Recognizing a true local legend of the Vancouver music scene, the city has declared June 23 as Mel Warner Day.
Famous for bringing reggae, ska, and world music acts to the West Coast, Warner’s career spans four decades. If you remember the first time that you saw Damian Marley, Byron Lee, Beenie Man, Jimmy Cliff, or Toots and the Maytals in Vancouver, chances are good you can thank Warner’s Melo Productions for bringing them to town.
On the local front the promoter has been a relentless champion of homegrown acts like Soul Survivors, Small Axe, and Tropical Breeze.
In an official proclamation, Mayor Kennedy Stewart announced Mel Warner Day with, “Mel Warner has over the last four decades, through his efforts as a concert promoter, introduced new music and sounds to Vancouver’s multicultural tapestry and provided cultural spaces where Caribbean arts and culture has been showcased through his events.”
Also cited was Warner’s long-running Caribbean Sounds radio show on CRFO, and his Turtles Running Club, which in addition to raising money for cancer research, operates as a mentoring group for participating kids.
Mel Warner Day coincides with the promoter’s induction into the British Columbia Entertainment Hall of Fame as a pioneer, which includes a plaque on Granville Street.
As part of that Warner will be honoured at the Commodore on Thursday (June 23) before a performance by Bob Marley’s backing band the Wailers.
In recognizing both Mel Warner Day, and the British Columbia Entertainment Hall of Fame induction, Vancouver author Aaron Chapman described Warner as a game-changing visionary.
“There aren’t many people who you can point to and say they single-handedly made Vancouver a better place,” says Chapman. “But Warner as a local concert promoter is really responsible for bringing a lot of reggae and world beat music to Vancouver, introducing new sounds to the city, and taking a chance on some acts when the larger talent bookers didn’t,” said Chapman, a historian whose books include Live at the Commodore: the Story of Vancouver’s Historic Commodore Ballroom.
“That might have been easy in a place like Toronto with a bigger Caribbean Canadian population,” he continued, “but here in Vancouver—Warner did it by perseverance and his great taste in music. Other cities were not as fortunate to have somebody like him doing what he was doing at the grassroots level in the city, and we as a city are better for it.”
As part of the festivities the British Columbia Entertainment Hall of Fame will also throw a Mel Warner Day after-party on June 25 at the Imperial Theatre. Included in the night will be a second Vancouver performance by the Wailers.