I type this through tears. At this moment my old pal Greg Simpson is on life support in a London hospital. And I fear for his life. Suddenly a flood of memories come back to a 20 year friendship all of which involved good times.

Greg came into my sphere as a member of the Canadian Classic Rock Yahoo groups at the dawning of the dial-up internet days. The cast of music industry characters on the mailing list all had nicknames. It was all in good fun. I don’t know who gave Greg Simpson his. It may have been Peter “Shew” Kashur of the Segarini Band. All I know is we called him Soupspoon.

l. to r.: Greg Simpson, Fred Hinnegan, Sharon Vernon, Bob Reid, David Henman

At the time Greg had moved on from being an on-air radio jock and also stepped away from music retail to be a full-time record promoter with his Mindbenders Music company. The industry calls them “pluggers.” These are people who know their way into the hearts and minds of radio station programmers and music directors by hinting and cajoling and pestering them until the songs from clients they represent get added to radio playlists. It was this brand of steely determination and belief in his product (the songs) that made Greg one of the best in the Canadian music business.

Greg with music promoter Nick Panaseiko

Greg worked from a home-base in London, Ontario – a place he’d call home for decades until he left a few years back to be closer to his family in British Columbia (he was originally from Victoria). Last year he made the decision to come back to London and help with the London Music Hall of Fame and the Blues Society (I believe). We discussed this over a four-hour get together at his new digs last December when I delivered copies of the new Skip Prokop book to him.

He had known Skip for years and had a hand in trying to re-introduce Skip’s band Lighthouse to contemporary radio. True North Records had released Lighthouse’s comeback album in the 1990s called Song of the Ages. The label hired Greg to push a lead-off single to radio. They launched “Remember the Times” and got some bites. The stations, however, were itching for an edited version of another song called “Fine China.” The band did the edit and Greg took it to radio. The reaction was passive. The band was pissed. Greg took it in stride. The radio business is a cruel mistress. Greg never let it stop him from digging for the next great track.

While he and I talked on that December day we discussed the crash and burn of the music biz and caught up on the lives of all our mutual friends – particularly those from the old Canadian Classic Rock mailing list – all friendships that had endured. He played me music from the thousands of CDs he was diligently converting to files he could stream. Always up on technology. Always following the trends.

My over -riding joy was when he dialed up the tracks to The Carpet Frogs’ Pretending To Fly CD. It was an album he took great pride in working to radio back in 2006 (on the heels of a teaser EP called Everything Is Beautiful). This was their follow-up to their 1994 debut and expectations were high – especially given their long relationship with Burton Cummings as his backing band. But, there was a sea-change at radio post-Napster and despite the album being a solid production from beginning to end with incredible pop-rock sensibilities it was hit and miss for programmers nationwide.  Again Greg pressed on.

I hired him in and around this same time to work singles for the artists on my own record label. One of the most effective campaigns that Greg did for us was with Tom Hooper (Grapes of Wrath). Tom’s album The Unexplored Cosmos was launched with significant fanfare in April 2002 with full-colour advertising in the music industry trade magazine Canadian Music Network and the CD single for the song “Cardboard Man”.

Greg took the single to radio for us and the reaction was all over the map. The song was up tempo, but in a minor mode so it wasn’t going to translate to pop radio. The major stations capitulated when Greg, who had a great understanding of radio’s needs, drilled down and could actually get stations to really listen.  College radio was enthusiastic, but it meant sending them full CD copies of the entire album. The release soon started showing up on Canadian Music Network’s weekly charts. It was a soft start, but we were happy with the initial interest.

“Messages From Deep Space” was the second single released in late October 2002 off our band Soap Opera’s Ladies And Gentlemen, Welcome to…The Tangiers album.  Greg did the push to radio for us, but received little attention from radio programmers so late in the year. Thankfully, he did a second push at the top of 2003 and got us some decent attention at Rock Radio.

l. to r.: Jaimie, Greg Simpson, Nick Kent, Joe Mannix

Greg also helped us with an artist driven mini-tour around Southern Ontario called The Grand Song Caravan featuring Teenage Head’s Dave Rave and two American acts looking to break in Canada – Kate Schrock and Joe Mannix. When the tour hit his part of the province in June 2003, Greg showed up in full support with his buddy Nick Kent (ex-Marth & The Muffins).

I’ll always be grateful for his help in steering our talent to the right people. And make no mistake – he would turn down work as well if he didn’t believe in the song. Working crap songs to radio is bad for business and so he weighed heavily the need to pay his rent now…or down the line with his reputation solidly upheld. He isn’t greedy. He just wants enough scratch to survive on and to buy a bit of weed.
I’m hoping there will always be time for a chat and a puff. There’s more radio that needs its ass kicked right now.


Skip Prokop’s “Sunny Days” is available as a 325 page book from Bullseye Publishing
Or Amazon

Jaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 41 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 24 years. He is also the author of The Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and editor of “Sunny Days: The Skip Prokop Story.” Available through Amazon.

3 Responses to “GREG SIMPSON – RADIO MAN EXTRAORDINAIRE by Jaimie Vernon”

  1. Great article Jaimie. I got to meet Greg a couple of times – an interesting man with quite a career and a million stories. Wishing his family and friends the very best ~

  2. Bob Reid Says:

    Nicely done, Jaimie. I’m pleased to be in that one photo … with good old Fred, too … Jeez

  3. Kathy Hahn Says:

    Thank you. Nice tribute to a wonderful soul. Hovering. He was always there to support me with my small Island roster – then RCA/BMG – worked alongside him at CMW & the Intl Marketplace. He has just always been there. Hovering.

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