History of the CCMA: The Influential Years of 1977 - 1979


This year we will be acknowledging the 40th anniversary of the CCMA. It is an incredible achievement for any organization and one that we should all be proud to be able to celebrate.

As mentioned in a previous ccma.org post, we are fortunate to have had members in the past that had the insight to document many of our key milestones. Mr. Jack Feeney (the first Executive Director and the 1988 builder inductee into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame) was one such member. This month we look back at some of the highlights from the late 1970s:

1977 was an important year in the history of the Academy of Country Music Entertainment (ACME) (note: now called the CCMA) because it was the first year that the entire membership was able to vote for its officers and directors. This took place at the Annual General Meeting on September 25. At this time, the membership stood at 450.

It was the fifth conference and third CCMA Awards presentation staged by RPM and these events took place on the weekend of September 24-25 at the Skyline Hotel in Ottawa. The week preceding was the ACME's first "Country Music Week" and various events and performances by Canada's country music entertainers took place throughout the city.

On the morning of Sunday, September 25 the General Meeting of the ACME took place with Ron Sparling, Chairman of Ottawa's Host Committee acting as Chairman of the meeting. Officers and Directors elected were:

President – Dave Charles
Vice President – Jack Feeney
Secretary/Treasurer – R. Harlan Smith

Charlie Russell
Ted Daigle
Barry Nesbitt
Bill Anderson
Johnny Murphy

It is interesting to note that this was the only time that the President was elected by a written vote of its members. In future, the position would be determined by a vote of the Directors following their election. The new Board had its work cut out for it with various committees to look after and, most importantly, a change in the charter of ACME from provincial to federal status complete with all the necessary By-Laws.

In 1978, the ACME moved out west for its Country Music Week. As usual, this was scheduled to coincide with RPM's Big Country Conference and Awards. Regina was the host city with Fred King as Chairman of the Host Committee and the Regina Inn as the headquarters and conference centre. In the first step towards future television activity, Global filmed a documentary of the Big Country events. The dates were September 25 to October 1 and ACME's general membership meeting took place on the last day.

During the year, President Dave Charles obtained the services of lawyer Lynn Bevan and she secured a federal non-profit charter for the ACME and drew up By-Law No. 1.  Ms. Bevan discussed these steps with the Directors and members earlier in the year at a special meeting held at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto. It was then approved by the Directors and at the Regina meeting it was approved by popular vote of the members.

There were many other important "firsts”: the appointment of Father Heffernan as Honorary Chaplain; a new logo "the picker" created by the late Bruce Rawlins through the efforts of Tery Carisse; a newsletter "What's News" published by Johnny Murphy and Nancy Gyokeres (a few years later, the newsletter was renamed "Canada Country" by Ed Preston); a 1977 Big Country winners album put together by Jack Feeney and distributed by Ross Riebling's record company; the first talent contest final; the biggest Opry North concert ever, staged by radio station CFGM and Gord Ambrose;  the awards of "Honorary Lifetime Membership" to Walt Grealis and Stan Klees for their contribution to Canadian country music and the Academy of Country Music Entertainment (ACME).

Finally, with regard to membership, there were now three categories -- organizational, lifetime and regular. The total number had jumped from 450 to 650. Penny-Sue Turner had personally brought 200 new members.

In 1979, Country Music Week moved back east again, this time to the Skyline Hotel, situated on Dixon Road near Toronto's Malton airport. The location was called Toronto West by Chairman Bob Cousins and his Host Committee because the activities planned for the week took place in the outskirts of Toronto in Etobicoke and Mississauga. Something new this time was a golf tournament chaired by Tommy Hunter. Country Music Week began on September 17 with the Annual General Meeting on Friday, September 21. Following that, RPM stepped in for the weekend with their Big Country Conference and Awards.

Just over one hundred members attended the General Meeting which was about par for the course. President Dave Charles acted as Chairman of the meeting and Sheila Petersen (Hamilton) took over as Secretary for the first time. During the meeting, Jack Feeney was elected President for the forthcoming year. Although the Toronto West Host Committee worked hard to stage a successful series of events, there were debts incurred which took time to pay off. Fortunately, financial contributions were made by BMI Canada, CAPAC, RCA Records and country entertainers who did special country benefit shows.

(Source: Abridged Excerpt from Continuing the Circle: A history of the Canadian Country Music Association: Jack Feeney - February 1996).