Retired Senator Tommy Banks has passed away

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Retired Senator Tommy Banks has passed away

Postby jon » Thu Jan 25, 2018 10:26 pm

Tommy Banks — musician, former senator — dead at 81
LIANE FAULDER
Edmonton Journal
Published on: January 25, 2018
Last Updated: January 25, 2018 10:11 PM MST

Tommy Banks — pianist, international conductor, former senator and beloved Edmontonian — has died of leukemia. He was 81.

A precocious musician as a child, Banks began his professional career at 14 in the band of jazz saxophonist Don Thompson. By the age of 18, he was music director of the Orion Musical Theatre in Edmonton, and coordinator of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. At age 32, Banks was host, pianist, conductor and arranger for the Gemini Award-winning Tommy Banks show, which ran until 1974, and again from 1980 to 1983.

In a 2016 interview with Postmedia, Banks credited his parents with trusting him enough to let him begin his touring career at a tender age. He remained grateful for the opportunity to entertain audiences locally and around the world for more than 65 years.

“Entertain may be the wrong word, but you always have to somehow attract and maintain the attention of the audience, whether you’re playing background music at a cocktail party or a concert at the Winspear,” he said. “Early on, I had to make the choice of whether to be an artist or a craftsman. I wanted to play music for a living. And every once in a while, craftspeople get to practise … art.”

Born in Calgary, Banks was a passionate Edmontonian, promoting the work of local musicians and those from across the province throughout his life. Always, he aimed to make the city’s music scene better, and volunteered large amounts of time to local musical projects, such as the Edmonton Concert Hall Foundation, which raised funds for the Winspear Centre, acting as its chair from 1989 to 1991. In gratitude, the city named a street after him, Tommy Banks Way, located near the Yardbird Suite jazz club where he performed countless times.

As a founding member of the Alberta Foundation for the Performing Arts, Banks toiled to ensure promising local musicians received exposure across the country. He is a member of the Edmonton Hall of Fame. He has won numerous, major musical and cultural awards in Canada, including a Juno and a Gemini, and worked with international celebrities from Aretha Franklin to Tony Bennett.

Banks was involved in many aspects of the cultural sector. He provided musical direction for the XI Commonwealth Games, Expo ’86, the World University Games and the XV Olympic Winter games. He produced and conducted command performances for numerous prestigious guests, including U.S. president Ronald Reagan and Queen Elizabeth II.

A member of the Canada Council from 1989 to 1995, Banks was an officer of the Order of Canada. He was appointed to the Senate in 2000 and served until 2011, shortly before his 75th birthday.

A feisty individual, Banks was known to speak his mind, and could be relied upon for a pithy quote, such as this one: “The only thing the CRTC ever did that was worth a damn was Canadian content regulation. It allowed the Canadian production industry to grow.”

Turning 80 in 2016 did little to slow Banks’ pace. He continued to play a busy range of dates nation wide. Maclean’s magazine observed: “It would be easier to list the things he doesn’t do.” As the Toronto Star once pointed out, Banks did “everything a musician could wish for.”
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Re: Retired Senator Tommy Banks has passed away

Postby jon » Thu Jan 25, 2018 10:28 pm

From EdmontonBroadcasters.com: Musician and announcer CKUA 1952-83; performer Tommy Banks Show CBC-TV 1968-73, 1980-83; host Tommy Banks Show CITV-TV Edmonton 1970s; producer In Concert syndicated series 1970s. Appointed federal Senator April 7, 2000.

From CCF:

The appointment of Dr. Thomas Benjamin Banks to the Senate of Canada on April 7th 2000 was a crowning moment in the career and life of Tommy Banks, composer, pianist, conductor, producer, broadcaster and music educator, who was born in Calgary on December 17th 1936. His multiple talents have brought him national and international fame, and the Canadian broadcasting system has been the richer for his contributions in so many fields.

The Banks family moved to Edmonton in 1948, when Tommy was eleven. He had taken piano lessons in Calgary, and by the time he was fourteen and still in school, he had joined the touring band of saxophonist Don (D.T.)Thompson, with whom he stayed for three years before forming his own band. The Archives of University of Alberta radio station CKUA tell of Tommy's band being one of the first in Canada to broadcast in stereo, when in 1959 CKUA AM provided the right speaker signal and CKUA-FM the left speaker. Tommy was on the air on CKUA in one way or another from 1952 to 1983.

In the early 60s, Tommy's piano was heard along with Harry Boon's on a weekly 15-minute CBC-TV series called Keynotes, and in the context of his big band on CBC Radio. From 1968 to 1973, Tommy and his band were heard weekly on CBC-TV's Tommy Banks Show, first as a regional show and later on the full network. He was seen again on CBC-TV from 1980 through 1983.

In 1974, Dr. Charles Allard was awarded the new independent television licence for CITV Edmonton. The eminence grise behind this application and the designer of ITV's overall concept was Wendell Wilks. Wilks lured Tommy to ITV to front his own nightly Tommy Banks Show, and as some-time producer and music supervisor of a highly successful series of one-hour In Concert specials, starring the likes of Aretha Franklin, Tony Bennett, Tom Jones, Lou Rawls, Dionne Warwick, Mel Torme, Henry Mancini and Charles Aznavour. These were syndicated throughout the world. Tommy also later appeared as music director of a syndicated talk-show series produced by Wilks in Vancouver, called Celebrity Revue. Musical direction and writing duties have also found Tommy on series such as The Palace, starring Jack Jones, The Raes, Michel Legrand Presents, and innumerable TV specials.

Tommy was always interested in jazz, and his performances both as solo pianist and with groups have been heard frequently on Canadian radio and television, and his recordings have gained world-wide recognition. In 1978 he took his own Big Band to the Montreux Jazz Festival, from which a two-LP set and later a two-CD set were released.

Tommy's musical accomplishments have included participation as Conductor and/or Musical Director of the 1978 Commonwealth Games, The 1983 World University Games, EXPO '86, and the Calgary XV Winter Olympic Games in Calgary in 1988.

Tommy received a Juno Award and the Grand Prix du Disque in 1979, an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from the University of Alberta in 1987, was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1991, won a Gemini Award (for best variety performance in television) in 1992, and received the Alberta Order of Excellence in 1993. In 1976, he was founding Chairman of the Alberta Foundation for the Performing Arts. The Foundation created the Tommy Banks Award to recognize outstanding music educators.

Prime Minister Jean Chretien made Tommy Banks a Senator on April 7th 2000. He has served on the Standing Committees of Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources; National Security and Defence; and National Finance. His Senate term ended on 16 December 2011.
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Re: Retired Senator Tommy Banks has passed away

Postby Richard Skelly » Fri Jan 26, 2018 6:00 pm

What an all-rounder! Musically, I think Tommy tended accessible jazz for composing, arranging and recording. But he also won a Gemini back around ‘91 for a bravura variety performance with kd lang earlier that year at the Canadian Country Music Awards. Back in the early ‘70s his label, Century II, released a pop-opera of sorts called Cantata Canada. Distributed by Capitol Records, it traced the emergence of modern Canada (especially west of Ontario) through the historic efforts of hard-working citizens.Younger pop, rock and blues artists are remembering Mr. Banks. Earlier today, singer Nancy Nash posted a moving tribute.

Long a vocal supporter of Canadian content regulations, Tommy Banks once opined those rules were the only real achievement attained by the CRTC. That viewpoint no doubt helped the CanCon-loving Liberals to appoint him to the Upper House. As a Senator, though, Tommy Banks wasn’t a mere showhorse. Quite the workhorse, in fact.

And he played well with others once the Harper Conservatives took over and soon appointed enough newcomers to take control. Senator Banks helped improve legislation concerning the Auditor-General’s office, national sustainable development and veterans affairs.

A life very well lived.
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Re: Retired Senator Tommy Banks has passed away

Postby jon » Fri Jan 26, 2018 9:26 pm

Until I arrived in Edmonton at the beginning of 1975, Tommy Banks was the only Edmontonian that I could name. In my year at CHQM, he was the Canadian artist most respected by staff within the station's format. "Samba del Sol", written and played by Tommy, was current and heavily played. And is still one of my favourite pieces of CanCon.

More recently, shortly after he retired from his position as Senator, I was part of the team that got Tommy to speak to the Edmonton Broadcasters Club on his broadcast work over the years. Even Tommy learned something that day: Dionne Warwick had so perfectly re-voiced her entire In Concert episode that Tommy never knew that her live audio was lost during the recording of the show.

Tommy kept coming to Club meetings after that, and I remember how appreciative he was to win the door prize of Max Ferguson's autobiography right after Max passed away. I presented it to him, and he told me that he actually had known Max fairly well, thanks to Tommy's years working on CBC programs.

I was fortunate enough to have a chance to run into Tommy and Ida Banks within the last year or so, and say "Hello", when they visited my current favourite local eatey/dessert place.
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