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Celebration of Life and Memory of Bill McCauley

This past January, 2004 at Dolan's Pub, several of this area's top musicians gathered for the fourth annual "Celebration of Life and Memory of Bill McCauley." Bill passed away in November of 2000 at his home in Toronto from heart failure due to complications from diabetes. He was 40 years old. Raised on the North Side of Fredericton, Bill was not only known as one of Canada's top keyboard players, but regarded as one of the country's foremost Hammond Organ players as well.

He started out his career performing with the Fredericton rock group Redeye in the mid 70's, before moving on to Halifax to play with such acts as The Ritchie Oakley Band, Sam Moon and Dutch Mason. He later relocated to Toronto and worked with The Michael Pickett Band, world-renowned gospel great Doug Riley, as well as Matt Minglewood, Roch Voisine, Jeff Healey and others. He traveled the world with Rita MacNeil and was the musical director for The Rita MacNeil Show during itís run on CBC. ďHe was a monster player and a great talent,Ē Rita said of Bill during a recent interview.

This years tribute concert ran from Thursday through to Saturday and featured nineteen bands performing over the span of the three days. By evening time, line-ups outside to get in were common, despite the cold temperatures. However inside, things got much hotter as with popular local acts such as The Downtown Blues Band, SVT, Soul Purpose, Blind Dog and others entertained the crowd with some great live music that included everything from blues to rock. Even Matt Minglewood made a brief appearance. "The impression I got from everybody that I talked to is that they really enjoyed the diversity of the music this year," said organizer and former Redeye band member Neil Woodiwiss. "Bill was such a diversified player, he would play with anybody regardless if it was an orchestra, a country group or a rock band." Throughout the weekend, a television screen was set up to the left of the stage showing clips from Bill's life and performances. At one point while Bill was playing keyboards on the screen, he appeared to be in-sync with the group that was performing on stage beside him, as if he was playing right along with the band. The show's organizers were hoping to raise close to $7,000, but when the tally was totaled up, much to their delight, a grand total of $8,000 was raised. "This year really surpassed our expectations," said Woodiwiss joyfully. "The whole event was a huge success once again."

All money raised will go to a scholarship fund for students at Leo Hayes High School in memory of Bill. The scholarship is intended to support the development of young musicians who demonstrate interest in the pursuit of playing varied musical styles, and participate in the musical community of both Leo Hayes High and Fredericton. Itís intended to reward the efforts of students maintaining strong academic backgrounds.

While Bill remained a humble individual and would probably not know what to make about all the fuss being made over him, he would certainly be proud of where the money is going. "I think Bill would be pretty excited by the fact that a student could go on and further their career in music thanks to this," says Woodiwiss. Mark Roberts, Fred MacAusland and a host others from Fox FM, did a great job as MC's for the event.

SPONSORS: Wacky Wheatleys, Maritime Sound and Lights, Fox FM

SPECIAL MENTION: Lloyd Merriam and SVT for the stage gear, Tony Stoneham and crew, Brian Lean and Neil Woodiwiss (Promotion), Linda Dolan and all the great staff at Dolanís Pub.

Comments from Rita MacNeil

"Well I think of Bill a lot," Rita said prior to a show in Fredericton last year. "Particulary this time when I'm out on tour. I always looked over to watch him standing by the keyboards. He was a monster player and a great talent. The thing I'll always remember about Bill, is that he gave one hundred and ten percent. You would never be aware if he wasn't feeling up to par because he never showed it. He would always be there for the show and he never spoke ill of anyone, and he brought a lot of pride to his work. He will be deeply missed and greatly respected."

2002 letter from Blind Dog's Bruce Hughes
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