‘It’s like having Tony Bennett in your backyard’

<p>Joseph Sallay is opening his backyard to music fans for a small, initimate concert on Sunday, Aug. 20. </p><p>Miranda Gathercole Langley Times</p> -

Joseph Sallay is opening his backyard to music fans for a small, initimate concert on Sunday, Aug. 20.

Miranda Gathercole Langley Times

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By the time next Sunday rolls around, Joseph Sallay's backyard will be transformed into a cultural mecca of local music.

The bushes will be cut back and the patio table moved aside to unveil a natural stage, where some of the Lower Mainland's top musicians will perform.

This is the sixth or seventh yard concert Sallay has hosted at his Langley home, and the first one this summer, since he retired in 2013.

"I was in the music industry for close to 50 years, and I shut down my businesses about three years ago. I was sitting at home just wondering what to do because retirement isn't an option these days," he explained.

"The phone rings and it's this friend of mine who lives in Burnaby, he's one of the absolute finest guitarists in North America."

That friend was David Sinclair, former guitarist for kd lang and Sarah McLachlan. Sinclair was looking for a new manager for himself and his partner, Keith Bennett, who is one of the top harmonica players in the world.

"It took me about five minutes of thinking and I said, 'Yeah OK, guys I'll do it.' It's one aspect of the music industry I have not worked at. I thought I'd give it a try."

Through his company, JAS Artist Management, Sallay, who is 72 years old, now represents several musicians in the Vancouver area, including Glenda Rae, Brett Wade and Phil Robertson — the three artists that will play in his backyard on Aug. 20.

"My wife and I moved out here about five years ago. And just a year and a half ago, I find out that one of my extremely good friends, another absolutely top notch guitarist, and his wife, who is one of the top vocalists in Canada, live two blocks away. And that's Glenda Rae and Brett Wade.

"Then I had the idea, let's get a concert going for the musicians, and the money that comes in goes to them."

Rae is a singer and songwriter who has worked in a number of genres, ranging from pop, soul and jazz to new country. Her father and mother are Gospel ministers, and her sister, Christine Duncan, is a jazz singer.

"(She) comes from the Gospel end of singing like Aretha, Annie Lennox, and I don't want to compare her to any of them because I think she is in a class by herself," Sallay said.

"She's got a huge range to begin with, and she can go from a rawly, sexy blues thing to a very pure voice and jump octaves back and forth. Just a great vocalist."


Wade has spent decades playing guitar on the west coast, and was even featured in the guitar solo of Valdy's 1970s hit Play Me A Rock And Roll Song.

"Brett Wade is a total enigma to me. He is the most beautiful person in the world. He is a hippie leftover, and a musician, a virtuoso of the guitar and voice to the point where I recognize Brett on a recording — his voice and his guitar. And that's hard, there's hundreds of thousands of musicians out there. But he's got his own voice on guitar and vocals."

Robertson is a "drum virtuoso," and ex member of the band Idle Eyes, whose song Tokyo Rose made it on the Canadian singles chart in 1985.

"To come to a concert like this, with world class entertainment — it's like having Tony Bennett in your backyard," Sallay said.

"And that's the other thing, I emphasize I only work with that caliber of musicians."



For someone who only plays "a bit of guitar" for his own pleasure, Sallay has dedicated a lifetime to music.

It began in 1968, when he opened his first music store in Vancouver.

"It didn't last long because I didn't know much. And like every other late teens, early 20s person, I know everything, and I didn't. From there I decided to move to Montreal and worked for a wholesale distributor of musical instruments for four years, (then) moved back here and opened three more stores in the Lower Mainland."

As those stores grew in sales, Sallay decided to open his very own manufacturing plant for guitars in North Vancouver.

"And being the restless person that I am, I never stand still, I got into video production in the early days on tape, and a recording studio, I bought into one of those."

After the recession in the 1980s, he closed his music stores and opened his own wholesale distributor for musical instruments, which he ran until 2013.

"At that time I got ticked off with the industry and said I had had enough, time to move on. That's when we moved out here (to Langley), and my wife and I decided to reinvent ourselves."


The yard concert takes place from 4 to 6 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 20 at 4907 202A St.

Attendees are encouraged to bring their own lawn chair and beverage of choice.

Tickets are $20 at the yard gate.

Space is very limited, so RSVP is required. Please call 604-510-9001 to reserve tickets.


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