Any music fan who listened to Eric Leblanc’s radio show knows that he was one of the best radio disc jockeys in the world. He was that good. For over three decades Leblanc’s weekly Let the Good Times Roll on University of Victoria’s CFUV was blues heaven for music fans both locally and around the world on the internet.
Leblanc’s love of the blues began during his boyhood in Montreal. He and his brother would travel to New York City to buy obscure recordings to play at their Montreal dance club and later on Eric’s first show on McGill University’s radio station. Eric was a self-taught blues scholar and co-authored Blues, A Regional Experience with Australia-based Bob Eagle in 2013. He also taught courses in the history of jazz and blues at Victoria Conservatory of Music.
The music was his passion, but Leblanc was equally accomplished in his profession. After completing his M.A. in math at McGill University and the McGill Graduate School of Library Science Degree in 1974, Eric worked at the National Research Council’s Canadian Institute of Science and Technology (CISTI) in Ottawa from 1974-1980. He moved to Victoria to become CISTI librarian at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory from 1980-2005. In the words of Jim Hesser, retired director, who was responsible for transferring Eric from Ottawa to Victoria, “For some 25 years Eric managed the National Research Council’s Library at the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics where the innovative services he provided garnered accolades from staff as well as visitors from around the world. His knowledge of how and where to locate information required by his clients’ scientific and technical research was only surpassed once internet search engines became available.”
In addition to his long-running Let the Good Times Roll, for a decade Leblanc also co-hosted Rollin’ & Tumblin’, an acoustic blues program on CFUV featuring his large, personal collection of seminal country blues recordings. Eric’s collection of thousands of recordings of blues, gospel, rhythm and blues, do-wop and harmony groups, jump blues and jazz was donated to CFUV at his death in 2015. Eric’s library of over 300 music-related books was donated to University of Victoria Library.
Friends and fans who dearly miss Leblanc’s intimate, raspy, Quebbcois accented radio voice and deep knowledge of the blues as well as his warm, funny and generous personality have started a project to celebrate Leblanc’s legacy. They are fund-raising to create the Eric Leblanc Memorial Scholarship for University of Victoria music students with a passion for blues, gospel and jazz. and launching the project with a benefit concert by Juno and Maple Leaf award nominee Bill Johnson at The Oaks (2250 Oak Bay Ave.) on April 7 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 at The Oaks.
The Victoria-based musician has released four CDs over an almost-four decade career, and his 2010 CD Still Blue garnered a Juno Award nomination and several Maple Leaf Blues Award nominations. Bill’s latest CD, Cold Outside features not only his critically-acclaimed guitar playing in a range of blues styles and his trademark drawling, expressive vocals, but also eleven smart, self-penned original songs. It’s an eclectic collection ranging from deep Delta blues to jump and swing blues to searing, Chicago-style guitar workouts.
You can hear echoes of Albert King, B.B. King and other blues guitar masters, but Johnson has carved out his own unique style that now includes playful, clever, Chuck Berry-like original lyrics and deeply personal, transcendent blues narratives.
Johnson has grown into a masterful blues musician, and his showcase at The Oaks will include his solo acoustic playing as well as backing by his veteran rhythm section of bassist George Fenn and drummer John Hunter. Hunter also backs Harpdog Brown and the late Jason Biue. He has played with Johnson for ten years. The drummer also co-wrote the recent recording that led to Biue’s Maple Leaf Award for Best New Artist.
Like the greatest musicians, Johnson has learned to use the blues to produce transcendent messages of hope in the face of death and adversity. The blues grew out of the misery of slavery and racial oppression, and it still serves to overcome the horrors of our modern world. Bill Johnson knows how to use the blues to heal and offer hope. His band’s benefit performance at The Oaks promises to be a highlight of the year’s live music calendar. Don’t miss it!
One-man-band David Harris performs a second benefit concert May 5 at 7 p.m. at The Oaks. To donate to the Eric Leblanc Memorial Scholarship contact firstname.lastname@example.org.