my career depended on whether they did.”
“Let’s get away from Labatts, then,” Paddy said. “What other artists did you work with?”
“Rita MacNeil, John Allan Cameron, Michael Burgess, Frank Mills, Tia McGraff, and The Rankins come immediately to mind.” I said.
“So, from Crowbar to opera,” Paddy observed, “you really ran the gamut.”
“Was that pun intended?” I asked.
“What pun?” a puzzled Paddy inquired.
“Look up the word gamut, “I told him as I got up and left, knowing full well that I’d pay a price for this later..