And the Band Played On….

Cover Sept 2, 2011

By Sandy Graham

Those of you who read Cashbox will be wondering on my story this week – what does the Titanic have to do with the current music industry ? For those of you who know me personally you know I produce an event that is near and dear to my heart – The Beach Celtic Festival – in honour of my Scottish ancestry.

This year, we are welcoming a new display, the RMS Titanic, which was built in Belfast, Ireland and left from Glasgow, Scotland and therefore qualifies to be with us with its connection ‘from across the pond.’ As I had a few wee chats with George Watters,(who will  be bringing memorabilia to the Celtic Festival)  I remembered the fact that the huge controversy was what song the Titanic band was playing when the ship that ‘God alone could sink’ disappeared in the ocean on that fateful night nearly one hundred years ago.  Now, one hundred years later, one of the most talked about questions on the Titanic sinking, besides the iceberg warnings, lack of adequate lifeboats and sketchy behaviour of some of the passengers is …”What song was the band playing as the ship was swallowed up by the cold Atlantic waters?” Some reports emphatically state it was Autumn while others swear it was Nearer My God To Thee. Of course it’s really of little importance but what is important to note is how prevalent music is in everything we do.

We have so many things in our life that revolve around music; our first song at our wedding, the song chosen for a loved ones funeral, the song you remember as a teenager when you fall in love for the first time, the last dance at the high school prom; all of them can jolt your  memory even when you can’t remember the name of the guy or girl that dumped you at the time. We remember the song or songs that were playing on the radio when we got our first kiss, when our hearts were broken for the first time, seemingly beyond repair, the lullabies our moms sang to us to calm us down and help us sleep, the hymns we sang in church and the songs we remember from all the milestones in our lives. As Trisha Yearwood said in her hit song. “The Song Remembers When”.

Then there are those songs that we all know. Auld Lang Syne (written by Scottish poet Robbie Burns) Happy Birthday is sung in all languages, White Christmas returns year after year on the radio along with Felice Navidad by Feliciano to let us know that Christmas is upon us once again. Couples have songs they affectionately call “our song”. We remember certain events by the song that was playing. When my youngest son, Ian, was born, A Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong was playing on the hospital sound system. (My eldest son Graham was born to Fortune Teller by Bobby Curtola on the radio in the delivery room !) A producer friend of mine, Kim Todd, remembers the Andy Kim song Baby I Love You, “I still cannot recall who it was that I had a major crush on when "Baby I Love You" came out but I can tell you that obviously the song was better than the guy because I remember it really well.” For me the saddest was when my Dad passed away. I could hear Skeeter Davis singing The End of The World, written by Davis when her Dad died.

Growing up in the 60’s I screamed for the Beatles, and in the 70`s I was blessed enough to be able to work in radio and play great songs by unforgettable artists like Boz Scaggs, Van Morrison, Jesse Colin Young, John Martyn and Hall & Oates to name a few.  I was blessed to have an older sister (Donna)  and my brother (Don)  who turned me onto Elvis, Motown and folk rock. My Mum (who the Celtic Festival is in honour of as well) played three chords on the piano (all in the Key of C) and forever etched all songs into our heads as  kids like Ain’t Got A Barrel of Money, Glow Worm, I’ve Got A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts, and of course every single Harry Lauder song ever recorded, which as it turns out now brings tears to my eyes and makes me laugh to hear `Stop Your Ticklin` Jock, Donald Where`s Your Troosers, I Belong to Glasgow and Auntie Mary (Had a Canary). How lucky I have been to have attended  `the school of music` that my family made so important to our every day way of living.

Now as COO of Cashbox Canada, I still get to hear great new artists when they send their CD`s in for review, I go to live concerts of debuting artists  and see legacy artists still belting out their hits (sometimes better than when they did them the first time around) and generally still live and work in the music business.

This story is about the continuation of that heritage, The Beach Celtic Festival on Saturday September 10 and Sunday September 11 2011 (9 am to 6 pm)  in Kew Gardens in the Toronto Beach. This year, my friends and family will perform once again to remind me of the music that is so much a part of my life. Hugo Straney, our wonderful host and MC will be belting out songs with his big Irish lungs, Don Graham, my older brother, will be performing with Bobby Cohen (guitarist to Tim Hardin, Mamas & Papas and Jesse Winchester) The Seasick Sailors will be ‘kilted up’ and entertaining with their silly antics and slick performance, Syd Simkins will be doing all the Scottish sing along songs, and the Bold Step Dancers will give us a rousing round of highland flings. All free. It doesn’t get any better than that.

But the story is also about all of you – what songs make you cry, or remember times gone by, or new artists that have come into your horizon recently to make you love music once again.

I would love to hear from you to see what songs are the ones you remember and do a story on those memories. Email me at and we will do a story on all of you – our Cashbox Canada readers.

Music ties us all together.