Early Sketches Churchill & Spring

My first songs at age 17 reveal a young man's tender heart and plaintive voice captured with an inexpensive gut string guitar, a restless soul and a Roberts 802 tape recorder. The story of these, my 'baby' efforts as a young writer of songs, will always resonate for me as a very special moment in time. It was the early 1970's when family lived at the corner of Churchill & Spring in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada.

 It was also the era of Jack MacAndrew and Gene Maclellan, The Troubadours, Larry Mercey, my introduction to the business of music publishing and the beginning of my nascent career aspirations as a recording artist. It is, in its essence, the first chapter in a story of a life blessed with talent and opportunity encouraged by those who heard in me the promise and potential for a long run journey as a Songwriter/Artist. 

I am the firstborn of talented parents who sang and acted in local musical theatre. Singing and performing ran deep in the bloodline and playing guitar came naturally for me too from the very first chords I strummed at 13. It wasn’t long before I was singing and playing an electric guitar in bands. 

The Sunn [1969] and The East Coast Sound [1968] were two of the best young groups of their day. I loved singing and playing in both. The Sunn played 'hard rock/R&B' while The East Coast Sound played top-40 'pop/rock'. We were damn good for young kids and we played every week-end for two years adhering to a strong work ethic in our practices and performances which were solid beyond our tender years. 

 Rockin' the hot radio hits in those bands was a blast but my '67 Fender Mustang gave way to playing my acoustic guitar again as I charted a path to becoming a singer/songwriter in the mold of Lightfoot, Prine, Kristofferson & Cat Stevens. 
 
My weekly performances at a local coffeehouse in the fall of 1970 brought me to the attention of Charlottetown Summer Festival Theatre Producer Jack MacAndrew. Jack asked me to be part of a new music troupe he was putting together to perform for the next summer season at the Confederation Centre of the Arts. We were called The Troubadours and we were a solid hit for two consecutive seasons, 1971 & 1972. 

Jack MacAndrew also played a very important role in my life and music business focus beyond The Troubadours. In the fall of '72 he booked me to open a Maritimes tour with popular top-40 early 70's hit makers, The Poppy Family, which was fun and successful. Jack later secured me a university tour across Canada in July '75 and in August of that same year he spotlighted me on a co-billed, high profile concert at Confederation Centre with rising young star Gino Vanelli. Later in Toronto, when Jack was Chief of Variety Programming for the CBC, he booked me on The Tommy Hunter Show. He also bought me a good quality guitar which I could not afford to purchase at the time. Jack MacAndrew created every opportunity for me as a young upstart. No one ever did as much to promote me in those days. He managed Gene MacLellan and helped me and many others acheive goals towards artistic success. 

I will always be indebted to Jack MacAndrew for his kindness and faith in me and for his guidance in helping me to overcome real difficulties in my life through those hard years in order that I might be able to climb up that big ladder to destiny’s doorstep someday. It was essential support and it ensured that I got my shot as a professional. Jack MacAndrew and his wonderful wife Barbara are both special to me. They always will be.

Management from Jack MacAndrew was essential in providing opportunities and steady guiding support, but kindness demonstrated towards me by others was important as well. I was fortunate to know the late Gene MacLellan as a friend and as a songwriter. 

Gene lived on the Island and Jack was managing his affairs through Gene's breakout success as a writer. Gene had written Anne Murray’s big 70’s hit songs "Snowbird" and "Put Your Hand In The Hand", both of which became major hits of the decade as many stars, including Elvis, scored big with Gene's songs. 

Gene was withdrawn and reclusive by times, but he was a friendly guy, and very giving in his nature. He always encouraged my talents. He even loaned me the tape recorder I used to record my first songs. 

 So, my thanks Gene. If it wasn’t for the cool Roberts 802 reel-to-reel tape recorder you loaned me, the songs on Early Sketches/Churchill & Spring might never have been captured for posterity. My 'baby' songs for sure, my first efforts, but they're here and able to be heard because of your kind generosity.


My artist friend and neighbour, Johnny MacGillivray, pencil sketched me one day saying, "here's your 1st album cover".

And so it is.



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