R.I.P. Canadian Music Manager William "Skinny" Tenn
Hayden, Blue Rodeo's Glenn Milchem and more have paid tribute
Published Jul 15, 2021William "Skinny" Tenn — a Canadian music industry veteran who worked as a manager, A&R, booking agent, radio announcer and more across a career of over 50 years — has died.
Tenn's death was confirmed by Hayden, who wrote ahead of sharing a formal announcement, "He was my manager for 18 years, my father-in-law, my greatest cheerleader, but mostly my dear friend. Who will I play my new songs for now?"
In a respective tribute, Blue Rodeo's Glenn Milchem called Tenn "one of the best people I've ever known in the Canadian music business," adding, "Skinny was about the music and the people who made it, first and foremost. How a guy with a heart that big managed to survive in the music business for so long is a mystery to me, but I'm glad he did."
Lowest of the Low, who were once managed by Tenn, wrote that he "ranks up there with the Toronto indie music titans — Elliot Lefko, Dave Bookman, Yvonne Matsell and Skinny — holding up the four corners of the Toronto indie music firmament. Joe Strummer said 'without people you're nuthin'' It's so true. And without people like Skinny — the local and national music scene would've been less than zero."
This past June, the Canadian Independent Music Association (CIMA) honoured Tenn with the 2021 Builder Award, given to "trailblazers who have earned the industry's genuine gratitude and respect for paving the way for today's music professionals to thrive, shaping our love for music while helping to define the Canadian music industry."
Tenn began his career as a radio announcer and music director at CKOM in Saskatoon in the mid-'60s, a position he would later hold at CKCK in Regina. In 1969, he would leave radio to move east to Toronto as manager of Witness Inc., an early group of Streetheart's Kenny Shields.
The 1970s saw Tenn become a founding partner of Toronto booking agencies Music Factory and Music Shoppe, who represented artists including Rush, Lighthouse, McKenna Mendelson Mainline and Fludd. Tenn would manage Fludd for seven years, a period over which the band racked up 13 charted singles.
In 1990, Tenn became creative director of Frank Davies' joint venture between the Music Publisher (TMP) and MCA Music Publishing in the United States, a partnership that represented the likes of Jane Siberry, Murray McLaughlin and Ian Thomas. He would continue his work in management all the while, working with artists including Pukka Orchestra, Mendelson Joe and Andrew Cash.
A year later, Tenn would partner with Sandy Pandya to form Pandyamonium/William Tenn Artist Management. Clients included Lowest of the Low, the Waltons and By Divine Right, with Tenn's roster growing to include Hayden and his Hardwood Records roster, Hawksley Workman, Luther Wright & the Wrongs and Serena Ryder.
In 2014, he would found licencing company Songplugger. More recently, Tenn partnered with Pandya's ArtHaus Music to produce nine-episode podcast The Skinny Spinner presents The Birth of Rock 'n' Roll.
Find tributes to Tenn from Hayden, Milchem, Lowest of the Low and more below.
We lost our William "Skinny" Tenn earlier this week. He was my manager for 18 years, my father - in-law, my greatest cheerleader, but mostly my dear friend.— Hayden Desser (@haydendesser) July 14, 2021
Who will I play my new songs for now?
A formal announcement will be released tomorrow.
Love you Skin. pic.twitter.com/JcbJrqfAbS
All hail Skinny Tenn. He's in On a Cold Road for those who read it. Canadian and Saskatchewan legend. Rest in Peace. Beauty dude.— @hockeyesque (@hockeyesque) July 14, 2021