Q&A with Canadian music promoter, publicist, Richard Flohil - for more than 55 years, has been committed to the blues

"That the music industry is not full of fools and flakes and greedy bastards and crooks. Most people in the business are in the business because they can’t sing or play (and in my case, can’t even dance), but they are passionate about music. If you can’t make music, do what you can to make music happen."

Richard Flohil: What a Wonderful World

Multi award winner Richard Flohil (born 1934 in UK) is a Canadian music promoter, publicist, writer, former Mariposa Folk Festival artistic director and journalist based in Toronto. For more than 55 years, Richard Flohil has been committed to the blues. As a concert promoter, he was involved with the first appearances in Canada (in the late ’50s and early ’60s) of Sleepy John Estes, Robert Nighthawk, Muddy Waters, Bobby Bland, and Buddy Guy, among others.                                                   (Photo: Richard Flohil)

He started his first publicity company, Richard Flohil and Associates, in 1970. In the years since, he has handled the Canadian publicity for Canada’s leading blues and roots-music record label, Stony Plain Records, whose roster includes Duke Robillard, Maria Muldaur, Amos Garrett, Ronnie Earl, Big Dave McLean, the late Long John Baldry, and others.

Some of his clients include Shakura S’Aida, Roxanne Potvin, Paul Reddick, Treasa Levasseur, and the estate of the late Jeff Healey, for whom he worked for five years; Flohil also handled publicity for Canada’s Downchild Blues Band for 39 years. Flohil served on the board of the Toronto Blues Society for 12 years, and remains a member of its programming committee. In addition to his involvement with the Mariposa Music Festival as programming director, Richard Flohil is a regular workshop host and MC at festivals in Canada, such as the Mariposa Folk Festival, Edmonton Folk Festival, the Calgary Folk Music Festival, the Winnipeg Folk Festival, and the Hillside Festival.

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Blues and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

I came to North America from the UK in April 1957. I had wanted to go to Chicago to meet Muddy Waters, but the McCarthy era was in full swing, and the immigration people wanted to know whether my grandmother was a communist. All the Canadian people wanted to know was whether I was employable, healthy, and had a passport. So, I came to Toronto, because it was close enough to Chicago, then the center of the blues world.

What moment changed your life the most? Which meetings have been the most important experiences?

Presenting a concert at Massey Hall in Toronto with Buddy Guy, Bobby Bland, and what turned out to be the last gig the American guitarist Lonnie Johnson ever played. I lost money, and quit my 2 1/2-pack-a-day cigarette habit the next morning. Had I not done that I would not be alive today. Meetings that were memorable? In no order, Louis Armstrong, Dolly Parton, and the two women that I married (at different times, of course!)

"That it’s unlikely there will ever be another Muddy, Wolf, Louis — and so many more classic blues and jazz artists. There was a spirit of integrity and excellent and heartfelt playing — so often replaced today by histrionics, volume and too much multi-noted virtuosity (I blame Stevie Ray Vaughan!). Oh, and I hope vaccination works." (Photo: Richard Flohil & BB King, Toronto 1968)

What´s been the highlights in your career so far? Are there any memories which you’d like to share with us?

Being the first person, as a promoter, to bring Sleepy John Estes, Robert Nighthawk, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, B.B. King and Bobby Blue Bland to Canada. Memories? Way too many — so there’s a book on the way called The Night Miles Davis Tried to Buy My Car — & 100 Other Stories From a Life at the Edge of Music. If you work full-time for 50 years as a music writer, editor, publicist, concert promoter and festival director, and you don’t have a shitload of stories you just blew it!

And working, in the early stages of their careers, with Loreena McKennitt, Serena Ryder, k.d.lang, the Downchild Blues Band. A doing publicity in Toronto for Sir George Martin, Billy Connolly, Eric Idle, Alice Cooper and many more. Oh, yes, and being artistic director for five years of Canada’s oldest folk festival, Mariposa.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of music?

That it’s unlikely there will ever be another Muddy, Wolf, Louis — and so many more classic blues and jazz artists. There was a spirit of integrity and excellent and heartfelt playing — so often replaced today by histrionics, volume and too much multi-noted virtuosity (I blame Stevie Ray Vaughan!). Oh, and I hope vaccination works.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

That we would have live music again — even bad live music!

"Presenting a concert at Massey Hall in Toronto with Buddy Guy, Bobby Bland, and what turned out to be the last gig the American guitarist Lonnie Johnson ever played. I lost money, and quit my 2 1/2-pack-a-day cigarette habit the next morning. Had I not done that I would not be alive today. Meetings that were memorable? In no order, Louis Armstrong, Dolly Parton, and the two women that I married (at different times, of course!)" (Photo: Richard Flohil & Louis Armstrong)

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experiences in the music industry?

That the music industry is not full of fools and flakes and greedy bastards and crooks. Most people in the business are in the business because they can’t sing or play (and in my case, can’t even dance), but they are passionate about music. If you can’t make music, do what you can to make music happen.

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?

Ah, here we get the heavy questions! But, since I left school at 16 to get my first job (trainee newspaper reporter), and I’ve never been to a university, so social-cultural implications and beyond me. I want music to help people attain better lives — I want them, through exposure to music, to laugh, cry, dance, tap their feet, think, smile, be kind to other people…

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

I would like to go to Lincoln Gardens in Chicago in 1922 to hear this new hotshot from New Orleans called Louis Armstrong to okay his first night with King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band. Or be wandering through Mississippi with John Lomax recording the first stuff put to tape by Son House and Muddy Waters.

Richard Flohil - Home

Views: 150

Comments are closed for this blog post

social media

Members

© 2021   Created by Michael Limnios Blues Network.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service