Category Archives: George’s Blog

Harlequin’s 2023 Year-end Newsletter

Apologies for the lapse in blogs … life gets in the way. 😉

What a spectacular year so far! We’ve been coast to coast again and were lucky enough not only to see our old fans, I think we made a lot of new ones. Welcome aboard!

This year, our song “Innocence” was used in a movie called … wait for it: The End of Sex! I thought it was hilarious and I highly recommend it especially for those of you who have experienced and struggled your way through the complexities and responsibilities of parenthood! Two thumbs up from me!

Our song, “I Did It For Love” is also being used in a movie which Dean Gunnerson, Canada’s Houdini, is producing! It’s a short film about two childhood friends that get into trouble but apparently are good at “escaping” the law! Go figure! The true story of how they met in the hospital while they were in treatment together for cancer. I look forward to that one as well!

This year we had the privilege and honour to visit several First Nations Reserves whose hospitality was very humbling indeed! There were a lot of smiling faces, both young and old and it blows my mind that a lot of them were singing along to our songs. That puts a lump in your throat and makes it difficult to sing. I will never forget the young lad, of maybe 8 or 9 years, who made it to the stage with his wooden cut out guitar and played beside Derrick for about three songs. I bet the smile didn’t leave his or his parents’ faces for weeks. So cool!

It is always very cool to meet up with your peers and catch up with the latest news or reminisce about the old days. We did a lot of weekend festivals and rubbed elbows again with the likes of Kim Mitchell, Tom Cochrane, David Wilcox, and their awesome bands! What a privilege to share the stage with our long-admired peers like Lee Aaron, Aldo Nova, Streetheart, Honeymoon Suite, Chilliwack, Carole Pope, Helix, Trooper, Saga, Prism, Headpins, etc…. May I say that we admire and acknowledge their work as some of the best music in the world and we are proud of Canada’s output!

May I put in another word for some local Winnipeg talent? If you haven’t familiarized yourselves with The Bros. Landreth yet, please do not hesitate to give them a listen. Bonnie Raitt’s latest single, “Made Up Mind”, was written by them! I love Bonnie Raitt, but I beg you to listen to, and watch, their take on the song. There’s an awesome 6 minute three-piece version they do “Live” on YouTube. Friggen Awesome!!! Check it out please! To my ear, from my heart and for my taste this the best live band I have ever heard bar none! They are currently touring Europe and have with them another Manitoba product, Murray Pulver, adding his guitar and vocal prowess to an already incredible act!

I wish we could all be shot into space so that we could see how small this planet really is and how insignificant we are to this universe! For the sake of man let’s plan to truly embrace the concept of peace on earth because after all … there is only ONE race! It’s called: “The Human Race.”

Perspective my friends, it’s all about perspective!

Peace and Love


Harlequin’s 2022 Year-end Newsletter

Well folks, another year is ending.

We are so grateful to you all for coming out to see us this year!

We have been from coast to coast – literally – and what a privilege and a pleasure it has been for us to entertain and visit with you! From White Rock, British Columbia to St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Some of the highlights for me were Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Nelson House, Snow Lake, and Minnedosa. Though they were challenging places to travel to during the pandemic, they were highly rewarding as the reception we received was overwhelming to say the least!

I had Laryngitis in Minnedosa and told the crowd I could not continue halfway through the first song! They shouted back and “encouraged” me to continue and lo and behold, I managed to squeak my way through the evening!

I can’t tell you how much fun we had playing at private parties in Edmonton and Newfoundland where our hosts were over the top gracious and generous! You know who you are, and we love you all … and let’s do it again!!

Of course, it’s always overwhelming when you play in your hometown and sell out so thank you Kelly and the entire crew and staff at Club Regent Casino for taking great care of us again!

How about the jam-packed streets for Transcona’s Hi Neighbour Festival where I basically started my musical career at The Royal George Hotel many years ago!

Shout out to Ed Sousa who continues his charitable work for Ronald McDonald House at his Classic Bowl event in Mississauga. May he continue putting together shows with amazing artists from far and wide. I was so thrilled to meet Jean-Marc Pisapia, lead singer from The Box! Ed is a real charmer and may he continue to persuade these wonderful performers to grace his stage!

Our last show this year was Casino Rama with April Wine. It was the first Sold Out show since the Pandemic. Great place and Canada’s largest Casino!

I especially must express what a privilege and honour it is to tour and play music with the outstanding line up Harlequin has evolved to be, not only musically, but as well as downright great human beings! I can only wish that all of you reading this could have friends and coworkers like these! I know the world would be a better place for it!

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Peace on Earth!



How did the dinosaurs feel when that cataclysmic event struck 66 million of years ago?

Did I hear someone say … Ask George?

That was certainly the most significant and devastating event in world history, until now!

Life on Earth has never been easy, but I dare say that if you had a choice to pick the era to be born in, this latest century would be the one most people would pick. Life can be difficult, but we must realize how lucky we are today to be living in these times despite all the current goings-on. Before Covid-19 there was the Bubonic Plague, Smallpox, Polio, and war after war after war, yet there is less conflict today than ever in human history. We are more likely to succumb to obesity, commit suicide, or overdose than die in a conflict. Man is now living longer than ever. There is talk of us achieving immortality, reversing climate change, and Artificial Intelligence may soon be a virtual part of your DNA!!!

This pandemic has me craving for the company of my family and friends more than any other earthly offering! Entertainers thrive and feed off that magic that happens when the crowd applauds but I dare say the most fulfilling part is being able to take you with us on that journey far away from our troubles and woes! THAT is the magic, the high … that keeps us needing you! The loss of human contact is one thing but not being able to “give” a live performance with my musical brothers is almost unbearable! My band mates have all made this truly clear to me as well … we miss you all desperately!

 Perspective? It is better to give than to receive!

What am I getting at?

This event is significantly harder on individuals who live with depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses. I am sure you know more than one! They need your help! So … get on the phone, email, or even write a letter to someone you may suspect is having a hard time. Make it personal! Social media is fine, but so very impersonal!

All our love to all of you!!
George & the boys

PS We will be working on a video which will include snippets of new stuff, old hits done acoustically in different genres. These will all be done in a Legal Covid environment. Masks will be worn when warranted, however … we may not be wearing any pants!!!


Copyright © George Belanger
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I took this picture several years ago in St. John’s, Newfoundland, ironically, just off George Street.

Whenever I walk by a telephone pole I always look to see if there are any posters. I consider the handmade ones to be “folk art” and I have spent years documenting them.

I have a collection of hundreds!

Some have unmentionable clever names and photos … but these are for my private collection that I only share with close friends! 😉

This picture, I almost missed.

It is of a telephone pole that was stripped of any recognizable image save for the portion of one individual … whose face is half torn off with a staple going right through his Adam’s apple, while his bandmate to the left of him appears to be wearing a staple that has penetrated his skull – right where his sunglasses might sit!

I would love to have this band identified so I could send them a copy of this picture. I even went as far as sending it to a few agents I know to see if they knew who it was. So far, no luck.

So … if anyone out there can solve this for me, I would appreciate it!

Still searching!

Who Is The April Fool?

What’s news on April Fools’ Day?

Hello Harlequin fans and concerned, curious people across the country!

I am George Belanger and have been for decades 😉 the lead singer and a songwriter for the band Harlequin – despite many reports to the contrary!

Who knows how these things get misconstrued, but I attribute it to several factors: modern society’s insatiable appetite for news and to the internet as a dubious source of … information?

I’ve been fielding phone calls, emails and texts for days from misinformed fans.

It has come to the point that I need to take my head out of the sand and address the news stories that went nationwide with headlines such as this:

“Harlequin singer joins Streetheart”

And this I quote from a TV report in my hometown:

“Streetheart is going back on the road with a lead singer whose voice might sound familiar to Winnipeggers. They’ve teamed up with Paul McNair of Harlequin who led their group with a slate of hits such as Innocence, Thinking Of You….”

Yikes … my whole career wiped out in one fell swoop … ha ha!

As a group we are so grateful to still be doing what we love to do! We appreciate the dedicated Harlequin fans that still show up, time after time, to cheer us on.

Fear not for I, George Belanger – who, from this day forward, shall be known as simply Geo – will still be there on stage in my usual capacity. 😉

Paul McNair is indeed singing for Streetheart and we wish them well!

Now do me a favour and start another rumour … or is it?

Get on your Facebooks and Twitters and Instagrams – and whatever else constitutes social media these days – and get the word out:

Chris Burke-Gaffney of The Pumps and Orphan is now singing with Harlequin. 😜

Yours truly,
Geo … Now stir up some crap!

Goodbye Ilmars

Ilmars Kuras
Aug 4, 1953 – Jan 7, 2019

We lost a dear friend and member of the Harlequin family.

Ilmars worked with Harlequin through the late 70’s and early 80’s. He was a very personable guy, a devoted friend and he always had our back.

He doubled as security if the occasion arose.

He was a positive force through some tough times and was known as “The Happiness Inspector”.

He made friends everywhere we went and to this day people still ask after him.

He made an impression … without a doubt on anyone he met.

I loved the man and I regret being unable to attend his service.

We kept in touch and enjoyed long lunches together. I cherish the memories and will miss him dearly!

Love you Ilmo


You Write ’Em, We Wreck ’Em!

Well, it’s been awhile!

By now you know Derrick and I did an unplugged show in Toronto for the charity of my choice. The event is put on by Ed Sousa and his brainchild is called “Classic Bowl”. It is brilliant! The artists are asked to do their show and field questions from the audience and tell a few stories.

I have never done such a thing in my entire life and I really had to think about how to do it before I said yes. Having been a rock and roller for almost my entire life, doing an acoustic version of rock ‘n’ roll songs seemed a daunting task but once I started … with Derrick’s help, we managed what I thought might be impossible!

At first, I wondered what fans of our music may have to say about these new approaches and worried that they would likely not embrace hearing “the soundtrack of their youth” being drastically rearranged! It made me recall how the songs came to be.

Back in the day, when a song was presented to the band it was scrutinized, dissected and often pooh poohed by the other band members. They had a saying: “You write ’em, we wreck ’em!” Glen and I not only had to contend with band members’ opinions … the songs were also presented to management, record executives, A&R men, producers, co-producers, girlfriends, family, road crew and even bean counters! There were of course dizzying amounts of contrary opinions causing Glen and I to wonder why we even bothered to write songs!

I decided this was an opportunity to do “as I fucking well pleased,” and embraced it. Then a whole new world opened up! As it turns out … the new arrangements are closer to the original concepts than the actual recordings. It was almost intoxicating to revisit the songs and not care what anyone else might think.

Though it felt good to me, I was still dubious until Derrick spoke up and said that he really liked the way things were progressing. Then I really began letting go and the muse took me wherever the wind was blowing.

At the urging of people who were at the concert and of those who have heard the new versions I am taking their advice and am looking forward to recording these songs again with the whole band!

It being a charitable event it was not possible to involve the whole band for this concert. Derrick and I did however find some Toronto talent that did not require airfares and hotel rooms. Ergo, we used Sean Kelly, who is an extremely talented guitarist who has collaborated with Nelly Furtado, Dee Snider and played with Lee Aaron, Coney Hatch, Alan Frew and Helix among others. His enthusiasm and easy-going manner, as well as his musical prowess were greatly appreciated. Tim Timleck, who plays with Carole Pope and Toronto rockers Trapper, provided percussion and … required little sustenance! (That’s an inside joke!!) He is a great drummer and a wonderful person!

Now, I know that most of you have likely heard Paul McNair, our bass player of several years, will be leaving the band next year and joining Streetheart as Kenny Shields’ replacement. They are big shoes to fill but we are confident Paul is equal to the task and we wish him all the best! We will indeed miss him and will cherish a lot of wonderful moments … and unpublished pictures of our fun times together on that Rock N’ Roll road!!!

Gotta leave ’em wonderin’ HA HA!

Sad Goodbyes

It’s been a real roller-coaster of emotions this year with the sad news in the Rock ‘N’ Roll World. Closer to home was the passing of Kenny Shields.

We were fortunate to be asked to participate in a tribute to Kenny that featured the original members of Streetheart … Paul Dean, Matt Frenette and Spider of Loverboy, Honeymoon Suite, The Pumps and ourselves. It was awesome!

The setting was Shaw Park (a baseball park) right in the centre of downtown Winnipeg.

I was given the honour of singing “Under My Thumb” with Spider, Matt, Paul and the incomparable Daryl Gutheil! It was the thrill of a lifetime to share the stage with these icons of Canadian Rock.

Paul McNair did a few Streetheart tunes too and represented us very nicely!

Earlier in the year we lost Greg Allman, one of the most soulful voices of all time; his original drummer, Butch Trucks, left us too.

Chuck Berry … where would rock ‘n’ roll be without him?

Clyde Stubblefield, who kicked James Brown’s ass all over that stage wit ‘dem funky beats!

Walter Becker … half of Steely Dan!

I can’t tell you what I would have given to be in that band, but had I … I would have been unable to breed!

Al Jarreau … some of you may not know who he was, but he was an incredible jazz singer. I met him early in my career when he saw me play in Minneapolis … and he gave me a thumbs up. I was flabbergasted.

Chris Cornell … way too early to exit!! OMG!

I will never forget the day Tom Petty died.

Maybe it was because it was the same day all those people perished in Vegas at a country western concert but I walked around in a stupor the entire day and … I will have to admit … I shed a lot of tears!

Tom was an exceptional songwriter! The proof … he was in a band with George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne and the rarely mentioned Jim Keltner. Maybe you’ve never heard Jim’s name before but you have definitely heard him play many, many times!! Google him because the list of hit songs he played on is far too long to mention in this piece!

Tom was a real craftsman and always managed to make songwriting sound so simple. He always got to the point in an ergonomic way with the perfect words, beautiful melodies and chord structures that just seemed to fall into place effortlessly!

I’m not fooling myself though … I know he likely worked long hours on every little detail … and you can hear it!

If you’ve ever heard his interviews … they were all as good as his songs.

He had opinions and always stood up to be counted on all things that mattered to him!

God love him!


Spring Is Sprung

Well it’s springtime and the new season of rock and roll is about to get into motion. A lot of people ask me how I feel about doing it after all these years. They wonder, after all this time, do I ever get tired of it?

I thought I would put it down in writing so that you could all see exactly how I feel and why I do it.

As it turns out, it’s pretty damn simple: I freaking love it!

I’m speaking for myself, but I know that every member of this band feels the same.

Being in a band is very much like being in a family.

As you may or may not know I’ve been in many bands over the course of my career and some of the experiences have been everything from dysfunctional to – dare I say – euphoric!

As I said, just like a family!

With the right combination of members, everything falls into place, not only from the musical perspective, but also in the day-to-day aspect.

There are Unwritten Rules of Conduct by which we behave that have come naturally through existing in close proximity, ie dressing rooms, airplanes, vans and limousines.

There is an ease of communication because we all know the boundaries of propriety with each other: NONE!

Nothing seems to be off limits and you develop a thick skin, which is quite a healthy thing as it prepares you for the harsh reality of the real world. You must laugh at yourself and not take it all too seriously! Everyone has different views and tastes – thank God! If we all liked the same thing, there’d be none of it left!!!

People often remark on how happy we seem to be and it’s not an act because we do get along.

I’m sure you’ve heard the legendary stories of other rock bands who travel separately because they can’t stand each other. Some have bloody fist fights and take to social media to disparage each other, and it’s not just a ploy for publicity because I have seen it with my own eyes.

I don’t know why anyone would want to be a part of that kind of situation.

Harlequin is looking forward to heading out across the country this summer and seeing our old friends and hopefully some new faces too!

There is no thrill like standing in front of a sea of smiling faces, loaded with adrenaline and just – for lack of a better term – givin’ er!

Let’s rock!


Ida Said What?!

I can’t believe it … I remember in high school thinking about the year 2000 and it seemed so impossibly far away as if it were science fiction!

We didn’t trust anyone over 30!

Pollution was barely even on the radar, computers were huge machines that filled up rooms and could only spit out numbers. We did have new incredible technology: rotary dial phones which, in an emergency, you dialled 9 9 9 – it seemed to take forever!

If you had told me then:

That people would camp out for days, exposed to the elements to get the latest phone or to see the latest movie.


That I’d be paying $2.50 for an 8oz bottle of water … on a golf course … ME? … on a friggin’ golf course? PLEASE!!!


That an ounce of weed could cost up to $300, and that I could buy it legally?


That I would have to stand in line waiting at an airport for longer than it took for me to actually get to my destination because of terrorists!


The only terrorists I knew were 3 years old and babysitting them was torture!

That on the other hand … the pilot could be a gorgeous woman or … a transgendered man?


That I would still be rockin’ … and not in a chair … after 40 years in Harlequin!

I hope I haven’t offended anyone … just having fun but if I have … chalk it up to senility!!


Hello From George!

As you probably know already, the members of Harlequin often play with other bands. It is a great way to keep limber and stay active. I, too, now am having a blast playing some great songs with some great people! It started as a fun project and I’m so glad I got talked into it. The band consists of current and past members of Harlequin as well as some new faces. Our set list is expanding daily and covers a wide range of artists. It is very nostalgic for me as I am doing songs I sang before becoming a recording artist, newer songs, as well as some of my all-time favourites!

We just played a great gig on Valentine’s Day. Keep an eye out and join us next time we get together!

Thank you in advance!

Rock Of Ages

Rock of Ages

Harlequin’s George Belanger looks back at five decades of musical memories – and one momentous phone call

By David Sanderson
December 5, 2015

George Belanger, at his home in Winnipeg is a veteran of the music industry is celebrating 50 years in the music business – 40 of those as frontman for Winnipeg band Harlequin. – Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press

Thirty-five years ago, Winnipeg rock band Harlequin was in New York City recording the followup to its debut album, Victim of a Song.

The record was being produced by Jack Douglas — already an industry giant thanks to his work with acts such as Aerosmith, Alice Cooper and Cheap Trick. One afternoon, while the group was putting the finishing touches on Thinking of You, a track that would top charts across Canada six months later, Douglas bolted out of the studio to take a phone call.

“It was odd because Jack never, ever took calls when he was working,” says George Belanger, Harlequin’s longtime lead vocalist. “When he came back he was super-excited and told us, ‘I’m not allowed to discuss it but you’ll never guess who I was just talking to.’ ”

Belanger admits he’s always been a “curious-type,” so he spent the next week badgering Douglas, throwing name after name at him to see if he would break. Finally, one evening after the rest of Belanger’s bandmates had called it a night, Douglas summoned the singer over, pressed “play” on a nearby cassette deck and said, “Here, get a load of this.”

Belanger couldn’t distinguish who was strumming the guitar, but as soon as the lyrics, “Woman, I can hardly express…” kicked in, he instantly recognized the voice.

“It was John Lennon, my childhood hero,” Belanger says, adding Douglas let him on the secret that he’d been commissioned by Lennon to oversee what would turn out to be the ex-Beatle’s final studio album.

Two nights later, Belanger was taking a break between takes when he heard the phone in Douglas’s office ringing off the hook. Thinking, “Jeez, somebody’s really persistent,” Belanger picked up the receiver.

“Is Jack there?” said the person at the other end of the line.

Belanger replied no and asked the caller if he wanted to leave a message.

“Tell him it’s John.”

“I was like, ‘Holy shit, it’s him!’ ” Belanger says, mimicking Lennon’s Liverpudlian accent. “My mind started racing a mile a minute — I wanted to say, ‘Hi, I’m George from Winnipeg, I’m a huge fan, blah blah blah… ,’ but the only thing I could come up with was… ‘John who?’ ”

2015 marks a pair of significant milestones in Belanger’s career. It’s been 50 years since the Western Canadian Music Hall of Fame member stepped behind a mike for the first time to front a Grade 8 garage band dubbed the Paupers. And it’s been 40 years since he flew to Toronto to audition for Harlequin, a fledgling outfit put together by fellow Winnipegger Ralph James. (Spoiler alert: Belanger landed the job.)

Belanger was born in St. Boniface. He was raised in a strict, French-Canadian Catholic household. Because he was the eldest boy in a family of 10 children, it was expected he would eventually enter the priesthood.

“The tradition back then was you were supposed to give one child of each sex to the church so my older sister went to the nunnery and I went to seminary (school),” he says. “I was thinking maybe I’d do missionary work — that seemed like a noble thing — but that all changed when I hit puberty and started noticing girls and listening to rock ‘n’ roll. That’s when I got another calling.”

Belanger was still a member of the Paupers — a cover band that performed hits by the likes of the Kinks and the Kingsmen — when his cousin Bob Fontaine popped by his Notre Dame Street home one night in 1965 looking for directions to a community club in Winnipeg’s West End.

“At the time, Bob was managing a band from Kenora called Satan and the D-Men,” Belanger explains. “He told me he was hoping to steal the singer of a band called the Shondels and wondered if I could lead him to where they were playing.”

Belanger got his cousin to the show all right, but Mike Hanford, the vocalist Fontaine was interested in, blew him off saying, in a nutshell, “Thanks, but no thanks.” During the drive back to Belanger’s house, a song by Paul Revere and the Raiders came on the radio. Belanger started singing, which prompted Fontaine to pull over, say, “What the hell? You’re doing that perfectly,” and hire him on the spot.

Belanger spent the next decade fronting a number of different outfits, among them Nickels and Dimes (a veiled drug reference, Belanger says with a chuckle, for the amount members were spending on bags of pot), the Fifth and the Next.

“I had just wrapped up a tour with the Next — we’d put out an album with Warner Brothers and had spent a month in Eastern Canada opening for the Downchild Blues Band — when I got a call from my agent, telling me a band called Harlequin was looking for a lead singer,” Belanger says, noting the Next was on the brink of breaking up, due to a lack of commercial success.

Belanger caught a flight to Toronto the next day. He was met by a Harlequin representative who drove him to a rundown hotel in Kirkland Lake, Ont., where the band was booked for the weekend.

James and company tore through a few numbers before inviting Belanger onstage to perform in front of what was essentially an empty house. The drummer, who was doing double-duty as Harlequin’s lead singer, handed Belanger a sheet of hand-written lyrics for a tune called Shame Shame, which would eventually find its way onto the band’s first record.

“Things seemed to click right away, and at some point, a guy dressed in a full hunting uniform came in, sat at the back of the room and started watching hockey,” Belanger recalls. “The Leafs were playing, so after our set was over, we sat down next to him to watch, too. He nodded at us and said, ‘You guys were pretty good.’ It turned out the guy owned this big agency group, so the next thing we knew, we had a Toronto-based agent.”

Harlequin spent a good chunk of the 1980s on the road, touring across North America with acts such as Black Oak Arkansas, Triumph and David Lee Roth. They appeared on a double-bill with fellow Canuck band Saga in Puerto Rico, where they performed in front of 38,000 adoring fans. They also headlined a tour in Venezuela, where their song Innocence had landed in the Top 10.

“We sold a lot of records in England and Germany, too, and we always intended to get to Japan, where we had a strong following, but it never worked out,” Belanger says. (Belanger is the only member from “the old days” still with the band; the original lineup last played together in 2013 at a Songs From Winnipeg event in Toronto, which was tied to that year’s Juno Awards festivities.)

Belanger, a father of two who lost a third child in a car crash when she was 17, will toast Harlequin’s 40th anniversary with a New Year’s Eve show at the Oak. In addition to lesser-known tunes culled from the group’s five studio albums, revellers can expect to hear what Belanger refers to as “the magic seven,” a selection of radio-friendly hits that includes Survive, Superstitious Feeling and I Did It for Love.

“I get that question all the time, people asking, ‘Don’t you get sick of singing the same songs over and over?’” says Belanger, who plays an average of 25 to 30 dates a year with Harlequin. (On occasion, Belanger also sings with the Big City All-Stars, a dance band that performs primarily at weddings and corporate events.) “But I tell them it’s a new experience every time out. And that it’s still tremendously gratifying to see so many people enjoying what I do, after all this time.”

© Copyright Winnipeg Free Press

Remembering Nik

It is with great sadness and regret that I inform Harlequin fans everywhere that Rolf Peter, aka Nik Rivers, passed away on February 12th.

Most of you likely know already and I apologize for my tardiness.

Nik was well-loved by so many and known for his big charismatic personality.
Most of us were well acquainted with Nik but not too many knew what Rolf was up to.
Nik stayed up late but Rolf was an early riser.
Nik was always game for a party and Rolf was always there for his friends when needed.
Nik was always quick with a joke and self-deprecating but Rolf could be intense and serious.
Nik made life fun but Rolf dealt with the consequences.
I knew I could always count on him when the chips were down though … all I ever had to do was ask.
Nik made me laugh … a lot …. but as I write this I am wiping up my tears for Rolf and his family to whom I send all my love and condolences.
I am so grateful that I the opportunity to tell him I loved him just recently and I will treasure many great memories and thankfully a lot of laughs.

For those of you wishing to do something, Rolf’s family is wanting to set up a trust fund for a music scholarship for at-risk teenagers.
Stay tuned and I will pass the information along as I know it.
I am away on holidays and will know more when I return in mid-March.
I know a lot of ex-Harlequin members are already involved in this endeavour and I plan to jump in with both feet upon my return!

Thank you all in advance!

PS. Hey Nik … “ya know something … we all love you buddy!”

Latest News

My bad … I have not written a blog in a long time and now there is much to tell.

Glen Willows, George Belanger and Gary Furniss (EMI Blackwood Music)

Firstly, Glen Willows and I were honoured by SOCAN in June for achieving a plateau in radio airplay with a few of our songs. My understanding is that it was an oversight that we didn’t get this award several years ago but … better late than never! We had a chance to catch up with Ralph James (original bassist for Harlequin and now President of The Agency Group) and his lovely wife at the event as we rubbed shoulders with Gordon Lightfoot, Ian Thomas, Bill Henderson, Tom Cochrane, Alan Frew and Larry Gowan among others!

Luke Doucet

Meeting Luke Doucet was a highlight for me as he is such an awesome musician and an even greater human being. We shared a few libations and stories of mutual friends. It was a wonderful night that culminated in my leaving without my award! Turns out they handed the publisher my award and I got theirs but it is now hanging in my office at home.

The band is sounding better than ever and this summer has been a lot of fun for us! Having Gary and Paul back in the band is awesome! It is evident from the crowd’s reaction that they approve of the changes too!

We would like to give a shout out to all of our new and old friends we have run into thus far this summer. Some of them have shared photos which we are glad to share with all of you!

Thank you!

A couple other photos from the SOCAN event (click to enlarge):

Setting The Record Straight

There is a lot of misinformation on the internet about Harlequin. Mostly there is confusion about the band’s origins. I’ve decided to set things straight with the facts as I know them to be.

Ralph James

It all started when Ralph James went from Winnipeg to Toronto in the mid-seventies to seek fame and fortune. He joined a band that called themselves Harlequin. Denton Young and John White’s names pop up in the history because they were in this first version of this band that performed on the Holiday Inn circuit. They were a cover band and never recorded or played original material. The band broke up after only a few months.

Ralph returned to Winnipeg and along with John Hanah, Dave Budzak and Gary Golden formed Holy Hanah. This band played original material which was written by lead guitarist and singer John Hanah. The band was an instant hit in their hometown, however it wasn’t long before John fell ill and they now needed a guitar player, a singer and new material.

David Budzak took over the vocal duties and they hired Lawrie Koyle (aka Leroy Hawk) to play guitar. David quickly grew tired of the double duty as they had a gruelling touring schedule. I had just left a band called Next with which I had recorded an album for Warner Bros. I was on my way to England with my then guitar player Bob White when I received a call from my agent who informed me that Harlequin was looking to audition me. I cancelled my plans and flew to Ontario instead.

Upon meeting Ralph and the boys I could tell that they were driven and focused and best of all, looking for a songwriter. Not being interested in playing covers we set about putting together a catalogue of tunes. We went on like this for a little over a year and eventually replaced Leroy with Glen Willows.

We worked very hard at writing and touring and eventually signed a recording contract and kept things going until the mid-eighties when the band broke up, but I bought everyone out and kept it going. Though it’s been reported that the band stopped touring, this was never the case. There have been plenty of changes, but the band was always active.

Ralph became my manager and, after hearing him deal with agents on the phone, I suggested he become one himself. He guffawed and went on a rant about agents and told me I was out of my mind and it was something he would never consider. Well … Ralph now lives in Toronto and is rich and famous as President of The Agency Group! The story has come full circle.

Glen Willows, Gary Golden, George Belanger, Ralph James and AJ Chabidon

I did slow it down some in the nineties because I had a young family and another business I started with my wife which we kept going for 18 years.

Harlequin is still going all these years later and I might add that the original lineup still plays together from time to time and, in fact, Gary Golden is back in the fold and Glen still plays the odd date with us too! We are, to this day, great friends! We enjoy each others company and that fills me with pride and happiness!

George’s Lennon Story

Harlequin with Jack Douglas (front)

It was 1980 and Harlequin was recording at The Record Plant in New York City with producer Jack Douglas. One afternoon, Jack was called to the phone; he was out of the room for quite some time, which was unusual as he hated any distractions.

I feared it could be “bad news” and was expecting a sad face to re-enter the studio, but to my surprise he was grinning from ear to ear!

He looked at us all and said, “I just got some wonderful news but I am sworn to secrecy.”

I immediately knew it had to be a music project so I quickly put in, “You’re recording John Lennon, right?”

He turned to face me and said, “Ahhh … No!”

I had never seen him so excited so I knew this was big!

Being a very curious person and an avid puzzle solver, I eventually pulled him aside and informed him that if he told me who it was, I could be trusted to keep a secret.

“Uhhh … Nah! Don’t think so,” was his reply.

“If I guess who it is … can you just nod or something?” I said.

I kept pestering him and eventually he agreed, probably just to shut me up.

For an entire week I kept passing him names scribbled on a piece of paper but I failed at every attempt. I was down to the likes of Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand, totally baffled and about to concede when I thought I would try, John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

He immediately stood up and pulled me into Studio B.

He reached into his duffle bag and pulled out a cassette. “Ok … listen to this with headphones and give it back to me right away,” he said.

I put the tape in my Walkman and time was suspended. It was John Fucking Lennon strumming his acoustic version of “Woman”. Man … I had a lump in my throat and one in my pants – I could not believe how lucky and privileged I was to have this honour.

He then went into “Watching The Wheels”. It was like he was talking to me and catching me up on his life.

I was beside myself and eying a high speed dubbing deck with the thought of making my own copy of that tape but I just couldn’t bring myself to betray Jack’s trust.

John had some banter going on between tracks like, “Not sure I like this one … may give it to Ringo.”

On the other side of the cassette the songs were more fleshed out with electric guitars and drums. Jack informed me later that these tracks were recorded with Cheap Trick in John’s apartment at The Dakota.

Then came, “I’m Losing You” – raw and soulful and I now I had a lump in my throat! There were songs on that tape that were never published I’m sure, but my memory is kind of foggy as I only got one chance to listen to the damn thing!

Jack came back into the room with a big grin on his face. I smiled right back and thanked him profusely and I managed to keep my secret as per our agreement until it was made public.

Two days later, we were doing overdubs very late at night and I was finished with my scratch vocals so I decided to retire to the studio lounge with a libation to rest my ears. At two o’clock in the morning the phone rang. I was going to ignore it – who could it be at this time anyways – but it kept on ringing insistently. So … I picked it up and spoke into it, “Record Plant”. That’s when I heard that unmistakable Beatle patois intone “’Allo, is Jack there?”

John and Yoko at The Dakota, late 1980


I felt like a 15 year old girl – couldn’t believe my luck, I had to keep him on the line – it’s JOHN FUCKING LENNON for God’s sake!

The only thing I could think to say was, “Who’s calling?”
There was a pause, then “Tell ’im it’s John.”

Confirmation: It’s JOHN FUCKING LENNON!!!!

Trying again to keep it going – my mind is racing! Nanoseconds seem like an eternity, I’m almost swooning, my pulse is racing, I’ve got a goddamn Beatle on the phone for fuck’s sake! I am tongue-tied but eventually manage to utter a phrase that had the opposite intent of what I had in mind because I wanted to praise him, tell him what he meant to me, how big a fan I was and how I admired his mind, his music, his quirky lyrics; to tell him I thought he was the coolest guy in the universe! There were literally a million things I could have said but noooooo! I said, “John who?”

Another pause and a slight change in the delivery of his next few words, using the kind of tone a teacher uses when you weren’t paying attention in class and gave a totally stupid, unrelated answer. Sadly his final words to me were, “Just tell ’im it’s JOHN.”

The lump in my pants returned, this time occupying different quarters down there, and I dutifully went to fetch Jack. I was sweating and mumbling and it was as though Jack could tell what must have occurred. Beatle Fucking Maniac!!!

He walked into the lounge, picked up the phone and said, “Who is this?”

I could “Imagine” John’s eyes rolling skyward.

I left New York without ever seeing him and without a clue that his brilliant life would be taken only a few months later. In fact, the night John was assassinated he was coming from The Record Plant and he had invited Jack back to The Dakota. Jack told him that he couldn’t because he had to finish mixing some Canadian band’s record. Had Jack gone with him, things may have panned out differently, as Jack is a savvy, street smart New Yorker who may have intervened and changed history as we know it.

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!

JUNO Concert Series

The 2014 JUNO Awards will be held in Winnipeg and the JUNO Committee has decided to start celebrating early. They have asked the original members of Harlequin to play a few tunes on December 7 in Toronto at The Horseshoe Tavern to honour Winnipeg music. They will be joined by Randy Bachman and a host of others yet to be confirmed.

Toronto, ON (October 29, 2013) — The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) along with Paquin Entertainment are gearing up for the latest edition of the JUNO Concert Series, which pays tribute to Winnipeg songwriters in advance of the 2014 JUNO Awards in Winnipeg. A diverse lineup of established artists and rising talent will collaborate to salute Winnipeg’s rich musical heritage for one unforgettable night at The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto. Proceeds from the December 7 event will go to MusiCounts, Canada’s music education charity associated with CARAS.
Official Press Release (pdf)