James Stewart Reaney
Retired music journalist James Stewart Reaney covered everything from Fergie Jenkins at Labatt Park to Ashley MacIsaac at the Embassy Hotel to skating on the Coves in more than 30 years at The London Free Press.
He regrets that he never had the chance to cover King Ganam.
Born in Winnipeg in 1952, James moved to London in 1960 when his parents the writers Colleen Thibaudeau & Jamie Reaney decided to return to their London-region roots. He joins his sister, Susan Reaney, of Galiano Island, B.C, in celebrating the legacy of their parents via the websites she helms colleenthibaudeau.com & jamesreaney.com. He continues to champion the London scene on multiple platforms. James is a passionate supporter of the Forest City London Music Awards & advocate for its London Music Hall of Fame at 182 Dundas St. He is married to Susan Wallace. Their daughter, Elizabeth, is a teacher in Toronto.
James Stewart Reaney invites you to join him virtually at this year’s Words fest James Reaney Memorial Lecture which celebrates his parents.
Register for the Nov 15 3 pm 2020 webinar here:
Hamoody Hassan, London, on King Ganam via CBC.ca: “The King was a fantastic musician & great character who played in my dad's bars. He rolled into town in a Caddy with his beautiful wife. He was fun & funny. A source of great pride for a young Lebanese boy.”
The glories of the Embassy Cultural House (ECH) have been hiding in plain sight since (at least) Aug. 29, 1957.
The official dates in its story are 1983-1990, when the Embassy Cultural House flourished in what had been the Embassy Hotel restaurant area. Then, in 2012, a Museum London exhibition celebrated the ECH.
Now, in 2020, a virtual ECHcentric exhibition with a marvelously inclusive group of creators launches on Oct 30, at 2 PM EST with some of its artists and journalist Sarah Kendzior participating. That exhibition is called Hiding In Plain Sight.
But the Embassy Cultural House was already there, in its own way, on that summer day back in 1957.
On that date, King Ganam made an appearance before an overflow crowd of 14,000 fans at the then-new Covent Garden Market. He also visited his friends, and fellow Lebanese Canadians, the Hassan family, at their Erie Avenue home.
The Saskatchewan-born star known as "Canada’s King of The Fiddle" had come to London for a homecoming of co-stars Gordie Tapp and Tommy Hunter. All three were stars of CBC-TV’s Country Hoedown, a huge hit show with Ganam as its leader.
Back in 1957, Ameen Sied (King) Ganam found a calm space with the Hassans, owners of the Embassy Hotel. Future artist and ECH stalwart Jamelie Hassan was taking violin lessons and King played on her little fiddle, sounding the first notes of the Embassy Cultural House.
Ganam’s connection with the Embassy Cultural House was hiding in plain sight decades later when Museum London included artwork by Toronto artist and musician Reid Diamond (1958-2001) in a 2012 ECH-themed survey exhibition curated by Robert McKaskell (1943-2020). Inspired by hearing of King Ganam’s connection with Jamelie Hassan and her family, Diamond created a work of art using a jukebox that included King Ganam music. This work is now in Museum London’s collection.
Too many people mentioned here King Ganam, Reid Diamond and Robert McKaskell are gone.
All three were part of the Embassy hotel story or the Embassy Cultural House story or both those stories. As the ECH reveals a thrilling new iteration, let’s play some King Ganam and remember them.
James Stewart Reaney, October 26, 2020