Norm Burley

Norman George Beresford Burley was born in Neepawa, Manitoba in 1903. He attended Royal Military College and Queen's University, both located in Kingston, Ontario. His family lived in Vancouver's ritzy Shaughnessy neighbourhood and his father owned and operated a sawmill on False Creek called BC Fir and Cedar.

Burley fell in love with Canadian football at a time when the evolving sport was beginning to look more like the American game and less like rugby. He helped Queen's U win the 1924 Grey Cup defeating the Toronto Balmy Beach Beachers 11 to 3 before 5,978 fans at Toronto's Varsity Stadium.

Back in Vancouver, Burley was an assistant coach for the University of British Columbia's first football team and in 1929 he started Vancouver College's Fighting Irish grid-iron program.

Burley married his first wife Mona Beatrice Walton in 1926 and they had three daughters, including Patricia who married Art Phillips a mover and shaker in Vancouver's investment and political arenas.

During World War II, Burley ran the family company and did not join the fight overseas, although BC Fir and Cedar's lumber contributed to the war effort.

Burley's first wife died in 1957 and Norm began living year round at the family summer home in Sechelt, B.C. – a small, seaside village 72 kms north of Vancouver, on the Sunshine Coast. Sechelt can only be reached by ferry, so it is somewhat isolated.

Burley met his second wife, Maggie Marchuk in the village. She was 20 years younger than him and had once been a telephone operator in Sechelt and later owned a florist shop.

Maggie's two sisters Polly and Anne and their husbands Les Chamberlin (forest ranger) and Ted Kurluk (electrical and plumbing contractor) all became investors in Zero Records, which raises the question: how did a group of Sechelters with seemingly no ties to the music business, get involved in the creation of a country music superstar?

Norm Burley was not a musician, although one of his relatives says that as a youth he liked to bang about on the drums.

Did Burley see Loretta on Buck Owen's TV show out of Tacoma and start a record label specifically to record her, as the country singer suggests in her book Coal Miner's Daughter? How could Burley build such a company if he had no experience in the entertainment industry? A much more likely scenario is that Vancouver logger and business man Ray Chamberlin met music producers Grashey and Williams in the city and brought the proposal of a label venture to the Sunshine Coast where Ray had family, friends and timber operations.

Zero Records was born in the fall of 1959, soared briefly when Loretta's "Hony Tonk Girl" charted #14 on Billboard in 1960 and was dead by 1961.

Burley's good friend Trevor Birch recalls hearing that Zero's investors sank $25,000 into the label and Burley paid back his partners when the company failed. A Zero Records document entitled Statement of Receipts and Disbursements for the Period Sept 1, 1959 – Dec 31, 1960 shows the start up burning through at least $26,005.90 before it imploded.

(Such an investment in today's dollar's would be worth more than $200,000.)

One of the expenses listed on the Zero document is for $3,400 paid to Agnes Mackie.

Loretta mentions the woman in her book Coal Miner's Daughter. "Mack" was a redheaded publicist that Burley hired in Seattle to accompany Loretta on a promotional tour for the record "Honky Tonk Girl." The singer claims Mack told her to wear a bikini at some of their radio station appearances and to "date" some of the deejays. The publicist's unorthodox methods frightened Loretta, so Burley fired Agnes.

But it was the hiring of Ms. Mackie that upset Grashey. In My Rambling Heart, Grashey claims that Burley hired the redhead without his approval. As president of the company, Grashey felt that all final decisions regarding personnel were his. Burley, as the main money man, disagreed. If Burley had been a hands-off investor at Zero's outset, he was by the time Loretta began to get hot, a hands-on one. Norm would not allow Grashey to go back down to Hollywood to prune The Tree Tops' recording of "You Look Forward to Your Wedding". (The song was garnering favourable reviews, but radio stations felt it was too long for airplay.) Nor, according to Grashey, would Burley approve the opening of a U.S. office for Zero. It was a power play move by the former timber baron and Grashey felt he had no option but to resign.

Norm lived out his retirement on the Sunshine Coast. An avid Boy Scout since 1912, he was vice-president of the Scouts' Vancouver-Coast region in 1976. He served as a Sechelt alderman in 1959 and 1960, and on the Boards of Recreation and Variance. He was also chair of Sechelt's Centennial Committee in 1971 and involved in seniors' housing. In 1972, he was the first recipient of Sechelt's Good Citizen Award for his years of service to the community.

There is a cul-de-sac in Sechelt named Burley Place.

Norm passed away at age 83 in 1985.

The Other Zero Investors

Ray and Harriet Chamberlin

Ray was a Vancouver logger who dabbled in other ventures such as a gravel operation and, in the 1950's, a small mill that operated at the north end of the Lions Gate Bridge. It is not known how Ray first crossed paths with Grashey and Williams, but they were all involved in the short-lived Jury and Zero Records labels.

The timber broker-surveyor-expediter mostly operated from a float camp where he made deals to log relatively small acreages – a business known in the B.C. vernacular as gypo logging.

Don Grashey maintained that Ray was instrumental in persuading Norm Burley to join the Zero enterprise.

Art & Patricia Phillips

Art's first wife was Norm Burley's youngest daughter Patricia.

The family connection is how he came to be an investor in Zero Records.

Although this venture did not prove lucrative , many of his other ones did, for Art co-founded the Vancouver investment firm of Phillips, Hager & North in 1964 and by 2011 the company was one of the west coast's leading wealth managers, overseeing $86.8 billion in assets.

Phillips was also the mayor of Vancouver from 1973 to 1977 and was elected to the Parliament of Canada as a Liberal party member for a short term in 1979. After his defeat in Ottawa in 1980, he returned to private life at his investment firm.

His second wife, Carole Taylor, served as a Vancouver alderman in the 1980s and then as chair of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. In the 2005 she was elected to the British Columbia Legislative Assembly as a Liberal and was subsequently appointed Minister of Finance in Premier Gordon Campbell's cabinet. Her three-year term as Chancellor of Simon Fraser University ends in 2014.

Les & Polly Chamberlin

Les was Ray's brother and Polly was Norm's second wife's (Maggie's) sister.

Both brothers were born in Gibsons and got into logging, although Les later became one of the first forest rangers on the Sunshine Coast.

Ted & Anne Kurluk

Anne was Maggie's sister.

Ted worked in the radio room of a ship that plied the waters between Vancouver and Vancouver Island until World War II began. Then he joined the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals and was stationed in Hong Kong. When the Japanese invaded the British colony after Pearl Harbour, Ted was taken prisoner and spent four grueling years in a POW camp. For an account of the RCCS ordeal in Asia read D. Burke Penny's book Beyond the Call.

After the war, Ted joined Anne in Sechelt. He was an electrical and plumbing contractor.

In a 2000 interview with Mike Harling, Ted says, [1959] was a bad time to start a record label. "It was during payola time. Norm [Burley] provided money for payola to a couple deejays but it didn't get us too far. It got to a point where we couldn't afford to pay these people. Another thing too, distributors would order a bunch of records and then not pay us. We had a lot of records in a warehouse in Bellingham. I don't even know where all that vinyl is now."

Ted also recalls seeing Loretta perform at Bill's Tavern in Blaine, Washington and being so impressed that he took Norm down there to see her as well. "We had a company meeting and we all liked her, so we decided to give her a contract."

Loretta contradicts this in her 2012 interview with Rob Howatson: "They were all very nice people because I know that Norm Burley never did come down to Bill's Tavern to see me, but everybody that was in on that record, just about everyone who owned a part of that record company, they were down there just about every weekend to see me. And to make sure that I was being treated right and all this and that. They were very nice people."

Ted passed away in 2002.