Montreal concert producer Sam Gesser, best known for bringing names like Janis Joplin, Joan Baez and Pete Seeger to the city, died yesterday of cancer. He was 78.

Harry Belafonte once described Gesser as the best impresario in North America, his career spanned more than 50 years after starting as a writer for Canadian radio and television in the mid-1950s.

During the 1950s Gesser also worked as the Canadian representative of the US Folkways label, producing more than 100 albums, including records by Hélène Baillargeon, Hyman Bress, Jean Carignan, Jacques Labrecque, Monique Leyrac, Alan Mills, and John Newmark.

But it was in the 1960s while working as a concert promoter in Montreal that raised Gesser's profile. During that period he produced concerts in Montreal and tours of Canada featuring the likes of Baez, Belafonte, as well as pianists Van Cliburn and Glenn Gould, and singers like Joplin and the folk group Peter, Paul and Mary. He was also artistic director for the Canadian government's participation in Expo 67 in Montreal.

He also continued to write, producing his own stage comedy, Fineman's Dictionary, in the late 1990s.