Glenn Parfitt, co-founder of the Royal City Music Project website, holds up one of the many posters that are part of the material collection relating to Victoria’s musical history from roughly 1950 onward. Don Descoteau/Monday Magazine

Iconic Victoria rock music archivist ready to pass the torch

Royal City Music Project co-founder Glenn Parfitt wants valuable cultural material preserved

His basso profundo voice resonating through the cafe, Glenn Parfitt digs through the memory banks for a nugget about his days managing Victoria nightclubs.

He’s the ultimate storyteller, the guy you want to sit next to at a party and he seems to know just about everyone in town, or at least knows someone who knows them.

“There’s about one half of a degree of separation for me in Victoria,” he jokes.

The kind of stories he’s best at are about the city’s rock music scene. He’s been a music guy for decades, although he’s the first to admit his own talents do not extend to playing an instrument.

Glenn Parfitt in the lobby at the S.L. Feldman and Associates agency in Vancouver in 1986. He worked for the company for a few years. Photo by Debbie Sherwood/Royal City Music Project

Parfitt has managed bands, run agencies and clubs in Vancouver, managed the Sunset/Wharfside and Oly’s cabarets in Victoria in the 1980s, and later managed talent as an agent with Feldman and Associates. After walking away from that job in 1989 – “I didn’t like who I was becoming” – he landed in the radio business, selling advertising for 100.3 The Q and helping launch Hot 103.

In 2002, a year after he suffered a heart attack and had a pacemaker installed, he was chatting with some friends about bands and shows from days gone by.

“There were some crazy stories and I was thinking to myself, somebody’s got to write this down,” he recalls. He called up friend and guitarist Ross Damude and together with bassist Ken Sherwood they got to compiling what would become the Royal City Music Project (RCMP).

In the years since, and with the help of LiveVictoria.com’s Nev Gibson, it has become an online treasure trove of Victoria’s musical history (rcmusicproject.com). There you’ll find archival information, recordings and videos of bands, musicians, shows and venues from roughly 1950 onward.

On top of the online archive, Parfitt has boxes of band posters, recordings, photos and more that he has collected or been gifted over the years, by musicians and family members of players who’ve passed on.

He suffered a stroke last year and is taking life a little slower. Given his health, he’s been working on a secession plan to pass along the virtual and physical keys to this musical treasure box he co-created. While Gibson and company continue to jointly curate new material for both LiveVictoria and the RCMP site, Parfitt wanted the historical aspects of the collections preserved.

Working the phones during his days as a music promoter and band manager. Photo courtesy Glenn Parfitt/Royal City Music Project

Longtime friend and business partner Ron Wright, a former Victoria nightclub owner and concert promoter, contacted the University of Victoria archives about Parfitt’s desire to work with a professional organization interested in safekeeping the material. The first delivery was made to UVic in late June and Parfitt hopes to expand the connection to the university, electronically and through possible educational scholarships.

The relationship is in its initial stages, says Lara Wilson, the director of special collections and university archivist at UVic. But she is excited about the potential uses of the material.

“Tangible history is something that moves people and is very important for instruction and research,” she says. “It’s cultural. The use of recorded music in our society and in how people relate to each other is very important. We can all think about ways we connected with friends over music. It’s part of being human.”

In 2017 the Royal B.C. Museum, recognizing that the musical archive had a broad historical appeal, gave Parfitt a platform to talk about the history of rock ‘n’ roll in Victoria. He was shocked to see a standing-room only crowd at the event, including many familiar faces from his days in the music business. He followed that talk with a successful Summer of Love lecture and concert presentation at the Alix Goolden Hall, focusing on 1967.

Part of the physical collection he has amassed is going to the BC Archives, “so they will be able to broaden their collection of music,” Parfitt says. He was inspired by learning the Archives had accepted a large donation of music and other collectibles in the 1980s.

While this long-term project has been a lot of work for him and others over the years, “it’s really made a lot of people happy,” he says. “I’ve put bands back together, brought people back together and allowed them to remember a simpler, happier time of their life … I kind of look at this as a public service for old musicians.”

The concept is clearly popular. A recent month saw the website attract 250,000 unique visitors, with roughly one million hits. In the early days, Parfitt says, the site saw slow, organic growth, “but lately it’s just growing by leaps and bounds.”

If you’d like to submit information about a Victoria band or musician, send an email to Parfitt at rcmusicproject@shaw.ca or call him at 250-216-0992.



editor@mondaymag.com

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