The Offenbach star passed away accidentally in 2022. Musicians are paying tribute May27th with proceeds to Teresa Dellar Palliative Care Residence

Montreal musicians are unique and somewhat isolated from the rest of Canada. Language and distance play key roles. Chances are – Quebec artists know each other or have played with one another. Jerry Mercer and Offenbach guitarist/songwriter John McGale were no different.

“I first met John when I got a call from the Offenbach manager. I just returned from recording the Nature of the Beast album in England. Offenbach was leaving in two days to play in Paris and they needed a drummer. Of all the Quebec musicians available – I was the only one who had a passport. “

Jerry Mercer will be honoring his friend and bandmate John McGale on May 27 at Mcallan’s Pub

Despite knowing one song (Caline de Blues), Mercer agreed to do the gig. During a six hour flight – Mercer listened to the Offenbach catalogue repeatedly until he had the gist of the songs he would play for the first time. “I think we only botched up two songs.” Explains Mercer.  “As a drummer you don’t need to know chord changes, so it is easier to adapt”.

John and Jerry forged their friendship on that trip, often spending days in and around Paris doing what tourists do. It was the beginning of a friendship that lasted from 1980 until John’s untimely death in a car accident.

“April Wine and Offenbach broke up for a while at the same time.” Says Mercer. “I got together with John and former Offenbach bassist Breen LeBoeuf. We formed The Buzz Band. We played a lot of gigs and recorded one album. That is when I recognized the immense talent of John.”

Aside from Offenbach and The Buzz Band – McGale was a much sought after collaborator and had many projects over the years. Toyo and Jeff Smallwood were two ‘duo’ gigs John did frequently. Patrons of music and the pubs in Montreal knew McGale well.

“The amazing thing about John, says Jerry. “He could play anything and write any genre of music. He was of the belief that if the universe was giving you a tune, even if it was not your favorite style – don’t reject it. Nurture it and let it grow. Have you heard the song Cool Blue Flame from the Buzz Band album? What a beautiful composition. All the songs John wrote for the album could be done acoustically. That’s the mark of a good song.”

Mercer got the phone call at 2:30 in the morning and was gutted by the news.

“It was like a death in the family. John and Breen (Leboeuf) were/are my closest musical friends. I can only take solace in the fact John died doing what he loved doing – playing music. I don’t know what happened after that gig, just the thought of him hitting a tree – is quite sad. And on his birthday no less!”

Thirty or more musicians are gathering May 27th at Macallans in Dorval starting at 4pm until midnight. No entrance fee but donations are expected as per the wishes of the family of John McGale.