Tuesday, 24 November 2015


i met anthony davey in the very early 80s
we were dating sisters - janet and heather armstrong
beautiful young women who helped us both figure out our early 20s

tony was immediately cooler than i was
he dressed cool
spoke cool
and just had that kind of cool swagger about him
but i was a better musician than him
so our relationship began with me teaching him how to play bass
he had some horrible hockey stick of a guitar
but we sat upstairs in janet’s bedroom and jammed
i showed him where to put his fingers
and how to do a walking bass line
he took to it effortlessly
a couple months later
we were on the road together
and this went on for 30 years

we travelled non stop
quebec and ontario
we learned how to play in these crazy clubs
hundreds of them
all through our twenties
we played in bars
bingo halls
strip joints
the hells angels clubhouse
we got hired by prisons and for a while - we were the select band of inmates in ontario and quebec
we always had money
and if we didn’t - tone would find a job
and then get me in
that was the way it was
we were a package deal

the happiest i remember being was in minden ontario
we were playing at the rockcliff hotel
we were 23
6 nights a week with a saturday matinee
we stayed in these run down rooms above the bar
no tv
just a bed and a dresser with one washroom down the hall
it was about 11am
we were just waking up
randy was standing in the hall running a brush through his long black hair
randy was asking tony if his ancestors came from zimbabwe
tone was telling him that his family actually came from scambatty 
it made no sense
it was a ridiculous moment
but it belied a carefree lifestyle and mind set
a bohemian way of life that in that moment
i knew i would never veer from
that day me and tone had a greasy breakfast with a beer
floated on inner tubes down the river that ran through town
ate the best ceasar salad for lunch
drank milk shakes for afternoon tea
and had dinner with one of the locals - he was a comedian and he did bits for us during the dinner
that night we played for a crowd of maybe 30 people 
met some girls and went down to the river where we all made out on benches
this was a wednesday
it was glorious

tone was into thrift shopping decades before it became a thing
he had that kind of vibe that allowed him to wear anything 
and make it look cool

tone myself and adam played a ton of hockey in our 30s
we were on a house league team
but the real fun was at the pick up games at UCC
one game - tone was put on the other team
i was playing defence
i knew his game
he was an excellent hockey player
but i knew his game
and i spent the entire game shutting him down
and it bugged him so much
he got scrappy with me
at the end of one shift
he punched me
i didn’t go down
he was fighting irish at times
i like that
that attitude served him well
he didn't suffer any bullshit from anyone
he was true iron hearted irish

we loved the same music
we liked the same bands
we almost liked the same clothes
tone got caught up in the hair metal thing for a bit
des and i made fun of him for this

we took Lsd together and had some enlightening trips
we were young men 
free and full of adventure
our lives were ours
with no one to answer to
we were independent thinkers
our education came from surviving with only a self provided structure

another one of the happiest times of my life
was with tone in wawa ontario
we’d been on this killer tour
3 - maybe 4 months 
drive all day sunday
arrive and play for 6 nights
you can get a little stir crazy on the road 
so one day
myself tone randy and glenn 
got all the mattresses from our rooms
and set them up like a padded chamber
and commenced with an afternoon of tag team wrestling
turns out our rooms were right about the hotel office
the owner comes upstairs - opens the door - takes stock of the chaos
and calls our agent wanting a rebate on the agreed fee
we’d had enough
we had been gone for so long
we had changed
we packed up and left - forgoing any money that we were owed
the bar owning left screaming in our dust
it was time to go home
when we pulled into toronto - we sang oh canada at the top of our lungs
we had changed

an agent came to see us - gary pring
we were playing original music
we were okay
but not great
he suggested that we put together a stones band
i had just met des
and i knew jim cassels from my early teens
all we needed was another guitar player
tone said that his brother was getting pretty good on guitar
okay - pup was in
and with that the midnite ramblers were formed
and we never stopped working for the rest of the 80s
these were magical defining times
we’d graduated up a level
we no longer had to pay for pop
in fact - bars started giving us free beer
tone pup des jim and me
we were on an adventure
young men playing in a rock n roll band
travelling and carrying on
blazing a trail
there was vulnerability and compassion
we took care of each other
we shared music and ideals
we had opinions
we fought and argued
but most of all we played
and played
me tone des jim and pup
the five of us went through some hidden door together
came out different - bonded
it was glorious

tone really started honing his bass skills 
and he started encouraging me to play harmonica
i’d practice in the car with him
then only to wimp out on stage and opt instead for another guitar solo
but tone was persistent 
and with that i started playing harp onstage
years later - me tone garce and buttles were in a band
and i was beginning to play piano
i’d bring it to the gig - set it up
but wouldn’t play it 
tone would have nothing of it
he pushed
and one night - in jackson’s point ($750 for 4 nights) (seven five oh)
i played piano on stage
i was so pleased - i looked up at tone for approval
but he was so cool
he kept his back to me and took a swig from a beer 
and then - as the next song started - he looked over and nodded at me
i owe a big part of the man i am today to anthony davey

tone got a gig in dubai
it was 1993
where was dubai?
what kind of a gig?
what what what what?
tone got me on the gig as 2nd guitar player and keys
this is how i got to meet brian and troy and randy
so we flew to the other side of the world
and discovered that the gig was on hold
we’d still get paid 
but there was no gig
i can’t explain the absolute surreal vibe that our lives took on
we were living in a really nice hotel
3 meals a day provided
all the free time in the world
those kind of circumstances change a person
tone stayed on with troy
and did a victory lap with another band before coming home
me - i came home with a brand new plan
this experience - it set me up with new maps
i came home dreaming bigger
all because of tone

we went off and got married
and had babies
we fell out of touch for a while
but we were always connected
i was proud when i heard about all of his successes as a runner
run anto
run like the fuckin’ wind
leave the ghosts in your dust

i'll remember us laughing 
i don’t think i’ve ever laughed more with anyone else
we had so many silly sayings and bits
we were happy

anthony davey was my friend 
he lived his days with strength and grace
he remains a strong beautiful man
nothing will ever take that away

november 24, 2015
irish whiskey


Saturday, 24 October 2015

Mark Yannetta phones home

Classic Albums Live, 2015, OCT 17
Jimi Hendrix - Are You Experienced
Folsom, California
Toronto crew = Clifton and Mark Y.
Flight departed Toronto, arrived in San Francisco.
At Pearson airport it took almost 1.5 hrs from check-in to clearing customs.
This seems to becoming typical for US flights out of Pearson.
Arrived almost on schedule in San Francisco (10:30am-ish). Rental car was reserved by Tracy which was very important because there were people showing up with no reservation and no cars available.
Since we arrived the day before show, we took advantage of some San Fran sight-seeing. Awesome day !
Left San Fran about 5:30pm and arrived in Folsom about 8:30pm. There were some minor traffic delays and we stopped for a coffee.
Went to Hampton Inn in Folsom. Rooms are quite large and very comfortable. Would recommend same place in future.
Day of show lobby call was 1:30pm. The LA crew was also there at that time. All are very nice guys. Spent some time hugging and chatting.
LA crew = Blair-drums, Andrew-guitar, Matt-keys
Venue is less than 10 minutes from the hotel.
Arrived at venue just before 2pm. Met with Mary Carrera (booking/promoter) and got along very well.
Backline company arrived about 2:15-ish. Although they seemed to arrive a little late, they had things set up quickly and we were running sound check around 3pm-ish.
Sound check went pretty smoothly with John at FOH and Eduardo on monitors. I think Eduardo is also the stage manager.
Since sound check went fairly quickly, we were able to run through almost every song on the list. This helped us iron out a few bugs.
Afternoon snacks were available and dinner was provided at the venue.
Show time was 8pm. The band did a very good job and Clifton was awesome. There were some very minor imperfections but that’s gonna happen with 4 new guys. The audience seemed to really love the show and Mary was also very happy.
I didn’t get an official number from Mary, but she said we had most of the floor and first 2 rows of the balcony. My guess is it was about 600 people. See attached photos for venue.
Drove back to San Fran the next morning (3hrs) and flew back to Toronto. The drive from Folsom to San Fran was beautiful.
Me and Clifton would like to thank Tracy for sending us from Toronto to San Fran instead of the Buffalo to ????? to Sacramento.
Conclusion : Classic Albums Live put on a great show, the audience loved it, and me and Clifton had a lot of fun.

Friday, 9 October 2015


greetings all

i’ve written a musical
it debuts in toronto in february
at the panasonic theatre on yonge street
i’ve got a good feeling about it
the same way i felt when i started CAL

GIG is the story of five singers and their quest for the lights
alongside two agents and their quest for the money
four musicians play onstage - not in a pit - always interacting
and four ensemble members keep the scenes moving
they physically change the sets
it’s quite the production

the show unfolds like a concert
the twist is that GIG features the backstage onstage
we all get a peek at what goes on behind the scenes
there’s a lot of comedy
a lot of drama
and most importantly - a lot of music
music is the first star of GIG

GIG started out as a TV show
years ago shari and i were at a concert
we were in our seats watching all the pre show goings on
and shari said ‘this would make a great TV show’
i agreed and immediately started writing
i wrote 13 episodes
and wound up meeting with the big decision makers at all the canadian networks
everyone loved it
but nothing happened
i think a lot of that goes on in the TV world
so last summer - i’m up at rob’s cottage
lamenting the work vs. reward vs. hope dynamic
and rob says ‘turn it into a musical’
i agreed and immediately started writing
and recording the music

then i went to see the good people at mirvish
like minded people who love and care deeply for the arts
they loved GIG
and began walking me through the process of getting it to stage
i can’t say enough about mirvish
the legacy of the name alone has ensured quality and commitment 
that embodies the spirit of toronto
we’re up on sale right now
we’re doing a ‘soft launch’ - which means if you’re reading this
you can purchase preferred advance tickets at a discount

because this is a brand new canadian musical
i didn’t have any media to launch with
so i began casting early - drawing deep from the CAL pool
and we made a bunch of promotional videos
they’re all up on the site -  gigmusical.com
we had so much fun shooting them - lexi - as the groupie - is hilarious
there was a moment when we were having our initial meeting
all sitting around a table
i saw all these beautiful hopeful faces looking at me
there was a tangible vibe of aspiration
we all feel like we’re creating something special and important 
we all believe deeply in GIG

find some time and check out the web site
there’s a zen ticket button
and if you click it and follow through
you’ll be supporting the arts and the spirit of the toronto
you’ll be supporting performers musicians and actors 
and you’ll be supporting a dream 
that we all get to take part in
you can say - i was there when it launched

wish us luck
we’re finding our way 
shine on

craig martin
october 9, 2015

coffee and toast with peanut butter

Monday, 3 August 2015


i've been doing a lot of interviews
getting ready for the new season
new towns and cities await
they're all interested in CAL
and the story attached to it

it's been 13 years
i've honed the story
and i've made it understandable
what we do takes a lot of explaining
it doesn't fit into a sentence or a bullet point

the secret weapon of CAL
is found within the audience that comes to see us
they explain it for us
they turn their friends and family on
it's like sharing a good recipe
or an emotional story
because of this i realize
that sharing is the currency of life

the connections i've made through my life
all transmit a steady flow of something real
sprung out of music
these connections reach out and touch others
and we solidify our love and resolve
we reach out during hard times
we let go when things have changed
and there's a song for that moment
chances are
we've performed it
note for note

i have a very large group of musicians that i work with
there's no other organization like ours
my favourite thing is the unusual pairings
CAL puts people together that normally wouldn't fit together
and that coupling creates harmony and beauty
a lot of times it's oscar and felix
i like that

what happens next is these strange pairings spark
and they start to play together outside of CAL
in other shows
i love that
i'm proud of that
i was a catalyst for that
that's currency

i recently did an interview for a financial paper
they wanted to talk about money
i went into it knowing this
i just talked about how important it was
to keep musicians working and on the road
they tried to wrestle me back to commerce
but i insisted that the currency was in the relationships you form
and the interest is rewarded by maintaining them
they didn't bite
and the article was never published
i'm okay with that

i'm about to launch a new project
it's been a very long time coming
it's going to make a big splash and turn a lot of heads
i can't wait
what has been thrilling about putting it all together
is the ease of getting the right people involved
i'm 54 in a month
my entire adult life has been on stages
so when i started assembling a new team
i realized that the relationships of my life
have connected me in deep and profoundly professional ways
and that these connections are the best kind of currency
if you live true
people connect to you

it hasn't been easy
CAL demands a lot
i have paid my dues
and i continue to pay my dues
hard times come
and hard times go
but i endure
i've survived
- lawsuits
- imitators
- detractors who deal in smirky cruelty
- a beating
- 3 years with zero profit
- disease
- death threats
- a marriage
- 2 relationships
- van breakdowns
- border arrests
- border refusals
- psychotic women
- a car crash
- white knuckle landings
- sketchy businessmen
- james gray's death
- the 2nd set of the Boston album show
we've all got our strengths built upon adversity

we all deal
we survive
that is our collective currency
there's a song for that too
you can hear it at any one of our shows
there will be a moment that you connect to the other you
the one that harbours a secret heart
full of emotions that sizzle and snap
and as this current connects to you
you realize
i'm alive

august 4, 2015
michelob ultra and beans on toast

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Undercover Boss (apologies to the CAL alumni)

it was undercover boss month
i loved it
i got to play guitar with the CAL CCR band
and at the end of the run
a lot of things came to light

first off
it's a lot of work
there's no free rides
we don't have roadies
we set up and tear down our own gear
and we don't have guitar techs
we move fast and efficiently
it's a true team effort
you've got your job
you've got to keep your perimeter tight
no stray chords or shorting jacks
no contamination from outside sources

i've always loved the guitar players perimeter on stage
dom's always got new bits and pieces of gear
clifton's perimeter is the shiniest
and whatever you do
don't step on bobby's chords

as my perimeter evolved
i was more and more watchful as to who got to cross it
during the show
marty would arm himself with a cowbell
and cross over
then mike would drift by
leaving trace amounts of cologne behind

i started to become the musician that i yelled at the most
it's a coveted spot
and it taught me a lot
so here are my three apologies to the alumni

the monitor issue
i apologize to all of the alumni for hurrying them through sound check
sometimes we're pressed for time
especially when there's chips backstage
i wanted everything in my monitor
if there was a stage guy eating a bag of chips
i wanted that in my monitor
and good for mike for not settling
marty - as you would think - is pretty easy going
but mike
he wants it 'just so'
and i respect that now
i apologize for hurrying everyone along

the tuning issue
i hate david love
him and his tuning
then he starts playing
and you forget that you hate him
i tuned the most on the tour
i wanted the pretty lights on my tuner lighting up and aligning
i wanted them all night
they were always there for me
validating me
i apologize for my tuning addiction
me and donnie are both in treatment together

johnny b
i had no idea
i'd heard stories
many of which i started
there's a video on our FB page
it says it all
i apologize

supposedly pride is one of the seven deadly sins
my one question for the dali lama would be
is pride really so bad?
because i'm so proud of the way we travel together
and take care of each other

on a side note
i've been getting these really cool emails and messages
from people who've been to dozens of shows
nancy's up to 100 - wow!
i think we need a commemorative shirt for 50
and a special one for nancy

it's hard to sell tickets
it takes a lot of work
people are picky
and smart
we remain comfort food
in a market of fireworks
CAL endures

march 4, 2015
yogurt and walnuts

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Physical Graffiti - 40 Years Gone

most albums don't survive the test of time
we're lucky to live in a time
where we see the masters still alive
and celebrating their enduring works

after 40 years
physical graffiti is one of maybe 40 albums that endures
it sold more than 15 million copies
and it remains a massive testament
to the ethos of the double album

led zeppelin were hated by the critics
outside of creem magazine
no one really gave them any love
their albums were always panned
and their live shows received terrible reviews
they were referred to as a 'people's band'
as if that was a bad thing

but zeppelin endured
they ignored everyone
and just kept making great music
they toured and sold out venue after venue
no awards
no favourable press
no singles

i think not wanting to have any real singles (45s)
set the recipe for physical graffiti
i imagine them in a studio
all in the same room
playing together
and listening to each other
figuring things out slowly
looking for that magic slice of a riff or a fill
that would go down in history
plant scribbling lyrics
jpj adding colour
then jimmy would take the tapes
and start overdubbing
knowing when to leave it raw
and when to add the hammer

physical graffiti takes time
there's a lot of music on those 4 sides
it harkens back to an era
when we had the time to listen to 4 sides of music
in one sitting
we were young
and there was nothing but imagination to accompany us
as we listened
we dreamed
and planned
and loved
and wrestled
anyone over 40 will tell you significance of those afternoons
in that we started composing our identities
alongside these powerful works of music

the CAL zep band has been tearing this album apart
it's like a magnificent imported toaster we've opened up
there's gears and coils and wires all over the counter
and on march 6 we roll into massey hall
and heat everyone up with a performance
that shows us at our best
(the above paragraph is one of my worst metaphors ever)

5 guitarists - led by dom polito
will ably demonstrate how complex and beautiful
physical graffiti is
dom polito is the world's best zeppelin guitar player
i scour the internet looking for someone who plays better zep than dom
i never find them

rick vatour will drum the songs
with the most attentive accuracy
rick is the world's best zeppelin drummer
no one falls on a beat like he does
he's our age
rick demonstrates what a lifetime of love sounds like

nick walsh is canadian rock royalty
i still like to go to clubs and hear music
one night i'm at a dive having a fine time
and nick gets up to sing
i couldn't move
he was so good
his voice was a siren of power and beauty
i knew instantly that he was the right fit for the CAL zep band
since then nick and i have had many conversations
about the majesty and poetic verve of plant's lyrics
a sadly over looked and never referenced part of the zep legacy
plant carried on a long traditional british poetic vibe
i urge everyone to listen to the album with the lyrics
which are available on line

a funny aside
when we were young
the lyrics weren't available
quite often you had to make up phonetically sounding correct words
case in point:
during the vocal break at the end of 'in my time of dying'
we all had a different idea of what was being said
i thought it was 'oh my teeth ache'
rick thought it was 'oh my jeans fit'
dom thought it was 'oh my tea yeah'
i'll leave it to you to do your own investigation

physical graffiti is 40 today
a generation sends congratulations to the masters
you created another enduring masterpiece
that we will continue to carry throughout our lives

on friday march 6
classic albums live will honour the album
with a note for note - cut for cut recital
it's an evening that those in attendance
will talk about for a long time to come
perhaps 40 years gone

february 25, 2015
coffee and rye toast

Sunday, 15 February 2015

The Great American Songbook

i'm in los angeles
i missed the snowstorm back home
i stayed behind for a couple days
the CAL west coast pepper show
still ringing in my ears

i felt bad for the rest of the band
cancelled flights and long layovers
this is the price of what we do
there's always a risk
we beat on
i will forever buy them drinks

i've written about my love of california before
the lifestyle
the opportunity
the weather
but this time
my trip was a trip
and i walked the long pacific shoreline day after day
soaking up anything that radiated

and i thought about
the great american songbook
and how my version of the great american songbook
is different from the one
that the crooners have been making the rounds with
my great american songbook
starts with 'la woman'
get in the car and discover
i argue that perhaps the doors
are the greatest american band

the genesis of rock n' roll started in the south
but los angeles introduced it to the world

a great story about steely dan
they left new york
came to la
and they immediately started writing songs about new york
'do it again'
that's a perfect song for the great american songbook

dylan's a shoe in
he's a bicoastal dude
still on the road
'like a rolling stone'
that could be anywhere

tom petty's bicoastal too
he and bob were even bicoastal together
'american girl' confirms a nations love for american girls

'scarecrow' by john cougar mellencamp
is a history lesson
the band is tight
and john sounds pissed off
seek this song out
and revisit it
play it for your kids

again to the west coast
'suite judy blue eyes'
this song is smart
it's a math test
very forward thinking
the harmonies are american
and a canadian brings the zen

'tuesday's gone'
by lynyrd skynryd
this song is the new song of the south
lament and remember
there's an honesty to the sound
the vocal is heartfelt

and 'purple rain'
it's beautiful
and it's endured
tight musicianship and esoteric poetry
make sure to reference the album version
with the dreamlike vocal and string line ending the song

east cost now
with 'born in the usa'
the obvious choice
because sometimes
there's nothing subtle about america
president's have mistakenly referenced this song
it's a song for people that pay attention

west coast again
the beach boys!
'sloop john b' sounds like a movie
but 'good vibrations' is the document
the proper orchestration would be an undertaking
one day i hope CAL takes on pet sounds

the great american songbook ends  with the 'the last resort'
by the eagles
"we have got to make it here
there is no more new frontier"
being here
that line really hits you

i spend the days walking the beaches
this is the best america can do
and there's a spirit here
that is different from toronto
and new york
you feel welcome here
you look back and reflect
having the ocean roaring up against you
makes you smart
it puts things in perspective

america has been the most gracious host
i hope people post their songs for
the great american songbook
and the reasons why

stand by for the great canadian songbook
but for now america goes first
she's bigger

feb 15, 2015
michelob ultra

Monday, 2 February 2015


hell of a week
started in florida
with the CAL zep band
at the hard rock live in orlando
we flew in on the thursday and chilled
rick vatour made it feel like 1977
nick walsh made his american debut
and everyone loved him
dom polito was sublime and friendly with all the fans

i stayed in florida for a corporate gig
the CAL zep band flew home
and the CAL stones band flew down
and we got the joint jumping with some toe tapping old school rolling stones
it felt like 1977 all over again

flew home on tuesday
 it was back to toronto
for physical graffiti rehearsals
and roy thomson hall preparations

i got to fill in on bass at the CAL zep band rehearsals
i loved it - i was a solid 6.5
i could never be as good as mark yannetta
but i aspired and did my best to round out the rehearsal

then it was off to the sold out RTH show
which was incredible
everyone who attended that night saw the full potential of CAL
there were so many high points
during 'i've got a feeling' - i surveyed the room and saw everyone's head bobbing
during 'the long and winding road' - i got emotional - i was thinking about our collective road and the turns that it's taken
i thought about the years and the miles
as the band - most of whom i've been with for over a decade - played glorious

pre show
i was invited to do a quick video address
to sheridan college
i relayed how fortunate they were
to have chosen an arts based education
i told them to stick with it
and master their craft
because that is true currency
the kind you have from knowing - in your heart -  that you're at the top of your game

next was the sound session address inside roy thomson hall
people who bought tickets to all 4 or our toronto shows
were invited to hang out with yours truly and a couple musicians
this one was really cool
we did the chat on stage with everyone given an exclusive view of
what our point of view looks like
we had some really interesting questions
david love and marty morin were gracious co-hosts

backstage after the let it be show
charlie cutts - CEO of Massey Hall and Roy Thomson Hall
came to hang with us
and share in the vibe of a job well done
turns out he's from scarborough too
we talked about the old neighbourhood
i mentioned that we should meet up at the wexford diner for breakfast one day
charlie said 'how about 9am tomorrow?'
and so it was
we had an amazing talk
i urged him to write his memoirs
he's full of incredible stories all revolving around the hall and it's rich history
charlie is a kind man
the flash of the mover and shaker is still alive and well inside of him
it's a perfect combination

last night was date night
we went dancing
ian goodtimes has a band called the mercenaries
they play here in toronto at a club called the dakota
you go down the stairs and it's 1977 all over again
tight moving soul songs from years back
performed with passion and fun
i felt the familiar sway of shari's hips
as the mercenaries took charge

i received one of those emails
it was from a fan
who spoke of some hard times
and how coming to CAL shows got him through those times
i wrote them back immediately
i said we've all been through rough patches
and for many of us
music really did make the difference

this week is the wall show in kitchener
i urge anyone who wants to experience something real and confirming
to make the drive to see this show
it's going to be one that people talk about

then the CAL zep band lands in oshawa and london
the 401 tour
the CAL zep band are the goodwill ambassadors of the series
we're making a special rick vatour t shirt for the upcoming massey hall
proceeds to the canadian cancer society

speaking of which
we had a few people sign up for volunteer drives
they cited CAL as the catalyst for them to get involved
this warms me and fills me with love
like it was 1977 all over again

february 2, 2015
michelob ultra