[click slider buttons, or swipe to scroll on your mobile device to see all 18 photos]
In 1983, after I had graduated from the University of Toronto with a degree in classical music, I had a lot of theoretical knowledge but no clue how to go about getting into the music business. The wonderful songwriter BJ Cook was a background singer for Rockabilly legend Rompin’ Ronnie Hawkins. He was leaving for a tour, but she wanted to stay home with her daughter, Amy Skylark Foster. She got me an audition with Ronnie. I sung “Kansas City Blues” at a gig he was doing at the Royal York – and the job was mine!
As it turned out, the eight months I spent playing rockabilly music on the road was, in a way, my post graduate degree in composition. I learned to appreciate that just because a song only had three chords, didn’t mean that it wasn’t a great song, or that it was easy to play! Ronnie meticulously rehearsed the band so that it was , in his words- “tighter than a gnat’s ass stretched over a drum.” He was also known for discovering and nurturing talent into his band The Hawks – artists like Robbie Robertson, David Foster and Beverly Di Angelo. When we toured Arkansas we had an interesting night partying at the Governor’s Mansion – with then Governor Bill Clinton. In Tennessee – he bragged to anyone who would listen that I was the next Linda Ronstadt. Since Ronnie was a legendary Rock and Roll pioneer, music industry executives in Nashville came to check out him and his band. And that’s how I met and began collaborating with some great writers in Nashville. While on the road with Ronnie, a song I wrote with veteran tunesmith Wayland Holyfield called IF ONLY was recorded by a then emerging star named Reba McEntire.
So I packed up my bags, left the band and I moved to Music City USA for three years, and then on to Los Angeles for seven, where I met and married Marc Jordan.
I was so happy to be a part of Ronnie’s farewell tour, to be able to thank him publicly for giving me my start, and changing my life.
I did three Southern Ontario dates,- The Grand Theatre in London, Massey Hall in Toronto and The Empire Theatre in Belleville- just a few miles down the road from where my first gig in Trenton was with him in January of 1983.
For these dates I sung the Buddy Holly song I used to sing as a Hawk: ” It doesn’t matter anymore”- and Marc and I did a duet version of Elvis Presley’s ”You were always on my Mind”. I told Ronnie that I have never forgotten his kindness to and belief in me- and that I was glad that I had the chance to thank him publicly for lifting me from obscurity to what he infamously called “the big time”.