ECMA to honour Dick Nolan with lifetime achievement award

The Western Star

Corner Brook will get to honour one of its most famous native sons when the East Coast Music Association comes to town to celebrate this winter.

Organizers of the 2009 ECMA awards, festival and conference — scheduled for Feb. 26 to March 1 — announced Thursday that the late Dick Nolan will be posthumously presented with the Dr. Helen Creighton Lifetime Achievement Award during the event’s awards gala.

Born in Corner Brook in 1939, Mr. Nolan’s deep baritone voice, reminiscent of his musical hero Johnny Cash, first hit the airwaves when he began performing country songs on CBC radio in Corner Brook in 1954. He recorded his first album, featuring covers of Cash tunes, in 1961 and would go on to appear on about 40 more albums during a career spanning more than five decades.

Renowned for his big hit “Aunt Martha’s Sheep,” which peaked at No. 35 on the RPM country music charts in October 1972, Mr. Nolan was also famous for being the first Newfoundlander to perform at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, when he appeared there in 1973.

Mr. Nolan died in December 2005 at the age of 66, just a month after he received a lifetime achievement award from Music Newfoundland and Labrador.

Priscilla Boutcher, Mr. Nolan’s sister, said she got goose bumps when she got the call that her brother was going to be honoured with this lifetime achievement award. When he left home as a young teenager with nothing more than his clothes in a brown paper shopping bag, she said no one — except for Dick Nolan himself — thought he would become a household name.

“Mom supported him but she was crying when he left home and asked him, going to Toronto as a young teen, ‘what’s going to happen to you?’” said Boutcher. “He said, ‘I’m going to Nashville.’ He was so determined. He believed in himself more than anybody else. If you believe in yourself and you are determined, you can be successful.”

Boutcher, fighting back tears, said she wished her brother and her late mother — who was also well-known locally as a musician — were still alive to share in the moment with the rest of the family.

The Dr. Helen Creighton Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes an individual or group that has had a profound and lasting effect on the Atlantic Canadian music industry and Mr. Nolan did just that, according to the chair of the ECMA’s board of directors.

“Since I was a young boy, the name Dick Nolan has been synonymous with music and the music industry of Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Wade Pinhorn.

“I can't think of a better way to honour his legacy than through the presentation of the ECMA lifetime achievement award. He is a most-deserving candidate and, as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, we should be proud of him and everything he has done to bring our culture to the world.”

The announcement of the lifetime achievement award was one of several announcements made during an ECMA press conference Thursday. Organizers unveiled some of the performers who will be playing at official showcase stages during the event and announced Terry McBride, co-founder and chief executive officer of Nettwerk Music Group — which represents acts such as Avril Lavigne, Barenaked Ladies, Sarah McLachlan and Sum 41, will be the keynote speaker for the conference component of the event.

Details of ticket sales for the awards gala at the Pepsi Centre on March 1 were also released.

Ticket will go on sale Dec. 1, but some Pepsi Centre holding seat owners will get first crack at tickets by way of a lottery draw from all the holding seat owners for 1,000 tickets.

That draw took place Thursday evening and selected holding seat owners will have until Nov. 28 at 5 p.m. to purchase their awards gala tickets.

An additional 500 tickets will go on sale Dec. 1.

“Owning a Pepsi Centre holding seat comes with certain privileges and getting the first opportunity to get an ECMA 2009 gala seat is certainly a major one,” said David Smallwood, event chairperson for ECMA 2009. “However, we have limited the number to 1,000 and, by doing this, there will be more opportunities for the general public to get a ticket to this outstanding event.”

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