Local musician and entrepreneur Craig Doyle has passed away at the age of 51.
Friends of the singer-songwriter, better known as Mac Pontiac, tell the Straight that Doyle had recently undergone a minor heart procedure, and was given a clean bill of health after a visit to the hospital this weekend. He died on Sunday (February 11).
As Mac Pontiac, Doyle was a fixture in Vancouver’s alt-country scene of the late '90s and early 2000s. He maintained a casual relationship with his own music, characteristically downplaying his enormous talent, but Doyle had the clout to bring in players of the calibre of drummer Jay Johnson, bassist Jamie Kosh, and pedal steel wizard Charlie Hase.
Doyle was perhaps more widely recognized as the man behind Bang-On, a wildly successful local business that specialized in T-shirts and other switched-on pop culture ephemera. Cherry Bomb on Granville Street was the booming flagship store for a small empire that began with an outlet above True Value Vintage on Robson Street, and grew to some 20 stores in locations including Toronto, San Francisco, and Atlanta.
Doyle's business savvy emerged early from his working class roots in the Ottawa Valley. As a preteen in the ‘70s he was profiled in the Ottawa Citizen for running a string of lemonade stands. Not too long after that he made a small fortune in Toronto as a street vendor specializing in a hat/scarf combo that he dubbed the "Original Paris Snoque”.
Among Doyle's last ventures was producing merchandise for the Tragically Hip’s farewell tour.
“He was a real street-level, carny-style entrepreneur who was just a brilliant business guy and could make anything work,” said Thomas Anselmi, who partnered with Doyle, Danny Fazio, and Mike Tottrup at Bang-On.
“And he was more talented as a singer-songwriter than ninety-nine percent of the people doing it and making that their thing,” Anselmi added. “All I gotta say is that they broke the fuckin’ mold. He was just a certain kind of classic character, like out of a movie or something. And he helped so many people and touched so many lives. His sphere of influence was truly huge.”
A short film about Doyle from 1996—titled "Girlfriend Town" after Mac Pontiac's signature song—can be seen on YouTube