Born in the U.S.A !

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Submitted by Don Graham

There is a long list of Canadian born musical superstars who moved south of the border once they attained their stardom. Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, David Foster, Michael Bublé, and Burton Cummings to name a few. The list is too long to publish. The list coming the other way, from the U.S.A. to Canada,  isn’t as long but is impressive nonetheless.

The first that comes to mind is Rompin’ Ronnie Hawkins. The Hawk was born in Arkansas, just two days after Elvis was born but migrated north to Canada. On the advice of the great Conway Twitty, Hawkins began touring Canada in 1958 with his  first gig at the Golden Rail Tavern in Hamilton, Ontario.  Hamilton was where Conway Twitty wrote his signature song ‘It’s Only Make Believe’ backstage between shows. The Hawk was an instant success and he decided to move to Canada. In 1964, he became a permanent resident, eventually making Peterborough, Ontario his home.

October 4, 2002 was declared "Ronnie Hawkins Day" by the City of Toronto and marked his induction into Canada's Walk of Fame in recognition of his lifetime contribution to music.  Hawkins was inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame at the Canadian Music Industry Awards on March 4, 2004. His pioneering contribution to the genre has also been recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.

The late, great Jesse Winchester is another American who called Canada his home. Jesse was an American musician and songwriter born and raised in the southern United States. He did not agree with the Vietnam War draft and moved to Canada in 1967 where he began his career as a solo artist. His highest charting recordings were of his own tunes, ‘Yankee Lady’ in 1970 and ‘Say What’ in 1981. He became a Canadian citizen in 1973, gained amnesty in the U.S. in 1977 and resettled there in 2002. Canada still feels like we can lay claim to Jesse, and especially Montrealers as Canadian radio supported him with airplay,  breaking his singles in that market.

And continuing with the Montreal influence, Nanette Workman was attracted to the beautiful city as well. Nanette was born in November of  1945 in Brooklyn, New York  and has been based in Quebec, Canada during much of her career. She holds dual citizenship in both the United States and Canada. She was raised by musician parents in Jackson, Mississippi where she began her first performances. She mainly performed in French although raised as a native English speaker. Nanette has been recognized in Mississippi both by being elected to that state's Musicians Hall of Fame and having a Francophone house named after her at the state university.

Ann and Nancy Wilson, the heart of Heart were born in Seattle, Washington, In the mid to early 60’s bassist Steve Fossen formed a band named "The Army" along with Roger Fisher on guitar. They played for several years in and around the Bothell, Washington area, northeast of Seattle.

Ann & Nancy Wilson of HeartAnn & Nancy Wilson of HeartMike Fisher, Roger's brother, was set to be drafted. Nancy Wilson has stated that when he did not report for duty, his home was raided, but he slipped out a rear window, escaped to Canada and became a Vietnam War "draft dodger".

In 1972 Mike crossed the border to visit family and, by chance, met Ann Wilson at a rock show.

According to Nancy, that meeting was "when she and Michael fell in love" and Ann decided to follow Mike back to Canada. Steve Fossen finished his college education before he also decided to move to Canada in late 1972 and Roger followed in late 1972. Along with Mike and Ann, the band Heart was officially formed. Her sister Nancy joined in 1974 and soon after became involved with Roger who once said that the Heart Partnership is what he called the two romantically involved couples: himself with Nancy Wilson, and his brother Mike Fisher with Ann Wilson. They recorded their debut album, ‘Dreamboat Annie’ at Can-Base Studios, later known as Mushroom Studios in Vancouver. Some of the same Canadian investors who had backed the studio also backed a separate company Mushroom Records, which was managed by Shelly Siegel. The  album was picked up by Siegel and sold 30,000 copies in Canada in its first few months. Siegel soon released the album in the US,where, helped by two hit singles in 1976, ‘Crazy on You’ and ‘Magic Man’, which reached numbers thirty-five and nine respectively on the charts.It eventually sold over one million copies. Heart was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.

Bill King was born in Jefferson, Indiana and migrated to Canada. By 1968, King had moved from Greenwich Village (where he been house pianist at Louis Jordan’s) to Los Angeles to become Linda Ronstadt’s Music Director and Pianist. A year later, he joined Janis Joplin’s band in the same capacity. King relocated to Toronto for the first time in 1969, signing a recording contract with Capitol Records who would release two of his albums albums over the next few years ‘Goodbye Superdad’ and ‘Dixie Peach’. He returned to Los Angeles in 1976 as Music Director for vocalist Martha Reeves. While on a European tour with Reeves, he was persuaded to join The Pointer Sisters and spent the next year touring Japan and the U.S as their Music Director. He moved back to Toronto permanently in the late ‘70s to form the rock group Kearney, King, and McBride (later known as ‘China’) and recorded a self-titled album for Epic/CBS.  Bill has been a driving force behind the highly acclaimed Beaches International Jazz Festival  and has been the festival’s artistic director since its inception in 1988.Bill is also a contributing journalist at Cashbox Canada and has just released his own book of his photographs and memoires, Bill King’s “In Concert!” Essays, Images and Interviews.

Michael Williams is a Canadian television personality who may be best known for his work as a VJ at MuchMusic from 1984 to 1993. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Williams moved to Montreal in the 70's to attend the Communications Arts School at Loyola Williams was part of MuchMusic's core opening team of VJ's alongside J.D. (John) Roberts Erica Ehm and Christopher Ward. At MuchMusic, Williams hosted various shows including Soul in the City, RapCity, Electric Circus, Pepsi Power Hour and The NewMusic. Williams now lives in Toronto, Canada and is also a contributing journalist and Cashbox Canada.

And our own Lenny Stoute, Editor of Cashbox Canada, whose resume is long and varied is also an American transplanted in Canada. If you’re trying to decipher his accent he is Louisiana-born and is enthusiastic about getting his point across or show his passion for a band or a song. Best to look at his eyes to figure out his mood.  Laissez les bons temps rouler !

And Cashbox Canada also was ‘Born in the U.S.A.’ and is now living and Canada as well.  From all of us at Cashbox Canada we wish our American friends a happy 4TH of July – and we are proud to be your neighbours here in the True North Strong and Free.

Ronnie HawkinsRonnie HawkinsBill King has also been a driving force in the success of The Beaches International Jazz Festival in Toronto, serving as the festival’s Artistic Director since its inception in 1988. He was also Artistic Director during the short-lived Toronto International BBQ & Blues Festival. King started the National Jazz Awards in 2001 to recognize outstanding contributions by Canadian jln a driving force in the success of The Beaches International Jazz Festival in Toronto, serving as the festival’s Artistic Director since its inception in 1988. He was also Artistic Director during the short-lived Toronto International BBQ & Blues Festival. King started the National Jazz Awards in 2001 to recognize outstanding contributions by Canadian jazz musicians. By 1984, after a year-long stint with Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks, King launched his first independent jazz label known as Night Passage Records, recording several successful albums on that label over the ensuing four years. He also issued one release on Gaia Records (‘Magnolia Nights’). 1984, after a year-long stint with Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks, King launched his first independent jazz label known as Night Passage Records, recording several successful albums on that label over the ensuing four years. He also issued one release on Gaia Records (‘Magnolia Nights’). So on this the 4th of July we honour those Americans who came north to grace us with their talent. Thank you and merci!