Toronto rocker Jack De Keyzer gets to do what he wants every day


By Steve Newton

His name might not be particularly well-known to the common Canadian music fan, but Toronto rocker Jack De Keyzer has been a fixture on this country’s recording and performing scene for most of his 35 years.

While still in his teens, De Keyzer joined Canuck harp legend King Biscuit Boy’s band and began touring across the country. Then he took on a four-year stint with Ronnie Hawkins, logging still more miles while playing everything from the fanciest ballrooms to the scariest biker bars.

A brief stint with New York rockabilly revivalist Robert Gordon led to De Keyzer’s enlistment in the Bopcats, the nation’s finest entry into the Stray Cats-dominated rockabilly craze of the early ’80s. After a couple of albums, the Bopcats burned out—“It was a good live band, but the records didn’t turn out like I wanted them to,” says De Keyzer—and the Rock Angels rose from the ashes.

About four years ago, De Keyzer decided to try things under his own name, and the decision paid off: his new album, Hard Working Man, is the most impressive Canadian blues-rock debut since Colin James flew onto the scene. De Keyzer’s stage shows are equally powerful…but that’s something that you can find out for yourself when he plays the Town Pump this Friday and Saturday (March 15 and 16).

Although his road to today’s solo success has been a long one in both miles and years, De Keyzer claims he’s never had second thoughts about his chosen field and its trials. “I’ve been playing professionally since I was 15, and it’s a great way to make a living. I get to do what I want to do every day: play music and write music and travel.”

De Keyzer has seen a lot of musical fads come and go during his tenure as a hired guitar gun, band member, and solo artist, but one fad that he thinks has proven fortunate for the Canadian music scene is video.

“I think video has given a national unity to rock ’n’ roll,” he says. “I’ve been traveling across this country since I was about 18, and even in those 17 years I’ve probably only been to Vancouver a dozen times. That’s more than a lot of people, but still it’s been pretty hard to get a national kind of exposure happening in the past. Now, with video, it’s like bang—people in St. John’s can see the Grapes of Wrath and people in Vancouver can see Figgy Duff.”

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