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I’ll take a moment here to step away from my narration role and speak on a more personal level.  The following nine members were the ones who were with the band up until the end.  They range from Cliff Hunt, Darrell Nameth and Bruce Wilson, who were the only three members to be with the band from start to finish to Bruce Ley, who was the last joining member in 1971.  Together with their agent, Herb Lock and the three member road crew of Rick Moses, Brad Stone and Peter ‘Humble’ Hume, these are the thirteen people with whom I worked in the Brass Union, the ones that ‘took it out’ to the end, in the spring of 1972.
It is probably most fitting to start this section with Len Blum, as he was arguably one of the biggest creative influences in the band from when he joined, late in 1968, replacing the departed Vuk Kovinich on lead guitar.  Together with Bruce Ley, Len wrote the script and music for the band’s Fairytale.  He wrote both sides of the band’s 1970-release 45 rpm record, along with a number of the band’s original tunes.  Together with Darrell Nameth, he worked out most of the band’s cover tune arrangements – arrangements that, without exception, instilled a distinctive Brass Union style into every song the band played.  This was just a prelude to what was to come for Len. After the band broke up, Len’s goal was to continue his music career, but being unsure of finding work, he applied and was accepted at McMaster University.  During the summer before, he produced, wrote arrangements for, and collected talent for a ’24 Million Sellers’ album at Sound Canada in Toronto.  “I worked day and night on that project, writing out every part, arranging the tracks.  It was a lot of work, but I really enjoyed working in the studio”, Len told me recently.  In the fall of that year, he attended McMaster, but stayed working with Sound Canada as a studio musician.  The payment for his studio work was in ‘studio hours’, so while attending school, he was able to work on some of his own projects.  Len says: “My deal with myself was if studio work came up, I would miss classes as I was dedicated to becoming a professional musician.”  Len continued working in these two areas until he graduated from McMaster with a Sociology degree, three years later.  By this time, he had produced a number of artists through the studio, as he laid the groundwork for becoming a record producer – “Something that yielded no success”, he added.  After McMaster, Len returned to live performances (gigging), working out of Toronto, playing both guitar and bass guitar.  He continued to collaborate with Bruce Ley (from Brass Union) writing songs and performing in different bands until well into the late 1970’s. Len’s next ‘adventure’ (my words) was linking up with a jingle producer named Bob McGuigon at Memory Bank Advertising.  Bob specialized in producing radio commercials for medium-size Canadian markets.  “Bob would call me when he got a contract, give me all the info about the company, what they wanted, and I’d start writing and arranging these jingles.”  Bob was the sales end; Len was the creative end.  Len continued on with this venture until a few years into his next major career move – that of screenwriting.  “I became so exhausted when I started movie writing during the day, working in the studio on jingles at night, that my movie-writing partner, Dan Goldberg said: ‘Look, you can be a musician or you can be a movie writer, but you can’t do both.  You have to make a choice’”  So, as Len phased out his jingle work, which by this time, he had received a number of awards (the present company, Rosnick-McKinnon Productions is still going strong and very successful), he began his screenwriting career. Len’s movie credits are vast, from his Genie Award-winning script for Bill Murray’s ‘Meatballs’ in 1979, to recent releases of Steve Martin’s ‘Pink Panther’ and the 2006 release of ‘Over the Hedge’, an animated children’s movie.  He wrote both the movies ‘Stripes’ and ‘Heavy Metal’, released in 1981, ‘Spacehunter’ (1983), and was the writer and producer of the 1988 release, ‘Feds’.  He wrote ‘Beethoven’s 2nd’, released in 1993 and wrote the story that put Howard Stern’s movie, ‘Private Parts’ in the movie theatres in 1997.  Oddly, Len told me recently:  “I was still carrying my guitar when I traveled during these years.  My thinking was that I’ll make enough money writing movies to buy my own recording studio, then I’ll stop writing movies.  I really liked being a musician but I was more successful at screenwriting [financially].”  He had begun construction of his home studio when, by the mid 80’s, as happened to Rick Moses as well, music went digital and pre-80’s sound equipment became obsolete.  “By the time I was able to finish the studio, I was completely unfamiliar with the new equipment so I let go of that dream.  It was at about that time that I stopped carrying my guitar with me all the time.”  So Len, for the next two decades, wrote movies – and very successfully, too. Len talked to me about the ‘process’ of working with Howard Stern in writing ‘Private Parts’.  “In the first draft, I convinced the audience to like Howard – at least be more likeable that he was on the air.  I would show parts of his life that the audience didn’t know about to make them sympathetic towards him.”  He went on, ”After he read my first script, I got a call from him saying: ‘Len, I guess I’m going to have to accept the fact that people who see the movie are going to like me.’ – and that was a huge moment, because up until then, more than 50% of his audience would tune in because they hated him.  And once he made that call and realized this, I knew that the movie was going to be made.”  This interactive process between Len and different people associated with the movie would be repeated over and over.  “I think I counted 22 start-to- finish rewrites for Private Parts before it was finished”, Len told me.  “My batting average across my career was .500.  For every script made into a movie, there’d be another for which I was hired, that would not be made, for a variety of reasons.”  Len wrote movies up until about five years ago, when he left the business to start a new adventure, studying and teaching yoga.  “It’s my third career”, he told me a while back.  When he told me that he’s not written since, I asked Len if another good offer came his way, would he do it?  “I get offers all the time”, he replied. “I tell them no, I’m not interested.”  I asked him why.  “Once I made Pink Panther, I decided to take 6 months off to see what life was like.  I’d been in a little room [writing] for over 20 years, trying to imagine a world that doesn’t really exist, and trying to make it funny.” Near the end of his screenwriting career, he began writing a personal-experience ‘movie diary’ for the National Post called, ‘Going to the Movies’.  To transition from the unreal world of screenwriting to the more personal nature of his new column, Len began taking yoga classes – first weekly, then daily, to eventually taking advanced teaching-level courses.  “I liked the people that I worked with in yoga, as compared to the L.A. movie business.  When one of my yoga teachers suggested that I take teacher training, I was immensely flattered, checked into it, and began a nine- month training program.  By the time I finished that course, it was just a matter of completing my current obligations as a film writer and incorporating yoga teaching [into my life].” In 2003, Len moved to Montreal, as his wife Heather had just become Principal (President) of McGill University and he became a teacher and eventual partner at United Yoga Montreal (http://www.unitedyogamontreal.com), where he is today.  Len and Heather have been married now for 39 years and have a daughter Sidney, age 24, who is a Project Coordinator for a research project on care of the elderly.  Much of Len’s days now are spent either in his yoga studio or helping Heather with the social responsibilities of being President of a National University.  Len remarked, “What benefactors [to the university] want is really an honest connection.  As a yoga teacher, with no particular agenda, I can provide that for these people.  Remember, I was in a room alone writing for 25 years,” he said, with a laugh.  “I’m very happy to meet people and interact.  I don’t want anything more from these people than just contact and to get to know them.” I asked Len one final question:  Were there parts of his past that he’s missed?  He replied:  “I like being with musicians, because musicians tend to believe in magic because they experience it on a regular basis.  For that same reason, I like being in the yoga community, for they too experience magic on a regular basis.”  I asked if he was happy these days, and his reply was:  “I’m really happy.”  There’s not much more that I can add to that, my friend.
Len Blum Lead Guitar
Of all the Brass Union members, John Willett has arguably kept music as a part of his life more than any of us.  With John, everything else he has done, in some respect, has been to support his continuing wish to play music.  I asked him recently about how he felt when the band broke up and replied rather directly:  “I was crushed.  It just ended and I don’t think I ever really knew what happened.”  Within months of the band’s break-up, John had joined the band 'Tenderness', and played and toured with them throughout Ontario and eastern Canada for a few years.  Then, he teamed up with local musician, Alex Alexandervich, then Maurice Bourassa and formed the band 'Blind Voyage' – touring mostly northern Ontario and Quebec for a few more years.  By the mid 70’s, he’d joined up with Louis Curtis and his 'Show of the Century'.  Louis was a Latin singer/conga player who had studied under Desi Arnaz.  While still working with Louis Curtis, John got an offer to join another top-level local band, 'Vehicle', which he took – staying with them for a number of years. In 1977, John married his current wife Sandra and in 1980 he began a full-time day job working for Canada Post.  “All I’ve ever wanted to do, to put any effort into, is play music”, John told me a few years ago.  But with marriage, the birth of their son Matthew, and all the responsibilities that naturally come with such things, John began his 24 years working for Canada Post.  “I worked the first 10 years full-time, but then just part-time for the last 14 years so I could spend more time with music.  Finally, about 5 years ago, John took an early retirement and left the Post Office for good.  At the time, his home had three P.A. systems, a full drum kit, many guitar amps, and a number of working bands that called his basement ‘home’. John was only working at the Post Office a short time when he linked up with another well-known Hamilton musician, Phil Kott, and in the early 1980’s, put together the band:  ‘The Fabulous Fumes’.  This extremely tight 4-piece unit (guitar, bass, drums and John on vocals, trumpet and flute) would eventually be reformed in 1986 as an eight-piece horn band called 'Powerhouse'.  The band Powerhouse has been a Hamilton-area ‘tradition’ for 25 years now, is still going strong, and is about as close as one could come to the sound, songlist and instrumentation of the Brass Union band.  John is the only member, of the well over two dozen musicians that have been part of the band over the years, to be with the band from start to present.  With Powerhouse, John has played over 1,000 shows in every venue imaginable – from private parties to festivals of 50,000 people, from as far west at Chicago. Illinois, to as far east as across the pond for a two-week tour of Portugal and the Azores Islands in 2006.  And there are no signs yet of any of this letting up. John Willett and I have been friends since we sat beside each other in our high school music classes.  During his high school years, John was known as one of the best cornet players in all of Ontario.  And in the time I’ve known him, he’s been directly responsible for hauling me out of school, twice – once by bringing me on board the Brass Union, which eventually ended my high school years, and a second time years later, when he called me half-way through my fourth-year of an English degree.  He said he wanted to put together an old soul/horn band and was I interested?  In defense of John though, neither time was a particularly hard sell, because like John, given the choice, I’d always rather be playing music. John Willett still lives in the Hamilton area with his wife Sandy (of 32 years) – a student recruiter at Mohawk College for the last 29 years.  Their son Matthew, like his father, carries on the family tradition of being an excellent trumpet player – touring as far away as Portugal a few years ago.  Growing up in a home where, for his entire life, bands have been practicing regularly in the basement most certainly has had a lot to do with the fact that Matt has completed both the Mohawk College and McMaster music programs and is today teaching music in the Hamilton Elementary School system. In the forty years since the Brass Union, John has married, raised a family, worked a day-job for a quarter- century and is still out there doing what he loves to do the most – play music.  When the love of music is in your blood, it never goes away.  He and I will be sharing a stage again this weekend, playing Chicago Transit and James Brown music to a room full of whomever is in attendance.  No, nothing much has changed really in four decades.  For John Willett, it’s still all about playing music. Webmaster’s Note:  Sadly, following a short but very courageous battle with pancreatic and liver cancer, John passed away on September 2, 2013 at the age of 63.  John is one of only a few band members to carry on with his music once the Brass Union ended, moving to a number of excellent 70’s and 80’s bands before starting his own 8-piece rock/horn band in the Hamilton/Burlington area in the mid 80’s -- a band, still going strong heading into its fourth decade.  John continued to do what he loved to do best throughout his adult career and stayed performing regularly right up until a few months before his passing.  John’s larger-than-life personality and his inherent love of all things musical will be greatly missed by all those who knew him.
John Willett Trumpet
Terry Bramhall was the band’s fourth and final bass player, recruited in the spring of 1969 to replace the departed Mike Thornton.  Terry, like John Willett above, has continued to perform music his entire life.  When the band broke up, Terry started playing in Toronto, backing up a lounge singer.  From there, he linked up with a booking agent and auditioned, then joined the band Dillinger.  With Dillinger, Terry went on to record a couple of progressive rock albums on the ‘Daffodil’ record label – albums that are still getting airplay in the northern U.S.A.  Another Brass Union alumnus, Cliff Hunt, was the one who put together the record deal, acting as the band’s manager.  Terry stayed with Dillinger for three years, then played locally for the next three years with a variety of groups.  Next on Terry’s list was rejoining Ray Materick’s band – he had played with them briefly after the Brass Union before going to Toronto.  With Ray, Terry toured Canada and spent a good deal of time in the studio.  By the late 70’s, Ray Materick had become quite popular throughout Canada.  Terry stayed with Ray for about three years then returned to the ‘Holiday Inn’ circuit, touring extensively across Canada, backing up a female singer in a band called ‘True Motion’.  When that was over in the early 80’s, Terry joined the local band ‘White Frost’, stayed with them for a while, then played with Rita Chiarelli’s band for a while. This trend of moving from band to band has gone on with Terry his entire life.  When work was scarce, he’d move along to another band.  In 40 years, he’s played in just about every type of live act that one could imagine.  “By the end of the 80’s, it was tough in the business. I was playing with Rita [Chiarelli], gigs were scarce, I was living off my credit cards way more than I wanted to and I was playing the blues”, Terry told me recently.  “It was suggested to me that I move to New Country Music as it would add 25 years to my career.  And that’s exactly what I did.  I went over to New Country and found myself working six nights a week.”  And Terry stayed with this for nearly the next 20 years, playing with bands like the ‘Jack Diamond Band’.  They were a recording act with airplay all over the world.  Terry formed his own group during this period, ‘Maximum Bob’, which lasted a couple of years.  Then he joined the George Belmore band, then the Nick Charles band, which takes us to the present day. As you can see, Terry’s stayed as a professional musician throughout his life, but in a move that, I must admit, has surprised many of the Brass Union alumni, Terry has begun another career in the last few years – that of an Investor Relations Consultant in the field of Precious Metal mining.  I’ll try to explain a field that for the most part, left me with my mouth open while talking to Terry about it. “I started reading the newpaper stock pages as a hobby just after the Brass Union.  I’ve been playing in the stock market since I was 19 years old – just penny stocks.  As the years went on, and I got to know people in the business, I began to learn the communications and public relations business [with respect to stock trading],” Terry said.  By the year 2000, Terry began working as an investment consultant from his home office.  Then a few years ago, he got an offer to move to the west coast and work full-time in the business.  “I protested at first, but they made me a great offer.  I figured that I still had my health, I don’t have any family obligations, and if I was going to make a major change in my life, this was the time to do it.”  He went on:  “I came out here [Vancouver] for an exploratory interview.  They said yes to my demands, I said yes to their offer, and I dropped everything in Ontario and moved out here immediately.  I gave everything away that I owned (almost) and came out here with just the clothes on my back, a laptop, my suitcase and my bass guitar.” Terry is now living in Vancouver, B.C. and works as an Investor Relations Consultant.  I asked Terry to explain what he does in a nutshell for those of us who might not know:  “I provide communication services for emerging companies to maintain good shareholder relations.  I’m on the phone and the computer all day.  Basically, I talk to shareholders and explain to them why their stock went up or went down.”  Terry works in conjunction with a number of companies – gold mining and hi-tech companies – on a contract basis. Personally, Terry is single (but in a relationship) with no children.  He’s always been an avid physical fitness person, working out daily in the gym for the last 20 years and running the Vancouver marathon last summer.  I will add here that shortly after he moved to Vancouver in 2007, I noticed on one of the social-networking websites that we both frequent, that he had picked up a fill-in gig in Vancouver on the weekend.  This was within weeks of his moving there.  So, as you can see, the music is still a part of his life.  “I haven’t really pursued getting into anything regular musically since I’ve been out here.  I do the odd pick-up thing, but very little of that because I haven’t had the time to be networking.” Terry has no regrets with anything that’s happened over the years.  “I’ve been very lucky in my career [in music]”, he said.  “I was always able to pay my bills.  I’m not a rich man, but I own things, and I’m very happy now with what I’m doing.  I’ve met a lot of great people and never had anything too horrible happen to me.”  As to the future, Terry has no plans for retiring.  “I would like more leisure time, to travel more, but right now, I feel too useful to be retiring.”  I asked him if he missed not playing music regularly and his reply was immediate:  “Absolutely.  I miss the life, and the camaraderie and the certainty that there was a gig to go to on the weekend.” So as you can see, Terry Bramhall’s done rather well for himself over the years.  He’s working in a job he enjoys, living on the west coast of Canada and his guitar case is still over there in the corner.
Terry Bramhall Bass Guitar
Like many of the Brass Union alumni, I took the break-up of the band rather hard – although it would be years before I would realize it.  What I did when the band broke up was get as far away from rock music, the lifestyle and the Hamilton/Burlington area as I could.  Within a year, I was married, had moved to the east coast of Canada, was working in a hardware store and learning how to play an old acoustic guitar to country music.  This began my ‘country years’ – a rather idyllic life style, cruising the backroads of eastern Canada on the weekends, enjoying married life, working a day job first in the hardware store, then a record store, then taking my Grade 11 education to the local Coca-Cola plant to drive a forklift.  I managed to work myself up to the position of President of their Employees Association, but I knew I wanted to do more with life than drive a forklift, so in 1978 I quit working and enrolled in a one-year Pre-Technology program at the local College. It took one good math test result and I was hooked.  I became ‘driven’ to do well.  I graduated top of the class from that and returned to Hamilton in 1979 and enrolled in the Mechanical Engineering Technology program at Mohawk College.  The idea was to learn what I needed to know to build my own energy-self-sufficient home – which I never did build, by the way.  My marriage didn’t survive the three-year course, but I did, and came out of that, again, at the top of my class.  At graduation, because of my marks, the job offers came to me and I chose to go work for Atomic Energy of Canada – mostly because I had a lot of questions about nuclear power back then and what better way to find out the answers than to work there.  This began my hi-tech years, where I worked as a Nuclear Research and Development Technologist at the Sheridan Park Research facility in Mississauga.  Although I loved my work (it was fascinating working with such incredibly brilliant people), unfortunately my somewhat- bohemian temperament made it so I never really did quite ‘fit in’ to the environment there, so when industry began cut-backs in the mid 80’s and I was offered a buy-out package, I took it, bought a motorcycle and returned to school – enrolling in the second year of Engineering Physics at McMaster University. I lasted in that course about three months until I saw them doing mathematics in eleven dimensions (seriously!).  I laid my books on the seat and walked across campus and enrolled in the Humanities Department.  And I stayed there, studying for an Honours English degree until I got a phone call from John Willett – another Brass Union alumni – half way through my 4th year.  The first Blues Bros. movie had just been released and he wanted to put together a horn band doing the old 60’s soul tunes.  By then, I’d had enough of Chaucer, et al, so I took a 3-year English degree, went to the pawn shop, bought a $100 trombone (I had no idea what happened to my Brass Union horn) and headed to John’s basement to begin work.  I hadn’t played my horn in well over decade, but getting the band started gave me time to get my lip back in shape.  I stayed with that band, Powerhouse for about six years until I smashed my face up playing baseball and that was the end of my horn playing – for a while, anyway.  There was a second marriage that lasted just over 5 months during this period.  I have since sworn off married life as something that I just don’t seem to be very good at. By the early 90’s, I was back in the hi-tech industry working on a two-year federal government grant in Oshawa, studying the process and feasibility of incorporating cryogenics into industry – no, not frozen bodies.  That is cryonics.  I studied metals, different specialty steels and other materials at very low temperatures.  I worked alone on this, setting up my own research program, lab, testing procedures, on-site tests, etc.  Two years later, I turned in my final report.  I had made some progress understanding the mechanics of the process, had managed to get some positive results, but not enough so that the dollar savings would justify the capital cost of installing the cryogenic equipment – which essentially put myself out of work.  From there, I moved back to the Hamilton area to a converted horse barn in Carlisle, Ontario.  I ran into a friend with an old electric piano in the basement, which I borrowed for a while.  Within a year, I was back playing in a local band (on piano now) with Brad Stone (another Brass Union member).  With the help of the different musicians that started to use my home as a place to go play, I converted a couple of the horse stalls into a working studio/practice room.  There was a point during those years that there would be someone making music at ‘Horseshit Hollow’ (name christened by a friend) every night of the week.  I stayed there until the late 90’s when the owner of the farm and his wife got into a nasty divorce battle, which essentially ruined the creative atmosphere.  From there, I moved back into Hamilton, where I reside today. An old radiation injury that I sustained while helping stop a major accident during my nuclear days started to affect my health by the mid-nineties, knocking me out of the 9-5 work force.  When working a steady day job became impossible, I took that as my cue to  concentrate fully on music, taking jobs on the piano, guitar and mandolin as I could find them.  Then about 5 years ago, John Willett called again.  Powerhouse was about to replace their trombone player.  So I went digging in ma’s basement for my trombone, started practicing again after another ten years away from it and rejoined the band six months later. Today, I live in a small bachelor apartment in downtown Hamilton.  My home is a ‘landing pad’ of instruments, amps, suitcases and my work desk.  There is no couch, no kitchen table, chairs, bedroom suite or anything else that one might find in a ‘normal’ home.  I practice my horn, a piano, a synthesizer, mandolin and guitar regularly.  There will be no retirement for me as I don’t do ‘idle’ or ‘just relaxing’ very well.  There is always some new idea to be worked on.  As you can see, I’ve found a use for my English degree.  And although my technical life is now part of the past, I still keep up with advances in my interest areas.  I’m not married, have no children, live alone, but am in a steady relationship. I don’t live a life that would suit many, but it works very well for me and I am very happy – and have been my entire life.  I have everything I need and want in life.  And I suppose it was my years in Brass Union that shaped the way I think today – to be able to wake in the morning with an idea – something to compose, or write, or build – and have the freedom to go with the idea for as long as it has life.  Life can be funny at times.  Sometimes we’ll go around in one big circle and come back totally happy and content to the point we started without even realizing it. My story.  Stickin’ to it.
Don Berryman Trombone
Bruce Ley was the last member to join the Brass Union, replacing Dave Thrasher in 1971.  Bruce was already an established Toronto musician when he joined the band (playing with the Pharoahs and the Rising Sons) and his influence on the Brass Union was immediate.  In addition to his Hammond B3 organ (something new to the band), he brought an extremely laid-back, yet professional and talent-laden personality into the band that was hard to resist.  Together with Len Blum, they partnered their songwriting talents into unique arrangements for the band’s cover tunes, a number of new band original tunes and writing the Fairytale – the single thing that would change the direction of the band forever.  Like most of the Brass Union alumni, to tell the story of the enigma that is Bruce Ley in the space that I’ve allotted for these stories will be difficult, but I will try. Information on Bruce Ley can be found in a number of places on the internet, so I’ll not repeat a lot of it, but basically, Bruce has stayed in the music industry his entire life.  “I’m not sure what I did right after the Brass Union,” said Bruce in his usual casual style.  “But I’ve never stopped playing.  I played in bands for about another year, then I got involved with Lenny [Blum] in Toronto.  He was doing some studio recording and I went in and did some piano parts one day.  I made friends with the studio owner and spent the next 15-20 years, pretty much in the studio every day, all day long.  I started as a side man, and like Lenny, became an apprentice in the studio.  The studio owner [Art Snider from Sound Canada] said, ‘I’ll give you an apartment, a car, money for food, etc., if you’ll come and work for me.’  I couldn’t imagine such a great thing.”  He went on:  “Both Lenny and I were in the studio all day, long, long hours.  We basically had the studio to ourselves and we learned the recording business, from arranging, writing and performing standpoints.  I played thousands and thousands of hours into tape recorders.”  I asked Bruce where he got his training to arrange horns and strings – something not as easy to do as one would think:  “I got a lot of my arranging chops through working with the Brass Union and another horn band I worked with, called ‘Young’.  You do something, you either like it or you don’t.  If you like it, you try to do it again somewhere.”  This is Bruce Ley – refreshingly honest (about everything, really) and loaded with a wealth of experience and talent. Through the years, Bruce has stayed working out of the Toronto area, eventually getting into writing television and film scores – writing for Sesame Street, writing the score for the Academy Award nominated film, ‘the Painted Door’ (among others) and working for the TVO network exclusively for about five years.  During the late 80’s, Bruce was working for Three Hats Productions, writing all the music for an album a month for about four years.  “Those were high times,” he told me.  “We’d fly people in from all over the world to record.  I’d write all the music, someone else would do the arranging, someone else wrote the lyrics.  It was like a big factory with huge budgets.  It was very cool and I got to play with some really good musicians.” By the time the 90’s rolled around, Bruce moved to the country to the beautiful Orangeville hills area of Ontario.  He bought a small farm, built his own studio, where he continues to work, today.  These days, Bruce is working the ‘theatre circuit’ quite a bit as a player.  He has a couple of bands going locally – one, playing guitar with the ‘Trouble and Strife’ blues band (http://www.troubleandstrife.ca), which is getting a lot of airplay on Canada’s Galaxy Blues station.  He got involved with playing the guitar and starting up ‘Trouble and Strife’ about ten years ago.  Bruce comments:  “I hadn’t played live in about 20 years, and someone booked a job.  Initially I was so embarrassed about playing the guitar live – I knew I couldn’t really play the instrument [that well] – but we played the gig and it was just so much fun playing in front of real people after all those years playing to tape recorders.”  The band’s now been to many of the top Blues festivals – Mt. Tremblant, the Beaches, Blue Mountain, Burlington Rib Fest, etc. Bruce and his wife Candice of nearly 30 years (an ordained minister) live on their farm north of Orangeville, near Creemore, Ontario.  Bruce has four children:  Stefanie, in her 40’s, who’s a housewife with two children of her own;  two boys Micheal, 25 and Tipher, 23, who are taking Liberal Arts courses at a college in Montreal;  and a daughter Madelaine, 21, in art.  All three children in school are doing very well.  “Michael is off to Prague this summer to present a paper on James Joyce,” said the obviously proud father. “And that’s another thing,”  said Bruce as we were wrapping up our talk.  “I’m doing a lot of painting these days – acrylic on canvas.  It’s all very abstract, but people are buying them.”  I mentioned how painting must be a nice diversion to all the music he’d been doing and he replied:  “It’s the same thing.  I understand making art, because I’ve been doing it all these years.  This is just different art, that’s all.  Same process.”  As Cliff Hunt mentioned: “Creative people create.  It doesn’t always matter about the choice of media.” Bruce continues to be very busy these days and is still a very difficult man to ‘label’.  He’s done a lot of work with Disney over the years and he’s now formed his own company, specializing in children’s books on CD format.  He’s doing a two-week run in Hamilton on the guitar in a Theatre Aquarius presentation of Lisa Way’s tribute to Patsy Cline as I write this story.  “I really enjoy the theatre stuff, because you’re playing to people who are there to listen – as opposed to a bar.”  Over the years, Bruce has been the piano player for both the Tommy Hunter and Ronnie Prophet shows.  His Trouble and Strife band has a very full gig calendar for this year and his other band, a jazz group, plays locally whenever they can.  “The one thing about music is that it’s still totally satisfying.  And the thing that’s so cool about it is that, no matter how much you learn or how much time you spend at it, you’re not even close to getting to the end of it.  And that’s really satisfying because you’re never going to run out of things to learn.  I love to improvise [musically],” he continued.  “I remember saying to a friend while I was with the Brass Union that one day I wanted to be able to sit down at the piano and play all day long without having a clue what I was going to play – one note following the other.  Back then, I could do it for maybe 15-20 seconds before I made what I considered to be a mistake.  And now I can.  And that’s very cool.”  Should you want to read more about Bruce, his personal website at http://www.bruceley.ca. Yes, one could say that Bruce Ley has done rather well for himself over the years.  And the Brass Union was one of the many steps along the way.
Bruce Ley Hammond Organ
Bruce Wilson was the band’s rhythm guitarist and was one of only three members to be with the band from beginning to end.  In the early years, on top of his guitar responsibilities, Bruce was one half of the band’s Dave Baylis/Bruce Wilson impromptu comedy team. Dave had left the band before I arrived, but I remember Bruce as one of the most naturally-comedic people I’ve ever known.  He had this uncanny ability to take any situation and work it into a physical and vocal comedy routine – all done on the spot as he went along.  Many years later, Second City Productions made a fortune doing much the same thing. After the band broke up, Bruce was one of the band members that did not go back to school on a full-time basis – although he has taken a number of university courses in the areas of environmental chemistry and business over the years.  Bruce stopped playing music after the band and went out and acquired his real estate license, practicing that for about six months.  “I found that successful agents were much [different] than what I wanted to be.  So I quit doing that and began doing something that I’ve always enjoyed as a hobby – woodworking.”  Bruce became a regular at local flea markets for the next three years, making, displaying and selling custom furniture.  “It was basically Early Canadian-style furniture – mostly in pine.”  I asked him how he liked doing this and his reply was immediate:  “I liked it a lot.”  By this point, he’d moved up to the Elmira area of Ontario, bought a house, enlarged the garage and set up his workshop.  “Then one day I got a call from my sister who said Union Gas was looking for a ‘meter reader’,” – really?, a meter reader?, I said (it’s impossible to talk to Bruce and keep a straight face the entire time) – “Yes, a meter reader.  I figured that after 3 years of being in a dusty workshop all by myself, I started thinking, hmmmm, they have vacations, benefits, steady pay, and woodworking would make an excellent hobby.  So, I got the job, was hired (instead) into the Customer Service Department in Guelph.  I never did read meters”, he said.  From there, he went to the London office as junior management in the early 80’s.  He’s continued to rise up through the Union Gas management ranks, with stops in Woodstock, Hamilton, Burlington, then to Brantford, where he has been for the last 17 years.  And finally, after 33 years, Bruce is to retire from Union Gas management at the end of February, 2010. Since moving to Brantford, Bruce has also been very active in his community.  In 2002, he was Chair for the United Way campaign, on the Board of Directors at the Chamber of Commerce in 2003.  After three years, he was approached for the position of President (of the C of C), but turned it down.  “Those were busy years and that position was very time-consuming.”  He was on the Board for D.A.R.E. (an international group that gives kids the skills they need to avoid involvement in drugs, gangs, and violence) and he was on the Boards of Junior Achievement and the Rotary Club.  He’s also fostered ex-guide dogs in his home, which have eventually become ‘therapy’ dogs.  He still keeps up in his woodworking hobby.  “It’s mostly just down in the basement now working on ‘projects’”, he said.  He’s been involved in slow-pitch and industrial league baseball over the years – winning the championship one year, down in Woodstock.  Holding down a full-time job, keeping up with all the evening and weekend commitments and enjoying his own family life would leave one to think that there wouldn’t be time for much else.  But of course, that old nemesis, music, would once again reappear in Bruce’s life. “About eight or nine years ago, at Bill Hughes’ 50th birthday party at his farm in Peterborough, I ran into Duncan McLeod and Guy Waite.  I knew these guys from high school and they’d just finished doing an album in the studio.  I hadn’t played my guitar since the band broke up, but I started going out to their studio.”  Soon Bruce was playing his guitar again, had joined the Duncan Guy Band (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Duncan-Guy-Band/141895689185254),  and that’s what he’s doing musically today.  The band plays all original material, in a country vein, but with a definite style that covers ‘uncharted territory and topics’.  They’ve released a second CD and are now working on their third.  After nearly 30 years away from his guitar, Bruce is now back at it, playing regularly almost every day. On a personal level, Bruce and his wife Evelyn (of 24 years) have their home in Brantford, Ontario.  They have two sons:  Craig, 23, a graduate of Environmental Technology, now living in Thunder Bay, and Scott, 20, who’s “still looking to find his way in life, but just got back from a month in Thailand”, said Bruce.  “Then he’s off to see his brother in Thunder Bay for two weeks, then off to visit someone else in Stockholm, Sweden, after that.”  One would think that Scott is doing a good job ‘finding his way’. As far as Bruce’s retirement in a few weeks, he says: “I was thinking that when I got to this point, I’d draw my pension and go look for a part-time job or something.  But before that happened, I was offered an Operations Manager position with G-Tel Engineering in London, Ontario.  I have one weekend off before I start that job.”  The work is in the same line as his work with Union Gas.  “It was more than what I was looking for, but I think I’ll ride it for a little while as long as I’m enjoying it.”  So although Bruce is retired from his 33-year career at Union Gas, official retirement may be a little while yet. To conclude, I asked Bruce about the band – any parting thoughts that he had to pass on.  “It was a heck of an experience, that’s for sure.  I remember that once we got the band going and got things running smoothly, it was like being part of a machine.  And it was so nice to be a part of that.  I have missed playing live over the years, but I’ve started to get back into that again in recent years.” Yes, a very full and rewarding life for Bruce Wilson – he’s about to retire and start a new full-time job in the same week.  He’s still involved with everything that time allows in his community, still putters in his basement woodworking shop, spends a lot of time at his cottage (picture to the right) and probably most notable for those reading these stories, he is back playing his guitar again after nearly 30 years away from it.  Some things, it would appear, never completely go away.
Bruce Wilson Rhythm Guitar
Cliff Hunt is the second of the three members to be with the band from start to finish.  He was one of the original four Aldershot High School band members that became the band’s first ‘horn section’.  Cliff’s musical pedigree is huge – his father, Clifford O. Hunt Sr. was one of Canada’s top Band Masters for nearly half a century, conducting the RCAF, Camp Borden and the Canadian Bomber Group bands during the war, and moving on after the war to the RCAF Concert Band, the Ottawa Civic Symphony Orchestra and the Burlington Concert Band, to name just a few.  It is rather ironic that Cliff (Jr.), who would lay up his horn a few years after the break-up of the Brass Union – “My last playing gig was filling in with the Downchild Blues Band at the St. Lawrence Centre in 1973” – that of all the Brass Union members, it would be Cliff that would, arguably, contribute the most to the music industry over the years. Cliff was one of the many who took the break-up of the Brass Union rather hard.  “I spent that whole spring [1972] in Buddy’s (Bill Hughes) back yard, drinking Bock beer.  Neither of us knew what we wanted to do with our lives.  I contemplated going back to school and then, out of the blue, there was an opening at the CNE Bandshell to work for Coca-Cola putting on rock shows.  I started working there, doing whatever was needed and while there, I met an agent who offered me a position at Concept 376, which at the time, was the biggest rock agency in the country – dealing with every top act in the country – the Guess Who, April Wine, the Stampeders, Lighthouse, Foot in Cold Water, etc.  So I said ‘why not?’  I wanted to be in the music business, so I started representing these bands.”  Cliff stayed a year at Concept, long enough to realize that he didn’t want to be a booking agent all his life.  But because of the quality of the bands he worked with he got to know most of the bigger names in the business.  Oddly, Cliff’s Brass Union connections had a lot to do with his next career direction.  He stayed with Dave Balan when he first moved to Toronto, then linked up with Len Blum and Bruce Ley, who were working on their ’24 Million Sellers’ concept albums at Sound Canada with Art Schneider.  Len was working with a singer/songwriter named Tammy Rafferty and when it came time to tour the country, it was Cliff that joined them to promote the new record.  And as payment for this, Cliff was paid in ‘studio time’, which he used to record a band he was working with, with another Brass Union alumni, Terry Bramhall – the band, ‘Dillinger’.  Cliff provided the studio time, and eventually became their manager and Bruce Ley, another Brass Union alumni, produced the album, with Cliff as the Executive Producer.  This project would become Cliff’s first ‘record deal’, signing Dillinger to Daffodil Records.  “That got my juices going and made me realize what I wanted to do – manage bands, produce records and get into that part of the business.”  And 28 years later, Cliff had signed over 30 major international record deals, had 3 Juno awards and 8 Juno nominations.  Over the years, he started his own production company, publishing company, was the first to sign a punk band to a major record deal – the Diodes to CBS Records (now Sony Music) in 1976.  In 1986, he organized the first tour by a white rock band to Zimbabwe Africa, a group called Refugee.  It included an hour-long documentary, produced by Daniel Richler (Mordecai’s son) and The New Music and it aired worldwide. It seemed that everywhere you’d go in the music industry during those years, there would be Cliff Hunt somewhere, doing something to promote or improve the industry.  And this would be a trend that would stay with him throughout his life. By the 1990’s, Cliff was mostly just making record deals in the international market.  “By the late 90’s, I sensed that there was going to be a big change coming in the record industry.  The whole internet thing was just starting, pre-Napster.  I met with a stockbroker friend of mine, we put our heads together and found this technology from a Vancouver company called ‘BioPassword’ – a unique way of identifying individuals on-line by their unique typing style and keystrokes.  We raised the money and acquired the world-wide rights to this technology with the idea to use it in the entertainment industry for transferring music over the internet.”  Cliff and his partner raised an initial million dollars to launch their company, ‘Musicrypt’, in 1999 – and another 22 million since.  They went public in 2003, incorporating their DMDS (Digital Media Distribution System) throughout the Canadian market.  By 2006 they saw applications for the technology in many other areas of digital information transfer beyond just music and changed the corporate name of the company to Yangaroo (http://www.yangaroo.com), which it remains today. The company has only been an entity for about a half-dozen years, but the future could not be brighter for Cliff Hunt and Yangaroo.  From their website, they state: “Over 600 major and independent record labels use DMDS to deliver music files to broadcasters, press, and other destinations. Over 35 major broadcast chains North American (2000+ radio stations in the USA; 600+ in Canada) plus over 300 radio stations in the UK are using DMDS to preview, download, organize, and manage the myriad of files they receive daily.”  In 2009, Yangaroo was named to the Canadian Top 100 Tech Firms.  The Juno Awards now use the Yangaroo DMDS system exclusively for their productions and this year, the GRAMMY Awards began a four-year deal with Yangaroo.   Every major public and independent radio station in Canada use the DMDS system for their digital music transfer and now Yangaroo are solidly into the U.S. market through their offices in New York and Los Angeles and into Europe through their London office.  And this is just the music focus of this company, as they continue making inroads in other industries like advertising, and the medical and legal professions – anywhere in the world where digital information must be transferred in a totally secure way.  In a few short years, Yangaroo has moved to the front of the digital music transfer industry, giving musicians, record producers and radio stations instant access to each other, in a totally secure, minimal effort and environmentally-friendly way.  And from what I remember about Cliff during the band years, and what I’ve learned about him from his help doing these stories, I expect that that will be the case for a long time to come. On a personal level, Cliff and his wife Corrine (of four years) live along the Lakeshore in the Port Credit area of Ontario.  Cliff has a son Adam, 30, who works for Yangaroo and a daughter Shauna, 26, who’s an on-air news journalist for 680 News in Toronto.  Cliff has one grandchild and another on the way this summer.  Obviously, Cliff’s work and business take up a great deal of his time, but he does do a lot of boating in his spare time.  He travels a great deal, both through business and for pleasure and he’s always been an exotic car lover.  While the rest of us were driving our Oldsmobiles, Volvos and six-cylinder band trucks during the band years, Cliff was scaring the bejeebers out of us taking us for rides in his Fiat 124 Sport.  He mentioned that he just got rid of his classic ‘86 Porsche 911.  “I knew this guy who really wanted it and it was time,” he said, rather nonchalantly. It is easy to tell that Cliff is very happy with his life right now.  “I’m really and truly happier than I’ve ever been”, he remarked.  I asked him if he had any retirement plans coming up and his reply was immediate:  “No.  Are you kidding?  Why would I retire when things are the way they are?”  In remembering the band era, Cliff still has very fond memories of those Brass Union years, so long ago:  “It’s those years, from the time you’re 18 years old to about 22 or 23, from a musical standpoint, those are the years that last with you, because that music shapes the history of your life.  That’s why it means so much and those memories are so important.” Yes, Cliff Hunt, like so many of the Brass Union members, has had a very full and successful life.  And although no longer playing professionally, he has definitely made his mark in the music industry and continues to do so today.
Cliff Hunt Trumpet
Darrell Nameth is the final of the three band members that were with the band from start to finish.  Like Cliff Hunt above, Darrell was recruited from the Aldershot High School band to be one-fourth of the band’s first horn section.  When Darrell first came on board the band, he was also leader of the Junior High School band, so he took the job of writing all the horn arrangements for the band – a job that was not as easy as one would think, given that many of the songs the band ‘covered’ had no horns in the original versions.  Once Dick Citroen left the band in 1968, Darrell became the band leader, staying with that job until the end.  He also had his booking agent license and through Herb Lock, booked the band for many of their gigs.  Darrell’s main forte with the band (other than playing his saxophone, that is) was ‘organization’ – making sure, with the help of other band members, that everything was done when it was needed to be done.  He kept the band's ‘books’, made sure road trips were well-planned, set up practices, saw to it that truck and equipment acquisitions and payments were made.  And these personal leadership traits and abilities would serve him well throughout his post-band career. When the band broke up in 1972, Darrell began working full-time at Proctor & Gamble in Hamilton.  He also applied for, and completed two and a half years of the McMaster music program – working both a full course load at school and at Proctor & Gamble, simultaneously.  But two credits before graduation, he was offered a management position with Proctor & Gamble on a plant start-up team in Brockville, Ontario.  He weighed the choices of becoming a high school music teacher against entry-level management in a new plant and he chose the latter and moved to Brockville in 1978.  He stayed with them for 13 years, assisting in the technical and organizational design of the detergent plant and moving up the corporate ladder with management positions in Production, Warehousing and Logistics until 1991.  He then transferred to the head office in Toronto to spend 5 years in Manufacturing Planning, Initiative Management and Customer Service. “By 1996, the industry was downsizing and P & G was shifting much of its focus to the U.S.  I didn’t want to move to the States, so I took a job as a Product Supply Manager for another company – Ferrero Canada, in Toronto.  The advancement opportunities just weren’t there at P & G”, Darrell told me recently.  While with Ferrero, he created:  “an integrated Logistics department that included Import/Export, Distribution, Inventory Management, Customer Service and Contract Packing.”  As with his days in the Brass Union, with Darrell, it was all about planning, organizing and making sure things ran smoothly, something that, I’m sure was noticed by the Irving Family from the east-coast of Canada. In 1998, Darrell was recruited, then moved to Moncton, New Brunswick to work for the Irving Family as Vice President of Logistics.  “I had full responsibility for Distribution, Customer Service, Customs and Inventory Management for both Cavendish Farms and Irving Tissue, working closely with Midland transport, which was the primary carrier for both companies’ products.”  But he only stayed with that for a couple of years.  “I liked the east coast, but I didn’t like the way that business was run.  It was so much different than what I was used to in Ontario.”  So in 2002, Darrell left Irving, and began working together with his wife in her Customer Service/Logistics consulting company.  Shortly after that, they bought Lawn Rangers Landscaping, a Moncton company, which he operates to this day.  “Buying the landscaping business just seemed like a good opportunity.  Moncton is a booming city right now and it seemed like a good ‘grey’ area to get into.  We bought it in 2002 and we’ve more than tripled the sales since then.”  Now, with his full-time involvement with his own business, Darrell no longer has the time for anything else – although his wife still has her consulting business going. In the community, Darrell is very active.  He has been both President and Education Chair with the New Brunswick Horticultural Association.  He sits on the National Nursery Landscape board of directors and is a member of both the Rotary Club and Chamber of Commerce.  In 2004, he began a part-time consulting role with the Canadian Pallet Council and he helped found a local squash club where he also plays three to four times a week. On a personal level, Darrell and his wife Nancy (of 12 years) have built a home in the scenic hills overlooking Moncton, New Brunswick and, not surprisingly, have a one-acre garden around the house that keeps them quite busy during the summer season.  “Pretty much all our spare time in the summer is spent in the garden”, he said, recently.  Darrell has a son Douglas, 27, who’s an Assistant Manager in a Yorkville bar in Toronto, and a daughter Meghan who’s just moving back to Toronto from Cincinnati to assume a Marketing Director position for Mars Candy.   Darrell is pictured to the right with his son Douglas, daughter Meghan and grand-daughter Hailey. As far as the music business is concerned, Darrell doesn’t play his horn much anymore. He’s had it out a few times over the years, but it’s not been anything regular.  I asked Darrell about the band, his thoughts on it and if he missed it.  And with the same sensible and realistic approach that made him such a great band leader so many years ago, he replied:  “I’m not sure that ‘missing it’ is really the word.  It was such a long time ago.  I will say though that I remember that it was a very intense time.  I don’t think a lot of people realize how passionate we were with what we were doing.” Like everyone else that was a part of the Brass Union, the band’s leader has taken the personal qualities that were first seen during his band years – organizational skills, sensibility and level-headedness – and gone on after the band and built a very successful and full life and career for himself.  I don’t think that one could ever ask for much more than that.
Darrell Nameth Saxophone NEXT HOME BACK
The Last Nine