Pat Blythe – Pop Goes The Weasel, Bill Wood and The Woodies, Wanda’s, The BTBs……and Music!

I’ve actually finished a book!!! A real ” hold in your hands manually turn the pages” book.  Reading is deeply embedded in my DNA. I descend from a long line of voracious readers. It began at the age of four and never stopped. The comprehension/speed reading exercises they put us through in grades seven and eight have served me well. Chris and I used to read together in companionable silence, only coming up for air when there was something one of us just had to share…..or to make the tea.

Then five years ago I just stopped reading books. No one particular reason. Since then I can count on three fingers the number of books I’ve actually finished. One of my most enjoyable pastimes just seemed to disappear….not consciously….it just drifted away. There were so many other things that seemed to demand my attention reading fell by the wayside. So many  times I would pick up a book but my concentration wouldn’t last. I also seem to have developed the attention span of a gnat. (I still do sometimes) Even magazines and newspapers (I love crosswords) rarely find their way into the cart at checkout. I still purchase the odd book I’m intending to dive into but they seem to become more decorative that “functional”. I’m a tactile person. Reading a “virtual book” on an electronic device is akin to cooking a “virtual dinner”. Somehow it just doesn’t taste right. Call me old-fashioned but I like the feel of the printed word in my hand.

….and then along comes Pop Goes The Weasel: Rock And Roll Off The Record.  My most recent sortie into the world of black and white was very kindly sent to me by the author, Gerry Young. I had made a comment about the book on FB and Young immediately responded, offering to send me a copy. It landed in my mailbox a short time after and I’ve just finished the Acknowledgments at 11:30pm on Sunday night. Pop Goes The Weasel is a perfect, straightforward read and a great synopsis of not only Young’s career, but a lively, fly-on-the-wall view of some of the goings on in this business we call music.

From television to music, the book chronicles Young’s 40+ year career…..shedding a light on the “backstage” of the industry and the idiosyncrasies of the individual artists themselves. Beginning with Johnny “who stole my fuckin’ grilled cheese sandwich” Winter to Zal Yanovsky’s “sick of the jug-band music” reason for leaving the Lovin’ Spoonful. From the professionalism of Kiss and Cher to pissing off Frank Zappa (big mistake) to the shrewdness of Little Richard (I wonder if he still has the suit he selected), the sexual exploits of 10CC and the petty arrogance of Donna Summer. Covering the rock, disco and New Wave eras, the stories are short…..each one an ideal length to keep this gnat’s attention.

Darling Be Home Soon – The Lovin’ Spoonful

Waterfall – 10CC

Pop Goes The Weasel, published in 2011,  provides some eye-opening (but not surprising) insights into the politics, egotism, extravagance and penny pinching of the big record companies, the insanely crazy life of an A&R/promotions/publicity rep and the expectations of the artists. Humorous, relatable and very entertaining, I actually learned a few things as well. Thank you Gerry for sending me your stories and a book I could finally (and easily) finish!

Bill Wood & The Woodies

Bill Wood

Another foray into Kensington, this time with my lovely niece Emily. A completely impromptu afternoon as Emily’s original plans had unexpectedly changed…..she was in Toronto several hours earlier than originally anticipated and I was still lounging in bed when she called. It’s not often I have the chance to spend an entire afternoon and evening with her so this was a treat. I had errands to run and it was lunchtime so off we went to the Pow Wow Café. Owned and operated by Shawn Adler, the food is divine. Indian tacos on homemade Ojibway-style frybread, brunches with smoked salmon and poached eggs served with fresh leafy greens, fruit, edible flowers and corn shoots. I’m praying he’ll be at Summerfolk again this year. I could live on his menu alone.

This Old Heart – Bill Wood & The Woodies

Appetites sated, we headed down the street to Supermarket where Kensington resident and good friend Barbette had suggested we meet up with her. Now Barbette has sent me numerous invitations to see Bill Wood & The Woodies but the stars have never aligned. Today, on the off-chance she’d be around, I had messaged her that I’d be in the area…..and guess who was performing at the Supermarket? What a fantastic band and here’s me WITHOUT my camera! All original material (to the amazement of my DJ-listening niece) the music is honest, danceable, toe-tapping, just really, really good songs with great melodies. My favourite kind.

Bill Wood & The Woodies

Bill Wood has been in (and out) of the music scene for over 30 years. After getting fed up with an inconsistent, finicky and unpredictable industry, Wood “retired” to raise his family and work with his hands in another vocation……home renovations and woodworking. But, once the music is in your blood, it’s impossible to stay away forever. Since his time with Juno-nominated rock band Eye Eye in the 80s Wood has continued to hone his craft away from the spotlight and I’m thankful and relieved he did. I’m making a point of seeing this band again! The Woodies are Mark Shannon on bass, Chris Bennett on lead guitar and drummer Dino Naccarato. According to their website Bennett is known for his tasteful solos and for the subtle colouring he adds to the Woodies musical pallet.” So is his guitar.

Chris Bennett and his colourful guitar

After a visit, an excellent set, a Whiskey Sour (Emily) and a G&T (me….and yep, they have Bombay Sapphire) we sauntered off to purchase the soap and coffee beans I so desperately needed.

Ahhh…..not so fast……we hadn’t taken more than 10 steps when something else caught our attention. Wanda’s Pie in the Sky. After about 5 seconds of deliberation Emily and I scurried across the street into the warm and welcoming interior of pie heaven. You are literally surrounded by every treat imaginable, drowning in sugary delights.

I noticed a familiar face dashing about the store…..someone I was pretty sure I knew but it all seemed a bit out of place. Asking at the counter, my suspicions were confirmed. Out of an office popped the ever effervescent David Beaver. A huge fan of Pretzel Logic and a mutual friend of drummer Paul DeLong who had introduced me to David at one of the band’s gigs at the Orbit Room. David was the gentleman who very kindly held the chair I stood on while I was taking photos of the band.

Not expecting to run into David, let alone at a pie shop, I was all out of context and it took a few minutes for the brain cells to start piecing together the jigsaw puzzle….remembering snippets of conversations with DeLong, the treats at the Obit Room gigs, mentions of a Wanda’s pie shop and Kensington, finally the whole picture fell into place. After cheery hellos and hugs and an introduction to Wanda herself (David’s wife) it was dessert time.

Emily and David Beaver

Originally planning to take a slice of something home, that was quickly kyboshed as Emily and I were ensconced at a table with David  scouring the pie stands and offering choice after choice of delectable pastries. Emily and I each settled on a slice of Banana Cream Pie. In a flash David had our banana-filled dessert and a hot chocolate for Emily in front of us. Oh…..My…..God!!!!! I just wanted to bury my face in that pie. (that would of course induce all kinds of shocked stares, a wrap across the knuckles from my Scottish nana wherever she is and a very messy, cream-covered face… it would embarrass the shit out of my niece). So, after licking our plates (not) we ordered a small berry pie to go and waddled up to the cash. One shake of the head from a staff member meant our treats were “on the house”.

The “piece de no resistance”

With big hugs and many thanks, we were heading out the door when I mentioned we were off to buy coffee beans and soap before heading home for quiet evening. Whoa…..wait a minute….not so fast. Whirling back into action I had a half pound of coffee beans in my hand before you could say “pie”. This specific coffee, according to David, is THE BEST coffee out there, I MUST try it!  I haven’t yet, still finishing off the last few beans of my other batch but I’ll let you know if he’s right.

David Beaver, you were the biggest, brightest cherry on our cake of a wonderfully random afternoon. Emily and I both thank you!

The BTB’s……

Nope. I’m not at liberty to divulge what the acronym stands for but it’s sweet, sticky, rich and VERY delicious. In fact, one of my favourite……nope, my lips are sealed. Suffice to say these three guys are bloody amazing. Self-described as jazz, funk and fusion they are all this combined. Appearing every Wednesday night at Relish Bar and Grill The BTB’s have been in residence here for seven years. On lead guitar is Ed Kopala with Bob Bilton on bass. The aforementioned Paul DeLong was sitting in for Peter Griffin, The BTB’s regular drummer.

l-r – Bob Bilton, Paul DeLong, Ed Kopala

Jazz fusion is not my first choice of music to listen to although I may have to backtrack on that statement. I’ve always associated it with excellent musicianship but no melody. It’s like a mathematical equation that I am incapable of processing. But when I look at the number of bands considered jazz fusion (although I’d put some of them in the category of prog rock) they list like a who’s who of some of my favourites. Weather Report, Snarky Puppy, Dirty Loops, King Crimson, Blood Sweat and Tears, Steely Dan, Spiro Gyra, Chicago, Miles Davis, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock…..the list is a long one and you can add The BTB’s to it.

Paul DeLong

Bob Bilton

Ed Kopala

One of the most enjoyable evenings out (and one of the coldest on record), I had the utmost pleasure listening to three men who were in total synch with each other and simply enjoyed playing together. Pieces included Pretzel Logic (Steely Dan), Foot Prints (Miles Davis), 500 Miles High (Chick Corea), Songs For My Father (The Horace Silver Quintet) as well as a few originals, The bass just purrs, the guitar sounds sweet and the drums bring it all together with a certain panache. It was pure delight and now I’m hooked.

…….lots and lots of music…..

Pretzel Logic – Steely Dan

Songs For My Father – The Horace Silver Quintet

Songs For My Father – George Benson

500 Miles High – Chick Corea, Christian McBride and Brian Blade

Hit Me – Dirty Loops

Believe – Cher

Eye Eye – Out On A Limb

Steal Your Love – Bill Wood & The Woodies

Butterfly – Herbie Hancock

Morning Dance – Spyro Gyra

Xavi – Snarky Puppy

Shofukan (We Like It Here) – Snarky Puppy

I’m calling it a night!


All photographs ©2018 Pat Blythe, A Girl With A Camera except the exterior photo of Wanda’s Pie in the Sky


Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.

Please scroll down and leave a comment. Thank you.

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! 

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