Music has been a huge part of John Emms’ life going back to his youth.
As a long-time music columnist for The Daily Press, Emms once wrote he got hooked on to rock ‘n’ roll around 1960 when he heard “What’d I Say” by Ray Charles on the radio.
Another musical turning point for him was seeing The Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan Show back in February 1964.
He would pick up the guitar and become a singer and songwriter himself – but never did he dream that he would be asked to help judge professional recording artists for a national music awards show.
On Monday night, that distant prospect became a reality. Emms virtually judged the 2020 JUNOs held in Saskatoon. His category was Best Blues Album.
“It was pretty exciting to be asked. I guess a colleague or someone in the music community suggested that I probably could judge. Then I get this letter and it says how would you like to judge the 2020 JUNOs. I thought this has to be a joke. This can’t be true,” he said. “My first initial thought was they had the wrong email address … I called my wife into the room and I said, ‘Well this can’t be true. What is this? Is this a joke?
“My wife couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it.”
Emms told The Daily Press he has always been a fan of music and it has been an essential part of his life since the late ’60s. He would listen to Canadian artists and watch concerts and award shows on television because there were not many concerts happening in Timmins back then.
“Throughout the years, you get to know a lot of the artists … then you get asked to be a judge of these people that you’ve listened to all these years, it’s pretty cool,” he said. “To actually be a judge of their work, it just seems unreal.”
Emms was nominated to be a judge at the JUNOs in November 2019, but he does not know who put his name forward. He said he does not want to find out. As for what he was looking forward to ahead of the evening, he said he likes watching the live performances and enjoys some of the comedic comments from singer-songwriter Jann Arden.
“I’m basically twiddling my thumbs waiting for the next live performance and now this year, I don’t know exactly how many live performances there will be.”
Emms has also accepted to be on this year’s panel for The Maple Blues Awards. He has been doing it for two years.