New Years Day 1961


Lee Van Leer (C. J. Feeney) died in January.

In the obit it said his bandmates broke down his apartment door after he wasn’t seen for more than a week.

I saw him play in those early just-moved-to-Toronto days where Grossman’s Tavern made me feel much more like a musician than York University ever did. I haven’t walked into the place since sometime in the 90s but I remember this guy very well for he had a unique style – the same signature that made Jeff Healey a spectacle – played the guitar with his thumb – the fingering hand not the strumming hand.

The 60s were such a mystery to me. I was born then but grew up in the 70s always feeling like I missed something more important 10 years earlier. People who actually were connected to living and making music then held a lot of fascination for me. He was one of them and I could see success didn’t shine its lights on his life yet he had the sort of plastered smile on his face that survivors of airline crashes tend to live with. Everything is beautiful from here on in because I’m still here.

The novelty of his thumb playing was striking but anyone with a good musical sense could tell his actual musicality was right on the money and his tone showed he was a bit of a scientist. Looking through his blog the most amusing thing is every comment on any posting seems to also be by him. I admire a man as delusional about self publishing as I am.


Don Paveling & Declan Doran: Heroes, IMHO.

On New Year’s Day 1961, used car dlr. Ernie Barnhart introduced me to Ronnie Hawkins.
I heard “Robbie” Robertson play his Tele and on the leads I thought it sounded “thin”
and I formulated A THE0RY, to wit: all u need4 a gd blues tone is 2 pickups & a metal
playing surface on your bridge. “` ` ““` ` “ ““` ““ “ ` “““` ` ` ““`
“““` “““` “ ““ “““. I mean, look at Freddy & Albert King! Don P. & Declan D. played ’54-56 LP gold-tops when others around them were buying Teles, and their tone was excellent! SO, I drew a CONCLUSION. Soon Mike Bloomfield, E. Clapton, J. Page & J. Beck were also playing LP’s and sounding great. TONE to the BONE, my brothers! Case closed, nya-nya, nya nya-nya. I’d rather hear these gtrs. than attend the Sandy Claws Parade ANY year!






  1. I first met C J (Conrad John) on the steps of the Grab Bag in the summer of ’68. It was at 2-3 am and he was playing a Gibson 445. We instantly became friends. We sang once together at Grossmans singing the Meow Mix song as The Kittens. We did a bunch of recording at a store front that used to be Matt Muldoons. It was ’69 or ’70, I can’t remember. I still have the raw masters. I was planning to make CD’s of them as a present. Too late now.
    No words can express my feelings .
    larry m roy


    1. I grew up in CJ’s neighborhood in the fifties. I lived on Mcgillvery Avenue and CJ I believe lived on Carmichael. I recall when I would be walking to public school seeing this dude walk down the street hunched over with his ducktail haircut leather jacket combat boots bent over and obviously heading somewhere very very important to him. A few years later as I got into music we would go over to CJ’s house where his basement was full of instruments including a Hammond Organ guitars drums… a playground for musicians. I didn’t know very much back then about guitar playing but did notice that he played with his thumb which we all thought was very bizarre. I now live in Boston and stay connected to my many musician friends in TO…Sonnie Bernardi, The Apostles, Vic Semerjian of The Blues Faction, but I always wondered what happened to CJ. I am saddened to hear of his passing.
      Hirsh Gardner


  2. We were looking for “Uncle” Lee (as my family all referred to him) for about two weeks. I was at his door during that time, unaware that it was unlocked. I called hospitals from Scarborough to Oakville trying to locate him, believing he might be at his daughter’s in that area. I called the police to say he was missing. A second call, from our friend D’Arcy, convinced them to check his apartment. The door was not broken down, but the handle was turned revealing an awful sight. I played music with him from 1985 until 2016 (his last actual gig was with my band New Year’s Eve ’15) and was fortunate to not only be the drummer on his final album, but had him as a guest artist on my most recent CD (his final recording). We miss him very much. L. Benny Sanders and family.


Leave a Reply to Hirsh Gardner Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *