Fred Ramsperger For the Record
Submitted by Don Graham
Last year the decision was made at Cashbox Magazine Canada to start to dedicate legacy awards to individuals who have made major contributions to the Canadian Music Scene.
To date the recipients have been:
Bobby Curtola Canada’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Legend and Member of the Order of Canada
Danny Marks Guitarist/Entertainer, Blues Historian and Radio Host of Blues FM and founding member of Edward Bear
Robbie Lane of Robbie Lane and the Disciples fame Singer/Performer, TV Host and currently a Radio Host on AM 740
The newest recipient of the award was one Sandy Graham, CEO and Editor in Chief of Cashbox Canada was one that she felt extremely honoured to be able to award to Fred Ramsperger, a man who was a partner in one of the largest record stores in Montreal in the 60's and 70’s. As Sandy explained,“I started in the music business working at International Music Store in downtown Montreal, and everything I have accomplished in this industry started at International.”
International Music Store was an establishment specializing in sheet music and recordings. It was located on Ste-Catherine West in Montreal, on the corner of the famous Crescent Street. Fred’s father Frank Ramsperger, took possession of the store in 1922 and began selling radios, phonographs, and musical instruments. With the help of his sons Leo and Fred, Frank expanded the printed music section, which made available teaching material and had it managed by Leo, and the record section, managed by younger son Fred. Fred would close the record section in April 1977 and move to Toronto while Leo would continue the sheet music side until 1986.
There were two very distinct sides to the store” Sandy points out, “There wasn’t a lot of migration of staff from one side to the other but they were only separated by a step down and a small railing. There were a lot of people that worked there that ended up making the music business their lifetime careers. My brother Don Graham, who is a singer/songwriter and performer was working there and got me the job. Don got the job from his boyhood friend Corky Laing of Mountain fame, who was working there, and I got Kathy Hahn, my lifelong friend to this day, a job there as well. Richard Berle who worked the ’45 booth’ with us also went on to work in radio at CHOM FM. There are many more.
International Music Store was a springboard for Sandy and Fred Ramsperger provided the freedom and flexibilty. “At the store we played the new records to get a feel for what we were selling and we were allowed to pick what we wanted. This was the ‘70s and there was great music happening. I was playing my selections and this guy (who I thought might have been a shoplifter because he never bought anything) was there on a regular daily basis. I was keeping an eye on him when after 4 or 5 days he approached me. He introduced himself as Gord Logan from CJFM, the radio station across the street, said he liked the music I played and offered me a job in radio. After he left I told Fred, (actually we all called him Mr Fred) what had happened. Fred asked if I wanted to try it. I said yes but I didn’t want to leave the store. He assured me that if it didn’t work out I could come back and that he would always have a job for me. I never went back, I ended up as program director at CJFM. From there I worked as a promo person at RCA records in Montreal. All of it started with Mr Fred and I never forgot that.
To present the award Sandy decided to pay a surprise visit to the Ramsperger home and Fred’s daughter Lise arranged the meeting , all the while keeping it from her unsuspecting father. With his family all gathered and food laid out and no explanation as to why Fred became a little suspicious. “I started wondering what was going on” he said. “I asked my wife, Kathleen at one point, ‘Am I dyng? ” he said with a laugh. His wife, thinking quickly, said “No, we’re celebrating the anniversary of your operation.” A year ago Fred had open heart surgery that saved his life. When he answered his door and saw Sandy, along with Don and Kathy, standing there he said “What are you doing here?” It had been decided that Fred would not be given the award until a little later so Sandy said “We were in the neighbourhood.” A call from Fred’s son who couldn’t make it, sped up the process when he congratulated his dad on his award. Fred’s response “Am I getting an award?”
International Music Store was the hub and location where so many artists came to buy their sheet music, albums, guitar strings and more. It was one of those stops that promo reps always came with their new artists to try to break them into the Montreal music scene. It wasn’t uncommon to see Leonard Cohen, Al Martino, and many more show up there unannounced. Even Rod Stewart came to shop at the store. There were rehearsal halls on the second floor for rent and many a star went up and down those famous stairs. It is a different way then, and it is sadly missed in the current promotion of music.
It isn’t every day that we get to thank and honour those who helped shape our futures so for Sandy Graham of Cashbox Canada this was a sweet moment. “I always told people where I got my start in the music business, and I was so happy to finally let Mr. Fred know in person what my early training meant to me. Surrounded by his great family to share this moment, it is obvious he has had a wonderful life.”
“For me, Fred Ramsperger was the best boss I ever had and always treated us with such respect even though we were just kids. Thank you Mr. Fred for getting me off to a great start! I never forgot my days at International Music Store.”