History of the CCMA: Transitioning Into the Mid-1980s


This month, we continue taking a look at our past thanks to Mr. Jack Feeney (the first Executive Director and the 1988 Builder inductee into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame), and former CCMA Members who have carefully chronicled our history. This month we look back at some of the milestones of the mid-1980s.
In 1985, Country Music Week returned to Edmonton for the second time and the Westin Hotel was the centre of activities. John Gold, who was elected President the previous year, acted as Chairman of the Annual General Meeting. John's secretary for the meeting was Mary Quartarone, ACME's Executive Secretary (Mary had replaced Sheila Petersen in April 1985).
The first order of business was nominations for the 1985-1986 Board of Directors and this time nominees were asked to speak to the members regarding their qualifications. As usual, Father Heffernan supervised the scrutinizing of the votes. The highlights of the committee reports were mention of a failed attempt to get the CBC to televise the Awards Show; an increase in membership to a total of 865; and Mrs. Henning's financial report which showed a slight increase in total assets.
At the conclusion of the 1985 General Meeting in Edmonton, it was announced that Mrs. Elizabeth (Ma) Henning had been elected President of the Academy by the Directors for the forthcoming term, 1985-1986. Mrs. Henning had served on the Board since 1982 and was Treasurer for 1984-1985.
Mrs. Henning accomplished a great deal during her term as President. The first thing she did, with the unanimous backing of the Board of Directors, was to establish the position of Executive Director. She then talked Jack Feeney into taking the position. He was willing to work for ACME at a minimum salary. Mr. Feeney had previously been an executive with RCA Records and President of RCA Music Publishing until his retirement in 1984. He also had considerable experience in country music as a record producer and as Vice-President and President during the early years of the Academy of Country Music Entertainment.
After confirmation of Jack's appointment on December 8, 1985, his first job was to obtain a permanent headquarters for the Academy in Toronto. This was accomplished a month later and all the files were moved into a new office on The Queensway on February 2, 1986.
Financial assistance was now of paramount importance to the Academy and the new Executive Director and Ron Solleveld, ACME's Treasurer, were able to get funds from BMG, PROCAN and the Department of Communications. Additional contributions were made by the Talent Contest ($9,000.00) and Edmonton's Country Music Week 1985 ($5000.00). It should also be noted that President Henning made a $10,000.00 personal guarantee to ACME's bank in case its account ever became overdrawn. Fortunately, this did not happen.
In Winnipeg, home of Country Music Week 1986, a first occurred when Global agreed to televise the Awards Show over a number of Canadian stations. Unfortunately, the Winnipeg Host Committee had to cover a great deal of the cost of this including a set for the stage. Mrs. Henning, on behalf of the Host Committee, guaranteed the additional costs, estimated at $100,000.00. It was her feeling that some stage material, especially a giant replica of the Academy's "picker", could be used again in future shows. This, plus a full house at the show, would cover the costs. However, there was a poor turnout and the "picker" was not used again, so most of the money was not recovered.
At the Annual General Meeting held at the Westin Hotel, a resolution was approved for a name change from "Academy of Country Music Entertainment" to "Canadian Country Music Association". Following the meeting, the new Board of Directors elected Paul Mascioli as President. Mr Mascioli was also to be Co-Chairman of the Host Committee with Harvey Gold for Country Music Week 1987, to be held the following September in the city of Vancouver.
There were a number of very important "firsts" in 1987:
1.     The Academy was now known as the Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA);
2.     Country Music Week 1987 was held in Vancouver for the first time;
3.     CCMA gained a major corporate sponsor: Labatt Breweries;
4.     CCMA gained a full Canadian television network for the annual Awards Show: CTV.
The timing was right for both Labatt and CTV, but it took tough selling and negotiating to finalize both undertakings. CCMA executives like Gordon Burnett and Elizabeth Henning had tried in vain for years to obtain such backing. Fortunately during this time, there were some firms and organizations that assisted with financial contributions. Also, as previously mentioned, television coverage of the 1986 Awards Show was made by Global, but it was on a limited basis.
Harvey Gold and Paul Mascioli were Co-Chairmen for Country Music Week 1987 in Vancouver. They felt that a major sponsor like Labatt Breweries was needed to ensure the success of the week, so they approached that firm's local people. When they were referred to Labatt's head office in Toronto, they agreed that they should go for sponsorship on a national scale. Mr. Gold put together an extensive presentation; it was ratified by the CCMA's Board, and then approved by Labatt. With regard to television, Harvey first discussed the concept with CTV executives in Toronto where he was asked to present it to Mr. Peters, Chairman of CTV and Head of CTV in Vancouver. Mr. Peters liked the idea and, finally, contracts were signed. Fortunately, the head of Global TV in Winnipeg agreed to cancel their contract signed the previous year with the CCMA.
It is worth noting that both Paul Mascioli and Harvey Gold served terms as President of the Canadian Country Music Association, Mr. Mascioli in 1986-1987 and 1988-1990; Mr. Gold in 1990-1991. From 1987, Mr Mascioli worked with the CTV production team in booking the talent necessary to produce top rated CCMA Award Shows without receiving any remuneration. Harvey Gold started the Canadian Country Talent Development Fund with the western radio stations he was responsible for in Vancouver, Kamloops and Saskatoon. Later, he solicited other Canadian country stations to contribute to the fund as well.
(Source: Abridged Excerpt from Continuing the Circle: A history of the Canadian Country Music Association: Jack Feeney - February 1996).