Former Calgarian Randy Stark inducted into Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame after five decades behind the scenes

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Randy Stark has created a new playlist on Spotify.

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Born in Edmonton and raised in Calgary in 2021, the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame inductee retired from behind-the-scenes work in the music industry but is still an avid listener. He tries to keep abreast of the latest trends and buzz artists in Canadian country music. But this project has nothing to do with it. He was apparently tasked by some of his former Calgary buddies to create a playlist to coincide with his 50th high school reunion.

“There are a few things that could be considered country,” says Stark, in an interview from his home in Toronto. “From California: The Byrds, New Riders, Buffalo Springfield. All that kind of stuff. But most of it is rock stuff.

While Stark may have spent much of his professional life developing the careers of Canadian country artists such as Paul Brandt, George Fox, Jason Blaine, Aaron Pritchett and Music Hall of Fame inductee Patricia Conroy country in 2021, his career has not been limited to this genre. So maybe it’s no surprise that his former classmates trust him to compile their reunion playlist. Over the course of a 50-year career, he has become known to have a golden ear when it comes to identifying promising artists and songs, although he remains humble when discussing these talents. .

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“I’ve had the luxury of listening to all kinds of good music,” Stark says. “I’m sure when you sit down and listen to a record, CD, or Spotify, when you hear a really good song, you know it’s a really good song. I was just in the enviable position where I was able to access a lot of great songs. Did I have an ear? I guess, but there were a lot of people in the business who had really good ears: the A&R guys, the promotion guys. I was able to learn from them and learn to recognize what people will react to.

Stark and Patricia Conroy will be inducted into the Hall of Fame at a ceremony in November in London, Ont., Where Country Music Week will be held in 2021. Conroy will be inducted on the performer side. Stark will be inducted as this year’s Stan Klees Builder Award, which is named after the co-founder of RPM Magazine and honors those who have worked behind the scenes.

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While Stark is quick to credit his mentors, his rise in the industry was certainly impressive. It was shortly after graduating from Sir Winston Churchill High School when he saw an ad in the newspaper for a picking job at a record warehouse in Calgary. From those humble beginnings, Stark became warehouse manager and sales representative before starting work for record companies including A&M Records and GRT. In 1980, he landed at Warner Music Canada and eventually joined the management team as Vice President of Marketing and Promotion. This led him to guide the careers of Brandt, Fox, the Johner Brothers, and Blue Rodeo, among others. He left Warner early and started his own businesses, supporting a list of selected clients as both manager and radio tracker. With Stark Ravings Management, he worked with Blaine, Pritchett, Diane Chase, Jake Matthews, Kylee Epp and Lisa Hewitt. As a radio tracker, an important but perhaps underrated job, he helped bring Deric Ruttan, Gord Bamford, Michelle Wright and Clayton Bellamy to mainstream airwaves. While the industry has undergone massive changes over the past decades in the way music is promoted and distributed, Stark says good radio broadcasting is still the key to the success of mainstream country artists.

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“I tried to keep a very short and narrow client list,” he says. “That way I could devote time to each artist instead of having a running menu of things that I would list on the radio. Essentially, you bring a song to a radio station and try to convince that radio station to add that artist to their playlist. It is getting more and more complex. Although we had CanCon regulations that stated that a number had to be Canadian talent, it looked like there was a list of maybe 15 artists who were the A list artists and radio (put) most of their support behind these artists. And it’s just a matter of convincing the programmer that your artist is valuable, that the song has value, and that he will draw listeners to that radio station.

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“It’s about having a great song and artist and the integrity of your artist roster,” he adds. “The radio tends to pay attention to this. They like to deal with artists they know and people they know.

Stark’s work hasn’t been limited to country music. His beginnings at Warner brought him to work with artists of all stripes. One of the most colorful episodes of his career was to accompany Motley Crue, a party hair-metal band, on their first tour of Canada in the 1980s.

“They were fun and quite weird and this first trip to Canada for them was a real eye-opener,” Stark said. “There was such a visceral reaction to this group. It seemed like people either loved them or hated them and they weren’t afraid to show either side. They landed at the Edmonton airport and some of their stage clothes were confiscated as dangerous weapons because there were all kinds of nails and pins. It was pretty crazy. “

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But while his career may have straddled various genres, Stark says the Canadian country music community still holds a special place in his heart.

“I didn’t feel like there was an ego attached to a lot of artists that there were in the rock world,” he says. “When you’re dealing with big American rock bands, you tend to have a certain attitude every now and then. But with the country people, it just felt more down to earth. It was interesting to hear songs played only on an acoustic guitar and voice, stripped down to nothing and still having a major impact. This is what really introduced me to the whole country.

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