Canadian Music Trade - December-January 2022 - Page 18


By Ahmed Haroon


Ray Verrall is a skillful guitar and bass player at heart , but most importantly , he ’ s also a sales maestro for many MI brands across western Canada . These days , Verrall is the Canadian sales manager for Larrivée , Morgan Guitars , and Tech 21 , as well as western Canadian sales manager for Levy ’ s Leathers , Blaze Music , and also represents Cordoba Music Group and Korg USA .

The Vancouver native has been playing music professionally since the age of 15 , and also happened to join the musician ’ s union by the age of 16 . “ My parents had been hugely supportive of my musical career ever since I was in elementary school . I ’ m a bass player , classically trained , and after high school I had to make the hard decision to either be a musician as a living or join the ranks of the music industry somehow , which is the route I took ,” he recalls .
Verrall spent the summer working in construction after he graduated from high school . Later , an opportunity arose to work at Northwest Music in receiving and sales when a friend of his was leaving the company to pursue other endeavours . “ When he quit , he softened the blow with the boss by saying , ‘ I ’ m leaving but my friend Ray is ready to take my place ,’ thus starting my career on the non-music-making side of the fence . It wasn ’ t quite what I had wanted , though , in the way of a music retail job , since Northwest was more school band orientated , with not a guitar or bass in sight .” In 1977 , he was offered another sales position at the local rock shop , Iron Music , where he ’ d end up becoming a manager for another four years before taking up an opportunity to become a B . C . representative for Yamaha Music .
“ I spent the ‘ 80s with Yamaha , after which I set up and ran the retail rock and roll side of Tom Lee Music , managing the Rok Pit and overseeing the guitar / drum area of the company , which up to that point was strictly a piano house . After that , I was given the opportunity to be back in the wholesale / distributor pool , handling western Canada for Wescan Music , which is where I hung my hat for about 14 or so years .”
From there , Verrall moved onto to replace Tom Levy at Levy ’ s Leathers . “ Levy ’ s being the absolute forefront of the strap and bag industry made my decision to make the move an easy one . Being a captive rep had plenty of downsides and the chance to be totally independent was definitely my preference .”
Along the way , among the greatest professional highlights for Verrall , he says , has been attending product conventions where he ’ s able to demonstrate lines that he ’ s been passionate about . Trade shows such as NAMM and the previously active MIAC come to mind . “ Also , going back to the ‘ 70s when I was at Iron Music , I got to know the top players at the time who spent many hours there …. Prism , Loverboy , Trooper , Jerry Doucette , a young Bryan Adams when he was just the lead vocalist for Sweeny Todd before rocketing to stardom , Bob Geldof when he was the music editor of the local music rag the Georgia Strait , before forming the Boomtown Rats , creating Live Aid , and becoming ‘ Sir Bob ’, and Fred Turner from BTO , who even helped us out once when we were short staffed . They were all great folks .”
Another career highlight that sticks out for Verrall is when he “ had the pleasure of being Tom Scott ’ s bass player for a week in Calgary and at the 1987 MIAC show in Toronto along with four other Yamaha staff .” Yamaha were demonstrating the launch of the WX7 MIDI wind controller at the time and “ had brought up Tom Scott and the LA Express to promote [ the instrument ].”
Verrall has always been a proponent of face-to-face business and establishing key relationships with retail clients , buyers , and wholesalers or distributors , which he has developed throughout his career in the industry and which was majorly affected
by the pandemic . “ I wouldn ’ t expect a store to give me decent business if I don ’ t actually get out of my chair and physically plunk myself down in front of them . I shouldn ’ t expect large orders if I ’ m not willing to visit the stores in Prince George , Edmonton , Winnipeg , or wherever .”
Outside of his work , Verrall is a happily married man to wife Louise , with whom he has a son and two stepsons , and he lives in the town of Ladner in South Delta , B . C . “ Leisure time is spent quite a bit around the house ( especially over the last couple of years ), since I love to garden and work on the yard … an ongoing project . I golf badly when I have the chance ,” he jokes . “ And as for travel , I ’ m just waiting for the world to get better before that happens again . I ’ d just like the country to get back to some semblance of order . I miss seeing my stores out of province since it ’ s what I ’ ve done for so long .”
Ahmed Haroon is an Editorial & Content Assistant at Canadian Music Trade .