Johnnie Lovesin: 50 years of Rock ‘n’ Roll

By Bill Delingat

Johnnie Lovesin, the Veteran rocker from Val D'Or, Quebec, got his start in the mid-1960's when he moved to Toronto to what would become the hub of the flower power scene in Toronto‘s Yorkville. Johnnie spent much of his time pan- handling, busking for change and playing with whoever would listen and most bands did.

By the mid 70’s Johnnie was known as  'Crazy John' Lovesin and he was planning to form a band called “Black Ballet”.With his charisma and  smile, he gained the attention of the promoters of  some of the biggest rock festivals around,  becoming a popular figure backstage at arena events. Several bands later ,Johnnie went on to call himself the “Ace from Space” and formed his now legendary show,” Johnnie Lovesin And The Invisible Band” and caught the attention of  cutting edge promoters “The Garys”.

In September of 1976, he opened for the “Ramones” at the New Yorker Theatre on Yonge Street with this unique trio consisting of Johnnie and 2 inanimate friends plus a lot of echoeplexes and fuzz tone effects. He tore the roof down and was now on track to make his own career a success. Johnnie was on a roll and now pegged as the 'The Electric Kid', he and his band played at the Rock Shock Concert with Teenage Head and others in May 1977. Next up Johnnie and The Sidewalk Commandos got national exposure at the CNE Bandshell and released their first single on the short-lived SMILE Label.

In 1978, Lovesin and his new group called THE N.E.X.T. opened for the Runaways at The (legendary) El Mocambo  in Toronto. In 1980 he released "Set The Night On Fire" on Taxi Records, featuring musicians such as Greg Godovitz (Goddo), Terry Hattie, Dave Stone, Doug Baynham, Greg McIlveen, Glen Morrow, Chris Gibb (The Deserters), and Dave Dobko.  Following a nomination for a CFNY-FM U-Know Award in 1985; 'Male Vocalist of the Year' based on the airplay of "(I Need A) Working Girl" from his Amber Productions 'Rough Side of Town' EP, Lovesin was signed directly to A & M Records. Supporting his 'Tough Breaks' album, in 1987 Lovesin opened for Stevie Ray Vaughn at the Kingswood Music Theatre. He also performed twice at Ontario Place, in Toronto -- with Big Sugar, backing him on one occasion. Lovesin has also been the subject of a Much Music "The Big Ticket" special, and still gets aired on Much to this day.  Tragically, Johnnie suffered a near fatal brain aneurism when playing a CITY TV News years Eve celebration with Ronnie Hawkins hosting at Toronto’s City Hall Square.

After a long recovery and intense rehabilitation, Johnnie was back playing his favorite bars on Spadina and Bloor Street where he started years back. Lee’s Palace was an unknown location until Johnnie asked Mr. Lee to let him use the upstairs banquet room (the Cave) to play and he was instrumental in doing the same at Sneaky Dees on College St. Both institutes to this day house live entertainment on a regular basis.

So what happened to Johnnie  Lovesin?

Cashbox  Canada had a chance to speak to Johnnie Lovesin and here is the latest on this punk icon of the Toronto music scene.

BD: With the rollercoaster ride with AM records and his near death medical experience Johnnie has semi retired to his parent’s home in Jordan, Ontario, where he lives by himself on the main street in the middle of the wine belt of Ontario. There is a local bar down the road and he spends a lot of time on his porch playing his acoustic guitar for the tourists. Johnnie is not all that keen on computers and lets his son Morgan do most of that for him but a couple of years ago Johnnie sent the writer an email and it says it all I am pleased to post it here for you to read as no one can say it better than Johnnie no bucks as we used to joke with him back in Yorkville in the 60’s.

Lovesin:  Hey Billy, Whassup ? l just put a 24 trk Tascam 2488 CD recording studio set up in the house. Starting a recording, publishing co. etc. l shoulda thought of that one up b4 .I’m also writing a book, not an autobiography, but a sort of comical collected series of true stories and wild escapades l've been through. You oughta know as you'd been witness through some of them yourself .Anyway l'm doing a treatment on it to see if l can get a movie off the ground. Doing lot's of writing songs and music. lt's great! l don't even have to leave the house .l'm trying to get some help,gov't grants, investments, loans, creative and artistic input and so on. At the same time, still giggin' on the side fillin' in the calendar. l just got T-shirts (3 kinds logos), hats, cds, pics, bio, press & promo kit to do a blitz on the whole Niagara Region. lt's ripe for the pickin'.  l'm gettin' in tight with Mike Dixon who is the guy for lights & sound, booking agent & promoter for all the major events and festivals in the area. He's also my drummer. C'mon over & check it out  l've got a place for ya to stay and relax. Who knows? Lotsa potential. lt'd b great to c-ya. Get back to me Pronto!    Yo Bro  Johnnie no $

CB: Johnnie Lovesin called the writer to inform him of an event in his home town of Jordan Ontario called “pioneer days”. The writer asked Lovesin a few questions:

 Johnnie the pioneer days is slated for the Niagara region on October 3rd and everyone in the towns are dressing in turn of the century costumes with fun and games for all ages. What will your contribution be for the event?

Lovesin: Well, I’m not dressing up as my image hasn’t changed in 50 years. I will be building a stage on my property for a 2 day jam I am calling the “Tribute to Fallen” Angels”, dedicated to all the guys I listened to and some I played with, from Elvis to Jeff Healey to Kenny MacLean, Quinn and a lot of other friends that have passed on. That will be on October 3rd and the 4th.

BD: So will you have a band backing everyone up and who have you invited to participate on this weekend jam.

Lovesin: Yes, I have my band that I call “Treble Makers ‘like rebel with a “T”, I am trying to get everyone I know and played with from my ’50 years in show business, from the boys in ‘Rush, Kim Mitchell, Joe Mavety, you name it, I am trying to get hold of Ronnie Hawkins as well but so far I haven’t reached him, so tell everyone to come down.
I’m not that good on the computer so I hope you can spread the word for me as well.

BD: Well,  we hope this article will help spread that word for you, now you mentioned in an email to me that you built a studio in your house and you were going to open up a production company, how is that going?

Lovesin: I call it “One Eyed Jacks “there are two of us both called John and we both have a screwed up eye. I had that problem with my eye twitching and closing on me before my New Year’s aneurism back in 97-98 and my partner John Pickering has a screwy eye as well and he has his studio called the “Rhythm Ranch”. We work together so I call us the One Eyed Jacks. I just made a bunch of T’s and long sleeve shirts for the event as well. 

BD: I noticed on the internet there are still a lot of collectors in Europe ,like the Netherlands and France selling your A&M LP  on line, one song I noticed they are pushing is “Chalk it Up’ as well as “Working Girl” how do you feel about those 1983 singles still out there on line?

Lovesin: its crazy isn’t it? I don’t do the internet so much but I did contact Paul Martin, remember him from Blushing Brides, he’s with SOCAN so I called him up and said ‘Paul what happened I used to be with CAPAC and now they’re gone and no one is helping me figure out what’s going on with my old tunes and what do I do with new ones? So I joined and they send me a magazine every month? Go figure.

BD: So you mentioned that you have some new tunes, does that mean we can expect something new from the “Treble Makers?”

Lovesin: I have a whole box full of tapes from 50 years of playing and John my partner and I are going through them and I plan to release some never before heard stuff from those years in some different mixed CD’s. I also plan to release a CD called ‘True Colors” for those who like to ride on 2 wheels if you know what I’m getting at. I also have an idea for an all original Blues CD, I want to do and shop around. You can catch a bit on my sites or YouTube.

BD: is there anything in particular you listen to now and what would you tell young guitar players starting out?

Lovesin: Don’t give up just keep playing, I never stopped and I am still going and look what I’ve been through, I don’t listen to a lot except the blues and the old stuff as I usually just sit on my porch and play my acoustic and watch all the people pass by.

BD: Always great to talk to you  Johnnie ,all the best on your event and I hope to hear some new things from you soon.

Lovesin: Keep Rockin’