Big Miller (1922-1992)
Clarence Big Miller was a jazz musician, blues singer, trombonist, and educator born in Sioux City, Iowa. By 1960, Big Miller had sung with the Jay McShann and Duke Ellington orchestras and recorded with Bob Brookmeyer, Rex Stewart and Jon Hendricks. Miller made his Canadian debut in 1962 and took up residence in Vancouver in 1967 before settling in Edmonton by 1970 where he went on to make a significant impact on the musical and cultural scene. He subsequently led a variety of small jazz and blues bands in western Canada but also toured nationally with Phil Nimmons, and travelled abroad as a soloist. He taught at the Banff Centre and Grant MacEwan College, and was awarded an honorary doctorate by Athabasca University in 1985. The subject of the National Film Board documentary Big and the Blues (1980), Miller recorded several albums during his Canadian years, including the JUNO Award-winning Jazz Canada Montreux with the Tommy Banks Orchestra (1978), Live from Calgary (1982) and Live at Athabasca College (1989). Big Miller with Tommy Banks’ Big Band was released posthumously in 1997. He touched many lives with his beautiful voice, his energy and most of all, his love and respect for his fellow human beings. He was an absolute original soul and talent.
Tommy Banks (b. 1936)
The Honourable Tommy Banks: Pianist, conductor, arranger, composer, TV personality, actor, producer, politician.
Tommy Banks studied piano as a child and began his career at 14 in the band of the jazz saxophonist Don Thompson. He went on to become a recognized TV personality as host, pianist, arranger, and conductor for The Tommy Banks Show, a talk show airing from 1968-74 and 1980-83 on CBC TV and 1974-76 in syndication. He was guest conductor of symphony orchestras across Canada, and served as the Musical Director for many international events including the Calgary Winter Olympics and the 1978 Commonwealth Games.
Banks was made an Officer in the Order of Canada in 1991, and inducted into the Alberta Order of Excellence in 1993. Banks continued as producer and pianist for various performers until 2000, when he was appointed to the Senate of Canada and began to concentrate on political responsibilities. He continued to conduct his own big band until 2003. In 2010 he was the recipient of SOCANs special achievement award for his contributions to Canadas music industry and musical heritage.