Barney Bentall, Artist of the Week
Runs July 28-Aug. 1
Hello there. I thought I would write my own bio this time around. I figured that 35 years in the business might afford me this indulgence.
I was born in Toronto in 1956. Eleven years after the armistice. Yep, guess I’m an Elder now who still happens to have an undying penchant for Rock & Roll. I was raised in Calgary but moved to Vancouver when I was about 20. I was following a girl and pursuing a dream of being the next Stephen Stills (a bit of a weird thought now but… it wasn’t Neil, it was definitely Stephen). I started writing songs with Gary Fraser. We met when we were 5 years old on Keats Island. When we were a bit older, he would sleep over at our cottage and my sister would put “Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands” on the turntable. That was my lullaby and it still resides deep within my soul.
I’ve had a barbwire fencing company, a firewood business, a band or two and a 6 year adventure infested stint as a rancher from 2000-2006. I married that “girl” and we have 4 amazing kids. Three of them have had children of their own and the fourth is pounding the Rock & Roll pavement.
My wife Kath and those 4 kids were the reason I was poised to quit my fledgling career in 1987. We were broke and living in a basement suite. My mother in law Penny lived upstairs and she saved the whole ship from running aground on many occaisions. But… before one quits… there’s this relentless voice in your head whispering “ya gotta give this one more try”. Our band, at the time and to this day, “The Legendary Hearts” saved enough money to send me to Toronto to grovel on behalf of our sorry assed souls. We had just parted ways with Bruce Allen’s Management Organization. I was desperate and also happened to have had my two front teeth knocked out. Hell of a salesman. But… there is power in a song. We had recorded “Something To Live For” and had made an independent video for it. This was being played heavily on Canada’s Much Music channel and consequently, I was able to see all the record company execs (sans front teeth) at a time when they were at their zenith. Heady times. I managed to get the band a record contract with Columbia/Sony Records and a management deal with my good friend Bernie Finkelstein. The next 10 years were a fun, exciting and soul-stretching ride that we all somehow managed to survive. There was never a manual written for this kind of thing.
In 2000, I decided to scale back from music after an unpleasant departure from Sony. I was determined to pursue the “other dream”. This time I was going to be Steve McQueen in “Junior Bonner”. We had bought a ranch in the 90’s and we decided to take a stab at running the thing with 250 head of cattle on it. This was inspired by a sense of adventure, but truth be told, the journey also had a lot to do with the realities of agriculture and rock and roll in this country. It is a long, good and often entertaining story – one for another time.
In 2007, I figured it was time to jump back into the musical circus. Things had changed to say the least over those years. There were some unwelcome changes for me, but there were a lot of good ones as well. The last seven years have been a great continuation of the journey. I have released 3 solo records on the quintessential Canadian label founded by Bernie Finkelstein called True North Records. The Legendary Hearts still play from time to time. I have a kick ass solo band we call “The Bonapartes”. I have a trio with Shari Ulrich and Tom Taylor – a gem I cherish. We have a rambling, on the edge C&W
12 piece orchestra called The Grand Cariboo Opry that tours in the fall to raise funds for charity. And recently we have formed a bluegrass band under the leadership of my good friend and long time musical mate Colin Nairne. We are called the High Bar Gang and we’ve just released our first CD on True North.