Snooky Tynes:
Soul Sings the Family Man
 
Whether you're into Soul/Funk and R&B, or not, you'd probably recognise Cabbagetowner and "gigging" musician, Snooky Tynes. Snooky and Wife Odessa co - manage the Cabbagetown Community Arts Centre on Parliament Street from which the family of six, is regularly observed coming and going. Odessa is the current Program Director and Snooky; the facilitator, and he teaches children Karate. Amid the hustle and bustle of after school or evening activities, he also rehearses, records and plays music there.

A charming raconteur, Mr. Tynes has a wealth of stories to tell about his childhood and his developing love of music. He related the story of his family's big move from Nova Scotia to Toronto, where he started primary school on Wolseley Street, off Bathurst. "Those Nova Scotians loved to party on weekends! I remember people coming over every weekend and dancing, dancing, dancing! They'd give me a nickel for every performance I did, it was great!" He rapidly developed musically and was singing and performing on stage, as early as 1969. He remembers people being amazed at his well-rehearsed dance routine. At ten, he was a local celebrity.

Somewhere in that era, The Jackson Five came along and young Snooky was intensely sparked. His family had relocated to College Street and were living in the large house directly across from the fire hall. "Before Michael there didn't seem to be much encouragement for black kids to dance. Jackson made it possible for kids like me to have something to aspire to." Snooky would deposit the family's laundry at the local laundromat in "The Jewish Market" then run off to do a concert where he would perform to much applause from people in the Alexandra Projects. He would play tunes with friends; Gus Fanakis, David Greenland and Paul Olivera. He had a pair of bongos, they; various guitars. The boys would emulate The Jacksons, The Beatles and The Osmond Brothers. Then Snooky would collect his waiting laundry and go home.

"I finally met a guy named Bill Fresca. He got me started on drums. His father was a professional wrestler and a musician. Bill could play drums like nobody's business, he was on The Ed Sullivan show in grade five..He had talent! His father set me behind this big, huge drum kit and I practised there every day after school. You know, he saved me, there was so much racism, little sneaky kinds of racism things. I'd be chased home after school, kids yelling 'Get Blacky! Get the black guy!' so he said...'Just run to my house'. It was my
~ escapism from racism ~ play music!"

After the family's relocation to the Jane/Finch area in the early seventies, Snooky left school. His father insisted that if he were to end his school days at sixteen, he must go to work. He started with various jobs, dish washing, driving and even did a lengthy stint as a casket maker. After work he would hang out at the The Paramount Tavern on Spadina, to watch and learn.

The Paramount was a pivotal establishment for the black community in Toronto into the late seventies and early eighties. Noted local artist Bill Stapleton made many drawings of people dancing and having a great time there. The bar was eventually taken over in 1985 by "BunchoF**kingGoofs" the notorious Kensington punk band before it was sold and became a Liquor Store. "In those days, all the 'down home' Nova Scotians would go there to see the bands from New York. Helen Highwaters was the best, Last Days of Times and Crack of Dawn, the first Black Canadian band that made Chum FM." He would play first at The Duke on Queen, then the Paramount and many other bars and restaurants gaining experience, "holding down the groove" and developing his "chops."

In 1989 while dancing on CITY TV's Electric Circus, Snooky and Odessa met. They fell in love, married and eventually had four children. In the tradition of The Jackson Five, The Osmonds and many other variety performers, Snooky and family have become The Tynes Family Band. Snooky and his children have elaborate costumes and routines and they have performed at many Cabbagetown events such as The Cabbagetown Cultural Festival. Snooky, with the Soul Express has performed regularly on Breakfast TV and has fronted James Brown's band on more than one occasion. He has also preformed with such notables as The Ink Spots, Billy Preston and others.

Does Odessa sing too? "I'm too shy to do all that stuff... I design and sew the stage clothes...and I handle the sound! Of course, I think they're great...they're my kids! They rehearse hard...they're aware of their goals...I just love them!"

The Tynes Family Band has a demo available to producers and record companies. Interested parties can hear the band at the Parkway Restaurant on Parliament. In November on Wednesday nights, there will be open jam sessions there and Snooky invites musicians and music lovers to come down to play and have a great time. Snooky has another ambition as well. "I'd like to continue to work with people....be an ambulance driver or a paramedic." Toronto's first R&B Paramedic? Go Snooky!!

You can catch some of Snooky's action at www.snookytse.com or book the Tynes Family Band by calling 647.439.2770.