An off-stage icon of the Toronto Blues scene has passed away from the rare blood disorder HLH.
John passed on Sunday October 4 at Toronto Western Hospital according to his wife of 46 years, Brenda Valenteyn. He was 73 years old.
The Toronto Blues Society posted an obituary on Facebook that noted he was the co-founder of the Toronto Blues Society in 1985, broadcaster at CIUT for fourteen years following a 20-year run with “The Blues Hour” at CJRT (now jazzfm).
At one time he worked in the HMV record store and still listed that as his occupation on his Facebook profile, but that was perhaps ironic because he was also an avid collector of Blues recordings, amassing a huge volume of them, but lately was best known far and wide as an intelligent and supportive reviewer of thousands of Canadian Blues recordings for Maple Blues Magazine and as a noted Blues historian.
Inn addition to being a co-founder of the Toronto Blues Society and active he was a member of the Maple Blues Award Steering Committee when that institution came into being.
The Toronto Blues Society bio says that “according to life long Port Colborne friend Doug McVicar, John’s first taste of broadcasting at Queens University flipped him from a path in engineering to the Ryerson Radio and Television Arts program and his stint as a producer, leading to years on the air.”
Typical of some of the comments on John’s Facebook profile were the following from prominent figures in the Blues scene:
Ken Whiteley: “such a positive presence - so genuinely enthusiastic about Canadian music and of course blues especially. His reviews in MapleBlues were the tip of a very big and wonderful iceberg supporting music and musicians.”
Lily Sazz: “Your selfless dedication to blues music and the people who create it was appreciated more than you may have known… In an industry where anything other than being ignored is really appreciated, you stood out as someone who always acknowledged and appreciated us. You were a true gentleman, and a kind, gentle soul.”
Chris Antonik: “his review of my first record 10 years ago helped instill the confidence and encouragement I needed to get moving in this business…”
Beverly Kreller: “Thx John for all of the kind exchanges, your dedication to blues music, and for your generous support of my artists over the years.”
UPDATE: John’s family held a private family funeral on Thurs. Oct. 15 at which Derek Andrews, Toronto Blues Society president and longtime friend of John’s, spoke about what he meant to the Blues community and read comments from many friends, colleagues and fans.
Copyright 2020 by Gary Webb-Proctor & TorontoMoon.ca