Pat Blythe – A salute to women (of a certain age)….ONE WORD….and music

Another Tuesday and again it is a mishmash of what pops into my mind or maybe I was prodded by something I read. Anyway, I’m currently keeping company with my mom in London and have a watcher keeping an eye on the place. Hopefully the indoor plants will receive a little liquid refreshment tomorrow….I’m sure they’re a little parched by now. My front lawn will need a serious haircut (not unlike myself) this coming weekend after all the rain that’s heading in our direction. My tulips are blooming and Chris’s Forget-Me-Nots will be out in full force. The lilies were already poking through as was the Star of Persia. Snow or not, spring is definitely here according to the plant world. We humans will just have to be patient.

A salute to women (of a certain age)….just because

We’ve just celebrated Mother’s Day and really, it’s all about the women in our lives. From your favourite aunt, your best friend’s mom, a special school teacher, your mother-in-law, your music instructor or swimming coach….anyone who inspired, mentored, befriended, listened, comforted and most of all loved you unconditionally. It’s also about those women who went beyond the norm, pushed the barriers and still keep going, never giving up. Here are some of women I discovered on my travels pouring over magazines, newspaper articles and online research.

Viola (Schmitz) Smith – born November 29, 1912.

Viola will be 108 years young this year and she is still playing drums. One of the first professional female drummers, Viola started playing the drums in the 1920s with the family band, The Schmitz Sisters Family Orchestra. Consisting of the seven (Viola was number six) sisters, they toured the RKO vaudeville circuit and movie theatres. Viola and her sister Mildred eventually started their own all female orchestra, the Coquettes, in 1938.

Viola on drums

In 1942 Viola wrote an article for Down Beat magazine titled “Give Girl Musicians a Break!”. Viola argues that “woman musicians could play just as well as men. She argued, “In these times of national emergency, many of the star instrumentalists of the big name bands are being drafted. Instead of replacing them with what may be mediocre talent, why not let some of the great girl musicians of the country take their place?” Fast forward to 2020 and has anything changed?

Viola Smith: America’s Original Hep Girl On Tom Tom TV

Viola attended Julliard, performed in Phil Spitainy’s Hour of Charm Orchestra and the NBC orchestra, recorded for film, led her own band Viola and her Seventeen Drums, was part of the original production of Cabaret…..and the list goes on. Her signature 13 drums, particularly the two 16-inch toms at shoulder height, were never duplicated. As of April 2019, Viola was still “laying it down” with the Forever Young Band in Costa Mesa. She is one of the oldest mainstream musicians still alive.

Colette Maze – born June 16, 1914, Paris, France

Maze began playing at the age of five but her love for the piano started when she was two or three-years-old. Learning to play by ear, she would sound out songs on the piano the children upstairs sang or played on the piano themselves. Maze entered the École normale de musique de Paris at the age of 15 and became a piano teacher, a lifelong profession.

At the tender age of 103 she released her fourth album dedicated to Claude Debussy, celebrating the centenary of his death. Maze is the mother of director Fabrice Maze. Her secret for longevity….four hours of piano every day, three fresh eggs and a glass of Graves.

Colette Maze – BBC News

When asked what playing the piano had brought her in life, she replied, “Everything. Everything, because, well you know what men are like — not exactly reliable. But the piano is always faithful. It responds. You ask and it gives.”

Mieko Nagaoka – born July 31, 1914, Yamaguchi, Japa

To assist in the recovery from a knee injury, Meiko began swimming at 80 years of age. Beginning with simple water exercises, Mieko gradually learned how to swim and by 82 was swimming on her own. At 84 she started Masters swimming in Japan and at 88 made her first appearance at the Masters Worlds in 2002 in New Zealand. At 90 Mieko competed in Italy, winning three silver medals and also established a world record in the 800m freestyle. She currently holds 24 World Records. Training four times a week with a coach Mieko prefers swimming long distances so she can take her time. Her method is slow and steady.

Mieko Nagaoka sets 1,500m record at age 100

Currently living alone the swimming “bug” has been passed down to her son and her grandchildren. At 100 she released her first book, “I’m 100 Years Old and the World’s Best Active Swimmer”. According to Mieko, “The secret is to eat well and stay active. It’s no good sitting around at my age. I want to keep swimming until I’m 105 – and beyond that.” Mieko will be 106 in July and yes, she’s still swimming.

Marjorie Gilbert – born January, 1916, Aberdare, Wales

At 100 years young Marjorie (Bo) Gilbert became the oldest model to grace the pages of Vogue in 2016. Her life changed inexorably after receiving an invitation to participate in a high profile photo shoot for Harvey Nichols celebrating Vogue’s centenary. Preparing for the camera she was tended to by a hairstylist and makeup artist and found herself dressed in The Row, Victoria Beckham, Dries Van Noten and rocking Valentino glasses.

Harvey Nichols Celebrates Vogue at 100

A woman who always took care of her appearance, Bo never goes without her heels and lipstick. “I do things I think a lot of people wouldn’t at my age and I’ve always liked to keep myself looking quite decent, even if I’m not going out. I just suit myself. I certainly don’t dress up for boys.”


Can I have a word…..just ONE WORD

I’m open to all kinds of music but I’m a rock ‘n’ roll baby at heart. Having spent my teenage years growing up during the late sixties through the 70s, the bands and artist of that time were my strongest influence. Prior to that it was whatever my parents listened to, from Harry Belafonte to Barbra Streisand to Petula Clark to Glenn Miller.  A song or a piece of music, lyrically and/or melodically has to catch my attention, persuade me to pause and listen, take me away on a journey, touch my heart, uplift my soul or simply encourage my feet and my body to move.

Petula Clark, Barbra Streisand, Glenn Miller & Harry Belafonte

There are a number of genres that have never been at the top of my hit list but I can appreciate the influences they’ve had over the years with the music I do listen to. I was also fortunate enough to have a few friends introduce me to a wide variety of artists over the years, some of them relatively obscure or specialized (meaning not in the mainstream), such as Gentle Giant, Weather Report, Return to Forever or even Maggie Bell. These were not albums I was looking for in the bins of the record store nor were they artists I heard on the radio….at least not the many radio stations I tuned into.

Mahavishnu Orchestra

Fast forward to now and along comes the Mahavishnu Orchestra, David Blamires, Jeff Beck and Pat Metheny and a whole new world opened up.  Oh, I had listened to and thoroughly enjoyed jazz in its many variations, but not quite like this.

A rather large influence in my musical life more recently has been Paul DeLong and his band ONE WORD. With a deep passion for jazz-fusion, or more specifically fusion, DeLong decided to form his own fusion band several years ago. It has gone through some recent changes including the addition of new players and a brand new name. Now formally called Paul DeLong’s ONE WORD, the new lineup managed to squeeze in two sold-out performances before our world turned upside down.

Aptly named after the Mahavishnu Orchestra piece One Word from their Birds of Fire album, DeLong’s band is comprised of Victoria Yeh – electric violin, Michael Murray – electric guitar, Marco Luciani – keyboards, Steve Lucas – bass and Paul DeLong – drums/gong. ONE WORD performs classic jazz fusion music by Mahavishnu Orchestra, Jeff Beck, Return to Forever, Allan Holdsworth, Tony Williams Lifetime, Weather Report and The Dixie Dregs.

Paying homage to the current times, the band collaborated on the following video. DeLong chose Sanctuary, a mournful yet hopeful piece that speaks to and weeps for world we are living in today. The band is scheduled to perform at the Rex Hotel Jazz and Blues Bar on July 9. Fingers crossed. Click the link below to hear the full piece.

Today’s music selections are a rather eclectic mix of years and genres. Some are obviously music of those mentioned in the column, others are randomly selected, basically whatever turns my crank at that specific moment. A little bit for everyone’s taste……

Nancy Powers of Cabaret Kit Kat Band (the band performs the song Cabaret)

Ondine – Colette Maze interprète Debussy

The Swimming Song – Loudon Wainwright III

One Word – Mahvishnu Orchestra

Downtown – Petula Clark

Jamaica Farewell – Harry Belafonte

Child in Time – Deep Purple

Moonlight Serenade – Glenn Miller

The Way We Were – Barbra Streisand

Aquarius – The Fifth Dimension

Spring Ain’t Here – Pat Metheny Group

Daydream Believer – The Monkees



Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.

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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 – A salute to women (of a certain age)….ONE WORD….and music”

  1. Damon Hines Says:

    Nobody does it better or more generously, thank you, Pat! 👍👍😘🎶😁😎💞

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