Stan Klees, whose legacy includes co-founding the JUNO Awards and lobbying for Canadian content requirements, has passed away at age 91.
“Leading the charge in championing the Canadian-identity, his unwavering commitment to celebrating Canadian talent with long-time partner Walt Grealis resulted in the creation of the JUNO Awards in 1971 – formally the RPM Gold Leaf Awards, which has since become a global showcase for Canadian musicians of all backgrounds. His infectious enthusiasm, warm spirit, and genuine love for Canadian music leave an indelible mark and made him a pillar in the industry,” CARAS (Canadian Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences) stated in a tribute to Klees on its website. “Stan’s impact on the music community extended far beyond the stage and the studio. He was a mentor, a friend, and an inspiration to all who had the privilege of knowing him.”
A Toronto native, Klees got his first taste of radio in his teens, dropping out of high school to host on CKLB in the late 1940s, later hosting “Teens and Tunes” on CHUM. Klees transitioned into the music business, eventually landing a producer role at London Records, going on to found the Tamarac record label and then Red Leaf Records, a consortium that included Duff Roman’s Roman Records and ACT Records, notably producing the Little Caesar & the Consuls’ hit “My Girl Sloopy” in 1965.
Frustrated by the lack of opportunity for homegrown acts beyond the Billboard charts, Klees urged friend Walt Grealis to found Canadian music industry trade publication RPM Weekly, which made its debut in February 1964. Grealis became a collaborator on future ventures, including the creation of the JUNOs, which grew out of RPM’s Gold Leaf Awards celebrating Canadian talent with an eye to building a star system north of the border.
Klees and Grealis began lobbying Ottawa to legislate making Canadian content viable, with CanCon regulations, based on Klees’ proposals, introduced by the CRTC in 1971, requiring radio stations to play 30% Canadian musical selections during peak hours. Klees was also the creator of the MAPL logo intended to help programmers identify Canadian-produced selections.
Klees founded the Canadian Independent Record Production Association in 1971, and helped establish the Canadian Academy of Country Music Advancement, the pre-cursor to the Canadian Country Music Association. The Big Country Awards, forerunner to the Canadian Country Music Awards, followed in 1975.
Klees was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1995 and was recognized, along with Grealis, with a SOCAN Special Achievement Award in 2001. The duo also received the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame Legacy Award in 2005.
“CARAS and MusiCounts as we know it today would not exist if not for Stan Klees,” said Allan Reid, President & CEO, CARAS/The JUNO Awards. “Our deepest condolences to his family and friends and we extend heartfelt gratitude for his vision that we will continue to honour.”
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