“I remember being asked when I was very young what did I want to be when I grow up. I remember saying ” I want to be an artist, a singer, and a scientist.” ….well it turned out that I am a professional singer, an avid science fan, and yes an artist…painting in acrylics for 30 years.” Ken Tobias.
Many years ago I was in a roots rock/new country quintet called Delta Tango. A bunch of us, music lifers, recorded, tinkered with sounds, and recorded some more. When we had something that we thought might be marketable, we debuted and toured the CD around Ontario.
I can’t remember exactly when we met Tony Tobias – it may have been at a CMW gig, or perhaps at a showcase , but he was a lovely man, and, as we (the band) and he (Tony) showed each other our credentials, he revealed that he was the President/Executive Producer at Pangaea Media & Music Inc. – and manager and brother of the venerable Ken Tobias.
I make no attempt to conceal my folkie roots. Ken Tobias was an icon for me in the 70s. You may remember the song he wrote that put him .. and The Bells .. on the map … “Stay Awhile.”
Born and raised in New Brunswick seventy-one years ago this July 25th , Ken showed early promise as a draftsman AND a musician. In 1965, he left NB for Halifax, Nova Scotia, was part of CBC’s local Music Hop, ‘Frank’s Bandstand,’ and then went on to become a regular on Singalong Jubilee, often dueting with Anne Murray, and playing alongside of Gene MacLellan and John Allan Cameron.
“In 1968 Tobias met Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers who invited him to Los Angeles to record and write as a salaried songwriter. Under the management of Medley’s company, Tobias recorded his first single “You’re Not Even Going to the Fair” on Bell Records; like many of his early releases it was credited just to “Tobias”. The song won him his first Canadian BMI award for airplay. This was the first of many BMI, Procan and SOCAN awards.” (Wikipedia)
Ken was just getting started. In 1972 he established Glooscap Music with his brother, Tony, settling in Toronto for the next few decades, and releasing a string of hits including “Fly Me High“, and “Lady Luck“, and eventually receiving FIVE Socan Classics Awards for 100,000 airplays of the songs, “Stay Awhile”, “I Just Want To Make Music,” “Every Bit Of Love”, “Give A Little Love” and “Dream #2”.
His beautifully written songs speak of love, and the joy of making and listening to music. They dare the listener to believe in what might be. They also draw upon his artistic background, painting a mental picture that the listener can translate to their own imaginings. “I drew a picture of a pair of wings .. because I want to fly.“
Looking back at all that Ken Tobias has accomplished is like peering through a kaleidoscope … so many wonders to be seen! So many aspects to a lengthy and accomplished life!
His writing and producing credits are impressive, and include forays into television and film. From having his song “Good To Be Alive in the Country” in the hit TV series The Bionic Woman, to collaborating in the writing of the soundtrack for the Italian movie A Silver Saddle; writing, “Here You Are Today“, for Saint John, New Brunswick’s bicentennial as well as nabbing a CLIO Award for his Tourism New Brunswick commercial; to having his song “Friends” featured in the 2004 feature movie Chicks with Sticks; to being commissioned by Ballet Jorgen to create “Dreams of A Subtle World” for a feature segment in their ballet…
… to having several pages in Dave Bidini’s 1998 book, On A Cold Road: Tales of Adventure in Canadian Rock dedicated to his music … and then add to that his self-taught creative artistry that has seen over two hundred of his paintings sold throughout North America…
I don’t know how he’s done it. I’m exhausted just researching and writing about all of his accomplishments!
But there’s one more honour on its way, and a very worthy one indeed. Ken Tobias is about to be inducted into the 2016 Nova Scotia Music Hall of Fame, representing the province of New Brunswick.
From Tony’s recent press release: “KEN TOBIAS joins three other celebrated Atlantic Canadian music artists being inducted: Natalie MacMaster (Nova Scotia); Harry Hibbs (Newfoundland); Gene MacLellan (Prince Edward Island). Last year’s inaugural music inductees were: Rita MacNeil, John Allen Cameron, Portia White and Anne Murray. Ken comments about the news of his induction: “I am honoured and humbled to be inducted into the Nova Scotia Music Hall of Fame and representing my province of New Brunswick. I am especially moved to be in the company of my old friend Gene MacLellan. Gene and I were fellow cast members on the CBC show Singalong Jubilee and we both wrote songs for Anne Murray. And it is a great honour to be sharing the spotlight with the wonderful Natalie MacMaster and Harry Hibbs. Many thanks to Casino Nova Scotia, Music Nova Scotia, Music New Brunswick and all those who continue to support my music and art.””
Ken Tobias’ story continues to unfold in front of us, as unending as the galaxies he captures in his paintings.
Cheers, Ken Tobias! And thanks for inspiring so many Canadian writers, players, and artists to pursue their dreams.
Here’s a catchy summer tune from his latest CD, “From a Distance.”