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"PIA" 2003 Obituary


PIAF 

PIAF o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-02-13 published
Gordon Kenneth FLEMING/FLEMMING
By Jack FORTIN Thursday, February 13, 2003, Page A30
Musician, husband, father. Born August 3, 1931, in Winnipeg. Died August 31, 2002, in Scarborough, Ontario, following a stroke, aged 71.
Gordie FLEMING/FLEMMING was a remarkable music talent, known internationally as a master of the accordion, especially in the jazz idiom. He was a life member of Local 149 of the Toronto Musicians' Association.
In show-business vernacular, Gordie was "born in a trunk." He began playing accordion when his older brother gave him lessons. His musical ability was such that he began performing publicly at the age of five. His schoolteachers often saw him being whisked away in a taxi to perform at theatres and radio stations in Winnipeg. By the age of 10, he was a working member of various bands in that city.
In 1949, Gordie lost his accordion in a fire at a Winnipeg hotel. With the insurance money, he headed for the bright lights of Montreal where he soon became an important part of that city's musical life. His accordion ability was complemented by the fact that he was also a gifted arranger and composer.
He had a marvellous ability to improvise and could string out complex bebop lines, leaving his listeners in awe. He often slipped a jazz phrase into ballads or commercial tunes, confirming that jazz was indeed his first love.
One of Montreal's busiest musicians, he wrote for local orchestras, shows, radio and television. He had perfect pitch and often wrote without reference to a keyboard. He was at home in every type of music from classics to jazz. For several years, he worked at the National Film Board as a composer and musician.
In Montreal, Gordie performed with many show business headliners: there was a wealth of home-grown talent in Montreal, such as Oscar PETERSON and Maynard FERGUSON, as well as other jazz musicians who were beginning to be noticed.
Gordie had said that when when he first heard bebop it was like entering another world. As his career indicates, he had no trouble in that world. He worked with many personalities including: Charlie PARKER, Mel TORMÉ, Hank SNOW, Lena HORNE, Englebert HUMPERDINCK, Dennis DAY, Gordon MacRAE, Cab CALLOWAY, Nat King COLE, Cat STEVENS, Rich LITTLE, Billy ECKSTEIN, Pee Wee HUNT, Arthur GODFREY and Buddy DEFRANCO.
He also performed with Tommy AMBROSE, Allan MILLS, Wally KOSTER, Tommy HUNTER, Bert NIOSI, Wayne and Shuster, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation jazz shows with Al BACULIS, and many other Canadian jazz musicians.
On Montreal's French music scene, Gordie performed on radio and television with Emile GENEST, Ti-Jean CARIGNAN, André GAGNON and Ginette RENO. He was a featured soloist with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra on several occasions.
Internationally, Gordie toured France in 1952 and performed with Edith PIAF and Tino ROSSI. He had the honour to perform for former prime minister Pierre Elliot TRUDEAU at a Commonwealth Conference.
He participated with other top Canadian musicians in a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation tour to entertain Canadian and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops in Europe in 1952 and 1968.
For me, a memorable experience was playing in a group with Gordie for several winters in Florida. A popular member of the Panama City Beach family of musicians, Gordie looked forward to his winter trek south. Many of the American musicians will miss him, as will the many snowbirds who looked forward to hearing him each year.
His extensive repertoire allowed Gordie to author a book called Music of the World, in which he wrote the music to 280 songs from more than 30 countries.
Gordie leaves his wife of 47 years, Joanne, and seven children.
Jack FORTIN is Gordie's friend.

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