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The Hahn Family’s Remarkable Canadian Music LegacyMar 16 2016

By Martin Melhuish

bob and joyce colour

In 1936, The Harmony Kids, featuring siblings Robert, Lloyd, Kay and Joyce Hahn, headed eastward across Canada from frontier Saskatchewan to the bright lights of Broadway during the Great Depression. Their resourceful father Harvey had schooled them all in music and had built a customized trailer to transport the family across the country making pass-the-hat appearances along the way at clubs, barns and radio stations, where a youthful but enterprising Robert Hahn would often offer to write them a station ID for a small fee. The Harmony Kids ended up in New York, where they appeared on the popular radio network show, We the People. As their popularity grew, the war interceded and they headed back to Canada.

Following the war, Robert, who passed away in 1993, and Joyce, returned to the music business. When television arrived in Canada in 1952, vocalist Joyce Hahn became one of Canada’s first TV stars as co-host, with Wally Koster, of CBC-TV’s Cross-Canada Hit Parade. She was also a recording artist in her own right and had a minor hit in the U.S. in 1957 with “Gonna Find Me a Bluebird” on the Cadence label.

Robert Hahn, who later wrote a book titled None of the Roads Were Paved about the family’s musical odyssey, eventually returned to Montréal where he became known as Canada’s “Jingle King” – most people of a certain age will recall his “Mainly because of the meat” jingle for Dominion Stores. He soon moved into record production and music publishing (Laurentian Music and CanCon Music). In the early ‘60s, he was active in helping to shape the legislation behind the new Broadcast Act and the subsequent Canadian Content regulations. He was also a producer, a songwriter, and a record executive with his own labels, Astra Records and Rising Records, which recorded artists like Rick Neufeld, Lisa Hartt Band, Keath Barrie, Kurt & Noah and Billy Mysner. He was also instrumental in getting Montréal group Mashmakhan signed to Columbia. Through his Toronto-based Bob Hahn Productions Inc., which he opened in 1978, he traced unpaid royalties for other songwriters and composers, and music rights for film use.

The youngest sibling, Donnie Hahn, who arrived late, went on to become one of the most respected recording engineers in the business as, among other positions, VP of A&R Studios in New York and Director of Studio Operations for A&M Records in Los Angeles. Notably he was the recording engineer on The Band’s album Music From Big Pink and has worked with production icons like Quincy Jones and a long list of legendary artists that include Frank Sinatra, Count Basie, Barbra Streisand, Chet Atkins, Woody Herman and Dionne Warwick.

Robert’s three children all kept music in the family. The late Richard Hahn was one of the most respected music and intellectual property rights lawyers in Canada. The late Luckie Hahn was a singer and also worked in the record business. Kathy Hahn was an executive with record labels like RCA and Island before becoming an independent communications strategist and international export and trade specialist. She helped launch MuchMusic in the mid-‘80s. For many years, she was the right hand person for Neill Dixon at Canadian Music Week (CMW) and these days oversees CMW’s International Marketplace. She is also Trade Show Co-ordinator for CIMA with up-coming events that include the Canada Stand at Jazzahead in Bremen, Germany and MIDEM in Cannes, France and the CIMA Stand at WOMEX in Santiago di Compostela in Spain. She also manages Canadian legacy act Valdy.

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