Doug Riley makes PEI his full-time home
by the editor, Peter Richards
When I visited Doug Riley in his Eastern Kings County home in June, workmen were busy transforming the century farmhouse from Doug and wife Jan’s summer retreat into their year-round home. Doug showed me the music room, which is just about large enough for his very grand, grand piano, a massive Hammond B3 organ, and a well-used and (I think) famous Wurlitzer keyboard. On the walls were mounted framed gold and platinum records given to Doug for his work with Anne Murray, Gordon Lightfoot and Bob Seger. A U.S. platinum record marks sales of one million copies.
A summary of the highlights of Doug Riley’s musical career as a musician, composer and producer fills two pages of the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada (www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com), but it all began when Doug was three years old, and his parents bought a piano. By age four Doug was studying the Royal Conservatory program, and these studies continued until he attended the University of Toronto to study composition with Canadian composer John Weinzweig.
But all through these years of study, Doug had been leading a double life in music. When he was six years old he began listening to his father’s jazz records, and in a few years he was mastering the stride piano styles of American greats such as James P. Johnston, and Fats Waller. In the late 1950s Doug was in Montreal studying pipe organ when he heard the music of electric organist Jimmy Smith. Another arrow in the jazz quiver. Fast forward to 1967 when, at the age of 22, Doug was hired to perform on and produce an album for none other than Ray Charles. As Doug modestly says “that opened some doors.”
Soon Doug became a one-man centre of music production in Canada (with a few years off as a member of Bob Seger’s Silver Bullet Band). Besides working with all of Canada’s top musicians, Doug wrote commercials, film scores and “serious music” including, at the request of Placido Domingo, an arrangement for the London Philharmonic of a piece for tenor and piano by Tchaikovsky.
Doug continues to perform (PEI Jazz & Blues Festival, Indian River Festival), produce (new CD by David Clayton Thomas) and write (with pencil and manuscript). On PEI he has worked with Island musicians like Roy Johnstone, Joey Kitson, Teresa Doyle and Peter MacDougall, and others. Keep your ears open.