Hello there. I thought I would write my own bio this time around. I figured that 35 years in the business might afford me this indulgence.
I was born in Toronto in 1956. Eleven years after the armistice. Yep, guess I’m an Elder now who still happens to have an undying penchant for Rock & Roll. I was raised in Calgary but moved to Vancouver when I was about 20. I was following a girl and pursuing a dream of being the next Stephen Stills (a bit of a weird thought now but… it wasn’t Neil, it was definitely Stephen). I started writing songs with Gary Fraser. We met when we were 5 years old on Keats Island. When we were a bit older, he would sleep over at our cottage and my sister would put “Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands” on the turntable. That was my lullaby and it still resides deep within my soul.
I’ve had a barbwire fencing company, a firewood business, a band or two and a 6 year adventure infested stint as a rancher from 2000-2006. I married that “girl” and we have 4 amazing kids. Three of them have had children of their own and the fourth is pounding the Rock & Roll pavement.
My wife Kath and those 4 kids were the reason I was poised to quit my fledgling career in 1987. We were broke and living in a basement suite. My mother in law Penny lived upstairs and she saved the whole ship from running aground on many occaisions. But… before one quits… there’s this relentless voice in your head whispering “ya gotta give this one more try”. Our band, at the time and to this day, “The Legendary Hearts” saved enough money to send me to Toronto to grovel on behalf of our sorry assed souls. We had just parted ways with Bruce Allen’s Management Organization. I was desperate and also happened to have had my two front teeth knocked out. Hell of a salesman. But… there is power in a song. We had recorded “Something To Live For” and had made an independent video for it. This was being played heavily on Canada’s Much Music channel and consequently, I was able to see all the record company execs (sans front teeth) at a time when they were at their zenith. Heady times. I managed to get the band a record contract with Columbia/Sony Records and a management deal with my good friend Bernie Finkelstein. The next 10 years were a fun, exciting and soul-stretching ride that we all somehow managed to survive. There was never a manual written for this kind of thing.
In 2000, I decided to scale back from music after an unpleasant departure from Sony. I was determined to pursue the “other dream”. This time I was going to be Steve McQueen in “Junior Bonner”. We had bought a ranch in the 90’s and we decided to take a stab at running the thing with 250 head of cattle on it. This was inspired by a sense of adventure, but truth be told, the journey also had a lot to do with the realities of agriculture and rock and roll in this country. It is a long, good and often entertaining story – one for another time.
In 2007, I figured it was time to jump back into the musical circus. Things had changed to say the least over those years. There were some unwelcome changes for me, but there were a lot of good ones as well. The last seven years have been a great continuation of the journey. I have released 3 solo records on the quintessential Canadian label founded by Bernie Finkelstein called True North Records. The Legendary Hearts still play from time to time. I have a kick ass solo band we call “The Bonapartes”. I have a trio with Shari Ulrich and Tom Taylor – a gem I cherish. We have a rambling, on the edge C&W
12 piece orchestra called The Grand Cariboo Opry that tours in the fall to raise funds for charity. And recently we have formed a bluegrass band under the leadership of my good friend and long time musical mate Colin Nairne. We are called the High Bar Gang and we’ve just released our first CD on True North.
The journey continues.
Cheers, Barney Bentall
1979 – Formed Brandon Wolf with songwriting partner Gary Fraser. Recorded an EP and a record independently before signing a short lived record deal with A&M Records
1982/1985 – Woodshedded, wrote like hell and formed a ‘60’s cover band called the Revengers to pay the bills
1985 – Emerged as Barney Bentall and the Legendary Hearts and gained a following in the clubs of Vancouver
1987 – Signed with Columbia Records (Sony) and entered into a management deal with Bernie Finkelstein
1988 – Released “Barney Bentall and the Legendary Hearts”. The first single “Something To Live For” becomes a hit in Canada. The record achieves platinum status
1989 – The band wins the Juno for “Most Promising Group”
1991 – Release of “Lonely Avenue”. Two top ten singles. The record reaches Gold status
1993 – Release of “Aint Life Strange”. The record achieves Gold status
1995 – Release of “Gin Palace”. Two top ten singles. The record reaches Gold status
1997 – Release of “Til Tomorrow”. What had been a wonderful relationship with Sony Music and Finkelstein Management sadly comes to an end following a major shift at the label. A “Greatest Hits” CD is released.
1998 – 2000 – Touring continues.
2000 – 2006 – Barney steps back from touring and writing and works his ranch. A limited amount of touring still takes place during this time (a novel’s worth of experience is accumulated).
2007 – Back in the saddle (musically speaking). Barney releases “Gift Horse”. Produced by Jim Cuddy and John Ellis, it receives a Juno nomination. The Grand Cariboo Opry is formed as a vehicle to raise charitable funds.
2009 – Release of “The Inside Passage”
2012 – Release of “Flesh and Bone”
2013 – Barney continues to tour and record and perform with his solo band, The Legendary Hearts, The High Bar Gang, The Grand Cariboo Opry and with Tom Taylor and Shari Ulrich (BTU)
Barney Bentall divides his time between Bowen Island BC, his ranch in the interior of BC and the road.