Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock’n’Roll – The Rock Ranger

Shanghai Aug 2012I was having such a good day last Wednesday. I had submitted my DBAWIS column and then headed out for lunch with former Northern Pike Bryan Potvin. We had run in to each other a few times at CMW but it was either in a busy hotel lobby or a crowded club so we decided to get together on a quieter front to catch up. After lunch we headed over to Russ Mackay’s Blue Sound and Music so Bryan could have a look at some of the new/old gear Russ has brought it. While there we spent a few minutes with Canadian rock legend Larry Gowan who was overseeing his son laying down a monster drum track.

Bombs+Over+ProvidenceBidding farewell to all I headed downtown for a meeting with my old pal Chris Corless from Grayson Matthews. I first met Chris when he was the drummer for local punk rock band Bombs Over Providence. He approached me in a parking lot in Kitchener at a Goldfinger show and we have been fast friends ever since. Chris and business partner and fellow rocker Mark Spicoluk formed the record label Underground Operations with their bands Bombs Over Providence and Closet Monster. I helped them secure a label deal with Universal Records. Company President Randy Lennox was so impressed by the duo that he hired Mark (aka London) in the A&R Department and Chris in Publishing and later A&R.

After a few years (which included Chris signing Down With Webster) Chris moved over to Grayson Matthews to get his feet wet in the advertising and music supervisor world. He quickly placed one of our former acts Amos The Transparent in a great PlentyOfFish spot which was very lucrative for the band.

Trey millsWe were soon joined by Trey Mills from Calgary who was in town for CMW and who I needed to discuss a Trinity Bradshaw showcase with. I wanted Trey to meet Chris so I booked the meetings to overlap just enough for the two parties to meet. When Trey and I were almost finished we were joined by Wendi-Jane and Neva, co-workers at OAZ, Canada’s top Talent & Management Agency,  for a couple of drinks as they both work down the street from The Dominion Tavern, which was my unofficial office for the day, and Wendi-Jane and Trey have known each other for years. Wendi-Jane works with Neva and Neva and I went to Malvern Collegiate together (I am the Kevin Bacon of the Canadian Music Industry).  Everything was going quite well until I saw back-to-back Jay-Smithmissed calls from pals in Halifax. When I finally touched base with one of the callers I was informed that Jay Smith, The Rock Ranger, had passed away in Edmonton on the western swing of the Matt Mays tour (for whom Jay was playing guitar).

I’m not exactly sure the first time I met Jay but I know it was on the east coast and it was at least ten years ago. It may have been an East Coast Music Awards, maybe a Halifax Pop Explosion or maybe just in Mike Campbell’s Tiki garage. With his rock’n’roll swagger and Ron Sexsmith headful of hair he was a true original and always good for a smile, chat about a band and maybe an Old Sam rum or two. We seemed to run in to each other every trip I made down east and I remember a very memorable night in PEI at an ECMA’s that included a stocked hotel room, an indoor hot tub and an iPod with every great seventies rock tune on it.

jay smith 2I was lucky enough to be down at the SiriusXM Indie Awards on Friday March 22nd and Matt Mays were on the bill. As soon as I got to the VIP area Jay was one of the first people I saw. We had a hug and grabbed a drink and I told him how happy I was that he reached out to me last fall when Matt was on tour and playing at the Phoenix in Toronto and he asked if I needed to be on the guest list. We had a few laughs with the boys in the band (including bass player Serge Samson who works also works for Music Nova Scotia and helps arrange their annual party at CMW) and then the lads hit the stage for their electrifying 40 minute set. Little did I know it would be the last time I would see Jay. I left the Kool Haus to go an catch Gloryhound at the Horseshoe but managed to fire off a couple tweets about Matt May’s performance.

old-samJay saw the tweets and re-tweeted as well as sending me a note saying “good to see you bro #rum”. About a year ago there was a party suite at the Delta Chelsea with all my friends from the east coast who were down for CMW 2012. The guys from Gloryhound had brought me a bottle of Old Sam Rum (which you can’t buy in Ontario) and left it in the suite for consumption at some point during the week. I never made it to the room as most nights if I was leaving Queen West I would just grab the streetcar back to the Beach knowing full well that the east coast shindigs at the hotel could go well past sunrise. I was informed that the rum did not go to waste and the Rock Ranger and his pals had enjoyed it early one morning. I was happy that it had not been wasted and the drinking of “my bottle” became a running joke between Jay and me for the last year, thus the rum hashtag on his last tweet.

jay smith 3I will miss him dearly. The love and generosity of the east coast music community has been quick to rally around his family and donations can be made at and there is an amazing night of music this weekend in Halifax which will also benefit Jay’s family with details here:

I owe you a list from last week so here is my “Special K” list of songs you should consider an essential start to your rock’n’roll diet.

1.       My Mistake – The Kingbees

2.       Waterloo Sunset – The Kinks

3.       Wuthering Heights – Kate Bush

4.       Spiralling – Keane

5.       Autobahn – Kraftwerk

6.       A New England – Kirsty MacColl

7.       Molly’s Chambers – Kings Of Leon

8.       Club Foot – Kasabian

9.       Bopalena – k.d lang and the reclines

10.   Take It So Hard – Keith Richards


Cam’s column appears every Thursday.

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Click on the banners of all of our great sponsors including The Shanghai Cowgirl, Toronto’s hippest rock’n’roll diner at 539 Queen Street West. Looks like they have begun work on the new back patio, and, with that coupled with the new Tiki Bar on the roof of the Bovine we should be in for a sunny summer on Queen Street West.

DBAWIS ButtonCameron Carpenter has written for The New Music Magazine, Music Express, The Asylum, The Varsity, The Eye Opener,  The New Edition, Shades, Bomp!, Driven Magazine, FYI Music News, The Daily XY, New Canadian Music and Don’t Believe A Word I Say.

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One Response to “Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock’n’Roll – The Rock Ranger”

  1. Dear Bob: I am so happy to have found you on the internet. I own all of your original albums, including ‘Gotta Have Pop’ in pink vinyl (I am 51). I am choked that I have not been able to find ‘Goodbye LA’ on CD, your finest work IMO, but maybe I haven’t looked hard enough. You are my fav Canadian recording artist of all time. Excellent voice and your lyrics are pure poetry. Roger, Edmonton

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