Ben Cameronʼs passion for music knows no limits. Raised in a musical family, drums, piano and guitar were a part of the family furniture, never out of reach. From a young age he took piano lessons, was a drummer in the DTSS high school band, and eventually taught himself to play the guitar during his two years at Mount Royal College. It was during this period that songwriting became a major part of the musical equation. His first full composition was a reaction to the score of the original version of the film “Shaft”. It began and ended 20 hours later with a 6 1/2 minute multi-track recording complete with midi influenced electronica and vocals delivered through a sock over a common computer mic. A love affair with both songwriting and engineering had begun. Over the next 15 years music became a primary focus in Benʼs life. He has written more than 25 songs, performed live throughout western Canada with his bands “Gentlemen Of Leisure” and “Standby For The Bomb”, the later of which recorded a full studio album, made two music videos and shared stages with notable acts such as 54-40, Trooper and Wide Mouth Mason.
The last three years have been a rewarding new musical focus, becoming a sound engineer and opening his recording studio “Wood Shop Productions”. Ben thought he might enroll in a school to learn the trade but quickly realized this too would be something he would learn on his own. The practice space became the recording studio, textbooks and gear manuals his study, and persistent experimentation his guide. A job with PB Pro Audio and Lighting came at the perfect time, allowing Ben to work as a tech and monitor engineer on the summer festival scene working with such acts as Sierra Leoneʼs Refugee All Stars, Delhi 2 Dublin, Dan Brubeck Quartet, Paul Peress Trio, Plants And Animals, Alice Cooper and many more.
As a founding member of “Windermere Valley Musicians Who Care”, Ben is perhaps most proud of what this group (and community) are capable of, fostering the climate of support and helping to build a substantial foundation for the Columbia Valleyʼs music scene to thrive upon. Let the music play!
Bruce Childs was born in Toronto, Ontario, and spent the first third of his life in Ontario, around Barrie and into the University of Guelph, before he moved to British Columbia, where he has lived for the next two-thirds of his life so far.
He started writing songs over half a century ago, and still continues writing them. In the late 70’s, he went back to school to work on his Bachelor of Music at Malaspina College and Western Washington University, majoring in Jazz Studies and Performance.
Eventually, he ended up with a B.C. Standard Teaching Certificate from SFU, and began a lengthy career as a Music and Classroom Teacher, starting in Vancouver, moving to Elkford, and then to Invermere in 1990, where he taught at J.A. Laird School until June 2012, when he retired. He had a touring Ukulele Band of students called “The Silver Strings” for 16 years, and he took them on a tour each year to places on the West Coast,Prince George, the Shuswap, Edmonton, and once to Hawaii.
Besides writing and playing songs alone, he has always been a musician in different musical groups in Invermere, from a jazz trio, to Debbie and the Dreamers, and to various formations of what eventually became the “Angus McToogles’ House Band”, who played weekly for 10 years at McToogles’ Restaurant.
In retirement, he stays busy continuing to play live music, writing songs, teaching guitar and bass to children and adults, and trying to get fit! He plans to become a roving musician soon, travelling around in a trailer and supplementing his pension by busking on all his different instruments wherever he ends up!
Multi-instrumentalist Fraser Smith grew up playing music with his father, Mike Smith, in venues up and down the valley. A musical chameleon, he has played everything from jazz to 80’s glam rock, celtic, hip hop, rock ‘n roll, and blues. He has played in various bands in the valley including, “The Angus McToogles House Band” and “Standby For The Bomb”. He also enjoys collaborating, and has had the pleasure of playing with countless local musicians and bands at many venues throughout the valley and beyond. In 2005, Fraser graduated from the “Timeless Instruments School of Lutherie” and began building and repairing guitars under the name “FMS Guitars”. He now also operates “Invermere Custom Woodwork”.
Originally from Scotland, Mike Smith has called this valley home since 1969. Since his arrival, he has been a familiar face to all in the local music community. Over the past ten years he has perhaps been better known as “Angus McToogle”, while he played host to more live music than any other venue in the Valley’s history. His group, the “Angus McToogle’s House Band,” along with his son Fraser and long time friend Bruce Childs, continues to perform locally since his retirement and close of the McToogle’s restaurant in the fall of 2013.
Little Billy Cropper was born in Vancouver in 1949 and was raised there until the age of 17 at which point he struck out into the world. At an early age Billy had a keen interest in entertainment, music and theatre. By the age of seven he was singing in church choirs and by age 14 was lead singer and harmonica player in a number of rock and roll bands around Vancouver.
After bumming around North and Central America for a few years at age 21 he moved to the Columbia Valley and never looked back. Billy has been involved in many creative projects over the years. In the mid 1970s he was part of a theatre troupe that travelled southern BC called Kootenay Troupe. After that he helped form a band here in the valley called the Kootenay Rangers and they played their brand of silly love songs and topical numbers for a few years. Along the way Billy has played with a number of musical groups, duos, jam bands and other such riffraff and has enjoyed almost every minute of it.
Since the 1980s Billy has become very well known around the valley as an MC/entertainer hosting many events and staff managing many more as well keeping his hand in playing music and songwriting. His current musical group is called Smarty Pants and as usual is playing silly love songs and political ditties. By the way Billy changed his name from Bill to Billy ten minutes ago.
Kurt Reichel has been performing music in the valley for more than forty years in a variety of bands (Kootenay Rangers, John Cronin’s Live Band, Deb and the Dreamers, Combo Akimbo, Smarty Pants) as well as with his wife Deb Ede in intimate duo form. While running a one man sign company he was able to enjoy many diverse artistic endeavours from constructing giant plastic pretzels to rendering tender illustrations for books and magazines. He also pursues the frontiers of computer artistic possibilities and is always welcoming opportunities such as the design of the “Christmas in the Valley” CD package. A loyal participant in the many yearly food bank benefit performances he truly enjoys getting to share his music with everyone. With the help of CV Arts he has released 2 extended play CDs and and an 8 song compilation disc. You can view some of his video work on his YouTube channel. Songwriting is a gift, he feels, and is happy whenever a new tune glimmers in his little brain. “There is an energy that happens when the words, the music, the beat meld and form something new. It’s almost as good as applause or dancers in front of the band.” he chuckles. One of his greatest joys is the opportunity to play music with so many of the valley’s talented musicians.