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Canadian Heritage

Jim McHarg


James (JIM) McHARG (bassist) was born in 1927 in Glasgow, Scotland. He passed away in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on September 27, 2003. He started out playing drums and banjo before settling on the double bass as his major instrument, ultimately becoming recognized as one of Canada’s most respected traditional jazz bassists.

His earliest engagements were with Bournemouth England’s Pine City Stompers. He later returned to Scotland in the early ‘50s to lead the famous Clyde Valley Stompers until shortly before a move to Canada for a four-year stay in 1956. He returned to the U.K. in 1960 to work with some of the established players there and formed his own band in 1961, touring with them in Europe for the next year before permanently emigrating to Canada. He originally took up residence in Vancouver, moving to Toronto in the late 1960s, living and working there until his death in 2003. McHarg was associated with several bands throughout his career, but was probably best-known as founding leader of The Metro Stompers, a Dixieland band of several fellow Brits and Scots (including saxophonist Jim Galloway) playing their first gig at Toronto’s Penny Farthing during Coffee House hey-day in Yorkville. The group quickly became media favorites which resulted in their acquiring a solid following and gigs with the biggest touring names including Buck Clayton, Lonnie Johnson, Max Kaminsky, Bob Wilber, Lil Armstrong, Willie “The Lion” Smith, Vic Dickenson, and “Wild Bill” Davison at all of the leading venues in Toronto including frequently at the legendary Colonial Tavern.

Later relinquishing leadership of The Metro Stompers to Jim Galloway, McHarg went on to form the successful Midnight Special and Jim McHarg’s Maple Leaf Jazz Band. He was also a member of the Village Stompers and the Bourbon Street Buskers, and for several years during the 1980s, programmed the live jazz performance series at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre.

Jim McHarg’s Maple Leaf Jazz Band was featured in concert during the “Sound of Toronto Jazz” Series at the Ontario Science Centre on March 21, 1983.