Me during the broadcast of "Much On Demand" outside in front of the Muchmusic building in Toronto, ON on September 25, 2003.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Canadian Musicians Moving To The U.S.


Rob Williams did a writeup in The Winnipeg Sun recently on famous Winnipeg drummer Brent Fitz, who played with ex-Kiss member Bruce Kulick in Union (meeting Bruce through Lenita Erickson) and has since gone on to play with everyone from Vince Neil of Motley Crue to ex-Ratt lead singer Stephen Pearcy. That writeup inspired me to send Rob an e-mail and to post a version of that e-mail here on something I've always wondered about - just how do unknown Canadian musicians like Brent manage to cross the border legally (or illegally) to join rock bands in the United States?

In Rob's article on Brent, he interviews him and quotes him as saying, " I did the old illegal alien thing....."

That sounds intriguing. Canadian musicians like Brent, who at the time he first crossed the border, are not stars with H1 visas, but are basically just working Canadian musicians. How do they avoid crossing the border illegally as a visitor to play gigs or live in the U.S. without being deported permanently?

I read somewhere Neil Young went through the same situation. When he left Thunder Bay to go to California where he eventually hooked up with Buffalo Springfield, he told Customs at the border he was a visitor.

Obviously the ruse caught up with him at some point, and I can't find any mention of how he got out of it in any of his biographies. (That's just me skimming in the store, in case it's there and it's just me missing it.) His situation at the time he crossed the border would be roughly comparable to the point in Brent Fitz's career when he did it, i.e. no one knew who either of these guys were at their respective times. Remember, Neil Young was not anywhere near a star when he crossed the border, just a working Canadian musician.

So how do Canadian musicians, if they choose not to do things legally from the get go in this regard and just cross the border as a visitor illegally to work as a musician in the U.S., get out of it? Obviously lawyers are involved, but laws are laws, and they have been broken. Have Neil Young, Brent Fitz, or any other names we can think of paid hefty prices for what they've done? How do they get to the point where they can cross the border as a working musician legally without any hassles, as I assume Neil Young does today?

That was my story idea for Rob to tackle for The Winnipeg Sun. Maybe he could even do a MARIA seminar on it. But nothing yet. Hopefully in the future.....

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