Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Saying goodbye to musical Merritt

Swarms of friends gather at the Wood

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FOND MUSICAL FAREWELL: Bill Merritt's "Celebration of Life" all-star concert at the Norwood Hotel was a heartfelt testament to the rich Manitoba music scene he helped create through his own music and years of work for the Winnipeg Folk Festival.

"Bill told me shortly before he died if there was anything for him -- and he wasn't sure there would be -- 'I want it to be at the Wood,' " said Marv Terhoch, who co-organized the April 24 soiree with musician Gord Oslund, another of Merritt's old friends.

And what a night it was! Bob Sparrow's famous Norwood Hotel bar was packed.

"There were about 300 people there at any given time, with another 100 lined up outside the door, trying to get in," said Terhoch. "It couldn't have happened without Bob Sparrow, who put up 40 people for three days."

STARRY STARRY NIGHT GALA: The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation had their annual fundraising dinner Saturday night and got straight down to business. It's not about the fancy-schmancy five-course dinner and the beautiful clothes, they're looking for a cure for diabetes, and they asked for money outright through their Fund-a-Cure method.

First, five-year-old Jaxon Lister and his dad, Adam, took the stage and Dad told the story of his little fellow, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 20 months. The little fellow is a fighter, even wall-climbing when he gets a chance.

Two enthusiastic gentlemen then took the mike at the RBC Convention Centre, boldly asking for gifts of big money. They started at $15,000, $10,000, $5,000 and the crowd gasped and applauded as they got a surprising number at each level. They worked down from $2,500 to $1,000, $500, $250 and $100 and almost everyone in the room contributed, receiving plush teddy bears with each pledge.

"Some of them contribute more than once, because they have more than one child who wants a bear," said JDRF Prairie regional manager Dorothy Ross. "This year we only had six left!"

Plus, there were auctions. Prized items, such as a Sidney Crosby hockey jersey worn in the Sochi Olympics, went to Greg Fettes for $12,000, with another bidder practically wrestling him to the floor for it. People went crazy cheering as the bidding played out. A lot of moms and dads of kids who suffer the thousands of needle pokes looked on with great interest.

Live and silent auctions brought in $85,000 and gross revenue topped $400,000. "Last year it was $382,000," Ross said.

FRIEND TO THE STARS: The upcoming documentary on rock 'n' roll road manager Marty Kramer, now 66, called Almost Almost Famous, is being made by Lank-Beach Productions as we speak. The Winnipegger who became the consummate road manager for famous rock bands is known for his distinctive voice and personality.

The documentary highlights Kramer's crazy career and the famous bands he managed -- starting with the Deverons (Burton Cummings' first band) when Kramer was just old enough to haul lights, sound and equipment in his uncle's van.

Kramer went on to be a roadie and road manager for the Guess Who and BTO, did three tours with the Rolling Stones and worked with Nick Gilder, Ringo Starr's band and many more. Ironcially, he is now working for tribute bands celebrating the music of the stars he first worked for.

After returning home to Vancouver from the Elvis, Elvis Elvis show in Winnipeg at the Burton Cummings Theatre last week, he said he still loves the action and the atmosphere.

"And I love being around people who are positive."

Kramer is known for the pains he takes to treat the stars well, often holding a towel for them as they come off the stage soaked with sweat, and offering words of praise and encouragement.

He has long been the wind beneath the wings of stars touring the world, whether they be on their way up, at the top or on the way down -- and he loves all of it. Speaking from his office, surrounded by his rock 'n' roll memorabilia, he says, "I live in a 3,300-sq. foot house, with 5,500 square feet of junk!"

Junk he absolutely adores.


Got tips, events, sightings, unusual things going on? Call Maureen's tip line at 204-474-1116, email, or send letters to Maureen Scurfield c/o The Insider, 1355 Mountain Ave., R2X 3B6.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 2, 2014 0

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