Skelly passed away in his sleep on the morning of Tuesday, November 5 at the age of 59. The news traveled quickly in the tight-knit Manitoba music industry. Those who knew him shared a sense of profound loss, on both a personal and – for many – a professional level.
“Jack Skelly was well known and love by many Winnipeggers,” said Jeff Robson. “Whether he was working in record stores, promoting bands that he loved or working for MCA/Universal music for many years, Jack loved the music industry and it showed.”
Born in Halifax, Skelly moved with his parents to Winnipeg as a child. He was known to many as a pioneer in the city’s teen club scene in the 1960s, with regular appearances on Teen Dance Party on CJAY-TV, at a time when Neil Young and the Guess Who were just beginning their legendary careers. Skelly was known for recognizing talent early and fostering that talent.
“Jack was one of the 'old' breed, someone who saw that this city had much to offer in terms of the music that ran through its veins,” remarked local Juno Award-winning producer and owner of Lion’s Den Studio, Dan Donahue. “He understood that a healthy music community spread its influence in so many ways and one only need reflect upon the days during which he and his kind were front and centre amongst all that was happening.”
He was also a steadfast Blue Bomber supporter, nicknamed Captain Jack and leading a group of incredibly enthusiastic fans called the East Side Rowdies in the 1970s. He could often be found in the stands during home games with many of his friends.
Skelly was greatly respected for his tireless dedication to the local music industry, choosing to stay in Winnipeg and promote the wealth of this city’s talent. His efforts paved the way for the much of the successes that the Manitoba scene has experienced.
“During Jack's days, there were an astonishing number of us signed to major label deals and we were able to remain here because the infrastructure existed to make so many things possible,” continued Donahue. “Maybe it's time we honoured those who remained here and built something we fully understand was truly unique.”
Local musician Jeff Robson agrees. “His efforts helped many Winnipeg musicians to make a name for themselves, and many owe their success, at least in part, to Jack,” Skelly was driven by his passion for Manitoba music and his generousity towards those he came across.
“He really, really cared [about the Winnipeg music scene],” said veteran local deejay Howard Mandshein. “Whether you had a hit record or had a fledgling band, he sung the praises of everybody that had the ability to perform he would do whatever it took to have somebody listen to the band. He was extremely passionate and most importantly, it wasn’t about the commerce. He cared about the music. He always made time for whomever. Nobody was too small.”
Professional accomplishments aside, Skelly will be remembered for his unforgettable personality and as a true friend to many. He is survived by his wife, Flo, two sons and three step-children.
“He was humble, kind and generous,” said Robson. “His knowledge and love of music inspired me.”