Ben Kerr, RIP

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Anybody in the past two decades who has passed by the Yonge and Bloor intersection knew Benn Kerr. He was a Toronto legend and a Toronto icon. He stood singing his old country tunes day in and day out come rain or shine. Every civic election since 1985 he ran for mayor, and usually grabbed a respectible chunk of the popular vote. He died at his home on Friday.

Kerr, in his 70s, had been retaining water in his limbs and moved to the basement of his home because he couldn’t climb stairs. He refused to go the hospital.

More at Canoe.

Rest in Peace Benn Kerr.

7 Comments so far

  1. Randy (unregistered) on June 27th, 2005 @ 9:43 pm

    It was more than 7 or eight years ago, but I could still hear Ben singing a tune. I remember the first time I saw him and thought he was Stompin Tom Connors. I was wrong, he was better.

    He was up beat, vibrant and charming and always had a warm, “Hello and Thank-you” for passers by.
    I wish I could go back in time, to see him perform his last show on his famous corner. What more could be better than enjoying a hotdog, while listing to a Toronto legend.

    He may not have won the race for mayor, but he won over our ears and hearts for all who say him. Let heaven flow all the Cayenne Pepper Cocktail’s you could drink.

    You deserve it!
    God Bless


  2. Judy2 (unregistered) on June 28th, 2005 @ 3:02 pm

    I’ll miss the old busker at Yonge and Bloor, the one with never a discouraging word.

    Ben, I’ve been to hospitals a few times and I don’t blame you for staying out of them. On the other hand, it would have been nice to have you there at Yonge and Bloor a little longer.

    Ben, wherever you are, do something exciting and remember, you don’t have to be Jewish to be happy.


  3. Shaun (unregistered) on August 11th, 2005 @ 1:24 am

    I haven’t seen Ben out in the past year, but I haven’t been around as much.

    I can recall however when someone would toss him a coin, he’d always say ‘thank-you, tonights your night, make a wish!’.


  4. Mark Corum (unregistered) on August 24th, 2005 @ 2:33 am

    How sad to read the news that my dear friend, “The King of Cayenne” has played his last note on the corner of Yonge & Bloor.

    I met Ben in the late 90’s when he came to Bakersfield, California to record with the world famous Buck Owen’s Buckaroos.

    Walking home from the Crystal Palace, he noticed a girl on a billboard that I had designed for Hall Ambulance. It was celebrating her 10 year employment anniversary.

    Ben was so struck by her image he wrote the song, “The Girl on the Billboard in Bakersfield.”

    For a couple years Ben would visit and send tapes of his performances including those on the Joey Reynolds Radio Show. My boss successfully ran for Mayor of Bakersfield and the fringe candidate himself came and performed at the celebration party.

    I would appreciate knowing if anyone puts together some sort of memorial or tribute to Ben. I have many photos that he sent me. My favorite is a picture of him with Les Paul at the Iridium in New York.

    Till we meet again, my friend.

    A cayenne-pepper cocktail toast in your honor!


  5. Dave Corcoran/The Boogie Man (unregistered) on September 7th, 2005 @ 11:41 am

    Anyone who spoke with Ben knew he was a deep, spiritual, horny old coot. I thought his originality was non-plussed, with a five string guitar, missing it’s “G” string, and his commitment to minimalism made him special.

    I have a box of about 30 or 40 cassettes Ben sent me. Say Hello To Rose, Don’t Drink The Doan River Water, and Faith Of A Mustard Seed were my favorites. His Sweet Marie episode was fun to
    follow.

    He left me with golden memories and a quarter spoon a day pepper habit.

    God Bless Ben and all the folks who grieve for him as I do.


  6. Dave Corcoran/The Boogie Man (unregistered) on September 7th, 2005 @ 11:43 am

    My e-mail is :

    daydaycorcoran@yahoo.com

    Dave Corcoran
    The Boogie Man


  7. Barry Dunn (unregistered) on October 11th, 2005 @ 2:49 pm

    Someone at work sent me a note saying they saw a large sign in memory of Ben Kerr at Yonge and Bloor. It reminded me of the first time I saw him – it was on the Ed’s Night Party when it was on Community Cable 10. When Ed the Sock asked where he came from, Ben told him it was from the same place as the Bluenose – Liverpool, N.S. Right away something clicked in my brain – the Bluenose was built in Lunenburg, not Liverpool. From that moment on, I made sure I watched Ben whenever he appeared on the show, just to hear what he was gonna’ say. The world, and definitely Toronto, needs more characters like him. I miss him.



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