Backbeat: Agency Group's Ralph James (Ex-Harlequin Bassist) Honored By WCMA, Music Execs In Hair Metal Wigs (Video)
Backbeat: Agency Group's Ralph James (Ex-Harlequin Bassist) Honored By WCMA, Music Execs In Hair Metal Wigs (Video)

WCMA 2011 Ralph James Industry Builder Award from james09james on Vimeo.

The Agency Group CEO Steve Herman and Live Nation executive vice-president Ian Lowe were among Ralph James' colleagues to don a long black wig in a video tribute to the former bass player in late-70s rock band Harlequin.

James, president of Toronto-based The Agency Group and RA for Nickelback, Three Days Grace, Billy Talent and others, was honored Oct. 23 with the 2011 Industry Builder Award at the Western Canadian Music Awards in Whitehorse, Yukon. He is a Winnipeg native.

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Hessian Homage: Live Nation's Steve Herman Paying tribute to Agency Group President Ralph James who formerly played bass in Harlequin.

The award was presented by Canadian Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences president Melanie Berry and one of James' long-time artists, 54.40 frontman Neil Osborne, who was in Whitehorse for his band's Western Canadian Music Hall of Fame induction.

Said Berry of James: "He routinely discovers new talent at its earliest stages in the hopes to nurture, develop and build the careers of Canada's most successful artists, including the one standing right beside me."

Osborne then quipped, "I'm a Canadian successful artist" and praised James as one of the reasons 54.40 is still gigging after 30 years.

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Agency Group president Ralph James (left) receives the 2011 Industry Builder Award from 54.40 frontman Neil Osborne (center), at the Western Canadian Music Awards. Jennifer Perrin (right), a finalist for Miss Canada representing the Yukon next year, holdis the black wig some of Jame's colleagues donned in the video tribute. James passed on the opportunity to wear it himself. (Photo: Bruce Barrett).

"You have to have someone that understands your band and is going to fight for you in the trenches," he said. "This guy is our knight. He's our knight in shining armor; his armor is dirty. He gets in there and he fights for us all the time. He's made us a much better band, understands what we're about, getting the right venue, getting the right places, doing the whole thing…"

A video tribute then rolled, featuring clips from Ralph's Harlequin days and his history as an agent, including footage of his biggest international client, Nickelback, and messages from colleagues (wearing the wig).

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Memorabelia: Ralph James, not wearing a wig, when he played bass for Harlequin.

James accepted the award before a sold-out audience at the Yukon Arts Centre, ignoring Miss Canada hopeful Jennifer Perrin's gesture for him to wear the long black wig she was holding.

"I do feel a bit odd up here getting this award, but it's nice to get a pat on the back," James said. "I feel like a kid and I act like a kid most days. I feel like we're just getting started here. I've thought sometimes that I probably could've done something more worthwhile in my life than play in a band for 20 years and be an agent for 20 years but I probably wouldn't have had nearly as much fun."

He said half his roster is from Western Canada and he is often "razzed" in the Toronto office "for being so pro Western Canada - and that's too bad." He also had a message for his competitors: "I'm not going to be retiring any time soon."

He ended by thanking the artists; his partners in The Agency Group, Jack Ross and Neil Warnock; and wife and son.

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Live Nation's Ian Low recalled James in a "multi-purpose room" in Winnepeg making sure Harlequin were paid..
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Hair Farmers: Harlequin, from Winnepeg, formed in the mid-70s. Their first album "Victim of a Song" (CBS/Epic), produced by Jack Douglad, went gold.