Former A&M Canada President Joe Summers Dies

James Young and Tommy Shaw of Styx
Rob Verhorst/Redferns

James Young and Tommy Shaw of Styx perform in Rotterdam on Oct. 11, 1981.

Joe Summers, who helped establish A&M Records Canada with such artists as Bryan Adams, Gino Vannelli, Supertramp, Styx, Chris DeBurgh, the Police and Cat Stevens, and was inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame, has passed away, his son, Jeremy, announced on his Facebook page this morning. 

Born in Detroit in 1940, Summers started in the warehouse at Capitol, then went on to work at Decca in sales and then Motown as vice-president of sales. He was hired in 1972 by Gerry Lacoursiere, who had started A&M Records Canada in Toronto two years earlier with just four employees. In 1978, Summers was named A&M Canada's general manager/vice president and when the company was purchased in 1990 by PolyGram of Canada, he became its president. He retired as chairman in 1997.

Styx guitarist/singer Tommy Shaw issued the following statement after learning of Summers' death.

"Oh man Joe Summers was the greatest, the most personable record executive I ever had the pleasure of working with," Shaw said. "I think of Joe and I smile and laugh at the good times we had putting Styx on the map in Canada. Through the years whenever we'd run into each other it was always with big smiles, hugs and sincere how are you's. He was one of a kind and he'll always have a special place in my heart."

In the heartfelt post, Jeremy, who followed in his father's footsteps, stated.

"Last night we sat for hours at my dad's side playing his favorite music of our lives: the Temptations, Chris Connor, Marvin Gaye, and lots of Frank Sinatra," Jeremy posted. "My Mom, his wife of 56 years and my Aunt Pat (his sister) sat in low light and told great stories of his wit, his childhood, his love, and the legacy he leaves. We laughed. I think he was loving that moment in the room, and it brought him the peace, and comfort to take the next step. He passed first thing this morning.

 "My father lived, every day, right to the end exactly how he wanted. He was self-made from a poor childhood in Detroit, becoming Chairman of the Board in Canada. He loved Big: and if you were lucky enough to be in that circle of love, you felt it around you like a force field. He leaves an impact on many industry leaders, on music, and his many, many friends. We should all be so lucky to have lived as he did. His final days were filled with family, friends, music and love, just as his life was.

 "Everyone who knew him will miss him. Joe Summers 1940 – 2015."

Allan Reid posted this on his Facebook page, along with a video of Jann Arden's "Will You Remember Me": 

"Today  Joe Bubba Summers left us but he will not be forgotten. Joe was a mentor for many of us who had the privilege of working with him and Gerry Lacoursiere at A&M Records. I was hired at A&M in Vancouver and Joe brought me to Toronto to educate me about the business, more often than not at the pool table at 939 Warden Ave. Jann Arden Richards was our first signing together and this was her first single. Jann and I reminisced today about the larger than life character of Joe and all he did for both of our careers. He epitomized the classic record man. Back in the day Joe would walk the halls of A&M with a pool cue in one hand and a cognac in the other looking for a game of 8 ball. When you heard the call of "You Ain't Shit!" your time had come to be schooled. Love you Joe, will will remember you. Always."

Al Mair, founder of Attic Records, sent this to Billboard: "I first met Joe when he worked for Decca in Detroit, and I handled Canadian promo for Compo (now Universal/Canada). We often shared a table, and a check, at Windsor's famed Elmwood Casino... Earl Grant, Rick Nelson, etc.  When he joined A&M/Canada, I was pleased to see him again. A&M were my distributor for five-plus years, and Joe was a big part of our joint success. Joe was very much a family man, and had various problems in the last few years. I will miss Joe and Gloria, and share our industry's loss of such a great leader."

Lacoursiere shared his memories as well. "We started in the music industry around the same time. He with Capitol Records and I with Decca working in the warehouse, picking orders and shipping to the retailers in the Detroit market. He joined Decca in sales as I was made the promotion manager. We both shared the love of music and the desire to make things happen. That was the beginning of a lifetime of friendship in the music business. We both left Decca, he was hired by Motown and I by Liberty records. I opened A&M Canada in 1969. We were re-united in the early '70s when I hired him as our national sales manager. The rest is history."

The "Celebration of His Life" is to be held on Sunday, June 14, at Hayden Shore Pavillion, 589 Water Street, Whitby, Ontario (just outside Toronto) from 1:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m.