Sunday, 30 May 2010

A trio of minor figures from Canadian music history pass on

It didn't get much notice and probably didn't really warrant much but we'll take a sec and mention a trio of figures from Canadian music who died recently;

Connie Codarini;
Bass singer with the Four Lads; Granted the Lads were not even vaguely cool even by the standards of the Pat Boone era of white schmaltzy pop of the early rock era. Hell, they were not even as cool as their Toronto mates the Crewcuts, and definitely not the Diamonds. But they were the first, scoring their first hit in 1952 and following up with 26 more top 50 Billboard hits in the next decade, making them the first Canadian group of the Rock and Roll era to do so. They also managed to score hits in England, Australia, New Zealand and Europe making them the first international Canadian stars.
Of course they weren't really a rock vocal group unlike the Diamonds who clearly were, or the Crewcuts who weren't but were able to fake it for a few years anyway. The Lads never tried to be either, they belonged firmly to the ultra white vocal groups like the Four Freshmen, Four Preps and Five Keys, and none of these groups even tried to figure out the new sounds of Doo Wop which were about to make them obsolete. However by sticking to what they knew they manged to keep their syrupy sounds around well into the rock era, scoring their last chart positions in 1959 and influencing Brian Wilson and Paul McCartney among others. They also recorded as back ups with Johnny Ray and Frankie Laine, including some credible gospel numbers. Then they went off to the adult contemporary circuit for the next thirty years with some success, albeit with numerous lineup changes over the years. Connie Codarini was a founding member but he left some years back, he did live to see the lads honoured by the Canadian Music Hall of fame in 1984 and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2003. Codarini was 80 when he died of heart failure on April 29.

The Four Lads with Frankie Laine;

Rob McConnell;
Trombonist Rob McConnell was born too late to be part of the Big Band era he loved but he still managed to become Canada's most successful big band leader from the 1968 when he formed his Boss Brass on till he died of cancer at age 75 on May 1. He was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1997, was given the Order of Canada in 1998, won a bunch of Junos and also recorded with Mel Torme and Maynard Ferguson all without acknowledging that anything had changed in jazz since the end of World War 2.

Gene Lees;
A well respected jazz historian (and hater of rock and roll) from the late 1940's on. Lee's wrote for a number of papers and magazines as well as his own Jazzletter along with hosting a show on the CBC. He also wrote a number of books including the definitive bios on Oscar Peterson, Woody Herman and Henry Mancini as well as a study on the effects of racism on early jazz. Lees was actually a successful songwriter as well having songs recorded by Frank Sinatra, Charles Aznavour, Sarah Vaughn and Bill Evens. He also found time to record a couple of albums of his own. He died of heart disease at 82 on April 22.

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