timberland 2011 for blessing us with your warmth
Growing up in a rock and roll radio family had many perks but so much more special were the great and accomplished people we met like my father’s best friend Tom. We became great friends and was one of the people I know that I am totally comfortable with him calling me Mart, rather than Marty.
I can’t tell you how much I idolized this man Senator Tommy Banks, who we just lost at 81.
My dad, Jerry, launched CHED radio first 1080 before moving down the dial to 630 and was a good friend of the Banks family, In fact, Tommy’s mother mother Laura Lindsay , was one of the first women with her own show on television CFRN TV at that time.
In the late ’60s and early ’70s music production was changing quickly. The industry standard of two track recording was moving to four track, thanks to musical groups like The Beatles.
Tommy, at that time, was expanding his music and talent business and he wanted to get into producing jingles for advertisers, and singles and albums for musicians. Dad saw a deal.
“I’ll buy the four track recorder, put it in CHED you guys use it in the daytime and I’ll use it at night,” Dad said.
Deal. Century II productions was born.
One of the first people hired was my brother Gord. “If I could give you one image of Tommy that is most remarkable to me, it would be of him sleeping under the console at Century II Studios,” Gord said. “It doesn’t sound all that impressive until you understand that it was after around 36 hours of continuous work on his various projects and commitments to the music business in Canada. It was not unusual for Tom to be writing charts for the CBC, producing and conducting a concert for the Edmonton Symphony, playing piano at the Embers, consulting on sound installations for the Edmonton Gardens (to make concerts sound better for fans), building the first 16 track studio between Toronto and Vancouver”
All the while he mentored and taught many local young musicians: David Foster, Evelyn Quaife, Mary Saxton, Donna Warner,
Bruce Innes and hundreds of others.
Gord called me on a Sunday afternoon to ask “please bring some sandwiches over to the studio” because they were finishing up a “three hour session” that ended up being three days non stop.
“People who know music know that Tommy was a world class jazz pianist on the level of an Oscar Peterson,” said Gord. “Tommy was in a class of his own. Smart no, brilliant creative, funny, caring, generous, patient, dedicated and loyal.”
One of Tommy’s business partners told him he had some critical news, but asked that he respect a level of confidentiality and not share it with his wife Ida, who was also a business partner. Tom’s reply: “Then you can’t tell me, because I share everything with Ida’.”
Donna James, (nee Warner) was a star in Canadian radio before Canadian radio had a star system, singing with 3’s a Crowd and Tommy helped extend her career with his work.
“I heard about Tommy’s death on CBC radio Friday morning. I knew that he’d been ill, but it still came as a shock. That morning the hosts’ tributes were heartfelt, but I didn’t really feel the loss until they cut to a recording of Tommy playing ‘Look to the Rainbow’. Suddenly, I experienced a ‘full circle’ moment and couldn’t hold back the tears.”
One recent humbling memory for me was when both Tom and I were honoured to be asked to speak at the Celebration of Life for the late Bobby Curtola last spring.
Tommy, walked in holding hands with Ida and reminded me of true love’s most profound meaning. They were like two high school students, smitten with each other stunning beautiful to see.
He was an amazing speaker. An even more amazing musician. An incredible person who treated each and every person he met exactly equal regardless of their stature in life.
Listing his awards would take up this entire column.
Tommy, you blessed our entire family with your presence, class, humour, knowledge and warmth. Your loss to this city is immeasurable. I’m truly thankful that I spent so many glorious moments throughout my life listening to and admiring you not for all of your incredible achievements; rather,
but for simply being one of the most wonderful human beings that ever walked on this planet.