A Ron Hynes and Tommy Sexton TributeWGB – A Walk Down Memory Lane
The Wonderful Grand Band is a Canadian music and comedy group formed in 1977 in St. John’s Newfoundland & Labrador, when I was living and working in St. John’s back in Ancient Times during 1980 & 1981, I frequented “The Strand Lounge“, I believe that’s what it was called at time, anyway which lead to an encounter I won’t soon forget, while taking in a number of WGB’s shows in St John’s at the Avalon Mall (Babylon Mall). I met Tommy through another friend, Richard who was a native of St John’s (whom have since pass on from AIDS). That weekend Richard took me to a party is the time and place I met CBC’s LGBT personality Tommy Sexton, whom I will never forget, he has since passed away, 1993 at the young age of 35. The latest news about Ron Hynes shocked me and open memories I totally forgot about, good memories of a kinder period in time, so I dedicate this post to them both with Honor, Love and Respect. So now I would like to introduce you to some friends of mine, the fabulous “WGB” as I feature some of their amazing work, a few of my favorites, starting with Tommy Sexton doing lead vocals on Babylon Mall, even though I didn’t know him long but during that short time that I did, I attended a few parties with a group of friends and Tommy was one of them, he was the essence of his television charter this guy always made everybody laugh no matter where he was or time of day, an Awesome person to be around. I’ve heard many times, we learn something from everyone we meet through life, true dat. The truth is he was a role model for me and he was solely responsible for me finally accepting my sexuality and who I was at age 20, even though he was just 23, I was amazed to see how much he was loved, admired and appreciated by 1000’s of people, they loved him and I was no exception. After my encounter with him I was no longer afraid to say I was Gay and never questioned my sexuality again.
Music video Babylon Mall by WGB featuring Tommy Sexton
The Wonderful Grand Band, Newfoundland’s tremendously popular trad-rock band from the 1980s was conceived in 1977 for The Root Seller, a six-part mini-series produced by CBC St John’s. The show was written by Codco alumni Greg Malone, Mary Walsh and White and hosted by Greg Malone and Mary Walsh as Mr and Mrs Budgell, characters from the CODCO stage shows. The Root Seller had special weekly guests including Emile Benoit, Rufus Guinchard, Minnie White, Cathy Jones, and Jimmy Oulton. It was an instant local favourite but only two of these shows, with special guests Minnie White and Emile Benoit, survived at the CBC. The musicians on The Root Seller were – Kelly Russell, Sandy Morris, Ron Hynes, Glenn Simmons, Rocky Wiseman, Bryan Hennessey and Bawnie Oulton.
After The Root Seller the Band continued to play live dates but in 1978, Hennessey and Oulton left to pursue other interests, Kelly Russell was replaced by Jamie Snider, Paul Boomer Stamp took over on drums and Ian Perry became the bass player.
Greg Malone re-joined the Band, this time for a live stage show which debuted at Toronto Caravan. This incarnation proved to be wildly successful and in 1979 Tommy Sexton joined Malone to complete the team that fronted the show until the WGB finally split in 1983.
Remembering Ron Hynes
Born in St. John’s in December 1950, and raised in Ferryland. He was a founding member of The Wonderful Grand Band, one of Newfoundland‘s most popular performing groups, and has released seven solo albums. His debut album Discovery, released in 1972, was the first album composed of totally original content by a Newfoundland artist. He is best known for his composition “Sonny’s Dream,” recorded worldwide by many artists and was named the 41st greatest Canadian song of all time on the 2005 CBC Radio One series 50 Tracks: The Canadian Version.
Hynes is a seven-time East Coast Music Awards winner, and past Juno and Canadian Country Music Awards nominee. He was named Artist of the Year (’92) and was presented with the prestigious Arts Achievement Award (2004) by the Newfoundland/Labrador Arts Council. In 2002, Hynes received an honorary Doctor of Letters from Memorial University in St. John’s in recognition of his original songwriting and contribution to the cultural heritage of Newfoundland. In 2006, Hynes was honored as the recipient of the St. John’s Folk Arts Council’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Hynes currently records on Canadian folk label Borealis Records, and despite continuing to tour regularly, plays numerous concerts in his hometown of St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Widely regarded as one of Canada’s premiere singer-songwriters having a career spanning over 30 years, Hynes‘ songs have become part of the fabric of Newfoundland culture. His latest, self-titled album was released in early 2006 to critical acclaim. His work is also known outside the province; Hynes‘ songs have been covered worldwide by over 100 artists, including Emmylou Harris, Valdy and Christy Moore.
Hynes was the winner of Male Solo Recording of the Year at the 2007 East Coast Music Awards, and picked up three awards at the 2006 MusicNL awards show in November 2006. The awards included Entertainer of the Year, Songwriter of the Year and Folk/Roots Artist of the Year
The Album “Wonderful Grand Band” recorded in Stephenville, NL in 1978
The series WGB with Malone and Sexton which followed in 1980 was the most popular show in Newfoundland television history, beating all the competing American shows and even the News in the ratings. The Wonderful Grand Band toured Newfoundland and Canada extensively from 1978 to 1984 and built up an enormous fan base that has been loyal and appreciative all these years.
During the television years the WGB had several cast changes including Steve Annan on guitar, Howie Warden on bass, Kevin McNeil on drums and Cathy Jones and Mary Walsh in the comedy act for the final performance year.
The Wonderful Grand Band recorded two music albums, the Wonderful Grand Band recorded at Clode Sound in Stephenville in 1978 and Living In A Fog recorded in Toronto in 1981. Living In A Fog was released on CD in 2007 and is still selling strong, and the Band’s first album will be released on CD in 2010.
The Album “Living in A Fog” recorded in Toronto in 1981
The inimitable style of the late, great, and ever-missed Tommy Sexton.
The WGB’s release of two volumes of the original TV Series on DVD came after years of consultation and planning with CBC where the shows were originally produced in the 1980’s. The DVDs, The Best of WGB Volume 1 and 2, released in November of 2009 were a sensational success bringing to life once again some all-time favourite characters like Mr. Budgell, Nanny Hynes, Dickie, Mavis and Carmel Ann, and included many of the classic hit songs like Sonny’s Dream and Living In A Fog, Go For Love, UIC and the sensational Babylon Mall which features the inimitable style of the late, great, and ever-missed Tommy Sexton. The release and tour were undertaken in part as a tribute to Tommy.
The sold-out reunion tour in 2009 featured Greg Malone, Ron Hynes, Sandy Morris Glenn Simmons Jamie Snider, Ian Perry Paul “Boomer” Stamp.
The WGB plans to release two more Volumes of the TV series, The Best of WGB Volume 3 (from the first year’s TV show which features Rocky Wiseman) and Volume 4 (which also stars Cathy Jones, Mary Walsh, Steve Annan and Howie Warden).The WGB is managed by White. you can visit their official site here.
I want to leave you with a example of who they were with a closer look at an episode of CODCO, but you may have to fast forward as the space is included for commercials, worth the watch though and you are sure to get a laugh. cheers 🙂
The First Episode of “CODCO”
Article Posted by Terry Kinden Sept 22, 2014 ~ Revised Nov 20, 2015