Longtime critic details Vancouver’s untold rock history

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Our local music scene is known around the world, but how it got that way isn’t as well documented.

That is until now, thanks to the new e-book, Tom Harrison’s the History of Vancouver Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Harrison has been covering the Vancouver scene for the Province newspaper since 1979, bearing witness to much of the city’s music history.


“Over the years, I’ve been asked, when are you going to write your book? It seemed like a real blur,” he admits.

“One of the challenges of writing the book was just to stir my memory, because it all kind of folded into one thing. [But] one memory led to another memory and all of a sudden, this blur that I was worried about sort of opened up in front of me and became clear…I hope!”

Locally, there is no-one better suited for the job.

“It just made sense, because I basically was here from the beginning, I saw it all on the sidelines, and so, I was there to report on it.”

Harrison was also motivated to take up the task after noticing Vancouver’s contribution to Canadian rock ‘n’ roll had gone largely ignored. “I’d read a lot of histories of the development of Canadian rock ‘n’ roll and it all started in Toronto with Ronnie Hawkins coming from Arkansas with his band,” he says.


“But Vancouver developed completely differently from that and no-one had told that story.”

For one thing, Vancouver’s scene was driven by a deejay culture, and arguably none were more famous than the very first Vancouver rock jock, Red Robinson. “He seems to come up quite frequently in the very beginning, so when you talk to some of the singers and performers from around that era, they really respect and admire Red.”

The e-book details a long list of local luminaries, but for Harrison, Vancouver’s rock scene wasn’t really noticed until the arrival of one group in particular.

“We didn’t really start putting our name on the map until BTO,” he points out. “They were the first international success on a real big scale. I mean, there were other bands, but I think the first important band that made people say, ‘Where are these guys from?’ ‘Well, they’re from Vancouver.’ That was BTO.”

The e-book also looks at what Harrison calls the pioneers, visionaries, and mavericks behind the scenes. One of those is talent manager Bruce Allen.


“Bruce will be the first to admit he didn’t know that much about personal management until [BTO founder] Randy Bachman came along and taught him the ropes,” Harrison recalls. “But after that, Bruce knew. And if you wanted a career, Bruce was the guy.”

You can find “Tom Harrison’s History of Vancouver Rock ‘n’ Roll” on Amazon, Apple iBooks, Kobo, and Google Play.