An after-party attended by friends, family, business associates, colleagues and artists at Toronto's Rosewater feted The Agency Group president Ralph James following his induction into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame at the annual Canadian Music & Broadcast Industry Awards and Gala Dinner, put on by Canadian Music Week.
Among the guests were his TAG cohorts from out of town, Neil Warnock, chief executive officer; Steve Martin, president, North America; and Steve Kaul, vice president, New York, as well as Dan Steinberg, talent buyer, Square Peg Concerts; Shane Carter, president, Sony Music Canada; True North founder Bernie Finkelstein; Steve Kane, Warner Music Canada president; Jake Gold of The Management Trust; Donald Tarlton, a.k.a. Donald K. Donald; record producer Garth Richardson; booker Yvonne Matsell; members of Marianas Trench; Steve Herman, SVP, North America, touring, Live Nation; Craig Laskey and Jeff Cohen of Collective Concerts; Patti-Anne Tarlton, senior VP/chief operating officer Ticketmaster Canada; Ron Kitchener, RGK Entertainment Group; members of the band Gloryhound and their manager Cameron Carpenter; Steve Coady, VP, Warner Music Canada; and David Kines, president, Hollywood Suite/MuchFACT chair.
"He's been there" seemed to be the general consensus on what makes James one of the best.
From left: Steve Herman – SVP, North America, touring, Live Nation Los Angeles; promoter Donald K Donald; Ralph James, president, The Agency Group; Patti-Anne Tarlton – SVP/COO, Ticketmaster Canada (Barry Roden)
James is the former bass player and co-founder of late-70s rock band Harlequin from Winnipeg, a point played up in the induction ceremony from The Watchmen performing a cover of Harlequin's hit "Innocence" to footage and photos of Harlequin in the tribute video.
"There are very few people in the industry that actually had two successful careers as a musician and then become an agent," said his good friend and artist manager Jake Gold in the video, adding, "I don't know if there's another agent that I've ever met that actually not only books all these places, but has actually been in all these places."
Prior to becoming a booking agent, James, who was born in Toronto and raised in Winnipeg, toured and recorded with Harlequin from 1975 to 1987, earning gold and platinum status for a number of their releases and a recent induction into the Western Canadian Music Association Hall of Fame. Their singles "Innocence" and "Thinking of You" continue to be staples at Canadian rock radio.
From left: Craig Laskey, Collective Concerts; Ralph James, president, The Agency Group Toronto; Jeff Cohen, Collective Concerts (Barry Roden)
He began his role of agent with stints at Hungry I Agency, The Agency, and S.L. Feldman & Associates before forming The Agency Group Canada alongside partners Jack Ross and Warnock.
Lorraine Webb, who has been James' assistant for 20 years, called him "Hard working, loves music, loves doing a deal," in the tribute video.
His keen ear and eye for talent, especially early in their career, has helped cultivate international success stories for such bands as Nickelback, Billy Talent, Three Days Grace, and Marianas Trench and has guided the talents of 54*40, Big Sugar, Headstones, The Trews, The Watchmen and others.
"You are a legend -- we love you," said Nickelback's Chad Kroeger in his clip.
"There isn't another agent in the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame, and it's really fitting that Ralph's the first," said Jack Ross.
From left: Members of the band Gloryhound; Ralph James, president, The Agency Group Toronto; Cameron Carpenter, Gloryhound manager; Garth Richardson; Steve Kane, president, Warner Music Canada (Barry Roden)
James was inducted before a sold-out private gala dinner in front of his peers and colleagues, where 48 awards were given out in total -- to companies and individuals from labels, managers, agents, radio, venues, retail and more -- five of them special honours like James'. Marianas Trench presented the award to him.
"We're so proud of you Ralph and thank you so much," said Marianas Trench frontman -- and co-writer of "Call Me Maybe" -- Josh Ramsay. "Ralph was there for us when we were playing in Toronto and we couldn't even sell out the Cameron House for 30 people. Ralph was outside with handbills, talking to people, telling them to come to the show and he took us all the way to arenas. Honestly man, we owe you everything. We really do appreciate that."
When James took the stage to accept the award, he said in the first few minutes what mattered most to him: "Anybody who knows me well knows that I have incredible good luck. I mean absolutely incredible good luck, and I look down at the front and I see my wife Mary Ellen, our son Matthew and my brother Carl and that pretty much sums it up for me." He then thanked a host of other people that have mattered in his life and career.