The Timmins musician who gained national fame as “The Canadian Whistler” died this week.
Although Gord Lapierre’s musical roots stretch way back to the Ottawa Valley where he had consistent radio play, he was well known for singing everywhere he could in Timmins, and eventually appearing on national television coast to coast.
Lapierre died peacefully in his hometown of Arnprior on Dec. 3 this past week.
According to his close friend of 46 years, Timmins bassist Jack Larabee, he was well known and had recorded even before he started his long tenure in Timmins.
“I was working at Drouin’s Music store with Bob Liershaft and Mike Guiho and someone came in the store and said, ‘You have to go see this guy at The Lady Laurier Hotel. He is doing this whistling thing.’
“Later we checked it out and we thought it was quite humorous. Little did we know at the time he would was known coast to coast as The Canadian Whistler.
“In fact, Gord had a vinyl album out called Gordon Murray Lapierre presents 10 originals, which in our area was pretty big news that someone actually had a full vinyl album out,” Larabee recalled.
Lapierre went on to perform on Don Messer’s Jubilee which was broadcast nationwide from 1957 until 1969. It was the No. 1 show in the country, earning higher ratings than even the imported Ed Sullivan Show and second only to Hockey Night In Canada.
Later, Lapierre also played regularly at local restaurants and for senior residents at the Golden Manor with bass player Don Harrison and drummer Mike Charette, now with The Shaftmen.
“I would say we played for two years at The Golden Manor,” recalled Charette. “But then again Gord also played at Leone’s Hotel and The G.V. Hotel when we had a country band with Sue and Don Gauthier and bass player Rock Toal. This band was probably together 10 years.
“On top of that, I can’t remember anyone at the time who knew more chord positions on the guitar than Gord. I believe Gord spent close to 40 years in our city working for Texas Gulf Sulphur, later Xstrata,” said Charette.
During his work in the mining field, Lapierre earned his stripes as a paramedic where he worked part time for 19 years.
If this was not enough Lapierre was also inducted into the Great Northern Opry Hall of Fame for his dedication and promotion of country music here in Northern Ontario.
Gilbert Boissoneault, well-known bassist in Timmins, remembers Lapierre’s stint as guitarist/vocalist with The Outriders.
“We packed ‘The Leaf’ (best known as the home of Stompin’ Tom Connors) for five years,” said Boissoneault. “It was a long residence and everyone had day jobs. Gord sang and traded guitar licks with Paul Colameco.
“We had drummers Lee Wright, Dale Nikaruk, myself on bass and vocalist Fred True.”
During his time on the road, Lapierre met big name acts including Ian Tyson, Chubby Checker, Carl Smith, Webb Pierce, Kitty Wells and Marty Robbins.
In the early 1980s, he played some musical festivities with Timmins musical icon Henry Kelneck, composing a song at the time for Timmins’ own Olympic Gold media skier Kathy Kreiner — fittingly titled “The Kathy Kreiner Song.”
One of Lapierre’s last compositions was titled “I Need The Time To Say Goodbye,” a song he wrote for his late wife Yvonne.
This can be heard on YouTube along with other songs of his including “Everyone Has Dreams,” “Walkin’ and Talkin’” and “I Wish I Could Believe.”
John Emms is a Timmins musician who writes about the local music scene.