Pat Blythe – Hockey, Music for Kids and Chuck Leavell

I’m going to start out with something completely off the wall for me. Note, I am not a sports nut. Hockey (quelle horror!), baseball, basketball, volleyball, foozball….even Canada’s official sport, lacrosse…..don’t watch it, follow it, listen to it or talk about it. Sports is not something that ever turned my crank…..but then there’s Scott Foster. Foster is a 36-year-old accountant who’s never played in the NHL. He is a man who plays in a amateur league at Johnny’s IceHouse in Chicago, a man who was called into action by the Chicago Blackhawks on March 29. Foster is an “emergency backup”…..he fills in if the regular goalies are unable to play. 

Scott Foster

Scott Foster

The odds of getting called up are about the same as winning the lottery (more or less). Making his debut in the game against the Jets, Foster slipped on jersey number 90, put on his helmet and took his position in front of the net (in the crease as they say) and for the fourteen minutes and one second he was on the ice he proceeded to stop all seven shots aimed in his direction. Referred to as “an impenetrable wall” the manager of Johnny’s IceHouse said, “I don’t know him (Foster) personally. I just know he’s tough to get a puck past.” No kidding!!  The Blackhawks won the day, 6-2 and Foster was awarded the team belt, presented to the player of the game.

The story still bounces around in my cranium. Dreams to come true. I kept thinking, how bloody marvelous for a young father, whose normal business attire is a suit and tie, to glide onto the ice with his home team and actually defend their honour for almost 15 minutes. It is truly inspirational. The man skated right into the hockey history books and every boy (and man’s) hope that someday….. I’m sure Foster is still shell-shocked. His response to reporters after the game, “Who would have thought? You just keep grinding away in a men’s league, and eventually you get your shot.” Literally. How wonderful is that!

Well… got me. That’s damnable cold virus going around, jamming my “I’ve managed to avoid it” smug face into the pillow with fever and what felt like a basketball crammed into my sinus cavity. The cough….so bad it bruised my rib cage for days. Down for the count I couldn’t face the glare of a laptop screen so no column last week. I managed to cover two important shows…..the fist literally the day before this dastardly virus took hold and the second the following Saturday….barely. The basketball  is somewhat reduced, a small relapse but now fully on the mend. Where the hell is Spring????

There were three major events I attended that took place in as many weeks. Now all of us at DBAWIS are big, BIG proponents of live music. YUGE!!! You’ll often find fellow scribe Peter Montreuil and myself out carousing at several of the many clubs throughout the GTA supporting the young artists whose sole passion is…….music. Making it, writing it, performing it….and generally starving for it. Frank Gutch Jr. is continuously discovering (or re-discovering) and sharing great music we may have missed along the road to adulthood and beyond.

I mention this because the event that took place March 22 was an important benefit in support of the Regent Park School of Music. Providing young people, the musicians of tomorrow, with instruments (and lessons) to follow their dreams, has been the mission of RPSM since its inception almost 20 years ago. RPSM offers a musical education for children who would not otherwise have the chance to learn to play a single note….encouraging children to “make music” while removing the financial barriers. Located in areas such as Regent Park, Jane/Finch and Parkdale, thousands of children and young adults ranging in ages from three to 18, have learned from professionals on pretty much any instrument you can think of, along with music theory and voice. Run by a full-time staff and an army of volunteers, RPSM is a charitable organization. If you wish to donate time, services or an instrument please contact them here Music enriches lives and is food for the soul, the mind and the heart. Let’s feed the children.

Noa Rozenblit

Produced by Noa Rozenblit, the United We Play Benefit included performances by Meg Moonbeam Band, Mimi O’Bonsawin, The Strangers and the Sarah Smith Band. Everyone was outstanding, soundman Cam is a joy to work with (even with the lighting) and of course hosts (and Hideout owners) Irishmen Jimmy, Danny and Phil Good are always welcoming.  The Strangers are four young lads, Sebastian on keyboards and sax, Josh on bass, Tal on drums and Noah on sax and vocals. If I remember correctly, Noah is the eldest at 13 years and commands the stage like a pro. His solo vocal, Frank Sinatra’s New York New York held the audience spellbound with the crowd joining in at the end. All four Strangers are extremely talented musicians and have matured since first seeing them last year. It was a pleasure to watch and listen to these very young people enjoying the music of the past and present and reveling in every note.

l-r – Sebastian, Noah, Tal, Sarah and Ken Ross

Meg Moonbeam Band hit the stage and gave the audience a dose of psychedelia with great harmonies and with some stellar guitar riffs provided by her lead guitarist (I’m sorry, unable to find his name anywhere). Dressed the part, Moonbeam is a versatile performer on guitar and keyboards.

Meg Moonbeam Band

Roots performer Mimi O’Bonsawin, who celebrates both her French-Canadian and Abénakis heritage through her music, has shared stages with Buffy Sainte-Marie, Tom Wilson and Chrystal Shawanda. The woman with the young, beautifully soulful voice hails from Sudbury, Ontario and has been nominated for two Northern Ontario Music and Film Awards. O’Bonsawin has released two albums. Her self-titled debut in 2014 and her most recent release Connected. It’s an appropriate title in many ways….connecting with her audience and  connecting her two communities are O’Bonsawin’s centre. Confident, self-assured, you can hear her heart through her voice and her music.

Mimi O’Bonsawin

How Long – Mimi O’Bonsawin

Brave – Mimi O’Bonsawin

….and then there’s Sarah Smith, a talent I’ve had the pleasure of listening to several times….and I never, ever tire of watching her perform or listening to her voice. Over the years, we have become good friends. There is no denying Smith loves the road, loves to perform and most of all, has big love for her audience,  which is happily returned in kind. Her joy is palpable and spread throughout the room. There are very few artists who bond with their audiences the way Smith does. Her heart is always on her sleeve and you can not only hear it, but feel it through her lyrics……words that are always close to home for her but also resonate with her listeners. This is the second time Smith and her band have performed at Rozenblit’s benefit after only meeting last year. The two have formed a close bond, both deeply tied to helping their communities. I had also just found out I would be seeing Smith and her band perform at another very special concert in about 36 hours.

Angels and Anchors – Sarah Smith

The show of shows. The one Sam Taylor has been almost as excited about as his trip to New Orleans with his soon-to-be bride….or maybe the two (the trip and Leavell) are about equal. Either way, it was a show I hadn’t originally planned, albeit sadly, on attending. Ticket prices were high and photographers, like musicians, aren’t exactly rolling in the green. Huge surprise when I was gifted a ticket to the show by Taylor’s mom. THANK YOU Tammy Abel!!! How incredibly thoughtful and kind.

I rolled into London late Friday night, prepped to stay for a few days. Saturday I met Sarah Smith for brunch at a restaurant she recommended and one I am definitely going back to. Fresh, local, organic, The Root Cellar satisfies all tastes (Smith is vegan, I am most definitely not), with a great and varied selection of foods from (my editor’s favourite) kale caesar salad to the best fries I’ve had in…..forever. Pulled pork and organic beef burgers and yes, all things tofu too. The food was deelish and the coffee was excellent. Chef Tom, if you’re ever in London, Ontario…..take note. Just a few short hours later I was meeting Tammy at Aeolian hall.

We scored the perfect seat (actually a table…how very civilized) and with drinks and snacks in hand, we settled in for the show. The opening act was cover band appropriately called Juice. Well, you could have knocked me over with a snowflake!!! These five artists were brilliant! At full throttle, lead singer Kimberley Noftle has a voice you can hear in the next town. She fills the room with her passion of the song, drawing you in until you feel what she feels. A woman who sings with her heart and, surprise, surprise a fabulous flautist as well. A rarity in the rock or blues world (and Noftle easily segues between the two genres), the flute adds a touch of class and hits just the right notes (pun intended) in Juice’s performance.  Bass guitarist Angela Sheppard…..well…..she plays bass…..what’s not to love…. Next to the drums it’s my favorite instrument. She pops, picks, slides up and down the neck and strums very casually, making it all look so easy with a big grin on her face. Sheppard sings too! Filling out the rest of the band are Chris MCreanor on drums, Trevor Wilkins on lead guitar and Michael Gervais on rhythm guitar and vocals. Juice were the winners of the Blue Canvas Productions Open For a Legend Contest, giving them the opportunity to perform on the same bill as Chuck Leavell. Juice have also been nominated for a Jack Richardson Award in the cover/tribute category for 2018.

Kimberley Noftle

Trevor Wilkins

Angela Sheppard and Mike Gervais

Drummer Chris MCreanor with the flute prominently positioned in front

Solo artist Laura Gagnon followed with a short set at the piano and then Sam Taylor and his band took the stage. Another artist I’ve been watching for the past two years, Taylor has more than filled any of his blues hero’s shoes. Fresh from a pre-wedding honeymoon trip to New Orleans and Memphis, Taylor and partner Maia van Raes filled their time with music, even performing for fun in a couple of clubs and filling their days with some of the best coffee and beignets in the world. Back in town at full throttle, Taylor, along with Alex Rudi on bass, Chris Haystead on drums, Maia van Raes on keyboard (electric and grand piano), blew the socks off everyone, yet again. The man bleeds blue yet rocks, croons and feeds your soul with the best of them. I’m sensing another New Orleans blues trip in the near future.

Laura Gagnon

Sam Taylor and Alex Rudy

l-r – SamTaylor, Alex Rudi, Stephanie Heide and Kristen Renée

Sam Taylor with Chris Haystead on drums

The Sarah Smith Band. What more can I say. Bobby Reynolds on drums and cajon always makes me smile. Creative drumming at its finest. Ken (the Zen) Ross is Smith’s right hand and his smooth bass is the perfect complement to Smith’s voice and Guy Miskelly’s lead guitar. They don’t come to Toronto often enough.

Guy Miskelly, Sarah Smith and Bobby Reynolds

Chuck Leavell and Sarah Smith

Chuck Leavell with Sarah Smith Different Angle

….and finally, the man of the hour (and-a-half). Chuck Leavell, music director and keyboardist for the Rolling Stones. A man with a long and storied history in the music business that could jam pack several books. I don’t there’s an artist he hasn’t performed with. He’s been up, down, sideways, played with the best, traveled the world and raises trees. Leavell is a huge environmentalist and along with Rose Lane, his wife of 45 years, plants and grows trees on their land in Macon, Georgia. Twigs County Tree Farm came to life in 1991 when Rose Lane inherited some property from her grandmother. The Leavell’s decision was a natural one, to carry on what they saw was their “heritage and stewardship of the land.” Co-founder of the Mother Nature Network with Joel Babbit, two-time winner of Farmer of The Year, appointed to the Georgia Land Conversation Council, author of several books including a children’s book called The Tree Farmer, Leavell is deeply tied to his roots and the land. He has received many accolades for his hard work and dedication to planet earth and is recognized worldwide for his common sense knowledge on forestry, sustainability and conservation issues.


Leavell strolled out on to the Aeolian Hall stage, seated himself behind the grand piano and immediately opened with Dr. John’s In The Night. It only took a single question to launch him into story number one, his start in music, which was heavily influenced by his piano-playing mom. Leavell regaled us with stories of the Allman Brothers, Sea Level, Dr. John, his mentor Paul Hornsby, George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and of course the Rolling Stones. We sat captivated, listening to his tales and jokes interspersed with his magic touch on the ivories. His keyboarding skills are legendary and as I listened to him play, my ears couldn’t believe what they were hearing as he effortlessly sashayed up and those 88 keys. He’s unnaturally natural.

Leavell in Performance

It was a pleasure to meet him after the show. I’m so glad I was given the opportunity to attend  a night full of talent, music, stories and more music. It couldn’t get any better.

Statesboro Blues – Sea Level

Fifty Four – Sea Level

Midnight Pass – Sea Level

Yes, there is a third show but I’ll fill you in next week.


All photographs ©A Girl With A Camera “The Picture Taker” except for Scott Foster


Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.

Contact us at:

dbawis-button7“Music and photography….my heart, my passions.” After an extended absence —  33 years as a consultant and design specialist in the telecommunications industry — Pat has turned her focus back to the music scene. Immersing herself in the local club circuit, attending the many diverse music festivals, listening to some great music, photographing and writing once again, she is eager to spread the word about this great Music City of ours…..Toronto. Together for 34 years, Pat little-red-headed-dancing-girlalso worked alongside her late husband Christopher Blythe, The PictureTaker©, who, beginning in the early 70s, photographed much of the local talent (think Goddo, Frank Soda and the Imps, BB Gabor, the first Police Picnic, Buzzsaw, Hellfield, Shooter, The Segarini Band….) as well as national and international acts. Pat is currently making her way through 40 years of Chris’s archives, 20 of which are a photographic history of the local GTA music scene beginning in 1974. It continues to be a work in progress. Oh…..and she LOVES to dance! 

One Response to “Pat Blythe – Hockey, Music for Kids and Chuck Leavell”

  1. Jim Chisholm Says:

    I enjoyed reading this. Thanks. I’ve been a Chuck fan because of his work withThe Allman Brothers and Colin James Big Band. The crowning moment came though, when I was with friends in the nose bleeds at the back of BC Place in Vancouver on Keith RIchard’s birthday in 1994. At some point Chuck played Nicky Hopkins chilly ascending piano arpeggio-ed chords ( in the key of C#minor in case you were wondering ) that announced the beinning of The Rolling Stone’s deep deep gem “Monkey Man” to the Vancouver audience. That’s as good as it gets when Keith responds with the descending 7th to 6th to b6th to 5th chords. I was jumping up and down with glee and I will be forever grateful.

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