Thursday, July 18, 2013

Peter Appleyard 'Flyng Home' at 84

News of Peter Appleyard’s passing came quick without deliberation.

It’s really difficult tying all personal thoughts into a precious bundle.

Eighty-four is a good stretch on planet earth but in my heart Peter was destined to easily challenge a hundred. What do I base this on – that set of vibes that weighed as much as a meteorite? Who could lift them without a strenuous daily workout.

Numerous times I’ve stepped behind Peter’s car and offered assistance to only get in the way. “I’ve got this – you get the curb.” Wow! That’s strength and that's an order!

I never saw this coming.

My early years in Toronto were spent battling the Toronto Musicians Association. I was used to that American brotherhood thing and my comrades in Louisville. TMA in Toronto was more akin to boot camp with Stalin. Appleyard was my hero!

Christ sake each edition of the TMA paper Crescendo posted a list a blacklisted players with Appleyard's name back page for some minor infraction or another. Through the years I became a comrade and frequent member usually suspended for non payment of dues. I figured Appleyard was the coolest dude in Canada. I detested those MFs. I assumed if I got my name in the same column Peter would protect me and one day we’d high five and scream something back at them like – bring it on – I'VE PAID LIFE DUES!

As we began expanding the media parameters of Toronto jazz we quickly learned Peter was not a member of the local  dreaded jazz police. Hey boys – it’s ‘All the Things You Are” or get off the bandstand. He was the dude arms length from the local Stasi.

Peter focused on the world beyond Lake Ontario and traveled and traveled and toured to great concert venues out of reach for locals.

We connected through the Jazz Report Magazine – CJRT FM - and National Jazz Awards. I’d be out there offering a helping hand and he’d tell me stand aside. I’d witness him do a Jack Lalanne on heavy metal.

To appreciate his playing you needed to get down front close in and watch those wrists snap and notes scatter. Every line guided by history and yes Red Norvo and Lionel Hampton had a tight grip and possibly Terry Gibbs on the elongated statements.

I’d pull the camera out and stake every angle - shoot a few frames – then watch and listen. Superb!

Appleyard had tremendous respect for Benny Goodman. Anyone stoked on jazz would surely admit Goodman ran a tight ship and precision was mandatory. You can’t disappear in a small group – you have to play the big front end parts or take a seat with the audience.

So, I as many of you will need a few days to absorb Peter’s passing and we’ll talk and listen and wish Peter Jr. and Suzie our best. When your family loves you this much you know you’re truly something special.


  1. Thanks for that Bill. It was lovely.

  2. It's a sad day for music. Peter Appleyard captivated his audience with his personality and mastery of the craft. May you rest in peace. Made an online memorial in your honor: #PeterAppleyard