last month, i traveled to toronto once again to shoot footage of wayne w/ from yard to yonge (jamaica to toronto) co-director darby wheeler (CBC). while we've been working on this documentary project for over four years, this is a time sensitive story that needs to be told now. we can't loose this crucial canadian history...
*here's an excerpt from my liner notes to LITA's 2004 reissue of wayne mcghie and the sounds of joy:
"After three months of extensive searching, we had run out of clues. Promising lead after lead had been exhausted, leaving us with little hope that unsung Canadian music pioneer and beat-digger icon Wayne McGhie would be found. Local collectors drew blanks, phone listings came up nil, and tax and hospital records were inconclusive. Friends from Jamaica to Toronto had all lost touch years ago. Wayne was truly missing in action.
Still, just as we had given up all hope, a chance meeting with singer Jay Douglas at a wedding changed everything. Not only was Jay an old friend of Wayne’s, but he was as interested as we were in finding his old spar. His persistent and cunning detective work soon proved successful. Within weeks, the phone rang with the call we’d been anxiously waiting for…
Toronto, Ontario. January 26, 2004
We arrived in Toronto trailed by the worst blizzard the city had seen in recent memory. It was a relief to be welcomed into the warm apartment of Wayne’s sister Merline. Accompanied by Jay, we were greeted by the smell of some fine home cooking. Any nervous energy soon dispersed as Wayne stood by the door and shook our hands. He was quiet, yet alert, perhaps a little puzzled by the sudden burst of attention after all these years. Small talk ensued and long forgotten records were played. The sounds of Jo-Jo & the Fugitives, The Hitchikers, Sounds of Joy, and RAM filled the air. We were shocked to hear that Wayne hadn’t played a guitar since 1979. Emotion weighed deep.
The next evening, Jay Douglas organized a gathering at the Aura Club on Yonge Street for us to meet folks like the one and only Joseph (Jo-Jo) Bennett, drummer Everton Paul, and singer Noel Ellis. Henry from Henry’s Records played sweet soul, ballads, ska, and even a 45 by a convincing Elvis impersonator in the background. It was pure class across the board. Nuff conversation, food, drinks, and dancing made it an unforgettable night. Gaining so much insight into a virtually undocumented scene was like finding the missing pieces needed of a complicated puzzle. We said our goodbyes and trotted through the snow to catch the last subway downtown."