Meeting Kenny Shields
Sometimes you really have to work hard to find common ground, to establish that thread in a conversation with a stranger that provides some connectivity. I knew that wasn't going to be an issue with Kenny Shields, lead singer of the rock band Streetheart, in town for the Diamond Anniversary Gala in support of the Keyano College Foundation.
He strolled into the room full of sponsors, gathered to be lauded for their diamond level support of the annual black-tie affair that is the must-attend party of the year in Fort McMurray. Tall, slight of hair, and looking very much like his visage on the promotional shot of the band, he wasn't too hard to track down in the room full of about one hundred people.
"Hi Kenny," I said enthusiastically shaking his hand. "I used to babysit for your sister when she lived in Kamsack," launching right into the common ground knowing we were pressed for time.
Kenny's sister Sharlene lived in my hometown for a number of years when her husband Lorn was managing one of the banks. They had two sons, Jeff and David, born nine months apart. I managed to track Jeff's name down on Facebook earlier this afternoon, but couldn't remember the name of his brother.
"It was David," he said. "He actually passed away two years ago, died of cancer at thirty-six."
It was a sobering moment recalling those two vibrant boys, probably six or seven years old when I would spend hours watching them on weekends when their parents were out. I'm guessing on the age, based on the fact that there was a couple of Juno Awards on the mantle. In those days, Kenny was on the road a lot and didn't have a permanent home, per se, so he kept the awards (won in 1979, 1980 and 1983) at his sister's.
"The very first concert I went to was with you guys in Yorkton," I said. "You were playing with Toronto and the Headpins. I'm guessing it was 1982 or 1983."
"I'm thinking it must have been '83," said Kenny. "We were out with Aldo Nova in '82," replied Kenny.
John Evans, a Foundation supporter and obviously a fan of the music of that period, rolled his eyes in fond remembrance at the mention of yet another band from his youth.
|John Evans and Kenny Shields|
"Why?" he asked. "There's no point, nobody is interested."
"But you're still having fun?"
"Absolutely," he said. "This band is fantastic. They make it fun to play."
There was a deep sincerity in his response, like he's truly living the life, with no regrets.
Kenny was born on a farm near Nokomis, Saskatchewan, discovering a love of music at an early age. His fledgling university career got side-tracked when he was recruited to sing lead in the band Witness Incorporated, Saskatoon's premiere band of the late 1960's. After scoring a couple of radio hits and touring with the legendary Roy Orbison and Cream, Kenny almost lost his life in a car accident.
It took a couple of years to recover, but eventually his strength and vocal prowess returned. Streetheart emerged as a prairie powerhouse rock band that sold millions of records and toured from coast to coast as the 1970s turned into the new decade.
The band topped the Canadian charts with non-stop hits such as "Action", "Hollywood", “Here Comes the Night”, "Under My Thumb", "Tin Soldier", "Look In Your Eyes", "What Kind of Love Is This", "One More Time" and "Snow White" – all songs that remain standards on radio playlists. Along the way they earned a total of six gold albums, four platinum albums, a gold single, two Ampex Golden Reel awards, a Music Express Peoples' Choice Award as Most Popular Canadian act, and a Juno Award." - from kennyshields.com.
Kenny Shields and Streetheart will headline the 2011 Diamond Anniversary Gala - Romancing the Stone - along with Honeymoon Suite. The event features a record number of sponsors, 1200 guests, and is expected to raise in the neighborhood of a half-million dollars for the Keyano College Foundation.