01/09/00 - Songwriters
get chance to hear from the pros
01/14/00 - Musicians
band together for tribute to Canadian farmers
01/16/00 - John Morris Rankin
dies in a car crash
01/16/00 - John
Morris Rankin dies after truck plunges into Margaree River into Gulf of St. Lawrence
- John Morris Rankin has died
- "Quiet Rankin" Remembered
01/17/00 - Musicians
sow message that farms facing crisis
01/17/00 - 'He lived for his
family and his music'
01/17/00 - Rankin dies in accident
01/17/00 - Rankin
'legend' dies as truck skids off cliff
01/18/00 - Road salt
likely factor in Rankin fatality, RCMP probing crash; funeral in Mabou Thursday
01/18/00 - John Morris Rankin
01/18/00 - The Rankins Legacy, Rankin Family
introduced Cape Breton's ancient party music to rest of the world
01/19/00 - Plow driver
'devastated' over Rankin accident
01/20/00 - Funeral
for John Morris Rankin
01/20/00 - 'People
are still shocked', Rankin family, friends and fans gather to mourn John Morris
01/20/00 - Plow driver struggles
01/20/00 - Sampson a finalist
in Lennon contest
01/20/00 - Songwriters' Circle
01/20/00 - John Morris: a
humble voice in the music world
01/20/00 - Remembering John Morris, Rankin was
happy being considered one of the guys
01/20/00 - Voice of the People
- Great Musician
01/21/00 - Mourners
remember Rankin's humility, talent
01/21/00 - 'We
have lost a great friend', More than 1,000 attend Rankin funeral
01/21/00 - A musical farewell for
01/31/00 - Cape Breton Farewell, A
grief-stricken community says its final goodbyes to a homegrown star
Jan-Feb, 2000 - Canada loses musical star
02/02/00 - Snow Segment
dropped from ECMA awards show, Rankin Tribute Planned Instead
02/04/00 - Canned Snow
tribute creating sour note
02/05/00 - Emotions run
high at Stompin' Tom Awards
02/05/00 - John Morris
Rankin Memorial Fund Established
02/06/00 - Good vibes charm Natalie
02/07/00 - Cape
Bretoners rule roost, Locals collect 10 of 23 ECMA's
02/18/00 - Antigonish invites
you to come home
02/19/00 - Kitchen
Party kicks off today, Radio series takes to world stage
02/19/00 - Baddeck's
Centre Bras d'Or 'virtually shutting down'
02/26/00 - Rankin
investigation solely in RCMP hands
03/03/00 - School
stage to be named in memory of John Morris Rankin
03/12/00 - Rookie Tal Bachman
wins pair of Junos
03/12/00 - Tal
Bachman takes two on sparsely attended Juno Awards opening night
03/13/00 - Nova
Scotia artists score big at Junos, Rankin Family, MacMaster win major awards
03/16/00 - RCMP set to
complete Rankin probe in month
03/16/00 - MacMaster,
Rankin 'Party' tickets on sale
03/29/00 - Sons
of Maxwell, Wood to play Springhill Irish festival
- John Morris Rankin
04/06/00 - Doherty records Rankin
- Tin Pan South 2000
04/13/00 - Rankin, Burgess
to appear with Symphony
04/13/00 - Symphony
Nova Scotia gets more worldly in 2000-01 season
04/29/00 - Kitchen
Party hot worldwide, Radio, Internet a perfect marriage for roots-centred music lovers
05/11/00 - Rankin lands gig
with Simon, indie film
05/19/00 - RCMP still probing Rankin
05/23/00 - Reunited Reels - Four Cape Breton fiddlers
will play a new piece at this week's Scotia Music Festival
05/25/00 - Springhill
MusicFest nabs some of Canada's best
05/25/00 - Scotland, PA up and filming
06/03/00 - Gracie's
career takes family on tour across Big Country
06/08/00 - Howie's Brewin' comedy,
06/17/00 - A different shade of
bluegrass, Atlantic Blue may be the most quintessentially Maritime album ever made
January 9, 2000 - Halifax Herald
SOCAN and the Songwriters Association of Nova Scotia present A Date With a
Tape on Sunday, Feb. 6, during ECMAs at the Delta Hotel in Sydney.
Music industry professionals like Dan Hill, Ron Hynes, Jimmy
Rankin, Steve Jordan from Warner Music Canada and Robert Ott from BMG Music
Publishing Canada will offer direct and immediate feedback on songwriters' original
Participants are asked to bring a CD or tape of one of their songs and
three copies of the lyrics. Names and phone numbers must be marked on the CD or tape.
Material will be accepted between 10-10:30 a.m. and will be reviewed in random order from
10:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, there is no guarantee that
all songs will be heard during the workshop.
January 14, 2000 - Halifax Herald
By Andrew Flynn / The Canadian Press
Toronto - Gordon Lightfoot, Burton Cummings, Randy Bachman, Ronnie
Hawkins: these are names from Canada's rock 'n' roll hall of fame, names that might not
immediately be connected with life on the farm.
But the musical greats, along with some younger colleagues, are taking
centre stage Sunday for a nationally televised benefit show that hopes to send up
something of a distress flare for Canada's struggling family farmers.
It will be more than just another concert for Amanda Stott, a 17-year-old
singer and rookie recording artist who gets to open the show with the national anthem.
Stott, who grew up on her parent's cattle and organic grain farm outside of Brandon, Man.,
has seen firsthand what falling commodity prices and shrinking subsidies have done to
independent Canadian farmers. Tens of thousands are facing hard times and, in many cases,
bankruptcy as poor growing conditions and international trade pressures threaten their
To Stott, the plight of farmers is a personal rather than financial issue:
a centuries-old way of life is beginning to vanish as small farms shut down or are gobbled
up by large agricultural syndicates. "I think a lot of people don't really
realize the impact that a family farm has on the country," says Stott. "It's the
pride of being able to carry something on that your forefathers have carried on before
you. I think it's a really good thing to do."
The concert at Toronto's Air Canada Centre will air (1:30 p.m.) as the
centrepiece of a live day-long event on CBC Newsworld to draw national attention to the
decline of the Canadian farm. Proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to the National
Rural Caucus, but the event is being staged more to raise awareness than funds, organizers
For Saskatoon-born Shaun Verreault, guitarist and singer for Wide Mouth
Mason, it is an emotional issue. "It would just be very sad to see a way of
life disappear," Verreault says in a telephone interview. "It spreads out
and affects not just the people who are working on farms: if they have a bad year then the
province has a bad year. I think it would be a shame if it also was to turn into a big
business like everything else has."
The concert was originally conceived by Toronto Liberal MP Dennis Mills
following a suggestion by Hawkins. The CBC agreed to broadcast it, then decided to expand
Newsworld's coverage of the issue, said CBC spokeswoman Mio Adilman. "We are
certainly pegging coverage to this event and of course we have been covering the issue for
many years," Adilman said.
Beginning with a live report at 11 a.m. from Melita, Man., a hard-hit
farming community of 1,200, Newsworld will also feature a town hall from Regina where
Prairie residents will talk with provincial agricultural ministers from Manitoba and
Saskatchewan before joining the big event in Toronto. "And rarely do you see
four-hour concerts on television with this kind of lineup," says Adilman.
Lightfoot, Cummings, Hawkins and Bachman will be joined by rock bands Big
Sugar and Wide Mouth Mason, singers Kevin Parent, Fred Eaglesmith and Jimmy Rankin,
children's entertainers Fred Penner and Sharon, Lois, and Bram, tenor Michael Burgess,
country/rock band Prairie Oyster and country legend Sylvia Tyson as well as the Toronto
"This is going to be a pretty entertaining day to watch," adds
Verreault. "It's not going to be all doom and gloom."
Stott, who will launch her first major-label record in April, says it
means a lot to her that such major artists would donate their time for the cause.
"I see my father, especially this year, the stress of not getting the crop in and
harvesting late and I see how much he puts into it," she says. Stott isn't interested
in seeing the event generate pity. She says she'll be satisfied if viewers gain just a
little more understanding of Canada's independent farmers. "It's not just
putting food on the table for you, even though that is their primary goal," she says.
"It's the whole pride and heritage of the operation. I think that's what people need
to understand, is that it's not just a business, it's a whole way of life."
January 16, 2000 - CBC Radio News
Report from CBC-TV (Real Video)
Report from CBC-Radio (Real
MARGAREE HARBOUR, Cape Breton - An accident in Cape Breton has claimed the life
of a member of the Rankin musical family. John Morris Rankin was driving to a hockey game
with three teenagers when his truck plunged into the water at Margaree Harbour Sunday
There are reports that the 40-year-old man swerved to miss a pile of salt on the
The teens were rescued from the icy waters. One is reported to have hypothermia and is
in serious condition in hospital; doctors say the other two are fine.
Police say they tried for hours to rescue John Morris Rankin, but couldn't reach him in
time to save his life.
John Rankin played piano and fiddle with the Rankin family. The group began performing
in Mabou, Nova Scotia, in 1989 and rocketed to fame not long after, with the release of
their second album titled Fare Thee Well Love.
As one of Atlantic Canada's most successful groups, the family rose from
singing county fairs and church halls to selling more than two million of their
Celtic-inflected records around the world. They swept the Juno awards in 1994.
They stopped performing together last year so members of the family could
pursue independent careers.
Jimmy Rankin, one of John Morris' siblings, left the Family Farm Tribute
concert in Toronto after being notified of a death in the family.
January 16, 2000 - Canadian Press
MARGAREE HARBOUR, N.S. (CP) -- John Morris Rankin, a member of the former
Celtic group the Rankins, died Sunday after his truck plunged into the Gulf of St.
Three teenage passengers,
including Rankin's son Michael, were able to escape from the vehicle and climb to safety
following the 7:30 a.m. accident. They were taken to Cape Breton's Inverness Consolidated
Family friend Emily Butler said it appeared that Rankin told the teens to jump out of the
truck as it skidded towards the water.
"John Morris told them to jump and they got out," she said. "John Morris
went with the truck."
Rankin, 40, died in the crash, the RCMP said in a release.
It hadn't yet been determined how the vehicle ended up in the water.
Morris Green of Nova Scotia Emergency Health Services said one of the teenagers was being
treated for hypothermia and the other two appeared to be OK.
Family friend and musician Denis Ryan said news of the accident spread quickly through the
Nova Scotia music community.
"It's awful, awful, awful," said Ryan, who played music with Rankin in the mid
"I've known him for 25 years, for Christ's sake.... Why is it always the good people
Ryan described Rankin as a dedicated family man and master carpenter who was like a
younger brother to him.
"He was just a beautiful person to be around -- never offensive and could be awful
funny at times. And he did have a great Celtic humour and wit about him. (He) could laugh
and smile and have fun with very simple things in life."
Butler, who knew the Rankins for more than 20 years and considered them her extended
family, said Rankin's siblings were devastated by the news.
She said the loss is a great blow for many in Cape Breton who followed John Rankin's rise
"He was a very wonderful and talented young man and we're all heartsick," Butler
said from Sydney, N.S.
Rankin's brother Jimmy Rankin left a Farm Aid concert in Toronto after being notified of
Family friend Russell De Carle, lead singer for Prairie Oyster, said he was stunned when
he heard the news at the benefit.
"Oh God, it's just horrendous to say the least," De Carle said from Toronto
following his set at the concert.
"He was a brilliant musician. It's a huge loss. It's unbelievable. I had an
incredible amount of admiration for his playing. He was a brilliant musician, keyboardist
and fiddle player."
John Morris Rankin played fiddle and piano with the popular musical family from Cape
Breton. The group broke up last summer so its members could pursue independent careers and
Over a decade-long, storybook career, the Mabou, N.S., family band rose from county fairs
and church halls to become the most successful music acts on the East Coast through the
The five siblings sold more than two million records, won five Juno Awards, including
group of the year in 1994, and took its Celtic-inflected music to the world.
"We've had a great run," John Morris said last year after the breakup.
"It's been 10 years and they've gone by fast. Originally we planned to do this for
five years, and 10 have passed.
"It's all been a positive experience for us."
The family's early independent success -- they sold 75,000 records literally out of the
back of a car -- led to one of the first major-label music contracts in Atlantic Canada.
After being courted by several Canadian labels, they finally signed with EMI Canada and
delivered five platinum records (each selling over 100,000 copies) through the '90s. Fare
Thee Well Love sold more than 500,000 copies alone.
Ryan described John Morris as a "rock" who held the band together: "He
brought stability. He brought leadership in a very subtle way. He was very, really a solid
guy. I mean really solid. Fame and fortune really didn't shake him."
Brookes Diamond, a Halifax promoter who had known Rankin for more than 20 years, said he
was "a lovely gentleman and a wonderful man" who loved country dances and was
most happy at home in rural Cape Breton.
"He had so much to look forward to in his new life," he said.
"It's just an awful thing."
Besides Michael, 15, Rankin is survived by his wife Sally and daughter Molly, 13.
January 16, 2000 - CBC's The National
Guest: LAURIE GRAHAM, Reporter
DENNIS RYAN, Musician andfriend
SUSAN BONNER: In other news, the Rankin family lost a loved one today and
Canada lost a gifted musician. John Morris Rankin died after his vehicle slid
off a Cape Breton road and disappeared in the waters of the Gulf of St.
Lawrence. Laurie Graham has more on Rankin's passing and the memories he leaves
LAURIE GRAHAM: The accident happened early this morning when John Morris
Rankin was taking his son Michael and two other teenagers to a hockey game. He
apparently swerved around a pile of salt on the middle of the road. He lost
control of his vehicle and went over a cliff. Plunging 25 metres into the Gulf
of St. Lawrence. The teenagers were able to escape from the vehicle but Rankin
died in the crash.
GRAHAM: John Morris Rankin started playing piano when he was just
eight-years-old. Then a year later he picked up the fiddle. In 1989 he and four
of his siblings teamed up to form the Rankin Family. They sang Celtic music.
Songs with traditional Scottish sounds that rocked the world. They sold more
than two million records, won five Juno awards and toured the world becoming the
east coast's most successful music act of the decade. (Music) John Morris Rankin
was described as the shy and quiet one. Always in the background, never in the
spotlight. He let his music speak for him.
DENNIS RYAN / MUSICIAN AND FRIEND: He's a great loss to Cape Breton. He's a
great loss to the whole music scene in the region because he was an exceptional
human being. He was very modest, had incredible talent and we all loved him.
GRAHAM: In Mabou, Cape Breton where Rankin grew up and still lived, people
UNIDENTIFIED: I'm still stunned. It's a real tragedy. He was one of the
bright lights of our community.
UNIDENTIFIED: It's like a family member. Anything that happens in this
community is family. (Music)
GRAHAM: Last year when the Rankins called it quits as a group, John Morris
Rankin spoke for the family.
(FILE FOOTAGE, SEPT. 19, 1999) JOHN MORRIS RANKIN / MUSICIAN: We all have our
own lives. We're all getting a bit older. We'd just like to try some different
GRAHAM: He said then he wanted to spend more time with his family. John
Morris Rankin was 40-years-old. Laurie Graham, CBC News, Halifax.
John Morris Rankin dies in car crash
January 17, 2000 - CBC Radio News
The National's Report
to Brooks DeCillia's report for CBC Radio
Laurie Graham's report for CBC TV
MARGAREE HARBOUR, Cape Breton - Canada's music industry is
mourning the loss of one of its own today.
John Morris Rankin, the eldest member of the popular group The
Rankins (formerly known as The Rankin Family), died yesterday in a
tragic car accident in Cape Breton.
Frank McInnis, a spokesperson with the Cape Breton Fiddling
Association, took a young John Morris Rankin to the Montreal Olympics in
1976 with a group of experienced fiddlers.
He says even back then Rankin's skill was of a superior quality,
adding that Rankin has remained a shining example for musicians
"All fiddlers looked to John Morris as a source of inspiration
in many ways," recalls McInnis. "Probably because of his
exposure as a member of the Rankin family, but because of his reputation
as an exceptional individual - violin player and Celtic pianist. He was
held in high regard by his peers... an extremely high regard."
Karl Falkenham, a CBC music producer and a friend of
Rankin's, agrees. He says because John Morris Rankin was rarely in the
spotlight, many people don't realize how skilled he was as a song-writer
"He's probably one of the finest exponents of
Inverness County fiddling and learned from the greats. In fact, there's
a story Dave MacIsaac tells of how John's bedroom was so close to the
dance hall that from the time of infancy, he heard every single Saturday
night dance with all the greats.
"So it was absorbed and he was a very good guitarist but I think
primarily, in my opinion, it was his piano work that impressed me the
most. He and others would concur was probably the greatest Celtic piano
player in the world."
Rankin was driving to a hockey game with three teenagers
when his truck plunged into the water at Margaree Harbour Sunday
Rankin apparently swerved to miss a pile of salt on the highway.
The teens were rescued from the icy waters. One is reported to have
hypothermia and is in serious condition in hospital; doctors say the
other two are fine.
Police say they tried for hours to rescue John Morris Rankin, but
couldn't reach him in time to save his life.
The news of John Morris's death spread quickly in the tiny village of
Mabou, and throughout the Canadian music industry.
John Morris played keyboards and fiddle and was seen as
the leader of the group. Friends described him as quiet and a dedicated
The group began performing in Mabou, Nova Scotia, in 1989 and
rocketed to fame not long after, with the release of their second album
titled Fare Thee Well Love.
As one of Atlantic Canada's most successful groups, the
family rose from singing at county fairs and church halls to selling
more than two million of their Celtic-inflected records around the
world. They swept the Juno Awards in 1994.
They stopped performing together last year so members of
the family could pursue independent careers.
Jimmy Rankin, one of John Morris' siblings, left the Family Farm Tribute
concert in Toronto yesterday after being notified of the accident.
Prime Minister Jean Chretien says Cape Breton has lost one of
its finest sons and Canada has lost one of its finest musicians. In a statement
issued by his office, Chretien says it's impossible to comprehend how such a
rich life filled with magical artistry could be taken so suddenly.
The funeral for John Morris Rankin will be held on Thursday.
January 17, 2000 - Halifax Herald
By Andrew Flynn / The Canadian Press
Toronto - Some of Canada's top entertainers got together Sunday to send up
a distress flare calling attention to the crisis affecting family farms across the
Legends such as Gordon Lightfoot, Burton Cummings, Randy Bachman and
Ronnie Hawkins took the stage at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto to help raise awareness
of the plight of many small farmers whose livelihoods are threatened by poor growing
conditions and international trade pressures.
"The big mistake is to think that it's for 10 or 11 thousand people
in this hall; it's not," veteran folk singer Sylvia Tyson said backstage during the
"They're going to get a great show. But it's being covered on CBC
Newsworld, it's going on to radio, it's being covered in the press," Tyson said.
"It's not a money thing, that's not the point of the exercise - it's
to raise consciousness, more than anything, of the average city-dweller who needs to know
where their food is coming from." The concert was the centrepiece of a live
day-long event on CBC Newsworld to draw national attention to the decline of the Canadian
Masterminded by Toronto Liberal MP Dennis Mills and other federal and
provincial politicians, the show aimed to educate urban Canadians about what falling
commodity prices and shrinking subsidies have done to independent Canadian farmers.
Tens of thousands are facing hard times, and in many cases bankruptcy,
amid poor growing conditions and international trade pressures. Saskatchewan farmers
vented their frustration during an earlier "town hall" meeting in Regina carried
live on Newsworld. Some sombrely described working for months in the field just to end up
losing money. Others warned that thousands of farms could shut down this year.
"When we leave today, everybody's going to get a postcard where we
describe the 10 things you can do to make a difference for rural Canada," Mills said
"You know, call your local MP or (provincial legislative member) and
ask them what they are doing for our agricultural policy or our food sovereignty in this
"And the next time you go shopping maybe be a bit more sensitive
about buying homegrown Canadian products."
Garry Breitkreuz, the Reform MP for the Saskatchewan Yorkton-Melville
riding, said he has heard heart-wrenching stories from farmers in his riding. "The
pain that is being experienced by grain growers is unbelievable," said Breitkreuz,
who inspired Mills's participation after reading letters in the Commons from farmers in
his constituency. He said he was encouraged by Mills's commitment to keeping the event
non-partisan. "This is a non-political event. I think we've come to the point
in agriculture in Saskatchewan where everyone must take notice. Farmers are frustrated;
they say, 'You know every time Canadians sit down to eat they shouldn't just thank God
they should thank a farmer too.'"
Bill Murray, 38, drove 18 hours from Charlottetown to get a glimpse of
Hawkins and to show his support for farming friends in his home province.
"I think it's going to raise awareness, yes," Murray said,
waving a placard reading "Hi, P.E.I. - I made it!" Federal Agriculture
Minister Lyle Vanclief, who attended the event, said he hasn't given up trying to work out
a solution to the crisis with provincial governments. More meetings between federal and
provincial policy-makers will be held by mid-February, Vanclief said, with a full meeting
of agriculture ministers slated for early March in Quebec City.
"Farming is a risky, risky business," said Vanclief, who is a
farmer himself. "Not only are you competing with the rest of the world, you're
competing with the weather and with each other. Organizers had sold about 14,000
tickets to the event at between $10 and $20 each.
Lightfoot, Cummings, Hawkins and Bachman were joined by rock bands Big
Sugar and Wide Mouth Mason, singers Kevin Parent and Fred Eaglesmith, children's
entertainers Fred Penner and Sharon, Lois, and Bram, tenor Michael Burgess, country/rock
band Prairie Oyster and country legend Tyson as well as the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.
Singer Jimmy Rankin, formerly of the Rankin Family group, left the
venue early in the day after hearing his brother John Morris Rankin had been killed in a
Proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to farm communities through the
National Rural Caucus, but the event was staged more to raise awareness than funds,
organizers said. Mills estimated the event would net about $80,000.
January 17, 2000 - Halifax Herald
By Stephen Cooke / Entertainment Reporter
It was often said of John Morris Rankin that he was as much at home on
stage at London's Royal Albert Hall as he was at the West Mabou Community Hall.
It's also been said the only things that mattered to the Mabou-born
performer were his music and his loved ones, and he attended to each with equal devotion.
Rankin's death at age 40 in an auto accident near Margaree Harbour on Sunday morning sent
ripples of shock through the Canadian music community, as those who knew him best
remembered his consummate skill on piano and fiddle, and his gentle wit and warm
He leaves behind his wife Sally, children Michael, 15, and Molly, 13, and
a rich musical legacy that includes taking Cape Breton Celtic culture to the world.
"That's what he lived for, his family and his music," said
guitarist Dave MacIsaac, a longtime friend who first accompanied Rankin during traditional
sets at Halifax's Alexander's and the Thirsty Duck.
"He was the humblest guy you could ever meet," recalled
MacIsaac, who said he felt like he'd lost a brother.
"He would never push himself into the spotlight. He was good to chat
with, he was always the same."
But the spotlight did shine on Rankin, especially once the career of his
family band The Rankins got rolling with a major record label contract and worldwide
concert tours. The group's fiddler Howie MacDonald - a fixture in the band from its start
as The Mabou Jig revue in 1989 until its breakup last year - says Rankin kept his brother
Jimmy and sisters Raylene, Cookie and Heather grounded, both musically and emotionally.
"His dressing room humour was second to none, he really had a dry wit
to him," MacDonald said. "He always had a comment that would really make you
keel over, go weak in the knees, it was so funny. There was just something about the way
his mind processed things.
"He had Cape Breton culture really well summed up; the whole music
and its history and the way it was played. It captured people emotionally in the way that
he played it."
Stephen MacDonald, the executive producer of The Rankins' first two
albums, remembered John Morris as the quiet force behind the family band.
"Quietly and staying largely in the background, John Morris provided
the most solid of bases for the musical magic of the Rankin Family," MacDonald said
Sunday from his home in Lunenburg.
Bassist John Chaisson joined The Rankins in '92, and said that while the
sisters' voices and Jimmy's songs were the focal point for listeners, John Morris was the
"He was so involved with the Rankins, being the oldest, he often took
everything on his shoulders," Chaisson said from his Dartmouth home.
"He never had a title like music director, but I always considered
him to be in that role. He heard everything; he had great ears."
Rankin enjoyed the time off after the Rankins disbanded, according to
musician/composer and close friend Scott Macmillan, and he was starting to think about
where he was going to go next musically.
"I was asking him to appear on one of (CBC Radio's) Kitchen Party
shows and he was willing to do that," Macmillan recalled. "But he enjoyed life
slowing down a little bit, reflecting a little bit, and looked forward to getting out and
January 17, 2000 - Halifax Herald
By Bruce Erskine / Staff Reporter
John Morris Rankin, fiddler and piano player with the popular Rankin
Family band, was killed when his truck plunged into the Gulf of St. Lawrence Sunday
The accident at Whale Cove on the old coastal road between Dunvegan and
Margaree Harbour occurred at 7:30 a.m. on Route 219, RCMP Cpl. Keith Brumwell said.
Police say Mr. Rankin, 40, had three teenage boys, including his son, with
him when his northbound truck left the road and went over an embankment into the water 25
"It was submerged in the water," Cpl. Brumwell said. "It's
a miracle the kids survived." The boys, two aged 14 and one 15, were able to escape
from the vehicle and climb back up to the road, police said. Cpl. Brumwell said Mr.
Rankin's 15-year-old son, Michael, was the first to reach the road and flagged down a
Mr. Rankin, who lived in Judique, was reportedly driving the boys to a
hockey tournament in Cheticamp. By the time paramedics arrived, the three boys had
taken shelter at a nearby home, Emergency Health Services spokesman Morris Green said.
The boys were later taken to Inverness Consolidated Hospital where they were
treated for hypothermia, Mr. Green said.
He did not know how the boys escaped from the truck, which was pulled from
the water by firefighters. Cpl. Brumwell called the efforts of Margaree Forks
volunteer firefighters "heroic."
"They had to put ropes on the vehicle to prevent it from washing out
to sea," he said, adding that a family opened their nearby home to rescue workers.
Roads were slippery at the time, and Cpl. Brumwell said a police traffic analyst is trying
to determine what caused the accident.
According to the Department of Transportation, area roads were
snow-covered but passable with caution Sunday morning. Three ambulances from Margaree and
Inverness responded to the accident, along with Inverness RCMP.
Mr. Rankin played with sisters Raylene, Cookie and Heather and brother
Jimmy in the popular Celtic pop band for 10 years. The Juno award-winning group,
which released several recordings and toured extensively, broke up last fall so members
could pursue individual projects.
Musician Denis Ryan said news of the accident spread quickly through the
Nova Scotia music community. "It's awful, awful, awful," said Ryan, who
played music with Rankin in the mid '80s.
"I've known him for 25 years, for Christ's sake.... Why is it always
the good people that die?" Ryan described Rankin as a dedicated family man and master
carpenter who was like a younger brother to him. "He was just a beautiful
person to be around - never offensive and could be awful funny at times. And he did have a
great Celtic humour and wit about him. (He) could laugh and smile and have fun with very
simple things in life."
Longtime Rankins manager Mickey Quase said he has lost one of his best
friends. "It's a terrible tragedy and a personal tragedy," Mr. Quase said.
"He's been one of my best buddies for many, many years."
Rankins fiddler Howie MacDonald first played alongside John Morris in the
mid-'70s, and the pair often got the crowd hopping with passionate sets of traditional
Cape Breton fiddle tunes. "He was a very solid reference on the music and for
the culture in general," Mr. MacDonald said from his Sydney home. "When people
think of him, they think of a solid individual, a man of few words with a dry wit and a
very likeable guy.
"He will be referred to a lot. His music will stay around for a good
while yet, and he's one of the people we will refer to when we're trying to explain how
this music should be done or how it should feel."
Aside from his son, Mr. Rankin is survived by his wife, Sally, and
daughter, Molly, 13.
January 17, 2000 - Toronto Star Atlantic Canada Bureau
By Kelly Toughill
HALIFAX - John Morris Rankin's death was like one of the haunting Celtic
tunes he made famous, a tale of love and grief and heroism set in a place of deadly
The pianist for The Rankin Family was taking his son and two other teens
to a hockey game in Cheticamp at dawn yesterday, driving up the twisting, icy highway that
hugs Cape Breton's rugged north coast when his Toyota 4-Runner plunged over a 25-metre
cliff into stormy seas.
The teens escaped, but volunteer firefighters had to don survival suits to
search two-metre waves for the body of the famous musician whom some of them had counted a
In a region where every home has at least one fiddle player and children
learn to dance when they can walk, Rankin, 40, was looked up to as something quite
``He was a legend,'' recording artist Natalie MacMaster said yesterday.
``Anywhere he would show up, there was always a buzz in the room when he walked
through the door because he was the best.''
Rankin was a master pianist and fiddle player who was a key member of the
family group that made Cape Breton's unique Celtic sound mainstream fare.
Their five albums sold 2 million copies and earned five Juno awards.
In an era of electronic sound, the Rankins were pioneers, playing age-old Scottish
tunes that had been passed down through generations.
It is music that was incubated in the tiny isolated towns of rural Cape
Breton, a place where tradition is revered and people cling to their roots.
Despite his success, Rankin continued to cling to those roots, keeping his
home and family in Cape Breton, just down the road from the tiny town of Mabou where he
grew up with 11 siblings.
He lived in Judique with his wife, Sally, 15-year-old son, Michael and
13-year-old daughter, Molly, who is also a fine fiddle player.
Just last week, the world-renowned musician played at a house party thrown
by his childhood friend Kinnon Beaton, a former next door neighbour who never lost touch.
``They used to play ball as kids,'' Betty Lou Beaton recalled of her
husband's best friend. ``Or at least they tried, but then John Morris' father would call
them both inside and tell them to play him a tune.''
Rankin spent eight hours in the Beatons' basement last Sunday as 68 people
danced square sets to the traditional old fiddle tunes.
``What a great memory for us to have,'' said Natalie MacMaster's mother,
Minnie, who was at the party. ``He played with his daughter, Molly. He played with
Natalie. He played with everybody last week. And it was recorded too. Now we must
celebrate his life, not just remember his death.''
Minnie MacMaster grew up with the Rankins in Mabou. ``In church, we
sat just a few pews behind all the Rankin kids. And we went to all the same dances. They
are just beautiful, beautiful people, all of them.''
Friends yesterday remembered a soft-spoken, unassuming man who wielded
huge influence in the rarefied world of Cape Breton music because of his immense talent.
``He was just a quiet little guy,'' said Betty Lou Beaton. ``You
wouldn't know he could do anything at all, but he was just a genius.''
As a child, Natalie MacMaster listened to homemade tapes of Rankin over
and over again and tried to mimic his exact sound. It was that sound that gave him
influence, she said.
``He was the quiet, behind-the-scenes guy, humble,'' she said of the
musician who played on her first two albums. ``It was like he had a big voice
without saying anything.''
Stan Chapman is a renowned local fiddle teacher who counted Rankin as one
of his closest friends. ``He was one of the most incredible Cape Breton musicians I
ever met,'' he said.
Rankin played on 12 different albums, including his family's five. His
songs were recorded by three other artists, including Ashley MacIsaac.
Rankin was joined by four of his siblings - Cookie, Heather, Jimmy and
Raylene - to make up The Rankin Family, later known simply as The Rankins. The group
disbanded last year.
Natalie MacMaster said yesterday local folks were delighted that because
of the band's breakup, John Morris would be travelling less. ``It was just great
having him around again,'' she said. ``Everybody was really looking forward to having him
Jimmy Rankin learned of his brother's death in Toronto yesterday, where he
was scheduled to play in a fundraising concert for farmers. He flew home immediately.
Neither he nor Rankin's other family could be reached for comment.
Authorities yesterday called it a ``miracle'' that the teenagers
travelling in Rankin's car escaped without any serious injuries. The car smashed down a
25-metre cliff, flipped upside down and was submerged in the stormy sea.
Leo Gallant, chief of the Margaree District Fire Department, said the
teens crawled out a window. Rankin's son Michael then climbed up the icy cliff. ``We
still don't know how he did it,'' he said last night. ``Our men had to use ropes and
full gear to get up and down that cliff, but he did it with his bare hands.''
Michael Rankin flagged down a car. The driver threw an extension cord over
the cliff, which the other two teens used to pull themselves up to the road, Gallant said.
Gallant said his men had to lash Rankin's car with ropes to keep it from
being pulled out to sea. The car, which landed upside down in the surf, was eventually
hoisted up the cliff to the road. It was only then that they realized Rankin's body was
not inside, he said.
The firefighters decided not to wait for scuba divers to arrive from
Halifax to search the stormy seas, he said. Instead, they donned survival suits themselves
and started searching the breakers for Rankin's body, which was pulled from the water near
the crash site.
``Some of our guys are in pretty rough shape now,'' he said. ``They are
exhausted and I think they will need counselling.''
January 18, 2000 - Halifax Herald
By Tera Camus / Cape Breton Bureau
Whale Cove - Road salt may have been a factor in the death Sunday of
musician John Morris Rankin.
Salt spilled by a provincial Transportation Department truck left a large,
unexpected bump on Route 219 moments before the internationally known Celtic musician and
member of the Rankins approached in his sports utility vehicle. Mr. Rankin was on
his way to Cheticamp to attend a hockey tournament.
"There was certainly a mound or pile of salt . . . and from talking
to our staff, this seemed to be a little bigger ... (than) the ordinary," department
spokesman Chris Welner said.
The mound, less than a third of a metre high and as wide as a single lane,
created a speed bump in the 80 km/h zone. It's believed Mr. Rankin swerved to avoid the
bump, then lost control of the truck, which plunged over a 25-metre cliff into the
Atlantic Ocean near Margaree Harbour.
Mr. Rankin's three passengers, including his son, Michael, 15, managed to
escape the overturned, submerged vehicle. Michael was the first one to make it up the
cliff and he flagged down a passing car. He and two 14-year-old boys were later treated
for hypothermia and released from hospital.
Inverness RCMP are looking into whether the excessive salt on the road
caused the crash. The roads were also snow-covered and icy at the time of the 7:30 a.m.
"That's still under investigation, and I do not have much
comment," Const. Sheldon Miller said.
"It's sad . . . probably one of the hardest (investigations) I've had
to do," Const. Miller said. "The boys were lucky" to survive. Mr.
Welner said the department is working with the RCMP to determine whether the salt was a
"Right now, we don't have all the facts but we're helping gather the
facts and helping the police with their work," Mr. Welner said.
The department isn't going to introduce any changes to the way it clears
the highway of snow and ice, Mr. Welner told CBC Radio's afternoon show in Sydney.
"Every day (the drivers) go out and go out as well-trained officers
who do a very difficult job in very difficult conditions," he said.
Mr. Rankin, who lived in Judique, played fiddle and piano for 10 years in
the popular Celtic pop band that included sisters Raylene, Cookie and Heather and brother
Jimmy. Last fall, the Juno award-winning group broke up to pursue solo careers. At the
time, Mr. Rankin said he was interested in spending more time at home with his wife,
Sally, his son and daughter Molly, 13.
No autopsy will be performed. Police cannot say whether he died from
injuries suffered in the crash or drowned. His funeral is set for Thursday at 2 p.m. at
St. Mary's Church in Mabou.
Condolences continue to pour in for Mr. Rankin's surviving family and
Prime Minister Jean Chretien said he was shocked to hear of Mr. Rankin's
death. "Like all Canadians, I was simply stunned to learn of this terrible
accident," Mr. Chretien said in a news release. "Cape Breton has lost one of her
finest sons, and Canada has lost one of her finest musicians. It is impossible to
comprehend how a life so rich in talent . . . a life whose magical artistry had touched so
many . . . could be taken so suddenly and under such tragic circumstances."
Premier John Hamm also sent his sympathies to Mr. Rankin's seven sisters
and four brothers. "The collective grief and sorrow of Nova Scotians and
Canadians cannot begin to fill the void in John Morris's family. But in time, we hope John
Morris's family will find strength in our prayers, our support and our admiration for a
most remarkable man. He was a model Nova Scotian . . . an artist . . . an inspiring
musician and proud Cape Bretoner."
Mr. Rankin, the fourth child in the family, was predeceased by his mother,
Kathleen, and father Alex J. (Buddy) Rankin.
John Morris and siblings Jimmy, Cookie, Raylene and Heather sold more than
two million albums and are credited with taking Cape Breton Celtic music to the
mainstream, first as the Rankin Family, then simply the Rankins. But there are seven
other siblings, some living as far away as California and the United Arab Emirates. All of
them arrived home Monday.
Jim St. Clair, a cousin who has been in touch with many of the Rankins,
said the siblings were taking care of each other.
"These are people of faith. They are people of understanding of the
difficulties of life," Mr. St. Clair said from his home in Mull River, near Mabou.
"They rally around one another in times of trouble as well as times
of joy. They are being supported very well by each other."
Mr. St. Clair said the famous family was keeping a low profile and wanted
to mourn in private. Wakes are to be held today and Wednesday at the old Rankin homestead
Organizers of the East Coast Music Awards are planning a tribute to Mr.
Rankin at awards ceremonies in Sydney next month.
"The Rankins have crossed our stage almost from Day 1," ECMA
spokesman Marcel McKeough said. "We're considering ways to show our respect and show
our appreciation for his legacy."
With The Canadian Press
January 18, 2000 - Halifax Herald
TRAGEDY has struck the Rankin family of Cape Breton, leaders in the Celtic
music revival that has swept the airways over the past decade.
John Morris Rankin, 40, was killed on Sunday morning after his vehicle
left the road at Whale Cove, near Margaree Harbour.
Mr. Rankin, the eldest of the five siblings who formed The Rankin Family
more than a decade ago, is being described as the quiet leader of the phenomenally
successful group, which had shortened its name to The Rankins prior to the decision to
disband last year.
Tragedies of this nature strike without warning, and the blunt force of
the pain of sudden death is a terrible shock for those who are left behind. In the death
of John Morris Rankin the shock extends to the extended family of musicians in this
province, as well as to the many fans who are thankful they have had the opportunity to
enjoy his musical talents.
The Mabou native is remembered by those who knew him best as an unassuming
man who shouldered the burden of success with ease by always remaining true to his roots.
His dry wit, always at the ready, was testament to a tremendous sense of humour.
Mr. Rankin's priorities in life were his family and his music. As the
eldest among the singing Rankins, he offered the sort of protective and encouraging
guidance that comes with the role of being the big brother. While his three sisters,
Heather, Raylene and Cookie, were known for their singing, and brother Jimmy for his
songwriting, John Morris has been described as the rock who held the group together.
His talent for both the fiddle and piano, as well as a keen ear for the
music, have been lauded in the music community as exceptional.
And as a husband and father, he showed maturity and selflessness in
attempting to strike the right balance between a musician's gruelling life on the road and
that of a family man. Last year, when The Rankins broke up after a glorious decade of
making music, collecting awards and topping the charts, John Morris's desire to spend more
time at home with his family in Judique was quoted as one of the reasons.
Indeed, at the time of his death, Mr. Rankin was involved in that most
Canadian of parental duties - driving his 15-year-old son, Michael, to a hockey game in
the early hours of a winter day. As the four-wheel drive left the road and plunged over an
embankment and into the waters of Margaree Harbour, John Morris reportedly ordered the
teenagers to jump from the vehicle.
While the three teenagers thankfully made it to safety, sadly he did not.
His body was recovered later in the day by Margaree Forks volunteer firefighters,
whose efforts under treacherous conditions were described as "heroic" by an RCMP
officer at the scene.
The other hero on the scene, of course, was John Morris himself, who
clearly put the safety of the teenagers ahead of his own as he struggled to control the
vehicle. Besides his son, Mr. Rankin is also survived by his wife, Sally, and his
13-year-old daughter, Molly.
Longtime friend and fellow musician Denis Ryan described John Morris as a
dedicated husband and father who was like a younger brother to him. "He was just a
beautiful person to be around - never offensive and he could be awfully funny at times.
And he did have a great Celtic humour and wit about him. He could laugh and smile and have
fun with very simple things in life."
John Morris Rankin will be sadly missed as a man and as a musician. His
family, friends and fans are all mourning his loss. His legacy is his devotion to his
family, his exemplary love for Cape Breton and his tremendous musical talent. Surely, he
has gone to a better place, where the music is lively, sweet and pure, and never a sour
note is struck.
Fare thee well, love.
The Rankins Legacy
Rankin Family introduced Cape Breton's ancient party music to rest of the world
January 18, 2000 - Halifax Herald
By Andrew Flynn - The Canadian Press
They stole a little fire from their Cape Breton kitchen and then the Rankins lit a
bonfire that caught and spread and warmed the ears and hearts of Canadians.
Breathing new life into the ancient, near-forgotten airs and reels of the immigrant
Scots, the humble family musical group from tiny Mabou, would become a driving force in
the nation's entertainment scene.
"The craze for Celtic music that hit Canada in the '90s was definitely started by
the Rankin Family," says Larry LeBlanc, music historian and Canadian correspondent
for Billboard Magazine.
"Every label decided at that point, 'We have to have someone from down
there.'" Their talents first blossomed in Mabou, a small Cape Breton community
literally bursting with musical tradition. There, the kitchen parties or ceilidh, would
ring with the stamping of feet and the reels and Strathspeys performed by great
traditional fiddlers like Donald Angus Beaton and Dan R. MacDonald.
Speaking and singing the Gaelic of their ancestors, the young Rankins were busy
absorbing a truly venerable heritage.
Of the performing brothers and sisters - Cookie, Heather, Jimmy, John Morris and
Raylene - John Morris, killed Sunday in a car accident, was perhaps the critical link to
generations of fiddle-playing forebears.
"The spirit for all of that, the anchor, was John Morris Rankin, the person and
the musician that he was," says Sheldon MacInnes, a Celtic music researcher at the
University College of Cape Breton and author of A Journey in Celtic Music, Cape Breton
"He was truly a link among the young fiddlers with the old time traditional style
of the music."
"He was a touchstone to the older musicians in the area, carrying on a tradition
that might have died when television in the '40s and '50s began to threaten it,"
"The same Scottish airs were played in the 1640s and had a lot to do with the
immigration to Canada of the clans."
The Rankins would become a bridge from the past to the future.
"The music here is a lot purer than it is even in contemporary day Scotland,
that's what's really remarkable about it," says LeBlanc.
"There is a theory within music that the farther you get away from the mother root
the purer the music tends to be. Part of that is because the mother body of music churns
The music of Cape Breton remained almost frozen in time, an enduring snapshot of the
old world that evolved just enough to become it's own entity.
"That's why we're transfixed by an Ashley MacIsaac," says LeBlanc. "It
really is a remarkable, unique musical style of swoops and bows."
The Rankins soared out of Mabou with their tradition-steeped sound in the early 1990s
with two independent cassettes, The Rankin Family (1989) and Fare Thee Well Love (1990),
later released by a major label. The first would go on to sell more than 100,000 copies,
the second more than 400,000 - an astounding feat for any Canadian band.
Television appearances, cross-country tours and the respect of both the record buying
public and international folk and Celtic performers would follow. They would dominate the
East Coast Music Awards in their early career and win five Juno Awards. In 1998, Paddy
Moloney, founder of the legendary Irish group the Chieftains, would invite the Rankins to
record for his spotlight CD on Cape Breton talent, Fire in the Kitchen.
Ironically, the group was often doubtful about whether their music would appeal to
audiences outside of their own region.
The Rankins' success was to be a catalyst for other musicians, says MacInnes, and
performers like Ashley MacIsaac, Natalie MacMaster, Bruce Guthro and Mary Jane Lamond
would follow in their wake as the floodgates of Cape Breton opened to the world.
"They have opened many doors for other musicians here and demonstrated that a very
ancient music, a very traditional music, can have appeal universally," says MacInnes.
Their popularity would create other opportunities for Cape Bretoners, not only in music
and the performing arts, but also helping to shape public policy in the region.
"(Their success) provided further appreciation and rationale for public
institutions to lend some support to the whole Gaelic language scene," he says.
"That's where the Rankin family perhaps would have been most instrumental in this
community. And maybe beyond, in indicating that there is a Gaelic language here, a strong
"They have taken that tradition and moulded the music and the songs in a way that
would be appealing to the general public so that people like myself, who research and
write, could turn to the bureaucrats and say, 'Here you go, look at what happens when we
support this stuff, look at the interest worldwide.'"
January 19, 2000 - Halifax Herald
By Tera Camus / Cape Breton Bureau
The driver of the snowplow that dumped a mound of salt on the road where
John Morris Rankin was killed in an accident is distraught over Sunday's tragedy, says a
"Devastated is an understatement," local plow driver Don
Cameron, who represents provincial highway workers with the Canadian Union of Public
Employees, said of his colleague.
"It's horrible. I know if I were in the same situation, I wouldn't be
able to work. All the (other) guys here are working . . . but this has had a major effect
on all of us."
Mr. Rankin, a world-renowned Celtic musician, died when his sport utility
vehicle left Highway 219 at about 7:30 a.m. and plunged over a 25-metre cliff and into the
Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Inverness RCMP believe Mr. Rankin, 40, may have lost control of the truck
when he swerved to avoid a mound of salt on the old coastal road near Whale Cove.
Officers are trying to determine how the pile of salt, less than a third
of a metre high, was spilled in Mr. Rankin's lane just moments before the musician and
three teenage boys came along.
The four, including Mr. Rankin's 15-year-old son, Michael, were headed to
a hockey tournament in Cheticamp. Michael and two 14-year-old boys managed to escape from
the truck and climb back up to the road, where they summoned help. The boys were treated
Chris Welner, spokesman for the provincial Transportation Department, said
officials are trying to help staff cope with the tragedy.
"I think it's fair to say (the driver) is quite shaken up," Mr.
"It's a very stressful and emotional time for John Morris's family
and for all of Nova Scotia, including our operators."
Mr. Welner said the driver was an experienced plow operator and was used
to being out when conditions are at their worst, as they were last Sunday, when the
highway was covered with snow and ice.
"Every time we put out an advisory to stay off the roads, this is
exactly the time our guys are out," he said.
Mr. Cameron said it's not uncommon for excess salt to be spread on the
"Sometimes you get frozen or lumpy salt . . . and the excess salt
needs to be run off," he said. "Drivers then have to scrape the stuff off the
But sometimes, especially when snow and ice cover the road, drivers can't
always see excess salt. RCMP have impounded both the plow and the wreckage of Mr.
Rankin's truck to test them for mechanical failure. Hundreds of people are expected to
attend Mr. Rankin's funeral, set for 2 p.m. Thursday at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church
in Mabou. Rev. Angus Morris will conduct the service.
Mr. Rankin played fiddle and piano for 10 years in the popular Celtic band
the Rankin Family (later the Rankins), which included sisters Raylene, Cookie and Heather
and brother Jimmy. Last fall, the group split up to pursue other interests. Mr. Rankin's
plan was to spend more time with his wife, Sally, his son and daughter Molly, 13.
He is survived by seven other siblings, some living as far away as
California and the United Arab Emirates. All are back home in Mabou.
January 20, 2000 - CBC's The National
Guest: LAURIE GRAHAM, Reporter
FATHER ANGUS MORRIS
JIM St. CLAIR, Family friend
DENIS RYAN, Musician and friend
PETER MANSBRIDGE: A church in Nova Scotia was filled today with people and
music. As mourners gathered to say good-bye to John Morris Rankin who died on
Sunday. About a thousand people attended the funeral of a man who stayed close
to his roots, even as he helped bring Cape Breton music to the world. Laurie
LAURIE GRAHAM: They crowded into the small Catholic church. Hundreds of
people: family, friends and fiddlers of all ages. They came to say good-bye and
to pay tribute to one of their own.
(Voice of) FATHER ANGUS MORRIS: There's a Gaelic saying that says all things
will pass away but love and music will last forever. And that's why I believe
John Morris will rise again.
GRAHAM: John Morris Rankin was the oldest brother of the Rankin family, a
Celtic band that sold millions of records worlwide. One of the East Coast's most
successful musical groups. Last Sunday he was killed when when he was driving
his son and two other teenagers to a hockey game. He apparently swerved around a
pile of salt that was on the highway, lost control of his vehicle and plunged 25
meters into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The accident is still being investigated.
GRAHAM: Rankin's sudden death has shocked this community. He grew up in Mabou.
People knew him not only as a musician but as a neighbor. All 11 sisters and
brothers attended his funeral in the church where he was baptized.
JIM ST. CLAIR / FAMILY FRIEND: I think it's very hard for them. They loved
him. You know, they just loved him. (Music)
GRAHAM: And friends loved him too.
DENIS RYAN / MUSICIAN AND FRIEND: We're all better off to have known John and
I hope...He was the same with the public as he was with his next door neighbour.
Just a humble, brilliant, decent man.
GRAHAM: As Rankin's casket was carried from the church, people gathered
around to show their respect. And 150 fiddlers played a series of reels, some of
Rankin's favorite tunes. Their way of saying good-bye to a talented musician and
friend. Laurie Graham, CBC News, Mabou, Nova Scotia.
January 20, 2000 - Halifax Herald
By Stephen Cooke / Staff Reporter
Mabou - In this small Inverness County village, it wasn't just the Rankins
who lost one of their own when John Morris Rankin died in a car accident Sunday morning.
The entire community feels like it's lost a family member.
"We will feel the impact for many years to come," said musician
and composer Joey Beaton, a lifelong friend and neighbour whose father Donald Angus was
Mr. Rankin's initial inspiration.
Mr. Beaton, who performed the Mabou coal mines style of Celtic music with
Mr. Rankin at the Montreal Cultural Olympics in 1976 as well as at prestigious shows at
New York's Kitchen in 1978 and Lincoln Center in 1982, said Mr. Rankin soaked up the
influences of legendary fiddlers like Willie Kennedy and Buddy MacMaster.
Mr. Rankin died Sunday morning when his sport utility vehicle plunged into
the ocean near Margaree Harbour. He was headed to a hockey game in Cheticamp with his son
and two other teenagers, who managed to escape before the truck hit the water. There
is speculation Mr. Rankin had swerved trying to avoid a pile of salt on the road, but the
"Every day was a learning day for him," Mr. Beaton said of Mr.
Rankin. "And although he excelled at whatever he did, he was never a know-it-all.
"His contribution to the music of Cape Breton - his fiddling, his
piano playing, his compositions - will be referred to for hundreds of years."
The whole of Cape Breton agrees. Friends, family and fans lined up for
hours Wednesday afternoon and evening outside the Rankin family home in Mabou to pay
respects to Mr. Rankin and offer comfort to his wife, Sally, and their teenage children,
Michael and Molly, as well as his brothers and sisters.
Funeral will be this afternoon at 2 o'clock in St. Mary's Roman Catholic
Church in Mabou. A collage of photos inside the Rankin home showed Mr. Rankin doing
what he loved best - playing music, enjoying the outdoors and sharing time with his
family. It was a time to grieve, but also a time to reminisce.
At MacMillan's General Store, where a large outdoor painting of the
Rankins greets visitors, David MacMillan remembered growing up with Mr. Rankin, getting
into snowball fights and playing on the same hockey team.
"He'd give (opponents) a few jabs every now and again," Mr.
MacMillan recalled. "He was a digger, he liked to stir up the pot a little."
"People are still shocked, they can't believe it happened to
him," added Mr. MacMillan's brother, Bobby, who co-manages the store. "He was
such a fine person, so good and witty."
Port Hood resident Harold Pond said his last memory of Mr. Rankin was also
hockey-related - he spent Saturday chatting with him while their sons played in the
"He loved being a part of it," Mr. Pond said. "He was as
proud as any father would be, especially when his son got a goal that afternoon.
"I'm honoured to have known him. Nobody could say a bad word against
The loss was felt most keenly on the street where Mr. Rankin's family once
lived, in the heart of Mabou. Archie Rankin watched him grow up from birth, and recalls a
young man who put his all into whatever he did but never asked for the limelight.
"He was so humble, you wouldn't think he had the ability," Mr.
Rankin said, "but people knew him all over the world. To think he was born just
across the road."
January 20, 2000 - Halifax Herald
By Tera Camus / Cape Breton Bureau
The snowplow driver blamed by some for the death of Celtic musician John
Morris Rankin says he can't wait for the day when he can say what really happened that
"It's not been easy. It's been horrible," John Archie Chisholm,
a longtime employee of the Transportation Department, said Wednesday. "But it will
all come out."
Police believe Sunday's 7:30 a m. accident might have been caused in part
by a mound of salt spilled on Highway 219 moments before Mr. Rankin's vehicle came along.
Mr. Chisholm said his lawyer has advised him not to comment on the
accident until the RCMP investigation is complete, perhaps by Friday.
"Only myself and God in heaven know what I'm going through," Mr.
Chisholm said in a telephone interview.
"It will all come out . . . from the time I got up in the morning to
when this happened."
"When (that) time comes . . . my record will pretty well stand behind
Mr. Rankin, 40, was heading from Judique to a hockey tournament in
Cheticamp with three teenagers, including his 15-year-old son, Michael. Near Margaree
Harbour, he apparently swerved to avoid a pile of salt, losing control of his sport
utility vehicle, which plunged over a 25-metre cliff into the sea. The three teens
survived but Mr. Rankin couldn't escape the vehicle before it sank.
Inverness RCMP Const. Shelby Miller said details of the accident could be
released by the end of the week. Part of the investigation has focused on the plow driven
by Mr. Chisholm, as well as Mr. Rankin's vehicle.
The soft-spoken Mr. Chisholm said he's "hanging in there" but he
finds it difficult to read or listen to media reports on how the salt got on the road.
There's been speculation the salt was dumped while the driver took a break
or stopped to talk to a passer-by. Another theory is that lumpy salt was dumped and the
driver didn't shovel away the excess.
Asked about a rumour that was circulating Wednesday, Mr. Chisholm said no
one from the Rankin family had called him since the accident.
Mr. Rankin's funeral will be held today at 2 p.m. at St. Mary's Roman
Catholic Church in Mabou.
Local firefighters will direct traffic and handle parking for the hundreds
of vehicles expected to arrive in the community. One local woman said the 600-seat
church may not hold everyone.
January 20, 2000 - Halifax Herald
Gordie Sampson was named a finalist in the pop category of the John Lennon
Songwriting Contest for his hit Sorry.
Harry Francis of Nottingham, Pa., was the grand-prize winner with Color My
World and Sampson was one of three finalists.
The finalists each received $1,000 U.S. from the New York-based contest.
There are 12 categories in the contest, which also awards prizes to six
runners-up. Sampson and Ryan Szarko of Edmonton whose Where I Send You was a finalist in
the dance category, were the only two non-American winners.
Sorry, from the CD Stones, has earned Sampson ECMA nominations for song,
single and video. Trip has also received nominations for song and single.
January 20, 2000 - Halifax Herald
The East Coast Music Awards Songwriters' Circle has announced this year's
The Tattler has learned that, the event's founder Sydney Mines singer /
songwriter Bruce Guthro will host the circle that will feature Carol Ritchie, Jimmy
Rankin, Cory Tetford, John Curtis Sampson, Paul Lamb, Ian Janes, Matt Minglewood and
Damhnait Doyle. Longtime Canadian singer /songwriter Dan Hill will also join in the
The Songwriters' Circle will be held on Sunday afternoon, Feb. 6 at the
Delta Sydney Hotel.
January 20, 2000 - Halifax Herald
By Stephen Cooke - Nightclub Notebook
My education in Cape Breton music began with John Morris Rankin. The
year I graduated from Kings College School of Journalism, I got a job as entertainment
reporter at C100-FM, and one of my early assignments was interviewing the members of a
musical family from Mabou who were appearing at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium in a show
called, appropriately, The Mabou Jig.
Here I was, a Dartmouth kid raised on punk rock, trying to get a crash
course in the history of Celtic music from John Morris and his sister Cookie who dropped
by the station to chat about the show. I knew nothing of the community hall dances or
strong family traditions, or names like Beaton, Chisholm and Fitzgerald, but the Rankins'
stories, and their songs, opened up a whole new world to me.
Our paths would continue to cross over the years - I remember the group
wondering how they'd go over with the alternative crowd at an early ECMA showcase at the
Pub Flamingo, and the audience wouldn't let them leave the stage - but I always marvelled
at how soft-spoken John Morris remained exactly the same, from the day I first met him to
the last time I saw him, at the ECMAs last year in St. John's, enjoying the company of his
I mean, fame changes people, you almost can't help it, but not John
Morris. When I asked him what he was going to do when he got his first big cash advance
from EMI, the major label that signed the Rankins, he said he'd always wanted to get a
wood splitter for his farm in Judique. There were clearly no stars in his eyes.
At the Fish Aid concert two summers ago, John Morris and his family sat in
the crowd, enjoying the other acts, instead of hiding out in his trailer backstage and
amiably chatted with those fans who recognized him. To him, music was just something you
did; it didn't make you any different from your neighbours.
As for his playing, it took me a few years of listening to the Rankins on
record to really appreciate it, the way he combined the rhythmic urgency of Cape Breton
keyboard accompaniment with his own lyrical touches, while his wide-ranging knowledge of
pop and country styles gave the band's contemporary numbers that beautiful melodic flow.
If a more talented pianist ever came across the Causeway, I've yet to hear
Rankin was happy being considered one of the guys
January 20, 2000 - Halifax Herald
By Frank Campbell
John Morris Rankin must be checking us out from above these days,
wondering what all the fuss is about.
His life story and details of his death in a Sunday morning automobile
accident have graced the front pages of newspapers and grabbed highlights on national
People who never even met John Morris are suffering a great sense of loss.
Public figures and politicians, including Prime Minister Jean Chretien, have offered
condolences to John Morris's family.
John Morris would not wear comfortably the accolades he's received this
week. Down to earth, humble and modest, he was happier to be considered one of the guys
than to be thought of as the guy whose exceptional talents brought him and four Mabou
siblings to the national and international stage.
In elementary school at Mabou Consolidated, John Morris was one of the
guys classmates liked to taunt because he did something different - he played the fiddle
But the little boy from Back Street deflected the childish taunts,
silencing the snickers by taking his music far beyond the borders of the tiny coastal
community in Inverness County.
John Morris was one of the guys often razzed in high school because of his
diminutive stature. But he soon learned how to use his quick wit and ready sense of humour
to disarm even the most persistent of tormentors.
At St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, John Morris was one of the
guys who enjoyed a good time, but he tempered it with more than enough study to be
He was one of the guys who had textbooks and library books strewn
everywhere on the floor of his dormitory room. When he successfully retrieved the relevant
textbook, John Morris's study problems were far from over. Entire pages, save for a few
words, had been highlighted by a yellow marker that John Morris supposedly was saving for
John Morris was one of the guys at St. F.X. who would joke with friends
about buying a school jacket. He somehow scraped together enough money to buy an
all-leather jacket, but he took some ribbing about its exorbitant cost from friends who
chose the cheaper melton-cloth jackets with leather sleeves.
"In 10 or 20 years, I'll still have the jacket and all you'll have
left is the sleeves," John Morris shot back.
The leather jacket turned out to be an appropriate choice for John Morris,
its durable, reliable and unchanging nature mirroring the character of its owner. In
the years to come, John Morris might take the leather jacket out of the closet only once
or twice a year, but it always looked the same.
Similarly, as those years passed and our situations changed, my visits
with John Morris were often limited to one or two a year. Yet the conversation flowed
easily and comfortably, as if only days had passed since our last meeting, for John Morris
was one of the guys it was always fun to be around.
John Morris's leather jacket was just as practical in the communities of
Mabou and Judique, his home for the past number of years, as it was on worldwide Rankin
And returning to Cape Breton from the bright musical spotlight, John
Morris was still just one of Buddy and Kathleen's boys. Fame had no more chance of
changing John Morris's unassuming character than time had of altering his good old leather
John Morris was one of the guys who struggled after university. Through
the hard times of working in Halifax as a part-time musician and part-time carpenter's
helper, and the joyous times of marrying Sally and starting to raise a family, he was
always ready to roll with life's punches and laugh at his own foibles.
John Morris was one of the guys who put The Rankin Family on the musical
map and kept them there. And he was one of the family who had had enough after 10 years of
touring the world.
It was time for John Morris to be one of the husbands and one of the
fathers who could devote more time to family. While he appreciated what he had achieved
and the things he had gained because of his love and mastery of music, he quietly lamented
missing much of his son Michael's and his daughter Molly's early childhood.
John Morris's music is a legacy that will live on in recordings. His
smile, his humour and his integrity will live on longer and stronger with family and
John Morris is one of the guys who will be remembered as a musical genius,
a genius that pales in comparison with his talents as a husband, a father, a brother, and
a true friend.
He's one guy who merited respect, first as a man and then as a musician.
And surely that's something to fuss about.
Frank Campbell is news editor of The Chronicle-Herald and The Mail-Star. A
Mabou native, he grew up with John Morris.
January 20, 2000 - Halifax Herald
I was saddened to hear of the tragic death of John Morris Rankin on
My family and I spent a beautiful two weeks in Nova Scotia last August. We
came primarily to see the scenery and listen to the bagpipes and fiddles. Along the
way, we were introduced to The Rankins and their music. My 12-year-old daughter has
subsequently appropriated our North Country CD; I may never get it back.
But that is far less the loss than that which Nova Scotia has suffered. My
heart goes out to the province, and to the Rankin family. Please know that there are
people throughout the world who mourn the death of your native son, a great musician.
David Clendinning, Tallahassee, Fla.
January 21, 2000 - Halifax Herald
By Stephen Cooke / Entertainment Reporter
Mabou - It was fitting that friends and family would gather to remember
John Morris Rankin at the community hall where so many first heard him perform.
Within minutes after his funeral, the community hall down the road from
St. Mary's Catholic Church, where the touching ceremony was held, began filling up with
loved ones and the air was alive with stories.
Looking out the hall's kitchen door, you could see the white two-storey
home where the Rankin family grew up. Inside the kitchen, Mr. Rankin's aunt, Mary Loretta
Beaton, oversaw an army of volunteers serving hot tea and carrying trays of sandwiches,
squares and scones to a long table in the hall.
Too busy to stop and chat, Mrs. Beaton quickly related how she used to
take the Rankin children on Victoria Day picnics and how she remembers John Morris playing
the piano - the one just behind her on the stage - when his legs were still too short to
reach the pedals.
That same image of young John Morris on the community hall piano bench is
the earliest memory that comes to mind for Mabou stepdancer Mary Janet MacDonald.
She began teaching the distinctive Cape Breton style of dancing in the early '70s and had
some of the Rankin sisters in her very first class.
"He was so full of natural ability, so eager," she recalled.
"I can't remember watching a child play the old tunes like that before."
Saturday, the day before Mr. Rankin was killed in a highway accident at
age 40, Mrs. MacDonald sat with him at the Cheticamp hockey tournament where their sons
were playing. Naturally the talk turned to music, but true to his humble nature, Mr.
Rankin preferred to describe how well his 13-year-old daughter Molly's fiddle-playing was
"We were at a party at fiddler Kinnon Beaton's house a month
ago," Mrs. MacDonald said, "and everyone was excited that John Morris came by.
We all hoped he'd play, and he did of course, but first he made sure that Molly got to
play. You could see he was so proud, he was beaming."
While Toronto record company executives and Mabou residents mingled in the
hall, Cape Breton fiddler Jerry Holland ducked outside for a breath of winter air. Mr.
Rankin played with him often, on stage and on record, but Mr. Holland remembers him first
and foremost as a friend.
"That means a lot today if you can say that about someone," Mr.
Holland said emphatically. "John Morris made sure he could come to my wedding in
September, and the fact he could make an appearance was wonderful. He would always be
there for his friends in support and loyalty."
Mr. Holland remembers going to the Rankin house when John Morris was 11 or
12 and hearing him play.
"His father Buddy loved to see me coming," Mr. Holland said.
"He knew I could get (John Morris) away from the piano to play the fiddle for a
while, while I picked at the piano. I'd tell John Morris to sit up and play the fiddle
like a man, and his dad would sit down the hall so he wouldn't intimidate him. I think
they both got a kick out of it."
Cape Breton music archivist Paul MacDonald credits Mr. Rankin with
starting him on his career.
"I wasted my childhood on rock 'n' roll and TV, but John Morris -
who's the same age as me - clearly didn't," said Mr. MacDonald, who's produced
roughly 60 fiddle albums.
"When I got bitten by the Cape Breton music bug, he was the guy I
looked to for inspiration, and I looked at how he did it - by engulfing himself in old
tapes of the master players.
"But I'll always remember him for his humility, which is so rare in
the music business."
Irish singer Denis Ryan performed a haunting Dark Island at the funeral.
"John Morris used to imitate me singing Dark Island," a laughing
Mr. Ryan said later at the community hall.
"How ironic I should be singing it at his funeral. I just miss John.
Besides his ability, his style and his skill, he was just a beautiful human being, solid
as a rock."
As night fell and the crowd thinned, Mr. Rankin's brothers and sisters
said farewell to their guests. They came here to remember, and it's certain none will ever
forget Mr. Rankin's contributions to music and the community.
WHAT WAS SAID:
"He was always looked on as an equal by the older fiddlers, like
Buddy MacMaster and Alex Francis MacKay." - Dan MacDonald, Cape Breton music
"He was so involved in what he was doing when he played on stage, I
think in his mind he could hear the babbling brooks of Mabou Coal Mines." - Joey
Beaton, Mabou musician and Rankin family next-door neighbour.
"He composed a tune for my granddaughter in Judique, called
Gabrielle's Jig. She was flabbergasted that he would take the time to do that." -
Archie Rankin, Mabou friend and neighbour.
"John Morris was one of the best piano players in Cape Breton - Buddy
MacMaster said he was THE best. Then he started playing the fiddle, and people said he
could never do it, you were only supposed to play one instrument. But he became a big star
playing both, but it never went to his head." - Willie Kennedy, Mabou fiddler and
"John Morris was very much a part of our family. We all feel like
we've lost a brother and son. We're all family here - you know who everyone is and where
everyone comes from - and when someone dies, it has a domino effect on the
community." - Mary Janet MacDonald, Mabou stepdancer.
January 21, 2000 - Halifax Herald
By Tera Camus / Cape Breton Bureau
Mabou - John Morris Rankin would have been humbled by the tribute that
family, friends and fellow musicians paid to him Thursday in their final farewell.
"He would have said, 'This is nonsense, I'm not worth all of this,'
" family spokesman Jim St. Clair said after the traditional funeral mass.
More than 50 musicians - including Buddy MacMaster, Denis Ryan, Ashley
MacIsaac, Scott Macmillan and Gordie Sampson - played traditional strathspeys and reels
like the Glen Coe March in front of more than 1,000 mourners who packed St. Mary's Roman
"Really, he was too humble, too modest, I guess," Mr. St. Clair
said. "I think he would have far better enjoyed playing with them."
Mr. Rankin, who soared to fame with some of his siblings in the Celtic
group The Rankin Family, later The Rankins, was killed last Sunday in a motor vehicle
accident on Highway 219 at Whale Cove, near his home. His sport utility vehicle went out
of control, perhaps after hitting a pile of salt on the road, and plunged over a 25-metre
cliff into the Atlantic Ocean. Three teenagers, including his 15-year-old son Michael,
survived. Transportation Minister Ron Russell said Thursday his department's
investigation into why the pile of salt ended up on the road should be complete next week.
"It's my understanding that there is a mechanism that is supposed to
cut off the delivery of salt when the truck is not moving," Mr. Russell said.
Rev. Angus Morris told those who gathered at the 100-year-old church to
resist blaming God for taking the 40-year-old musician's life.
"You may ask yourselves, 'Where was God in all of this?' Ever since
Sunday morning, God was present, in all the people who came by and spoke to you and
consoled you, all the people here today, all the phone calls, God was present,"
Father Morris said.
"God speaks to us through His people. Was He present last Sunday in
Margaree? . . . He had to be, because today we have the three boys with us in church who
were in that car."
Family members leaned on one another and cried, as did many others. John
Morris's six brothers, including fellow musician Jimmy, served as pallbearers.
His widow Sally and two children held hands as they walked behind the
Mr. Ryan, who sang Dark Island, was moved.
"I've known John Morris for 25 years and that particular song was the
first song John Morris learned on the fiddle," Mr. Ryan said.
"He was a friend of everybody's. I think Father Morris said it best
today when he said we have lost a great friend to Canada."
Father Morris described Mr. Rankin as a loyal man who believed in God, his
family and his heritage.
"John Morris was an artist, his culture was strong. Maintaining what
is good and beautiful, John Morris has done that to our culture. He brought it to the top
stages in Canada and beyond with dignity and honour."
Father Morris, who also plays the fiddle, shared some lighter moments he'd
had with Mr. Rankin. He said John Morris once whistled him a tune, claiming it was from
Father Morris's younger days, and wanted to know if he was singing it correctly.
"I said 'John Morris, I never heard it so correct before.' It was a
good line, because he said, 'I never heard it,' " Father Morris said, giving the
crowd a small laugh.
Mr. Rankin was buried in the church's nearby cemetery, which overlooks the
Father Morris recognized the pain Cape Bretoners and the rest of Canada
shared at losing such a gifted man.
"We cannot even fathom the great contribution John Morris had yet
planned to make to his family, church and traditional music that he supported and played
A special service in Toronto was to be held Thursday night in the chapel
at St. Michael's College. Mary Jane Lamond, John Allan Cameron, Con O'Brien of the Irish
Descendants and others were expected to attend.
With Barry Dorey and Amy Smith, staff reporters
January 21, 2000 - Toronto Star Atlantic
By Kelly Toughill
MABOU, N.S. - They said goodbye with music in Cape Breton yesterday,
playing the songs of John Morris Rankin in the church where he was baptized, then laying
the famous pianist to rest in a snowy field.
Yesterday's funeral of the beloved member of The Rankin Family was a
tribute both to the world-famous musician and to the unique, tightly knit culture that
nurtured his immense talent.
More than 1,000 people jammed the pews and vestibule of St. Mary's church
and another chapel nearby for the chance to bid a last farewell to the man who helped
export this island's Gaelic sound to the world.
There were famous musicians in furs, and a little girl in a kilt playing
quietly on the floor with a Barbie doll.
Friends and family and total strangers were brought together with the
familiar sounds of jigs and reels and ancient, aching old Gaelic laments.
``John Morris spoke from the heart in his music. No one was going to take
him away from his traditional style; he was loyal to his roots,'' his cousin and parish
priest, the Rev. Angus Morris, told the crowd.
``John Morris went into the world and came back John Morris. That's the
way he was to his friends."
More than 80 fiddlers, guitar players and singers crammed into a corner of
the church where they played ``Molly's Reel,'' which Rankin wrote for his 13-year-old
daughter, and ``Jack Daniels,'' which he also penned.
There was Ashley MacIsaac, the controversial punk fiddler from Cape
Breton, and Dennis Ryan of the Irish Rovers.
There were even children in the orchestra of musical friends. The head of
one curly-haired fiddler barely reached the belt loops of the revered master, Buddy
MacMaster, who was playing beside her.
Rankin, 40, died Sunday after his Toyota 4-Runner plunged off a cliff into
the sea as he was taking his son, Michael, and two friends to a hockey game. All three
teens escaped the crash.
Yesterday, the entire hockey team filed into the church for the funeral,
sitting with the family beside the coffin.
Parish priest Morris remembered Rankin as a family man and uncompromising
musician who was loyal in every aspect of his life.
``He gave up his musical career to be with his family,'' Morris said,
referring to last year's break-up of the family band.
``What a message to send across the country. I hope it's not wasted on our
Rankin grew up in this tiny town on the cold north side of Cape Breton,
where the traditions of Scottish immigrants still shape the lives of their descendants.
Gaelic signs hang in the few shop windows of Mabou and the community hall
is ringed with pictures of Scottish warriors. At yesterday's funeral, the white columns of
St. Mary's Church were draped with clan tartans.
The traditions also dictated the rituals of death this week.
Rankin's body was laid out in the parlour of the home where he grew up.
More than 600 people lined up in sub-zero weather for a chance to file past the coffin and
offer condolences to Rankin's 11 brothers and sisters, his wife, Sally, and two children.
His death has hit hard here, where people are fiercely proud of The
Rankins' success and perhaps most fond of the only Rankin who never left home.
Yesterday, it was the traditional music that helped raise spirits and ease
grief at Saint Mary's.
The balcony of the church shook with toe-tapping as the massive orchestra
of fiddlers played a jig before the service began.
``The service was a bringing together of all the hurt that everybody
around the countryside and all of John Morris's relatives and friends felt,'' said Jim St.
Clair, who is a cousin and former teacher of the famous musician.
``We shared all those hurts and I think the music and the words started
healing today. That gathering together of word and song and music and prayer is what
brings people of faith an eventual healing.''
Hundreds of people later gathered in the Ciad Měle Fŕilte community hall
to share stories of Rankin over plates of homemade cakes and sandwiches.
Close friend and fellow fiddler, Stan Chapman, said he and many others had
trouble yesterday playing the music that Rankin wrote.
``That was hard music to play today, very hard,'' he said.
``It's been a tough, tough week.''
A grief-stricken community says its final goodbyes to a homegrown star
January 31, 2000 - Macleans
By John Demont
"They lined up four abreast in the numbing
cold outside the old family homestead in Mabou -- waiting for hours to say a final goodbye
to John Morris Rankin. Inside the Red Shoe Pub, 100 m from the wake, old friends embraced
and a doleful woman heading for the bar blurted, "He would have wanted us to have a
pint." At the front of the room, a fiddler in dress shirt, tie and suspenders, along
with a piano player sporting coveralls, tossed off some of the same reels, jigs and
strathspeys the eldest member of The Rankin Family made his own. And on the hill
overlooking the village, St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church -- where the world-famous Celtic
musician was baptized and last week eulogized -- shone brightly into the night, lit by
strobe lights and a simple illuminated cross atop its steeple."
Tiny, picture-perfect Mabou was disconsolate last week. Not just because the world lost
an important musician. Rankin's death at age 40 in a freak auto accident was a tragedy on
a deeper, more personal level for the people in the close-knit Cape Breton village. They
had watched the uplifting family saga unfold: the 12 kids brought up by their mother,
Kathleen, after their father, Buddy, died; the first musical steps taken by John Morris
and his siblings Jimmy, Cookie, Heather and Raylene at local ceilidhs and kitchen parties;
their blossoming into a roots-oriented band that sold two million records and ignited the
Celtic music boom in Canada before calling it quits last September.
In John Morris, perhaps more than in the other members of the group, the villagers
seemed to glimpse something of themselves. He, after all, was the shy Rankin who shunned
the spotlight despite his virtuosity on the fiddle and piano. He was the one who stayed
closest to the area's proud 300-year-old musical tradition. He was also the Rankin who
came home, moving to nearby Judique when the group announced its amicable split. "He
just wanted to slow down after all that time on the road, play a few gigs and spend time
with his family," said Joey Beaton, a piano player and composer whose fiddler father,
Donald Angus Beaton, was Rankin's early mentor. His retirement, spent with his wife,
Sally, his daughter, Molly, 13, herself a promising fiddler, and son Michael, 15, lasted
only five months. After a decade of travelling the globe, John Morris died while driving
his son and two friends to a hockey game, less than an hour from home on a stretch of
straight road he had travelled countless times before (all three boys survived).
By the end of last week, the pile of salt he likely swerved to avoid was gone. But
footprints from mourners and the curious covered the snow on top of the 25-m cliff over
which his sports utility vehicle plunged before landing in the pounding sea. In Mabou, his
body lay in state for two days and nights in an open casket in the flower-filled parlour
as visitors streamed by. Then the 11 remaining siblings (their mother died in 1998), some
of whom had travelled from as far away as the United Arab Emirates, said their goodbyes
and the hearse drove slowly along the main street, where the sign on a general store read,
"Closed from 1 to 3 p.m. because of a death in our community."
And the community responded, with a send-off the likes of which Mabou has never seen.
At the church, 17 clergy sat in the front, while about 600 mourners crowded the pews or
stood, and another 300 listened to a broadcast at the nearby convent chapel. At the end,
about 70 Maritime fiddlers said goodbye the only way they knew how, by playing The Glencoe
March as the grief-stricken family made their way down the aisle. "How do you make
any sense out of something like this?" said Denis Ryan, an Irish singer living in
Halifax who sang during the funeral. "Maybe there's no way to." Many others
gathered for the final farewell likely felt the same.
Jan-Feb, 2000 - Words & Music
The whole country was shocked by the untimely death of John Morris Rankin.
A member of the celebrated Rankin Family, the accomplished pianist, fiddler, and composer
was a pioneer in bringing Celtic music from the Maritimes to the rest of Canada and to a
February 2, 2000 - Halifax Herald
The songs of Nova Scotia's Singing Ranger, the late Hank Snow, will not be
heard in tribute as planned during Sunday's East Coast Music Awards Gala in Sydney.
Instead, the East Coast Music Association will feature a tribute to the
late John Morris Rankin, who died tragically in an automobile accident
two weeks ago.
In a press release issued Tuesday, the East Coast Music Association
announced it has been flooded with requests from the public and the music industry to
honour the life and musical contribution of the beloved Cape Breton pianist and fiddler.
Unfortunately for Snow fans, time is at a premium on the broadcast portion
of the show, and as a result the planned tribute to the country legend, who died just
before Christmas, has been dropped from the program.
The memorial was to feature performances by John Curtis Sampson, Cory
Tetford, Denise Murray and John Gracie.
"The East Coast Music Association would like to sincerely thank those
artists for their gracious understanding in a very difficult time," the news release
ECMA chair Marcel McKeough said it was a tough decision, but the
association said it was imperitive that Rankin's contribution be recognized on the show.
"Members of the board, like all Atlantic Canadians, indeed all
Canadians, are deeply saddened by this loss," he said in the relase. "We wanted
to tell the world that we are proud to have known John Morris as a musical colleague and
Details of who will take part in the Rankin tribute have not yet been
The ECMA Gala will be broadcast live to the nation on CBC Television and
simulcast on CBC Radio Two at 9 p.m.
February 4, 2000 - Halifax Herald
By Greg Guy and Stephen Cooke / Entertainment Reporters
Sydney - The decision to drop a Hank Snow tribute from the nationally
televised East Coast Music Awards on Sunday night has brought controversy to the 12th ECMA
conference in Sydney.
The seven-minute segment to honour Snow was announced in January at a news
conference but the awards show's producers and the East Coast Music Association have opted
instead to pay tribute to John Morris Rankin, who died Jan. 16 in a highway accident.
The producers plan only to lead into a commercial break with a brief clip
Dave MacIsaac, one of John Morris's longtime friends, says the show should
include both tributes.
"They have both contributed to the world of music," MacIsaac
said while checking in at the Delta Sydney Hotel. "They both deserve this
Cape Breton singer-songwriter John Gracie - who was slated to perform
during the Snow tribute, along with John Curtis Sampson, Denise Murray and Cory Tetford -
agrees with MacIsaac.
"In a two-hour-long television show, one would think there would be
time," Gracie said. "A few minutes to (pay) tribute and honour the legacy of
both John Morris Rankin and Hank Snow - musicians who both revolutionized their genres of
music in their respective eras."
Canada's country gentleman, Tommy Hunter, has added his voice to the
debate, bringing national attention to the show.
"I'm appalled they would cancel a tribute to Hank Snow," Hunter
told the National Post on Wednesday. "I don't want to downplay the Rankins but . . .
there's no question they have made a very serious mistake to choose one or the
Presentations to host ECMA 2002, slated for New Brunswick, were made
Thursday by Saint John, Fredericton and the 1997 host city of Moncton. The ECMA
board will announce its decision in March. Next year, for ECMA 2001, it's back to
Charlottetown, Feb. 8-11. The ECMA buzz is everywhere in the Sydney area and promoters,
managers, musicians and even graphic artists are hyping their careers with posters
plastered throughout sold-out hotels, stores, bars, restaurants and even elevators.
Double ECMA nominee John Curtis Sampson of Port Morien and his Gemstone
Entertainment management have come up with an original idea. Sampson has a song
called When I'm Drinkin' on his CD You Got Me, and he and his management have distributed
coasters with Sampson's photo announcing his country artist and new artist nominations and
his 10:45 p.m. showcase tonight.
February 5, 2000 - Halifax Herald
By Stephen Cooke and Greg Guy / Entertainment Reporters
Sydney - The annual Stompin' Tom Awards, honouring unsung heroes in East
Coast music, tugged the heartstrings as well as guitar strings at the ECMA industry awards
Hosted by Grammy Award-winning Newfoundland musicologist Neil Rosenberg in
Centre 200, the awards brought back a flood of memories as they paid tribute to artists
from every region, in genres from Celtic to country to big-band swing.
Cape Breton band leader Gib Whitney was remembered in song by his daughter
Nancy and sister Lorna MacVicar as they crooned his signature tune The Night Watch.
Newfoundland folk duo Christina Smith and Jean Hewson accepted a Stompin'
Tom Award on behalf of the late troubadour Omar Blondahl, who was one of the first singers
to take Newfoundland folk songs "out of the kitchen and into the media."
Eddy Poirier of New Brunswick picked up his award, saying, "I never
did it for the money, as long as I got some money for gas at the end of the night."
P.E.I. singer Maxine MacLeod paid tribute to her father, fiddler Gordon
Gallant, by singing The Legacy (written with co-performer Terry Kelly) and tearfully
inviting her dad to the podium.
Mainland Nova Scotia was represented by country and gospel
singer-songwriter Carol Frederick-Frank, whose daughter Trina, also a singer, choked back
tears as she introduced her mother.
Frederick-Frank, who recorded and performed in the '60s and '70s and is
now Trina's manager, exclaimed: "This is wonderful, I never even got a bowling
Surprise guest Rita MacNeil got a standing ovation as she strolled to the
stage to introduce the Industry Builder Award recipients - Rave Entertainment's Max
MacDonald and Joella Foulds.
"It's an honour to introduce two people I have worked with
professionally in the past," MacNeil said. "They have brought integrity to the
industry that is so needed these days, don't you think?"
Other industry award recipients included Tidemark Music, the Halifax music
distribution firm, as company of the year; Sheri Jones, just named president of Tidemark,
as industry professional of the year; Steve Dupuis of Big Bang Marketing in Moncton as
graphic designer of the year - on his birthday; ATV entertainment reporter Todd Battis as
media person of the year; CBC as radio station of the year; Jamie Foulds, son of Joella,
as technician of the year; and Lakewind Sound Studio in Point Aconi as production company
of the year.
Geoff D'Eon, CBC producer of Sunday night's nationally televised ECMA
Awards show, has shed some light on the John Morris Rankin tribute.
Howie MacDonald and Dave MacIsaac will give a fiddling tribute to their
friend, killed in a highway accident Jan. 16.
"It will be a simple, beautiful, musical tribute," D'Eon said.
Meanwhile, Hank Snow, who died Dec. 20, will be remembered in a video
tribute that D'Eon says will be "very tasteful," with a Snow song guiding the
"We, too, would have liked to do a full-blown tribute, but there
simply isn't time to do everything."
The Hank Snow Tribute was to include performers John Gracie, Cory Tetford,
John Curtis Sampson and Denise Murray.
Gracie, up for two awards, decided that with no opportunity to perform on
the show, he would decline to appear at all. His wife Andree said he left Sydney on Friday
Fiddler Lee Creemo, who died in October, will be posthumously given the
Dr. Helen Creighton Lifetime Achievement Award.
Sydney hotels, oversold leading into the four-day ECMA event, now have
some rooms available. There are also about 200 tickets left for the awards show.
February 5, 2000 - Halifax Herald
In an emotional ceremony (at the ECMA's), The Rankins' manager
Mickey Quase stepped to the podium to announce creation of the John Morris Rankin Memorial
Rankin, 40, died in a highway accident three weeks ago.
"This fund is being established as a result of the overwhelming
response received from the general public and the music industry to establish a lasting
tribute to the musical legacy of John Morris Rankin," said a news release.
The fund is intended to preserve and enhance the Cape Breton musical
tradition, which Rankin always tried to do in his encouragement of younger players.
The fund's board of directors includes his widow Sally and their two
teenage children as well as entertainment lawyer Chip Sutherland and singer-businessman
Donations can be made out to Patterson Palmer Hunt Murphy in
trust re: John Morris Rankin Memorial Fund and sent to Suite 1600 - 5151
George Street, PO Box 247, Halifax, NS B3J 2N9, CANADA.
February 6, 2000 - Halifax Herald
By Stephen Cooke / Entertainment Reporter
Sydney - There was hardly room to breathe at Sydney's Mayflower Mall on
Saturday afternoon. Over 1,000 people gathered for an irresistible bargain - a free show
by fiddler Natalie MacMaster in her only public performance at the East Coast Music Awards
weekend before tonight's awards show.
For those who couldn't get the hottest ticket in town and would have to
content themselves with watching the live broadcast from Centre 200 on CBC at 9 p.m., this
was more than a consolation prize.
Diehard fans got to see the energetic Troy fiddler Up Close and Personal
(as the concert was titled), as part of a showcase that also included the high-octane
blues of Moncton showband Glamour Puss and Shyne Factory's nervy brand of Halifax power
MacMaster, clearly in her element, exclaimed how glad she was to be home
in Cape Breton, especially for the ECMAs, which bring "such a good vibe" to the
area. With the help of pianist Mac Morin, she delivered a trademark set of jigs and reels
with a tone as clear as crystal.
"Are there any stepdancers here?" she called out, and was soon
joined by four young lasses who couldn't believe they would be sharing the stage with
their idol until MacMaster urged them on with her bow, and the crowd went wild. The
willowy blond left the stage and posed for a few photos with fans before rushing off to
another round of awards-show rehearsals and script meetings. (She is co-host as well as a
It was a brief set, but it showed the kind of excitement the ECMAs can
bring to a city. In downtown Sydney, the store windows are filled with instruments and old
album covers featuring Cape Breton music legends such as Winston (Scotty) Fitzgerald, Dan
R. MacDonald and the winner of this year's Dr. Helen Creighton lifetime achievement award,
the late Eskasoni fiddling champion Lee Cremo.
Radio station CJCB has an elegant tribute to the late John Morris Rankin,
with a large photo, fiddle and tartan saying it all.
There's no shortage of fiddlers - Howie MacDonald at Ziggy's Pub in Sydney
River and P.E.I.'s Richard Wood at the Steel City Tavern on Saturday afternoon - but there
are other voices to be heard.
On Saturday night, the African Nova Scotian Music Association were set to
unleash Black Vibes 2000 at the Cedar Club, with a roof-raising collection of R&B,
hip-hop and gospel performers. And all weekend long, East Coast Unauthorized 2000 gave
alternative musicians their chance to kick out the jams.
"People say the ECMAs are the same thing every year," said Bryce
MacNeil, station manager at the University College of Cape Breton campus station CAPR,
which sponsors the event.
"We're not here for the industry people. They tend to make things
kind of sterile, anyway. It's great if they're interested in our acts, but we just want to
kick butt. We have a lot of non-traditional Cape Breton bands and a Cape Breton audience
that wants to see them."
MacNeil was also chief co-ordinator of the all-ages shows at St. Theresa's
Parish Centre, while the licensed event was scheduled for Chandler's Lounge until the wee
At one of this afternoon's official ECMA events, artists from different
backgrounds were gathering to share their common element - the song.
The Songwriter's Circle in the Delta Mariner Ballroom is an ECMA tradition
that allows industry veterans and newcomers to share their creative experiences and their
newer works. Host Bruce Guthro was to be joined by Dan Hill, Carol Ritchie, Paul Lamb,
Matt Minglewood, Cory Tetford, Ian Janes, John Curtis Sampson and Damhnait Doyle. Lennie
Gallant has agreed to take the place of Jimmy Rankin, who bowed out after his brother's
death. The event brings the conference to a close before the glitter and drama of
tonight's nationally televised awards show.
February 7, 2000 - Halifax Herald
By Greg Guy and Stephen Cooke / Entertainment Reporters
Sydney - Cape Bretoners shone on home ice Sunday night, picking up 10
awards at the 12th East Coast Music Awards.
Big Pond singer/songwriter Gordie Sampson won three trophies at the
four-hour ECMA show at Centre 200. He was chosen SOCAN songwriter of the year for his hit
Sorry. The song was also voted best video and best single, which he shared with
Newfoundland singer Kim Stockwood for her song 12 Years Old. Stockwood was also named
pop-rock artist of the year.
Newfoundland's Great Big Sea went home with three more ECMA awards. They
won their fifth consecutive fan-voted entertainer of the year trophy, as well as best
group and album of the year honours for their platinum release, Turn. People were
suggesting the honour be renamed "the Great Big Sea Award."
Natalie MacMaster of Troy, Inverness County, and John Curtis Sampson of
Port Morien were double winners. MacMaster, who co-hosted the awards show with
Newfoundland comedian Shawn Majumder, was voted female artist of the year for the second
year in a row and won the roots/traditional solo artist trophy. "It being roots
traditional, my roots and my tradition came from one of the finest places in the world,
Troy," MacMaster said in accepting the roots/traditional solo artist award. MacMaster
thanked her family for bringing her up in such a musical environment.
John Curtis Sampson won both of the categories in which he was nominated -
best country artist and new artist awards.
Cape Breton's John Gracie won the male artist of the year honour. Gracie
decided to leave the ECMA awards and conference on Friday, after the Hank Snow Tribute was
turned into a video tribute rather than a live performance.He was to be part of the
nationally televised tribute.
A touching tribute was made to the late John Morris Rankin, who died in a
highway accident on Jan. 16. His friends Dave MacIsaac and Howie MacDonald performed.
Cape Breton musician J.P. Cormier, sporting a new haircut, was chosen
instrumental artist of the year. "These things are great, we're all screaming for
each other," he said. "When one of us wins, we all win. "I'm going to
send this right down to Judique for Michael, Molly and Sally (Rankin). If anyone deserved
to be called instrumentalist of the year, it was John Morris."
P.E.I.'s Barachois were also double winners. The lively family band picked
up the best francophone recording award for their album, Encore! and roots/traditional
group of the year honours.
Morning Star of Eskasoni were named aboriginal group of the year.
Eskasoni fiddler Lee Cremo, who died in October, was honoured with the Dr. Helen Creighton
Lifetime Achievement Award.
It was a splashy awards show televised live on CBC, including performances
by The Barra MacNeils, Stockwood, Hantsport's Ian Janes, Barachois, Newfoundland's
Damhnait Doyle and Gaelic singer Mary Jane Lamond.
A segment called "DNTF - Definitely Not the Fiddle" rocked
Centre 200. It featured Julie Doiron, An Acoustic Sin and Fur Packed Action.
The set, designed by Tom Anthes, reflected the host steel city. At ECMA
1995, Centre 200 was the first place to hold an awards show of this magnitude in an arena.
The format was so successful, the Juno Awards and every ECMA since have been held in
Other winners included: The Nova Scotia Mass Choir gospel group of the
year; An Acoustic Sin, best alternative band; the Newfoundland Symphony Youth Choir, the
classical award; Newfoundland's Rik Barron, best children's artist; New Brunswick's
Glamour Puss, best blues band; P.E.I.'s Jive Kings, jazz group of the year; and Halifax's
Jamie Sparks, best urban artist. Comedian Maynard Morrison hosted the pre-broadcast show.
February 18, 2000 - Halifax Herald
Come Home 2000, a four-day jam-packed concert featuring some of the
Maritimes' best artists will be held in Antigonish Aug. 10-13.
St. Francis Xavier University, in partnership with the town and county of
Antigonish, the Antigonish Chamber of Commerce and the Antigonish Regional Development
Authority is sponsoring this special summer homecoming. St. F.X. will still host its
annual fall homecoming from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1.
On Thursday, Aug. 10, there will be a lobster dinner at Morrison Hall. On
Friday, Aug. 11 it's a ceilidh at Crystal Cliffs, featuring the talents of Nova Scotia
entertainers Howie MacDonald, Kendra MacGillivary, Tracey Dares and Dave MacIsaac.
Saturday, Aug. 12 features a huge Millennium Concert at the Oland Centre stadium with
Rawlin's Cross, Men of the Deeps, the Barra MacNeils and Mary Jane Lamond. Negotiations
are also under way with other entertainers. Special guests will include Denis Ryan
as emcee. The concert will be a tribute to John Morris Rankin, class of 1980.
Everyone planning to attend should contact the Come Home 2000 hotline at
1-877-909-StFX before the registration deadline of June 15.
February 19, 2000 - Halifax Herald
By Andrea Nemetz / Entertainment Reporter
The fire of Celtic music will heat up the winter months as CBC Radio One
broadcasts its first weekly live-to-air music series in nearly 50 years.
The Nova Scotia Kitchen Party, kicks off 11 weeks of live broadcasts of
roots traditional music from Pier 21 this afternoon with the Barra MacNeils, Scotland's
Archie Fisher and guitar whiz Dave MacIsaac. Cape Breton entertainer Max MacDonald will
host and special guest Scott Macmillan will conduct the Minnie Sessions.
"There's so much excitement about this series, from the people who
will be performing live in front of half a million people, to the technicians to the
tremendous enthusiasm from the people I met at the ECMAs and from public radio in the
United States," says Kitchen Party series executive producer Mike Laleune.
"I even got an e-mail from Tokyo from a man who loves the music and
can't wait to hear it. I was stunned."
The performances begin Saturday afternoons at 3 p.m. and the rest of the
world catches the spirit at 4 p.m. with a one-hour live show broadcast nationally on CBC
Radio One, internationally on Radio Canada International, BBC Scotland, short wave in
Europe, NPR in the United States and over the Internet in Real Audio.
It's actually the second time the series has been put together.
Discussions began three years ago and last year performances were
scheduled at the Lord Nelson Hotel from February to May. The series was cancelled because
of a CBC labour dispute.
"It's taken some time to come together, but it's given us a lot of
time for gestation," says Laleune.
Upcoming performances are: Feb. 26, Mary Jane Lamond, Gordie Sampson and
Felix and Formanger; March 4, The Fables, Bruce Guthro and Jon Goodman; March 11, Slainte
Mhath, Mark Haines & Tom Leighton, and Rita MacNeil; March 18, Grand Derangement and
Ronald Bourgeois; March 25, Battlefield Band (from Scotland), Evans & Doherty and
Jerry Holland. On March 26 it's Ireland's Tommy Makim, J.P. Cormier and Lennie
Gallant in a show that will air at 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 1. Saturday, April 8
brings in Natalie MacMaster, John Allen Cameron and Buddy MacMaster; April 15 it's Richard
Wood and the Ennis Sisters and on April 22, it's the Irish Descendants, Howie MacDonald
& Tracey Dares, and Raylene Rankin. Performers for a show on April 29 will be
Tickets for the Nova Scotia Kitchen Party are $15 and are available
through the Metro Centre Box Office, 451-1221 and all regular Sobeys ticket outlets.
February 19, 2000 - Halifax Herald
By Andrea Nemetz / Entertainment Reporter
After 15 years providing arts and entertainment in Baddeck, Centre Bras
d'Or is on the verge of extinction.
"The organization will continue to exist, but we're virtually
We're giving up the facility itself," says Allistair MacLeod, the
chairman of the board of directors.
"It's like owning a vehicle, but not driving it."
The centre may leave its premises as early as May, when the landlord has a
prospective tenant for the facility. No summer programs have been planned with the
exception of a perennially popular children's training program.
"The program involves 24 young people and there's always a waiting
list. But it's a modest thing with a low budget," MacLeod says. The centre is
currently $15,000 in debt.
"We've been in debt since day one, and the debt has been carried
forward year by year," MacLeod continues, adding the debt would be even larger if not
for the generosity of some of the centre's creditors. At times the debt was more than
"If we were to continue to operate in the same way with substantial
performances and educational workshops, the debt would balloon. Reducing the debt to zero
is very important to us."
Over the years such well-known musicians as the Barra MacNeils, the
Rankin Family and Natalie MacMaster have performed at the centre, which also played
host to the very popular, but now defunct, Cape Breton Summertime Revue.
But it became too expensive to stage the big-name shows. So two years ago,
the centre decided to focus on educational workshops.
"It didn't work out too well, but we are fully behind the concept and
believe given enough time it would become profitable," says MacLeod. "But we
don't have the deep pockets which would allow time to make it a permanent fixture."
It has also become increasingly difficult to get federal and private
funding.Government funding bodies expect arts organizations to make a profit. Board
members say there is no direct profit to be made fostering the arts, however, the economic
benefits to the community are substantial.
Last year more than 12,000 visitors stopped in at Centre Bras d'Or, and
the centre sold $20,000 worth of art on commission for local artists. In 15 years of
operation the centre had a cumulative budget of more than $2.25 million. And the centre
received grants for three full-time staff last year, who worked for 10 to 12 months.
But it's not just money problems - Centre Bras d'Or is dealing with volunteer
"It has become increasingly difficult to get people to sit on the
board and help run the show," says MacLeod. "Last year we couldn't find a person
to be vice-president. Of the 12 board members two resigned, and others were busy with
personal commitments and were not able attend all the meetings."
However, MacLeod notes the group of volunteers known as The Friends of The
Centre, who do everything from taking tickets at performances to billeting performers have
been "consistently wonderful from day one." The funding crisis has been
discussed in meetings for the last six months. The board of directors held a
last-ditch public meeting on Feb. 13 to see if there were any innovative suggestions on
how to solve the cash crunch. There weren't. So the centre will now take stock and
determine the best way to operate in the economic climate of the 21st century.
February 26, 2000 - Halifax Herald
The investigation into the accident in which Cape Breton musician John
Morris Rankin was killed is solely in the hands of the RCMP.
"We are no longer carrying on any investigation," Transportation
Minister Ron Russell said.
"All our material has been turned over to the RCMP."
The department examined a snowplow that spilled a mound of salt on Highway
219 near Margaree Harbour. Mr. Rankin, 40, apparently swerved to avoid the salt and lost
control of his sport utility vehicle, which plunged over a 25-metre cliff on Jan. 16.
Mr. Russell said he didn't know when the RCMP would release its report.
The snowplow driver, John Archie Chisholm, is still on leave from the Transportation
March 3, 2000 - Cape Preton Post
MABOU - The Strait regional school board is acknowledging the
accomplishments of the late John Morris Rankin by naming the stage at the high school
under construction here in his honour.
The performing arts stage at the Dalbrae Academy will be named for Rankin,
a native of the community. Rankin and fellow members of his singing family rose to
international prominence as the Rankin Family, later The Rankins, during the 1990s.
Rankin was killed in a motor vehicle accident near Whale Cove, Inverness
County in January.
The school board also announced that the library at the Dalbrae Academy
will be named for the late Alexander Doyle, a former superintendent of schools in
The gymnasium at the Cape Breton Highlands Academy under construction in
Belle Cote, Inverness County will be named for the late Archie Neil Chisholm. The
well-respected local historian and storyteller passed away a few years ago.
March 12, 2000 - Halifax Herald
By The Canadian Press
Toronto - The first night of Tal Bachman's first Junos was a double
success Saturday - the rookie musician picked up a pair of awards.
The quadruple nominee gets a shot at another one tonight. This year the
Junos are divided into two separate nights.
Vancouver's Bachman, 30, who scored a hit last year with his first single,
She's So High, took best producer and best new solo artist. He lost in the best pop
adult album category to Winnipeg singer Chantal Kreviazuk for her album Colour, Moving and
Still, but the son of rock legend Randy Bachman is still up for best songwriter for his
self-titled debut album.
In past years, the non-televised awards were crammed into two hours just
before cameras rolled on the main event. To give the 31 off-air nominees a chance to relax
and enjoy themselves, the academy presented their awards Saturday at a champagne dinner at
the Metro Convention Centre.
Saturday's ceremony was hosted by Newfoundland singer Kim Stockwood and
Toronto TV personality Carla Collins. Alanis Morissette won as director for
her own video So Pure, but also lost to Kreviazuk in the pop adult album category. She's
up for three awards tonight, best female artist, songwriter and best album for her latest,
Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie.
Best single went to Kingston, Ont., rock journeymen the Tragically Hip for
Bobcaygeon. Vancouver's Matthew Good Band won best rock album for Beautiful Midnight.
The year's best rap recording went to Toronto rapper Choclair for Ice Cold.
Best R&B/soul recording was Thinkin' About You, by 2Rude featuring Latoya and
Miranda. Reigning country queen Shania Twain was named country female artist. The
Rankins, who lost family and band member John Morris Rankin in a car accident earlier this
year, took best country group. Cape Breton fiddler Natalie MacMaster won
best instrumental album for In My Hands. Best alternative album - a hotly contested
category that included much vaunted new bands Len, Danko Jones and Tricky Woo - went to
Tonight's show, hosted by teen group the Moffatts (triplets Bob, Clint,
and Dave and brother Scott), will still be the main attraction, with the big prizes such
as album of the year and star performances, including one from Grammy-winning jazz singer
March 12, 2000 - Canadian Press - Andrew Flynn
TORONTO -- The first night of Tal Bachman's first Junos was a double
whammy Saturday -- the rookie musician picked up a pair of awards.
Like most of the big winners, Vancouver's Bachman wasn't there to pick up his awards. But
the quadruple nominee will get a shot at another one tonight -- this year the Junos are
divided into two separate evenings.
Bachman, 30, who scored a hit last year with his first single, She's So High, took best
producer and best new solo artist.
"They keep telling me Tal was here, but I know he's not because I bump into him in
bathrooms all the time ...," quipped co-host Kim Stockwood, accepting the award for
best producer on his behalf.
Bachman lost in the best pop adult album category to Winnipeg singer Chantal Kreviazuk for
her album Colour, Moving and Still, but the son of rock legend Randy Bachman is still up
for best songwriter for his self-titled debut album.
In past years, the non-televised awards were crammed into two hours just before cameras
rolled on the main event. To give the 31 off-air nominees a chance to relax and enjoy
themselves, the academy presented their awards Saturday at a champagne dinner at the Metro
But nearly half of the winners didn't appear to accept their awards, among them some big
names: Cape Breton fiddler Natalie McMaster, the Tragically Hip, Alanis Morissette, Shania
Twain and Bruce Cockburn.
Daisy Falle, president of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, said she
hopes more winners show up at next year's planned double-Juno nights.
"I think it probably takes time when you do it for the first time they don't realize
what a great event it is," she said after the show.
"They probably thought it was more of the same thing when we used to have the hour in
front of the telecast -- get up and get your award, sit down sort of thing. I think there
were enough people here who thought it was a success."
Saturday's ceremony was hosted by Newfoundland singer Stockwood and Toronto TV personality
Carla Collins and featured performances by Quebec folk band La Bottine Souriante, country
singer Tara Lyn Hart, reggae artists Willi Williams and the Luge Sessions and young
R&B pop duo Sangia.
Morissette won as director for her own video So Pure, but also lost to Kreviazuk in the
pop adult album category. She's up for three awards tonight, best female artist,
songwriter and best album for her latest, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie.
Best single went to Kingston, Ont., rock journeymen the Tragically Hip for Bobcaygeon.
Vancouver's Matthew Good Band won best rock album for Beautiful Midnight.
The year's best rap recording went to Choclair for Ice Cold. The Toronto rapper said
despite the low turnout of winners, he favours the two-night Junos, "as long as they
televise both nights."
"Every artist deserves to be on the televised awards," he said.
Best R&B/soul recording was Thinkin' About You, by 2Rude featuring Latoya and Miranda.
Reigning country queen Twain was named country female artist. The Rankins, who
lost family and band member John Morris Rankin in a car accident earlier this year, took
best country group.
"This one's for Johnny M," said Heather Rankin, accepting the award with
brother Jimmy for the now-disbanded group.
MacMaster won best instrumental album for In My Hands. Best alternative album -- a hotly
contested category that included much vaunted new bands Len, Danko Jones and Tricky Woo --
went to Julie Doiron.
Cockburn's Breakfast in New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu won best solo roots and
traditional album while the group award in that category went to Kings of Love by Blackie
and the Rodeo Kings.
Tonight's show, hosted by teen group the Moffatts (triplets Bob, Clint, and Dave and
brother Scott), will still be the main attraction, with the big prizes such as album of
the year and star performances, including one from Grammy-winning jazz singer Diana Krall.
This time Krall is nominated in just one Juno category, the newly created best vocal jazz
album, for When I Look in Your Eyes.
Also performing on tonight's show are the Barenaked Ladies, Great Big Sea, Our Lady Peace,
Amanda Marshall, Kreviazuk, Prozzak, Choclair, Sharon Riley and Faith Chorale.
Morissette is scheduled to present Sarah McLachlan with the international achievement
award, recognizing the huge international success of the Halifax-born singer and creator
of the all-female Lilith Fair tour.
This year's inductee into the Canadian music hall of fame is Bruce Fairbairn, the
Vancouver producer who worked with many of rock's legends, including KISS, Van Halen,
Chicago, Yes and Loverboy.
Fairbairn died last May. He was 49.
A special achievement award was given posthumously to early recording pioneer Emile
Berliner, marking the 100th anniversary of his registration of "His master's
voice" as a trademark.
Berliner, who lived and worked briefly in Montreal, was instrumental in the founding of
today's major record companies.
Backstage interviews from both nights will be featured on the Juno Web site at www.juno-awards.ca.
March 13, 2000 - Halifax Herald
By The Canadian Press
Toronto - The Rankin Family, who lost family and band member John Morris
Rankin in a car accident earlier this year, were named best country group Saturday at the
first night of the Juno Awards. "This one's for Johnny M," said Heather
Rankin, accepting the award with brother Jimmy for the now-disbanded group.
It was a night when East Coast musicians did well. Cape Breton
fiddler Natalie MacMaster won best instrumental album for In My Hands. Best alternative
album - a hotly contested category that included much vaunted new bands Len, Danko Jones
and Tricky Woo - went to Halifax's Julie Doiron.
Reigning country queen Shania Twain was named country female artist. Like
most of the big winners, MacMaster wasn't there to pick up her award.
Neither was Vancouver's Tal Bachman who won twice. The quadruple nominee
will get a shot at another one tonight - this year the Junos are divided into two separate
Bachman, 30, who scored a hit last year with his first single, She's So
High, took best producer and best new solo artist.
"They keep telling me Tal was here, but I know he's not because I
bump into him in bathrooms all the time ...," quipped co-host Kim Stockwood,
accepting the award for best producer on his behalf.
Bachman lost in the best pop adult album category to Winnipeg singer
Chantal Kreviazuk for her album Colour, Moving and Still, but the son of rock legend Randy
Bachman is still up for best songwriter for his self-titled debut album.
In past years, the non-televised awards were crammed into two hours just
before cameras rolled on the main event. To give the 31 off-air nominees a chance to relax
and enjoy themselves, the academy presented their awards Saturday at a champagne dinner at
the Metro Convention Centre.
But nearly half of the winners didn't appear to accept their awards, among
them some big names: MacMaster, the Tragically Hip, Alanis Morissette, Twain and Bruce
Daisy Falle, president of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and
Sciences, said she hopes more winners show up at next year's planned double-Juno nights.
"I think it probably takes time when you do it for the first time
they don't realize what a great event it is," she said after the show.
"They probably thought it was more of the same thing when we used to
have the hour in front of the telecast - get up and get your award, sit down sort of
thing. I think there were enough people here who thought it was a success."
Morissette won as director for her own video So Pure, but also lost to
Kreviazuk in the pop adult album category.
Best single went to Kingston, Ont., rock journeymen the Tragically Hip for
Bobcaygeon. Vancouver's Matthew Good Band won best rock album for Beautiful Midnight.
The year's best rap recording went to Choclair for Ice Cold. The Toronto
rapper said despite the low turnout of winners, he favours the two-night Junos, "as
long as they televise both nights."
"Every artist deserves to be on the televised awards," he said.
Best R&B/soul recording was Thinkin' About You, by 2Rude featuring
Latoya and Miranda.
Cockburn's Breakfast in New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu won best solo
roots and traditional album while the group award in that category went to Kings of Love
by Blackie and the Rodeo Kings.
Sunday night's show, hosted by teen group the Moffatts (triplets Bob,
Clint, and Dave and brother Scott), was set to be the main attraction, with the big prizes
such as album of the year and star performances, including one from Grammy-winning jazz
singer Diana Krall.
Krall was nominated in just one Juno category, the newly created best
vocal jazz album, for When I Look in Your Eyes.
Morissette was scheduled to present Sarah McLachlan with the international
achievement award, recognizing the huge international success of the Halifax-born singer
and creator of the all-female Lilith Fair tour.
This year's inductee into the Canadian music hall of fame is Bruce
Fairbairn, the Vancouver producer who worked with KISS, Van Halen, Chicago, Yes and
Loverboy. Fairbairn died last May. He was 49.
A special achievement award was given posthumously to early recording
pioneer Emile Berliner, marking the 100th anniversary of his registration of "His
master's voice" as a trademark.
Berliner, who worked briefly in Montreal, was instrumental in the founding
of today's major record companies.
March 16, 2000 - Halifax Herald
By Tera Camus / Cape Breton Bureau
Inverness - It will likely take another month for RCMP to complete an
investigation into the accident that killed musician John Morris Rankin.
Inverness RCMP Const. Shelby Miller wouldn't reveal whether charges are
being considered, or whether a mound of salt on the road was a factor in the fatal crash
on Jan. 16.
"It's all still under investigation because we haven't made a
determination yet," he said during a telephone interview Wednesday. "It's taking
longer than even I thought." Const. Miller wouldn't say what's holding up the
A mound of salt was spilled onto Highway 219 near Margaree Harbour by a
Department of Transportation plough, moments before the Celtic musician happened by with
three teenagers, including his son Michael.
Mr. Rankin, 40, was driving the teens to an early morning hockey game in
Cheticamp when he apparently swerved to avoid the salt, lost control on the snow- and
ice-covered highway and plunged over a 25-metre cliff into the Atlantic Ocean. The
surviving boys apparently jumped from the vehicle.
Part of the police investigation has concentrated on the mechanical
workings of the plough and Mr. Rankin's sports utility vehicle.
In an interview with this newspaper days after the accident, John Archie
Chisholm, the driver of the plough, said he was devastated. The longtime plough operator
is still on compassionate leave.
March 16, 2000 - Halifax Herald
Tickets for another round of the Nova Scotia Kitchen Party, broadcast live
on CBC Radio One from Halifax's Pier 21, go on sale today at 11 a.m.
These shows include the April 8 installment with Natalie and Buddy
MacMaster, plus the Cape Breton godfather himself, John Allan Cameron. On April 15,
former Rankins' member Jimmy Rankin will be joining the Ennis Sisters and Richard Wood,
while sister Raylene Rankin appears on the April 22 show with the Irish Descendants and
the dynamic duo of fiddler Howie MacDonald and pianist Tracey Dares.
Tickets are $15 (plus service charges) and are available through the Metro
Centre box office at (902) 451-1221 and all regular Sobeys ticket outlets.
March 29, 2000 - Halifax Herald
Sons of Maxwell and fiddler Richard Wood will headline the 2nd Springhill
and Area Irish Festival of Cumberland County, June 9 to 11 in Springhill.
Sons of Maxwell, aka Dave and Don Carroll, Ontario natives who now make
their home in Halifax, earned ECMA nominations in 1998, 1999 and 2000 and have toured
Canada and Europe.
P.E.I. native Wood, an ECMA winner in 1998, has performed with Shania
Twain, Natalie MacMaster, Bruce Guthro, Ashley MacIsaac, Heather Rankin, Sharon
Shannon and Symphony Nova Scotia.
Also on the bill are the Miramichi Fiddlers, traditional Irish stepdancers
and local favourites KIRN and Drimindown.
As well there are narrated bus tours, children's entertainment, art
displays, a parade, non-denominational church service and visits from Glennie the
Tickets go on sale May 1. For more information visit the Web site www.town.springhill.ns.ca or
March/April, 2000 - Canadian Musician
On January 16, 2000 one of Canada's most talented musicians and
songwriters, John Morris Rankin, passed away.
Taking his son to his hockey game on that fateful day is when John
Rankin's 4-runner dove off a 25-metre cliff into stormy seas in Cape Breton. His son and
the two other teens that were with them managed to escape, John Morris didn't.
John Morris has been a part of EMI Music Canada's family as part of the
Rankin Family later known as just the Rankins. The Rankins are touted as one of the
leaders that brought the music of Atlantic Canada to the forefront.
John Morris was a master pianist and fiddle player and together with the
other members brought home five Juno awards for their five albums, which also sold over 2
More than 1,000 people jammed inside the church for the funeral services
to pay their respects to the man that everybody loved.
Playing a couple of songs that John Morris wrote in the background were 80
fiddlers, guitar players and singers. Among the musicians were Cape Breton's own Ashley
MacIsaac and Dennis Ryan of the Irish Rovers.
April 6, 2000 - Halifax Herald
One thing you can say about Cape Breton traditional music is that the
musicians are each other's biggest fans.
A good example is master fiddler Brenda Stubbert, who's written a tribute
to the late John Morris Rankin that has been recorded by Irish fiddler (and honourary Cape
Bretoner) Liz Doherty on her new CD Fiddlesticks.
Those who have heard it call it "a kicky little tune" and it's
sure to be come a standard, not to mention the first of many recorded tributes to the
multi-talented Mabou musician.
(or the day the Canadians invaded
April 6, 2000 - Too Hip Records
Jamie Warren, Thomas Wade, Jimmy Rankin and Lawnie Wallace were
invited by SOCAN to participate in this year's TIN PAN SOUTH conference in
Nashville. Carolyn Dawn Johnson (hey, you remember her from last year's
CCMA's ... she wrote SINGLE WHITE FEMALE!) was the host of the CANADIAN
SONGWRITERS NIGHT. It was held Thursday, April 6th at the Radio Cafe. Fun
was had by all! Excellent music, excellent singing, excellent company!
Tons of Canadians (and smart Americans) came out to see the show....
Gil Grand, Steve Fox, Patricia Conroy, Shirley Myers, Beverley Mahood...
etc., etc. The folks at NSAI (Nashville Songwriters Association
International) put on a great seminar!
We had lots of fun at the seminar and lots of fun celebrating Jamie &
Beth's birthdays (April 8 & 6 respectively). A great big THANK
YOU to SOCAN, and especially Lynn Foster and Marnie Thornton for a GREAT
time! Thanks for inviting us, and all the hospitality! Thanks too to ASCAP
and Ralph Murphy for dinner (hope you're feeling better Ralph!)
Hope you enjoy the pictures from our weekend in Nashville! (Thanks to
Beth Warren for the photos below).
Jimmy Rankin wowed the crowd with his new songs
CANADIAN SONGWRITERS NIGHT - Socan's Marnie Thorton, Carolyn Dawn Johnson,
Jimmy Rankin, Socan's Lynn Foster, Jamie Warren, Lawnie Wallace and Thomas
Jimmy Rankin, Lynn Foster and Jimmy's manager/wife Mia Rankin
Thomas, Jamie & Jimmy on the town
"I'm not taking the kleenex outta my ears until Lynn stops telling
the story about how she met Henson Cargill...."
"I told ya to get that camera outta my face!!"
April 13, 2000 - Halifax Daily News - by Marla
Strap yourselves in for a global voyage - Symphony Nova Scotia's new season is taking
Halifax orchestra fans around the world.
But a familiar face from home was the surprise highlight at yesterday's launch at the
Rebecca Cohn auditorium.
Raylene Rankin, in a stylish slate-grey suit, gave the lunchtime crowd
goosebumps with the spellbinding Gaelic ballad An Innis Aigh. Her pure, sweet voice had
the biggest impact on her toddler Alexander in the back row, who made it perfectly clear
those powerful Rankin pipes live on in the next generation. As soon as the singer left the
stage, her son's wails filled the auditorium, as if on cue.
Rankin returns in the fall for the symphony's Maritime Roots concert,
with conductor Scott Macmillan and Newfoundland's Bernard Felix and Normand Formanger.
Other regional concerts include Mary Jane Lamond with Slainte Mhath, Barachois, Frank
Leahy's tribute to Don Messer's fiddle, and a St. Patrick's Day romp with Denis Ryan and
Newfoundland's newest treasures, the Ennis Sisters.
For the rest of the season, the symphony features the world's greatest composers, with
concerts dubbed Arabian nights, Sweden's mystery, French romance, Russia's magnificence,
British baroque, and the grand Germany of Beethoven and Mendelsson. Pops conductor Howard
Cable plans a musical tour of tropical beaches in his Postcards from the Sand show, with
tenor David Rogers of Phantom of the Opera fame. Michael Burgess of Les Miserables is
"I always wanted to be an airline pilot," quipped resident conductor Greg
Burton, coming out in a pilot hat. Flags festooned the stage yesterday, and in her own
assortment of foreign hats, Olga Milosovich was more tour guide than emcee. Even the
launch invitations resembled passports.
Helming the new season while the symphony continues its search for Leslie Dunner's
replacement is artistic adviser Simon Streatfield. Guest conductors also include Grant
Llewellyn and baroque specialists Jeanne Lamon and Bernard Labadie.
There are two new series - Popular Classics, with Oscar-winning movie scores and
favourite classics featuring local cellist Denise Djokic and pianist Peter Allan, and the
Family Series for children ages five to 12, with the legendary Pied Piper of Hamelin, and
How the Gimquat Found Her Song.
April 13, 2000 - Halifax Herald - By Stephen
Pedersen / Arts Reporter
Symphony Nova Scotia will take its audiences to the world's favourite travel destinations
SNS launched its 2000-01 season on Wednesday in the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium. The
orchestra, in full concert trim, played a mini-concert of samples from the upcoming season
which begins Sept. 26.
The current season ends April 29.
The music by Glinka, Handel, Albeniz, Ellington and Tchaikovsky ended with Raylene
Rankin singing An Innis Aigh (The Happy Island), a Gaelic song from the Helen
Creighton collection. Rankin is scheduled to open the Maritime Pops
Oct. 6 with Bernard Felix and Normand Formanger. Scott Macmillan will conduct the
"There's a taste of everything on the program," said SNS President Bob Geraghty.
"I think people like it. I think we are getting more appeal for more people."
The launch focused on works by an international roster of composers from England, France,
Germany and Italy - but, strangely, not the USA - to be performed as part of the
nine-concert, flagship Celebrity Series. Canada will also be represented.
Guest artists include pianist Anton Kuerti, violinists Philippe Djokic and Erika Raum,
violin/cello duo Gwen and Desmond Hoebig, flutist Patricia Creighton and pianist Alexander
Tselyakov. Conductor Grant Llewellyn returns for two concerts.
The game of musical podiums will continue throughout the season, though with guest
conductors rather than conductor candidates. Principal guest conductor and artistic
advisor Simon Streatfield will direct five of nine main series concerts.
Conductors Greg Burton, Howard Cable and Scott Macmillan introduced the music to be played
on six different concert series, and five additional Holiday and Special concerts - a
total of 40 concerts, not counting school shows and runouts.
Burton and Cable will split the four concert Traditional Pops Series and guest soloists
include Joelle Rabu re-enacting Edith Piaf's last concert, and tenors Michael Burgess and
Macmillan conducts all four Maritime Pops concerts, presenting, besides Rankin,
Felix and Formanger, Mary Jane Lamond, Slainte Mhath, Barachois, and old-time fiddler
Two very positive signs emerged from the season programming. The trend to featuring local
and symphony players as soloists continues, and the Baroque series, with four concerts,
each to be led by a baroque specialist, including Jean Francois Rivest, Bernard Labadie,
Hank Knox and Jeanne Lamond, a sign that this already popular series is likely to get even
Popular is the word for a new series called Popular Classics. Conducted and hosted by
Timothy Vernon, the two-concert series features cellist Denise Djokic in a concert of
movie music, and pianist Peter Allen playing your favorite warhorses - the Warsaw Concerto
and Liszt's Piano Concerto in E-Flat.
Also new is the two-concert family series. On Oct. 22 Burton conducts How the Gimquat
Found Her Song, and Charles Cozens directs the orchestra for The Pied Piper on April 1,
A Martin Luther King Jr. Tribute, Handel's Messiah and The Nutcracker are back, as well as
the popular season-ender Beer and Beethoven (with Howard Cable).
April 29, 2000 - Halifax Herald
By Stephen Pedersen / Arts Reporter
The buzz in CBC Radio these last 11 weeks is the runaway success of the
Nova Scotia Kitchen Party, the Celtic and roots-centred musical show broadcast live every
Saturday afternoon from Pier 21's Heritage Hall.
In what the show's private sector executive producer Mike Laleune refers
to as "back to the future," its technologically hip use of the Internet has
expanded its country music audience to include the entire globe.
And the good news is the back-to-the-future marriage of old-fashioned
radio and technology will be back next season.
Both Laleune and CBC executive broadcast producer John Dalton estimate
that up to one million people tuned in every week.
"People write in e-mails over the Net while listening," Dalton
says. We read some of them over the air during the show. It gives people a chance to say
"We've gotten e-mails from as far away as Australia and Turkey. The
day we got one from Rome, Natalie MacMaster was on the show. 'Oh my gosh,' she said, 'I'm
going to be in Rome next week!'
"Sometimes they are misplaced Maritimers. A woman in Calgary, her
father in Kelowna, and her sister in Halifax listen together each week. It's a lovely
marriage of old-fashioned radio with modern technology."
By "old-fashioned radio," Dalton means "live" radio, a
genre that used to dominate the airwaves before the coming of television. No one is doing
live radio these days, he says, or live TV either. And filling that slot with the format
of a Maritime, family-based, rural entertainment like the kitchen party where anybody and
everybody gets up to play a tune is, to extend Dalton's metaphor, a marriage made in
"A lot of what has been done for this series has never been done
before," says Laleune. "CBC has never produced a show (on radio) with a private
Such partnerships are both common, and even mandatory in television
production where Telefilm and the Video Fund require a filmmaker to have a TV broadcaster
partner in order to access government funding.
Laleune believes that Nova Scotians have a deeply centred feeling for
their music. "Our success in this style of music is well out of proportion to our
size," he says.
"Other places have music which is identified with them - the waltz in
Vienna, Motown in Detroit, country music in Nashville.
"I first pitched the idea to CBC three-and-a-half years ago. My
requirement was that the music be Celtic-centred, roots/traditional. That's what people
from outside think of our music.
"It was a fairly easy sell - it's motherhood. The difficulty was how
to put it together. I had much less to do with the shape of the show."
CBC's Dalton says he thought of the show as "a Grand Old Opry kind of
"An hour-long broadcast, live, on Saturday afternoon, with the fun of
listening (or watching it), knowing it's live, with Max MacDonald as host."
The format Dalton came up with was to have two different invited acts and
one continuing act each week. A headliner like Richard Wood or The Irish Descendants,
plays a tune or a set right off the top of the show. Then the secondary act - like The
Ennis Sisters, or Howie MacDonald with Tracey Dares and Dave MacIsaac sing a couple of
songs or play a Cape Breton set.
The continuing act, on every show, is a Minnie Session of two songs with
guitarist Scott Macmillan and a guest such as Jimmy or Raylene Rankin, performing in the
kind of musical collaboration that has made Macmillan's three Minnie Session CDs so
The headliner comes back then to play a half-hour concert segment. During
breaks and pauses in the show, MacDonald reads e-mails received on site by technician
Dermot Kenny, who prints them off and gives them to Dalton to choose two or three to be
read on air.
Macmillan says the Minnie Session segment has so far premiered new songs
and compositions from guests like Rita MacNeil, Lennie Gallant and Jerry Holland.
"In a way the Minnie Sessions are kind of closer to the idea of a
kitchen party, because it's so flexible," Macmillan says. "Sometimes we
put it together almost on the spot - it's a little unpredictable - just like a kitchen
Following that idea out, Laleune and assistant producer Ron Bourgeois came
up with the concept of a Rising Stars session in the capacious lobby outside Heritage
Hall. It takes place an hour before the broadcast show, and features newcomers.
"The broadcast show has to be at a national broadcast level,"
"But in a true kitchen party you have everybody, amateurs and
professionals both, taking part. The Rising Stars spend the day with us, listen in to a
rehearsal, have lunch with us where they can talk to people like Jimmy Rankin, for
example, if they want to, and then perform in the lobby for an hour."
Every week 350 people crowd in to Heritage Hall for this popular Saturday
afternoon. It has been selling out ever since it started. The reading of the e-mails
enhances the excitement of the live radio show for the all-ages audiences.
When Max MacDonald asks everybody in the crowd to perform a "test
yell" he begins to work up the kind of enthusiasm you hear every week right off the
top of the show. Another kind of yell often goes up as it did when Max MacDonald read an
e-mail from John Finbar Crowley in Ireland and a table full of his friends in Halifax gave
voice to their feelings.
The first series of 11 Nova Scotia Kitchen Party shows, which began Feb.
19, ends this Saturday with Rawlins Cross, downeast fiddler Frank Leahy, and McGinty in a
tribute to Stan Rogers. Macmillan will not be there because of a previous commitment to
perform with Raylene Rankin and the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra in Ontario. The
words to Barrett's Privateers will be published on the program website, http://halifax.cbc.ca/kitchenparty/,
for what Dalton is calling "the first ever Internet Singalong."
May 11, 2000 - Halifax Herald
Heather Rankin has landed a role in the indie feature film, Scotland,
PA., which begins filming in Halifax next week.
But before she steps into the role as nurse Peg she will be heading down to New York
for two weeks to work with Carly Simon.
Heather will sing with Carly for tapings of ABC's Good Morning America
on Tuesday (May 16), on Late Night with David Letterman at CBS on Wednesday (May 17), The
Rosie O'Donnell Show on May 22 and The View on ABC on May 23. Check local listings.
As for the film, Abandon Pictures of New York will be shooting Scotland, PA., well into
The producers are Richard Shepard and Jon Stern. It is written and directed by Billy
May 19, 2000 - Halifax Herald
INVERNESS - RCMP are still investigating the traffic death of musician
John Morris Rankin in January.
His vehicle left the road near Whale Cove, Inverness County, and went over
a 25-metre embankment into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. His son, Michael, and two other
teenagers escaped without injury.
Const. Shelby Miller says police are continuing to take statements, but
that it's time-consuming to reach people.
"It's not an open-and-closed thing," he said Tuesday.
He said he hopes the investigation can be wrapped up soon, but wouldn't
speculate when it would be finished.
Four Cape Breton fiddlers will play a new piece at this week's Scotia Music Festival
May 23, 2000 - Halifax Daily News
By Sandy MacDonald
Is there no place too tony for Cape Breton fiddle music? The
heel-rocking rhythms and lilting melodies have been tumbling out of the country dance
halls and front parlours into the fancy concert halls and outdoor festival stages around
This week, four of the best Cape Breton fiddlers bring their music to the annual Scotia
Festival of Music, sharing the secrets of cut bowing, grace notes and dotted time rhythms
with eager students and music fans.
They're among more than 20 guest faculty artists at the Halifax festival.
Now into its 21st season, Scotia Festival of Music invites the cream of young classical
players from North America and abroad to expand their musical education through a series
of master classes and concerts with world-class musicians.
But the learning experience is not limited to just the 50 chosen students - for a
nominal $5 a session, the public can sit in on the open lessons.
"Everyone takes away something on their own level," says Christopher Wilcox,
founder and managing director of the festival. Over a two-week span, the festival
celebrates music with concerts, open rehearsals, master classes, lectures and recitals.
Among those "master" musicians this year are the four Cape Breton fiddlers -
Buddy MacMaster, Carl MacKenzie, Howie MacDonald and Dave MacIsaac. This
year's composer-in-residence, Scott Macmillan, has written a piece for four fiddlers and
string quartet, simply dubbed The Set. He says it was inspired by Cape Breton dances held
in packed halls in Glencoe Mills, West Mabou and other communities.
The 25-minute commissioned piece is built around three musical figures that
characterize a typical dance set - two groups of jigs and a third of group of reels.
Macmillan has constructed what he calls `vignettes' within the set where the fiddlers
trade off measures with the chamber players.
Macmillan is excited about the fusion, as he weaves traditional reels, jigs and
strathspeys with his original tunes, sparking a melding of musical traditions.
"Having gone to the Cape Breton dances for so long, this was a nice form for this
music," said Macmillan, from his country home in Cape Breton. "It was a fun
piece to write, because I had the balance of the four fiddlers and the four (classical)
"The Cape Breton players will know the tunes ... the tricky part will be getting
the whole ensemble into the rhythm."
Wilcox has been interested for some time in bringing fiddle music to his chamber music
"My dream was to go back in the woods of Cape Breton and discover some of these
guys myself - which was pretty stupid," laughs Wilcox. "Anyone who was any good
was already known."
Wilcox started talking with Ashley MacIsaac last fall about performing in the festival.
But with the monsoon of bad publicity around MacIsaac's controversial New Year's Eve
show, Scotia Fest backed off the booking and decided instead to bring on the four other
Wilcox moved to Halifax in 1967 to play clarinet with the then-Atlantic Symphony
He's developed the highly regarded music festival to where it now supports two
full-time employees year round, with a budget of almost $400,000 a year. Sable Gas is on
board as the leading corporate sponsor, contributing almost 10 per cent of the festival's
A huge slice of the festival's fundraising comes through its annual car raffles - last
year Scotia Fest raised $162,000 through the car draws.
Through the festival, there are almost 60 events open to the public, from the master
classes to the evenig concerts, including a gala Cape Breton ceilidh in the Rebecca Cohn.
Writing music for eight musicians with a Celtic edge and a classical approach is
nothing new for the multitalented Macmillan. He also composed for The Octet, an eclectic
ensemble of local players in the late '80s.
Macmillan has several other pieces being performed during the festival. Each night, a
concert will be presented at the Sir James Dunn Theatre, featuring both the visiting
students and the master players.
In addition to The Set (which will be performed May 31) Macmillan has written a piece
for solo viola, a choral arrangement for the 35-voice Aoelian Singers based on a Sheree
Fitch poem, some string quartets and a solo electric guitar piece called The Navigator,
which Macmillan will perform himself.
"The festival is a chance to try out new things," says Macmillan, who
attended in the mid-90s, taking some conducting classes.
Other guest artists this year include The Duke Quartet, a cutting - edge string quartet
from England; virtuoso pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin and Cape Breton-style pianist Mary
To get tickets - For
details on individual concerts, classes and tickets, call Scotia Festival of Music at
May 25, 2000 - Halifax Herald
Three-day event set for August
By Tom McCoag / Amherst Bureau
Springhill - Rita MacNeil's performance at the second annual
Springhill MusicFestival this summer will cap three days of top flight East Coast music,
the festival organizer promises.
"This will be the hottest event this summer in the Maritimes," Bernie
Melanson said Tuesday as he listed the acts for the three-day event, Aug. 4-6.
Joining the Cape Breton singing star in the lineup are Blue Rodeo, Lennie Gallant, Kim
Stockwood, Valdy, Gordie Sampson, Shirley Myers, Laura Smith, Barachois,
Glamour Puss, Sons of Maxwell, the Fables and John Curtis Sampson.
"As you can see, this lineup is laced with ECMA winners; the best there is in East
Coast music," said Melanson, who recently organized the Care Canada Concert for
"The great thing is, all of these great performers are all going to be here all at
the same time, and not out west somewhere as they usually are.
"Those aren't all of them either. We have some surprises that we are working on.
We will let you know about them at a later date."
One of those surprises could be Men of the Deeps. Melanson would only say he is
negotiating with the Cape Breton singing group.
He would not say if Springhill songbird Anne Murray will
be back at the festival she launched last summer in her home town.
Fans will see some changes, particularly in the length of time each performer is on
stage. Last year, only headliners like Murray put on full concerts. Most of the other
performers were on stage for only about half an hour.
This year, supporting performers will play for a full hour and headliners "will be
on for 90 minutes plus," Melanson said.
In addition, the beer tent is being expanded into a second stage known as the Moosehead
Melody Tent. It will come alive with various bands after each headline act ends at 11 p.m.
The beer tent lineup includes perennial crowd-pleaser Matt Minglewood.
"This way we will have music going until 2 a.m. each night of the festival,"
Organizers also plan to hold a songwriting seminar and a display of new musical
instruments, including some computer-assisted ones.
They will also have a children's midway and a display of special effects by Streamer
Effects International, an internationally recognized special effects company that does
work for Disney World.
Last year's inaugural festival attracted more than 11,000 people. Tickets for this
year's event are now on sale.
The first 5,000 customers can get weekend passes for $49.95 plus handling and HST.
After those are gone, passes will cost $59.95 in advance and $69.95 at the gate.
Passes for children aged six to 12 are $20 in advance and $25 at the gate.
Tickets are available through the Springhill MusicFestival
office and the Moncton Coliseum box office.
May 25, 2000 - Halifax Herald
It's spring and film production is beginning to heat up in Nova Scotia. You'll never
know who you may pass on the street, meet at the gym, or find sitting at the next table.
Several films are already cooking, including the independent feature film Scotland, PA. which began shooting a football scene in Shannon
Park last Wednesday. Film is rolling this week in Harrietsfield.
The Abandon Pictures of New York production stars James LeGros (Ally McBeal, Drugstore
Cowboy, Born on the Fourth of July), Academy Award winner Christopher Walken (The
Prophecy, The Funeral, The Dear Hunter), Maura Tierney (Liar, Liar, Primary Colours,
Instinct), Andy Dick (NewsRadio, Inspector Gadget) and James Rebhorn (Third Watch, Snow
Falling on Cedars, The Talented Mr. Ripley).
It is written and directed by Billy Morrissette.
Scotland, PA. is based on life in a Scotland, Pennsylvania diner
in the early 1970s and is apparently a spoof on Macbeth. It will also star Heather
Rankin as nurse Peg.
Producers are Richard Shepard and Jon Stern.
The Tattler has some correspondence with people who happened to be on a tread mill next
to Jame LeGros and Maura Tierney at the Y.
The film is expected to shoot in the province until the end of June.
June 3, 2000 - Halifax Herald
By Andrea Nemetz / Entertainment Reporter
Life on tour works for three-time ECMA male artist of the year John Gracie
because it's a family affair.
His wife, Andree, is his manager and she and their kids Samantha, 10, and
Nash, 9, travel with him on the summer festival circuit. This year that circuit
takes him across Nova Scotia, to P.E.I. and Ontario with a stop in Edmonton, June 18 and
19 for a celebrity golf tournament and concert and a tour of U.S. Eastern seaboard in
"It's not back-breaking touring on the festival circuit," says
Gracie over cappucino at the Second Cup.
"It's not a four-hour concert night after night. I probably wouldn't
enjoy it as much if I was doing it on my own - but we do a concert in the afternoon and
then hit the beach. The kids really look forward to that kind of summer."
Among the highlights of this summer are an appearance as a mainstage act
at Hamilton's Festival of Friends, which attracts 200,000 visitors, the Festival of the
Islands in Gananoque, Ont., and the Soundwaves Music Festival in Ottawa on Canada Day.
Closer to home he'll be at: the Pictou Lobster Carnival, July 6; the Tall
Ships Celebration, July 17 to 23; Ship's Company Theatre in Parrsboro, July 24, a return
engagement after a sold-out show last year; the Riverfront Jubilee in New Glasgow, Aug. 6;
Digby Scallop Days, Aug. 8; and Hank Snow Tribute Concerts in Bridgewater and Halifax Aug.
19 and 20 among other engagements.
Growing up Gracie was influenced by Snow, whom he calls one of Nova
Scotia's three genuine superstars along with Anne Murray and Sarah MacLachlan.
"He was born in the 1920s in rural Nova Scotia and conquered the
music business selling 85 million records, which is no small achievement.
"My father was a Hank Snow fan and so was my cousin, Terry Gracie, a
fantastic musician who sang, played sax and harmonica and who was a popular bar singer in
"When I got a call to do a tribute during the ECMAs my first call was
to Terry to see what the best Hank Snow songs were."
Gracie was supposed to perform in a seven-minute tribute to Hank Snow at
the ECMAs in February. But the show's producers opted to pay tribute to John Morris
Rankin, who died Jan. 16 in a highway accident and lead into a commercial break with a
brief clip of Snow.
Gracie pulled out of the show altogether and Andree accepted his third
ECMA trophy, which Gracie sees as a perfect scenario, because of her contribution to his
While he knew for a long time the ECMAs were coming up Gracie's nomination
for the Big Country Award's outstanding new male vocalist came out of the blue. The awards
are based on RPM weekly chart positions between Nov. 1, 1998 and Jan. 31, 2000 and will be
presented in Toronto on June 9.
"It's pretty cool to be nominated against someone like Jim Cuddy (the
other nominees are John Landry, Chad Klinger and Kevin Waara) and the fact the award is
based on chart performance means we are getting a lot of airplay."
He doesn't see himself as a country artist, despite the fact his new
video, What's This Love Coming To, is getting lots of airplay on CMT.
The sexy video, featuring Canadian model INEZ, who just signed a $2
million US modelling contract, is the story of a young couple who are fighting.
"I'm a music fan," explains Gracie, who has released six albums
in an 11-year period including 1999's Identity.
"I listen to everything and that is reflected in my music. I have a
real difficulty understanding how a performer can do one style of music all the time and I
can't imagine listening to one kind of music all day. Growing up, I listened to CJCB in
Sydney which was easy listening in the morning, country in the afternoon and rock 'n' roll
"To me country music is a focused form of folk music. Depending on
the focus, folk can be roots/traditional, country or pop - it's all empathetically
Gracie has not one but four new albums in the works. A live album is the
first up, recorded on the road over 20 dates and mixed and mastered at R and B Studios in
Halifax with co-producer Ross Billard. As well there's a second Christmas Album, and John
Gracie - The Songwriter, a project he's doing with a marketing company in Toronto. There's
also a compilation disc for the Metro Food Bank which features Gracie's Pass It On, and
artists including Liz Rigney, Lennie Gallant and Terry Kelly.
June 8, 2000 - Halifax Herald
Celtic Brew bubbles over with C.B. talent
By Elissa Barnard / Arts Reporter Joella Foulds
When fiddler Howie MacDonald and his sisters were kids they put up a
blanket next to the furnace and staged a play for neighbourhood kids.
Now, they're back at it, but the price of admission is higher than a nickel.
Howie MacDonald and sisters Marilyn and Cheryl have concocted Howie's
Celtic Brew, a show of sketch and character comedy, traditional Cape Breton music and Cape
Breton stepdance. It opens tonight in Glace Bay and tours Nova Scotia.
Directed by Bette MacDonald, produced by Rave Entertainment, the show ostensibly
replaces the Cape Breton Summertime Revue.
Not exactly, says Howie, the show's musical director and principal comedian. "I've
been thinking about this for years."
Howie MacDonald, of Westmount, across the harbour from Sydney, is best
known as a fiddler. He toured all over the world with the Rankins, has put out two
cassettes and six CDs, recently did a mini-tour of Nova Scotia with his friend, fiddler
Ashley MacIsaac, and was in Halifax last week on the Scotia Festival of Music faculty.
However, he has been interested in comedy "since I was born," he said, during
a break from the Scotia Festival.
"We used to hold concerts in the basement when we were kids. We had our father's
lunch can and some hard hats and we'd dress up in work clothes and stuff," says
Howie. His father worked for CNR.
Now he wants to explore the world of comedy, developing an act as a fiddler/comic. For
that he needs to get out in public.
"You can sit at your kitchen table and you play music and you're learning and
growing and getting better. With comedy you can't make yourself laugh, you have to have
somebody there even if it's your kids."
MacDonald, who did a comic turn with the 1997 Cape Breton Summertime Revue, was in the
Nancy White Jokebox at the ECMAs in February and performed this spring at the Ha!ifax
Comedy Festival. But before he goes out across the country with a solo act as a fiddlin'
comic, "I thought I should stay home and educate myself as to what I feel comfortable
Howie also wanted to be closer to his wife and two daughters after summers spent away
from home touring.
He approached Joella Foulds, of Rave Entertainment, producers of the revue, and called
on his sisters in Westmount, Marilyn, a singer, teacher's assistant, and mother of three
including a three-month-old, and Cheryl, a mother of two boys and a psychology student.
"He asked Mar and I if we'd be a part of it and we were completely honoured,"
says Cheryl, who step dances, acts in the comic sketches and also did some writing.
"It's a nice change for Mar and I. We're home with our kids a lot. It's a chance
to get back into the music and what we love."
The show is different from the Cape Breton Summertime Revue, she says, because it
focuses a lot on music which is fiddle-based though ventures into jazz and even gospel and
features a piano solo by Tracey Dares.
"The music in the show is absolutely fabulous and there's a lot of dancing in the
show. It's music and dancing and we added some comedy," says Cheryl, talking on the
phone from the mall on her way home from rehearsal.
She, Marilyn, their mother, who was a MacDonald, Howie and another sister, Evelyn, used
to play festivals in Cape Breton as the MacDonald family.
"Every summer we were on the road from Broad Cove to Glendale." Glendale was
their big destination, since their grandmother, mother and uncles hail from Glendale.
"My father's father played the fiddle. My mother and her brothers played the fiddle.
"Our grandmother, we're hoping she will make it to the show. She'll be 102 in
Apart from Marilyn and Cheryl, the Brew team features Tracey Dares-MacNeil,
piano/dance; Al Bennett, band leader/guitar/bass/fiddle; Matt Foulds, percussion/comedy;
Patrick Gillis, guitar/fiddle; sisters Helen and Dawn MacDonald who fiddle and step-dance
and are no relation to Howie, and John Chaisson, vocals/guitar.
"I've got a great bunch of people who are enthusiastic about what they do,"
They are also a great support system.
"When I did the comedy fest, it was so intense. The comedians were backstage going
over their parts. They were pacing and it was not as lighthearted as I thought. These guys
take their work very seriously and I was the new guy on the block.
"This show is a step back from that. I have people supporting me. "
Howie got together with Sydney playwright/director Kennie Chisholm to write sketches,
which Bette MacDonald helped to shape.
"The characters are characters myself and my sisters have been doing most of our
lives and the sketches were written with these people in mind.
"We started imitating funny characters in the country," says Cheryl,
"and one thing led to another and here we are.
Howie's comic influences include Jack Benny, "the John Byner type of comedy"
in Bizarre and the early Rise and Follies. "I thought they were really cool. It was
something I had never seen before other than at the house."
He adores Jim Carrey, saw his latest film about Andy Kaufman ("it was very
good") and got Carrey's biography for Christmas. He calls Carrey brilliant. "I
think he's original. He never stops improving, he's always got something new going
Howie, himself, has plans for something new in the future.
"This is safer for me at this point. The other ideas that are in the back of my
mind are on hold. I have a lot of Star Trek humour going on back there," he says with
For now, Howie is anxious to see how people react to his Celtic Brew. "I can't
settle down till it starts. We really don't know how it's going to go over. All we have to
do is see what people think. If it's any good we'll be back in August."
"I hope everything goes well for Howie," says Cheryl. "Mar and I are so
glad to be a part of it with him and we really hope he gets what he wants out of the show:
a good turnout and lots of people to enjoy it. We hope people come and they laugh and they
For tour dates, visit the Band Members Concerts
different shade of bluegrass
Atlantic Blue may be the most quintessentially Maritime album ever made
June 17, 2000 - Halifax Herald
By Stephen Cooke / Entertainment Reporter
The disc began as simply a special edition of CBC Radio's
Atlantic Airwaves, combining some of the East Coast's best performers with superior
examples of the region's songwriting, but it soon blossomed into a landmark
cross-pollination of roots genres. Country, Celtic, Acadian and gospel all gathered to
shake hands in a seamless meeting of musical minds.
The resulting effort, assembled at CBC Radio's Studio H on
Sackville Street and labelled The Atlantic Newgrass Project by producer Karl Falkenham,
was too good to let disappear into the ether after a single broadcast.
Like the project's title indicates, the foundation for Atlantic
Blue is a progressive style of bluegrass using traditional players like J.P. Cormier on
guitar and banjo and Ray Legere on mandolin and fiddle, plus backing vocals by Alan and
Rick Spinney of Spinney Brothers and Close Company and Nadine Sarty and Angie Armstrong
from the ECMA-winning bluegrass group Exit 13.
What makes the CD more universal is the choice of songs by the
likes of Lennie Gallant, Ron Hynes, Rita MacNeil and John Morris Rankin,
sung by a roster of guest vocalists including Cindy Church, Raylene Rankin,
JeanMarc Doiron and Four the Moment's Delvina Bernard.
"Everyone we called wanted to be involved in this,"
says Falkenham. "There were lots of moments like when we asked Cindy Church to sing
Ron Hynes' Atlantic Blue and she'd say 'Sure, he's one of my favourite writers!'
"Then I'd call up Ron and tell him Cindy was doing the song
and he'd say 'I love her voice, she's perfect for it.' "
For the late John Morris Rankin's heartfelt
tribute to his grandmother, The Eyes of Margaret, Falkenham called up one of his favourite
local voices, Kevin Evans of the folk duo Evans and Doherty, to give the song the
sensitive treatment it deserved.
"We actually recorded it a month or so before John
Morris passed away, so it wasn't done as a tribute in that sense," recalls
Evans. "It was just a great song that I wanted to sing the best I could.
"In fact, after we rehearsed the song, we did an initial
test recording and Karl must have liked what he heard because he told me, 'That's the
one.' And as it turned out, it was that first take he used on the record."
Send an email for info on
obtaining this wonderful CD.