Ahmet Ertegun

Ahmet Ertegun (1923-2006)

Often described as one of the most significant figures in the modern recording industry, Ertegun is best known as the co-founder and president of Atlantic Records. One of his greatest legacies (other than his impressive early R&B roster) was his insistence that Atlantic sign a virtually unknown British band called Led Zeppelin. He was also responsible for such acts as Cream and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Ertegun served as chairman of Atlantic Records until his death.



Jerry Wexler (1917-2008)

A Billboard journalist turned record producer, Wexler is one of the most important figures in modern music. He not only coined the term “rhythm & blues,” but also defined the role of the modern record producer. He helped lead R&B to mainstream popularity, propelling the careers of Ray Charles, Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Solomon Burke and many others. His impact on the evolution of rhythm & blues and soul is immeasurable.


 Ruth Brown

Ruth Brown (1928-2006)

They called Atlantic Records “the house that Ruth built” during the 1950s. Her hit-making reign from 1949 to the close of the ’50s helped establish the label’s predominance in the R&B field. Later, the business all but forgot her and she ended up working as domestic help for a time. A chance encounter with entertainment lawyer Howell Begle led to the founding of the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the historical and cultural preservation of R&B music.



Dr. John

Malcolm John “Mac” Rebennack, Jr. — better known by the stage name Dr. John — is a Grammy-winning, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame singer-songwriter, pianist and guitarist, whose music combines blues, pop, and jazz, as well as zydeco, boogie-woogie and rock and roll.


Craig-MorrisonCraig Morrison

Craig Morrison is a Montreal based ethnomusicologist, author, teacher and musician. Recognized as an expert on popular music, he’s written articles for encyclopedias, proofread manuscripts for publishers, worked on documentary films, and is a regular commentator in the media.


Howell Begle

Howell Begle is an entertainment and media lawyer and long-time activist on behalf of early rhythm & blues recording artists. Along with Ruth Brown, he was one of the principal founders of the Rhythm & Blues Foundation, which provides financial support, medical assistance and educational outreach through various grants and programs to support R&B and Motown artists active from the 1940s through the 1970s.



Michael Jerome Browne

Michael Jerome Browne is a multi-instrumentalist and singer as well as a roots music expert. A musician’s musician, when he isn’t performing his own material he is in demand backing up and recording with artists such as Eric Bibb, Jordan Officer, and Susie Arioli.

 Steven Barry Band

Stephen Barry Band

One of the best blues and folk-blues ensembles in Canada, the Stephen Barry Band has played with such legends as John Lee Hooker, Bo Diddley, Big Moose Walker, Pinetop Perkins, Buddy Guy, Hubert Sumlin, Magic Slim, Eddie Kirkland, Nappy Brown, John Hammond Jr., and Big Mama Thornton, whom they toured with for more than three years.


Smokey Robinson

Smokey Robinson is an R&B singer-songwriter, record producer, and former record executive. He was the founder and front-man of the popular Motown vocal group The Miracles, as well as the group’s chief songwriter and producer.



Ry Cooder

Ry Cooder‘s attributes are manifest and great; as musician, producer, score composer and social commentator he is without peer. His best-known work is with the Buena Vista Social Club, which he produced. His recent work has been more political in nature but no less relevant. Monsieur Cooder has many Grammys to his credit.


 Big Joe Burrel

“Big” Joe Burrell (1924-2005)

Big Joe Burrell was a saxophone player who toured with the likes of Count Basie, B.B.King, and Vann “Piano Man” Walls.





Vann&MorrisAfter graduating from Bishop’s University in Quebec’s Eastern Townships, Steven Morris managed a bookstore for ten years in Quebec City. During this period he also became a freelance arts reporter and broadcaster.

After leaving the book business, Morris worked predominantly in IMAX film production and distribution. He cut his teeth distributing the films The First Emperor of China and Mystery of the Maya, which played theatrically in every major museum in the world with a large-format theatre, including the Smithsonian Institution.

Morris then became involved in production with the IMAX film Le Grand Nord (Great North), for Montreal-based TVA International. His role included developing the idea for the film, finding international investors (including Imagica Japan), finishing the film, and taking it to market. The film won “Grand prix du jury” at the large-format film festival in Paris the year of its launch.

Over the years of a career spent in the arts and communication, Morris has freelanced for the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC) as a literary reporter, for the National Film Board of Canada, for Cirque du Soleil as a film officer, and as a writer for the Montreal Gazette. He produced Vann “Piano Man” Walls’ CD In the Evening, which was nominated for a Juno Award.

Morris is currently one of the owners of Mate & Orchard Productions Inc., based in Montreal. Vann “Piano Man” Walls: The Spirit of R&B is his first film as a director.




Heidi Haines first studied film in CEGEP, and after finishing a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a major in Film Animation from Concordia University, she began editing music videos for renowned artists such as Céline Dion, Daniel Bélanger (Félix Award for best video of the year), Corey Hart, The Barenaked Ladies (winner of the MuchMusic People’s Choice Award) and Jim Corcoran. This led to her editing commercials for clients such as Volkswagen, Molson and McDonald’s.

From there, it was a natural progression to work in short films and television, and eventually documentaries and feature-length films. Over the last few years, Haines has concentrated her love of the craft predominantly on documentary films: among them Tim Southam’s Danser Perreault, which won the Gemini Award for Best Director in 2006; Gratien Gélinas: Un géant aux pieds d’argile; Karsh is History; Les Acadiens du Québec and more.

Haines edited two feature films with Adrian Wills, the Grammy Award-winning All Together Now and Touch the Sky, both Cirque du Soleil productions. Her latest work saw her cutting a film on Ron Turcotte, the Acadian who rode thoroughbred racehorse Secretariat to fame and fortune.



martin_bolduc_300PRODUCER: MARTIN BOLDUC

Martin Bolduc is best known for producing the 2003 Primetime Emmy Award winner, Cirque du Soleil: Fire Within, a 13-episode documentary television series which also garnered two Gemini Awards. He has had a multi-faceted and distinguished career as a Montreal-based producer, executive producer and production director/coordinator.

In 2005 Bolduc won a Gemini for Best Performing Arts Program or Series for the feature length documentary Lovesick. And in 2010, he took home a Grammy Award for Best Long Form Music Video for producing All Together Now.

Bolduc joined Cirque du Soleil in 1995, working on the company’s live entertainment show O in Las Vegas. In 1999 he became part of the Cirque du Soleil Images team, producing numerous documentaries. He was also involved in Touch the Sky, the recent feature documentary following Cirque du Soleil’s owner and founder Guy Laliberté as he embarked on his journey to the International Space Station.

His most recent work, as one of the producers of Cirque du Soleil-Worlds Away, by director Andrew Adamson, is his first 3D production.

Bolduc is now a freelance producer based in Montreal. Vann “Piano Man” Walls: The Spirit of R&B is his first R&B adventure.





Peter Dowbiggin, Toronto-based independent businessman and investor, has long cultivated an interest in jazz and R&B. He was one of the founders of McMaster University’s FM Radio Station, CFMU 93.3, among the first university student union-run stations in Canada to apply to the CRTC and be granted an FM broadcasting license.

In his business career, Dowbiggin has founded and run several successful private companies, and currently is president and CEO of Dowbico Limited in Toronto. He is an avid collector of vinyl and compact disc recordings, and enjoys devoting time to the pursuit of rare, fine wines.

Long a discreet patron of the arts, Vann “Piano Man” Walls: The Spirit of R&B is Peter’s first public involvement in documentary film.

(photo: Peter Dowbiggin (right) and his wife Joanne, with director Steven Morris)







Atlantic_RecordsFounded in 1947, Atlantic Records is one of the most important and successful record companies in history. Atlantic was born out of co-founder Ahmet Ertegun’s genuine love for black American music: jazz and blues, and a $10,000 loan from his dentist. In less than a decade, it would become the leading R&B label and home to such pioneering stars as Big Joe Turner, Ruth Brown, The Clovers, Ray Charles, and many others. Vann Walls’ signature piano sound is instantly recognizable on many of those records.

With the help of Jerry Wexler, the former Billboard journalist who coined the term “rhythm & blues,” the label shaped the R&B sound into one of the most powerful musical forces of the 1950s and ’60s and ultimately brought black music to the masses.

Over its first 20 years of operation, Atlantic Records earned a reputation as one of the most important American independent recording labels, specializing in jazz, R&B and soul recordings by African-American artists. In 1967 it became a wholly owned subsidiary of Warner Music and expanded into rock and pop music, signing Cream, Led Zeppelin and Crosby, Stills & Nash.

During its storied history, Atlantic has been home to Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Dr. John, AC/DC and, The Rolling Stones, to name but a few.