The Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame (CSHF)/Le panthéon des auteurs et compositeurs Canadiens (PACC) was founded by music publisher Frank Davies in 1998.
What follows, in Frank’s own words, is the story behind the creation and launch of the organization.
Tell us why you decided to found an organization dedicated to preserving Canada’s songwriting history and how was the idea originally conceived?
Throughout a long career in music, principally as a record producer and music publisher, I have been motivated and inspired - first and foremost - by the work, craft, and talent of songwriters.
The idea to create a hall of fame to celebrate them was actually ‘conceived’ inadvertently during the mid-eighties while serving on the board of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (CARAS). I was their first music publisher appointee and the voice for songwriters and publishers amongst the group of music industry professionals that oversees Canada’s Juno Awards.
On the agenda of one of our meetings was a presentation to be made by Tom Sandler, the son of songwriter Ruth Lowe, who wrote Frank Sinatra’s very first #1 hit - I’ll Never Smile Again. She had recently died (1981) and her son made an impassioned plea to CARAS to induct his mother posthumously into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame (CMHF).
Though sympathetic to her son’s cause, the board concluded that it was not in a position to recognize the careers of songwriters at that time. CARAS’ primary focus was on the recent achievements of recording artists, and their works. While I understood the reason for the decision, I was nonetheless disappointed in the outcome and decided to keep the presentation materials in order to revisit them sometime in the future.
Why did that one presentation strike such a chord with you?
What struck me particularly, was that after having then lived in Canada for over 15 years and being as entrenched in the Canadian music business as I was, I had not known that the songwriter behind this hit song - which was familiar to me from my youth and my days in the UK music business - was actually a Canadian!
It turned out that I was not alone. Very few, if any, of my peers were aware of Ruth Lowe’s achievements or her ties to Canada. I came away believing that there must be many other Canadian songwriters from our past and not-so-distant past whose songs may be equally as well known but whose lives and careers were not. Unlike our stars from the hockey, film, comedy, and recording worlds, these remarkable talents therefore remained unknown, particularly in their homeland.
When did you decide to take action on the original concept? And what were your first steps?
During the early months of 1998 I decided that establishing a ‘Hall of Fame’ was the only way to effectively deal with this lack of public recognition. To that end I developed a list of all of the pre-Canadian Content (1971) songwriters and their songs that I was already aware of, as well as those I found through the research tools then available.
After trade-marking the English and French names I’d devised for the organisation (the latter with the help of good friend and francophone music publisher, Diane Pinet) - and on the fundamental basis that the CSHF/PACC would be non-profit, bilingual, national, apolitical, and developed as a partnership between music publishers and songwriters - the stage was set.
By the time I had solidified my plan and presented the research I’d done to my publisher colleagues at the Canadian Music Publishers Association (CMPA) executive committee meeting on November 25, 1998, the list of pre-1970s Canadian born and/or bred songwriters and their songs was quite extensive, stretching from pre-Confederation to the modern era. It was eye opening to everyone present, including me!
How did you get started with securing funding?
I was frankly supercharged when I handed out this songwriters list to the CMPA executive committee. After discussing what could be achieved over the long-term by the existence of such an organization, I laid a financial challenge before them – namely for each CMPA member company, or the individuals behind them, to provide the seed money necessary for the CSHF/PACC to get into business and sustain itself while seeking more permanent and broader based industry funding; and to do so by matching contributions my company - TMP - and myself would make for that purpose.
The response was immediate and unqualified. The CMPA also agreed to match the collective proceeds raised by its member companies and individuals, and have continued to provide substantial additional funding to CSHF/PACC ever since. These first benefactors are designated as the ‘Founders’ and ‘Founding Contributors’ of the CSHF/PACC and you will see their names permanently enshrined elsewhere (in this site) for the crucial role they played.
Now you had the basic ‘seed’ funding, what were the next steps taken to create the organization itself?
In early 1999, the CSHF formally embarked on the next key phase of its existence. An interim CMPA/CSHF committee of music publishers was appointed to oversee the initial growth of the organisation while expanding upon the original concept ideas for its mandate, mission, inductee criteria and eligibility. These tasks included developing a business plan to gauge our long-term financial needs, bringing in additional publisher seed-funding from the CMPA membership at large, creating draft By-Laws, and approaching S.A.C to become our partner - all of which unfolded during the following twelve months.
The CMPA/CSHF Committee had previously agreed that S.A.C would not be required to contribute to the initial financing of the organization and that, nonetheless, their representation and shareholding in the CSHF/PACC should be equal to that of the CMPA. Shortly after the first meeting with them, S.A.C agreed to become CMPA’s partner in the venture and the work then began to negotiate and complete the By-Laws between the two organisations.
How did the CSHF/PACC Board of Directors come about and who were the first Board members? What were the first steps of the newly created Board?
A pivotal meeting of CMPA and S.A.C members took place on September 22, 2000 in order to nominate board appointees for election by the two shareholders (CMPA and S.A.C), to approve the final draft By-Laws, and to set the agenda for the first formally constituted meeting of the board - which took place on October 18, 2000.
The first CSHF/PACC board of directors consisted of Pat Campbell, Michael McCarty, John Redmond, Tony Tobias, and myself as the CMPA appointees together with Murray McLauchlan, Stan Meissner, Sam Reid, Ian Thomas, and Sylvia Tyson as the S.A.C appointees. Sylvia and I were elected as President and Chairman respectively.
The next two year period was an extremely busy time as we embarked upon several key initiatives. These included the formation of an Advisory Board (made up of a diverse group of music and entertainment industry professionals), the creation and enshrinement of our induction guidelines, the undertaking of a broad search for a unique and meaningful award to present to our inductees (and to stand as our public symbol), the launch of a select industry awareness advertising campaign, and most importantly, implementing a strategy to secure midterm funding from within the music industry. The latter was vital in enabling the CSHF to secure the services of an Executive Director, produce its first induction event, and open an office.
Who are the Founding Patrons and how did you determine them?
I spent a large part of 2001 and 2002 making presentations to Canada’s then five multinational ‘Major’ record companies (BMG, EMI, SONY, UNIVERSAL, and WARNER), as well as the Foundation To Assist Canadian Talent On Record (FACTOR), seeking their financial support and patronage.
By mid-2002 all of them had made a personal commitment to the initiative and together with the SOCAN FOUNDATION, became the ‘Founding Patrons’ of the CSHF/PACC and offered their assistance to us, financially and otherwise, during a particularly difficult time for the music industry. They included Deane Cameron, Denise Donlon, Randy Lennox, Garry Newman, Heather Ostertag, Ross Reynolds, Lisa Zbitnew, and the SOCAN Foundation board.
Speaking of our benefactors and the role they played in sustaining CSHF/PACC in these early years, I also wish to acknowledge the generosity of industrialist and philanthropist Mark Nathanson whose personal donations over the course of the first two galas came at a most opportune moment. We recognised this by naming him our first ‘Patron of the Arts’.
How did the connection with CARAS come into play?
After having made earlier presentations to the CARAS board to advise them of CSHF/PACC’s goals and objectives, in the summer of 2002 I was approached by then-Chairman of CARAS, Ross Reynolds, to discuss the possibility of linking our two organisations together - through the Junos’ CMHF initiative - to collectively honour and celebrate all outstanding Canadian achievement in music. This led to more formal discussions amongst both boards and on October 9, 2002 to the formation of a joint CSHF/PACC - CARAS committee to explore this more fully. A feasibility study on the venture was then undertaken by Paul Audley & Associates in conjunction with the Lord Group. This ambitious undertaking to build a physical space to honour our inductees, as well as to house and display the growing music archives for both CSHF/PACC and CARAS, continues forward to this day.
How did you deal with the challenge of merging anglophone and francophone cultures?
It was essential that the CSHF/PACC’s mandate encompass all Canadians. In that regard, another notable meeting took place in Montreal on November 21, 2002. I made a presentation to the board of SPACQ (la Société professionnelle des auteurs/compositeurs du Québec) outlining CSHF/PACC’s future plans and ambitions and extended an invitation to them to join with the CSHF/PACC in order to provide their particular expertise and guidance in celebrating the achievements of Canada’s Francophone songwriters. SPACQ has been an integral part of the CSHF/PACC’s efforts ever since, and its members continue to sit on the CSHF/PACC board and provide valuable input to the organisation.
What can you tell us about the lead up to the first Gala and inductions?
In the fall of 2002, a Search Committee of the board was appointed to secure the services of an Executive Director. After an extensive search, with over 150 applicants for the job, Jody Scotchmer was unanimously appointed to that position - becoming CSHF/PACC’s first employee on January 6, 2003.
We moved forward in 2003 with our plans for the inaugural induction gala event and the press conference at the Hard Rock Cafe in Toronto that preceded it. The Press Conference, attended by Gordon Lightfoot, our first Modern Era inductee, was organised to formally announce and publicize CSHF/PACC’s mandate to the Canadian public, and to reveal its inaugural slate of inductees. It was a great success thanks, in no small part, to the stellar turnout of artists, songwriters and media in attendance. The Gala itself was a magical, unforgettable night by anyone’s standards and put into perfect context the work of the preceding six years for everyone involved.
The following year I stepped down from the CSHF/PACC board as a director and as its Chairman. I felt that my original purpose and goals had been achieved and that the organisation was now well on its way. I left it in the highly capable hands of both my good friend Peter Steinmetz, as the new Chair, and Jody as Executive Director - as well as an enthusiastic, energetic and fresh mix of newly appointed board directors, employees, and volunteers.
So many people have been involved in CSHF/PACC over the years, who would you personally like to set apart and thank?
I would certainly want to extend a heartfelt personal thank-you to all my friends and industry colleagues who have served on the numerous hall of fame committees and the Board with me over those exciting formative years. These people include particularly the original members of both the CMPA – CSHF/PACC Interim Committee and the first CSHF/PACC Board of Directors. As a non-profit organisation requiring a great deal of energy and attention from a small group of volunteer directors since 1999, many of these people and their successors have contributed, and continue to contribute, significant time, expertise and much enthusiasm maintaining and advancing the hall of fame’s presence and purpose, as well as ensuring the success of our annual induction galas.
My sincere thanks to Peter Steinmetz who has guided a diverse but united group of factions so commendably through the past two gala events and this organisation’s evolution during that period - and to Jody Scotchmer who with a small but dedicated staff and an enthusiastic group of volunteers works constantly and tirelessly to sustain and enhance the progress of the CSHF/PACC.
As Oscar Wilde once said “Today we know the cost of everything and the value of nothing”. Let that never be said of our songwriters and their songs.