Bernie LaBarge (b Bernard Leo Labarge). Guitarist, songwriter, singer, b Ottawa 11 March 1953. LaBarge attended school in Burlington, Ont; he began to teach himself guitar at age 11, and by 1967 was playing professionally. In his early career, he led and performed with a number of popular bands in Ontario, including Rain, Stem and Stingaree.
Guitarist and Recording Artist
A stylistically flexible guitarist, LaBarge is proficient in rock, R&B, blues and country styles. One of Canada's top studio guitarists, he has been a sideman on over 50 recordings, eg, for Kim Mitchell. He toured extensively throughout North America and New Zealand with The Irish Rovers through the 1980s and into the 1990s, and has also toured or recorded with Mitchell, Long John Baldry, Hagood Hardy, Cassandra Vasik, and other headliners. For television, LaBarge has performed on Fraggle Rock (1983-7), Care Bears, Twilight Zone, and Party with the Rovers (1983-6); on radio, he has been heard often on Danny Finkelman's 45s.
LaBarge's solo work includes his 1984 album Barging In (Sony), which was nominated for a Juno for most promising male vocalist. The album was later released in Europe by Long Island Records. His first solo release for WEA was "Dream Away," produced by Daniel Lanois, it was one of the most-played songs of 1981. He has also enjoyed success as a singer of commercial jingles for Coke, Pepsi, General Motors, Ford and Nissan; he sang a Coke jingle on the original Batman video.
Composer and Songwriter
Additionally a songwriter and composer, LaBarge's songs have been recorded by Long John Baldry ("Work for Me"), The Rovers ("Merry Bloody XMas") and Lisa Price ("Can't Hold On Forever"). He won the best R&B song category in the 1985 Canadian Songwriting Contest.
Beginning in 1994, LaBarge has performed weekly at Toronto's Orbit Room with the R&B group The Dexters (with whom he is known by the pseudonym Bernie Dexter); collectively they have backed up the 1996 Juno Hall of Fame and the 2003 Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame ceremonies. From 1987 to 1994 he played with Danny Balaka in the Danny B. Blues Band. LaBarge has been the leader (and producer) of the funk-R&B band The Stickmen since 2002. He counts Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, James Brown, Eric Clapton, and Jeff Beck among his influences.