Jack Richardson Music Hall of Fame
Gordie Tapp was a consummate performer – a comedian, musician, storyteller, and scriptwriter known for his passion for performing and his professionalism. But he is also known as a consummate human being – generous, caring and supportive. Gordie was recognized for his contributions to entertainment as a member of the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame in 1990. His role as philanthropist may be less known than that of his characters, Cousin Clem and Lavern Nagger from Hee Haw, but the impact he had on Canadian children earned him the highest honour in the province – the Order of Ontario in 1999 – and membership in the Order of Canada in 1998. Gordie was a lifelong supporter of the Canadian Muscular Dystrophy campaign and Easter Seals Society, as well as U.S. Shriners’ hospitals for children and the Canadian Tim Horton foundation for children. Gordie Tapp was born in London in 1922 and started his career in radio. He honed his skills at Lorne Greene’s Academy of Radio Arts. Moving from London to Guelph to Hamilton to Toronto and on to Nashville, he reached millions of people worldwide with his humour and music In Hamilton, he developed and hosted an evening show called “Main Street Jamboree” in the 1950s. From there, he hosted CBC’s Country Hoedown for 10 seasons. In 1969 CBS hired him as a writer and performer for the television variety show Hee Haw. His Cousin Clem character was a recurring favourite who hailed from Puce, Ontario. Tapp worked in America, but his family remained in Canada. “We were all up here and Dad didn’t really think of himself as American,” said daughter Kate Tapp-Mok. “He was very proudly Canadian.” Another London, Ontario country music legend and fellow JRLMA Hall of Famer was a friend and colleague. Tommy Hunter and Gordie Tapp performed on television, including the Tommy Hunter Show. “We had a close relationship, but we were always very respectful of each other’s talent. I don’t think Canada ever fully realized how talented Gordie was,” said Hunter. In the 1970s, Gordie released two singles. “Nobody’s Singing Them Cowboy Songs No More” became a Top 10 hit in Canada and “Many Others” which was in the Top 50.) A lot of people in this business sound like your best friend and they’re really nice people, but it’s just a persona. He was a genuinely fun loving, happy guy,” said Bob Bratina, radio personality and member of parliament. “He never put on any airs that he was something special. He was always a down-to-earth guy.” Tapp continued to perform charity shows and at retirement residences until a month before his death in December 2016.
Born in the United Kingdom in 1949, Graham moved with his family to London, Ontario when he was an infant. He first began drumming with the ‘Police Boys Band’ of London (Canada) at the age of eight. Deemed musically gifted. with an aptitude for rhythm, he joined the London (Canada) Symphony Orchestra at the age of 13, followed by stints in the bands of fellow inductees Johnny Noubarian, and Johnny Downs. Graham’s first exposure to rock n’ roll was with the band ‘Ken Maddox and the Mystics’, which he joined at the age of 14, followed by a namesake nine piece band ‘King Lear and the Playwrites’, which instilled a passion for blues, R&B and rock that would act as the inspiration for Graham’s career in music. Still in his teenage years, Graham’s destiny changed forever when Toronto based, former Mandela frontman, George Oliver needed a backing band to play promoter Nick Panaseiko’s local nightclub, ‘Thee Image’. That lineup went on to tour the Eastern US and Canada as Natural Gas, recording a seminal album self titled album. Lear’s drumming on that album garnered critical acclaim from drummers like Neal Peart of ‘Rush’ and Penti Glan of ‘Alice Cooper’s band. Members of Natural Gas later toured as Truck and released one album for Capitol Records. At 19, Lear moved to Montreal to perform and tour with ‘Les Grand Ballet Canadiens,’ with 6 other avant garde percussionists. Soon after, his talent was recognized by Gino Vannelli, who relied on Lear to record some of his most significant work from 1973 to 1976. Leaving Vannelli in mid 1976, he performed briefly with iconic Canadian guitarist Domenic Troiano when he received a request to audition for one band he had longed admired, Santana. Three weeks after the audition in San Francisco, Graham found himself playing Wembley stadium in England for three nights in what would be a European tour that culminated in the live tracks recorded for ‘Moonflower’, Graham’s first RIAA U.S. gold album. For the next 12 years, Graham toured with Santana, often at a grueling pace, performing countless concerts in multiple countries. Lear also toured and/or recorded worldwide with Paul Anka, REO Speedwagon and Saga. He has also worked with T.V./ Film composers Henry Mancini, Domenic Troiano, Jimmy Dale (Pianist/arranger Boss Brass), David Foster, Mexican jazz/fusion group Sacbe, and recorded jingles for Nike, Molson and Avia. Lear also recorded with Gary Small, an eclectic Northern Cheyenne guitarist from Sheridan WY, resulting in a winner at the Native American Music Awards. Lear has performed on hundreds of records in his storied career. He now lives in Niagara-on-the-Lake with his second wife, Penny Steel, and his two sons from his first marriage, Brian and Trevor.
It should come as no surprise that Doug Varty ended up playing music. Months before he was born, his mother visited a fortune teller who predicted her child would spend his life in music. His father played piano, and both parents gave Doug a turntable and records – when he was just a baby! Born in London, Varty is a multi- instrumentalist, playing guitar, piano, organ, keyboards and harmonica. At age 13, he formed his first band and at 17, he moved to Toronto and joined Sea Dog playing piano and organ. Sea Dog signed with CHUM Radio’s Much Records, releasing 8 singles and one full length album. Over their years together they toured Canada with groups such as April Wine, Crowbar, A Foot In Cold Water Fludd, Lighthouse, Rush, Sly and the Family Stone, Tina Turner and Bob Seger. Sea Dog broke up in 1975. Doug’s next band Lowdown, formed in London in 1982. Doug played keyboards, guitar, and sang. They released six singles and two full length albums, “Love Ya” in 1982 on their own Lady Records label, and “Gimme Some,” in 1983 on Globe Records. Their first single, “Gimme Some”, was written by Doug and hit #1 on the Canadian Adult Contemporary chart in December 1983. Their 6th and final single, “Baby I Know”, also written by Doug, hit #5 on the same chart in August 1985. Next up for Doug was the Doug Varty Band. In 1990, The Doug Varty Band won Labatt’s Blue Band Warz, a contest against 1500 groups nationwide. They made it through regional and provincial judging to win first prize and the title of Best New Original Act in Canada. He has also played with The Old Chicago Band, Bushdoctors, The Family Business Band, with his daughter Bizz and tribute acts of Bryan Adams and Rod Stewart. In 2012, Doug finally released his first true solo album, “Feel Free”. Doug produced the album, along with Bob Breen. On top of all his live performances, Doug also teaches guitar, bass, harmonica and vocals, and is part of Chris Murphy’s “Blues In The Schools” program. bringing music to over a hundred elementary schools throughout Southern Ontario. Kid-tested, they introduce children to the history and cultural significance of blues. And if that is not enough, Doug is also certified yoga instructor. Doug Varty, musician, singer, songwriter, producer, teacher and proud Londoner. And now, a member of the Jack Richardson Music Hall of Fame.