Friday, October 21, 2016Overcast 12°C

Ben Kerr: A Toronto Legend Passes Away

Posted by Staff / June 21, 2005

ker.jpgDo you remember that old guy you used to see when you got off the subway at Yonge and Bloor? He was always there, singing away in that warbling voice with his mic and portable amp. He was even rumored to have been a candidate for mayor in every election since 1985. His name was Ben Kerr and he passed away in his 70's on Friday.

R.I.P Ben Kerr - the King of Cayenne.

Photo: Joe Warmington, Toronto Sun.



chris / June 21, 2005 at 07:52 pm
brokenengine / June 28, 2005 at 04:53 pm
Ben was an incredible man.

I had the honour of talking at length with him one evening a few years back. I told him about my bands show that evening at The Vox(used to be young and Dundonald, now a body building supply place), and he actually showed. We spoke more about his life, and he autographed a copy of his book "The Cayenne Pepper Cocktail Does It All".

He used to be harbour master(or a president or VP of the Harbourfront commision? I haven't read the book in awhile, so I might be a little off here). He was a staunch anti-smoker and was at the vangaurd of the movement to ban smoking in the offices of Toronto. He ran across the US wearing a gas mask to get publicity for his cause(and to promote a country song that he wrote, "Boots keep on Walking"). He was an accomplished songwriter.

You MUST get a copy of his book. It's a light read, but fascinating, if only for the fact that it reminds you that there is much more to people than what meets the eye. He will certainly be missed.

Goodbye Ben. May your "Boots Keep On Walking".
Mike / October 13, 2006 at 07:37 pm
I would to find a copy of the song he sang about Toronto. If anyone knows where I can find it, or if you know the words yourself, please let me know. Tonight was the first time I heard of him. I watched a piece on CP24 about him. It seemed like he was probably the nicest guy in Toronto. Wish we had more people like that around.
jim peterson / June 18, 2007 at 01:09 am
I was in the RCAF with Ben in the early 1960's. This was at Whitehorse, YT.

I often where he got to. Very sad to hear of his passing.
Gerry Lennox / July 20, 2007 at 07:46 pm
<p>I guess this comes a little late, but it is very sad to hear of Mr. Kerr&#39;s passing.</p><p>&nbsp;</p>
Jennifer Kerr / November 30, 2009 at 10:28 am
I am Ben's granddaughter. Ben was a lot of things to a lot of people, a good friend, a savior, a song writer, a hero, but to me he was so much more. To me he was a grandfather one of the few links i had to my fathers family and one of the most important people in my life. Now Ben is a great grandfather and his legacy continues so while people talk about him and all the wonderful things he has done in his life, he is still with me in the two granddaughters he left behind Shiann Kerr (last name Kerr in honor of his last wish) and Makayla Robinson. We had a long conversation the day he died but all he said to me was talk to you later and I would just like to say the daughter i was pregnant with the day you died does have your last name and we all miss you so very much. I would like to thank the music station that got me in touch with him on the day he died it meant so very much.
tony westbrook / July 6, 2010 at 07:36 am
I would always listen to him and also wonder how he could stand for so long and sing
his beautiful little songs, his stamina was incredible . but then it must have been the cayenne pepper. I feel he is standing on a corner in heaven singing now God bless Ben.
S / July 6, 2010 at 08:56 am
A few years before Mr. Kerr passed away, one of the announcers at CFRB brought him over for an interview. The radio guy imagined a fluff, funny kind of talk but was amazed how Ben was well spoken, articulate and the fact he traveled in the states in the winter months. It put the announcer in a sobering position as he was surprised that Mr. Kerr deemed so much respect.

I personally spent time listening to him at Yonge & Bloor and while dropping change for him, I always said "thank you." He seemed to enjoy that.

I'm sure he's singing his tunes to the angels. God bless.

PS: I always voted for him. I've never been impressed of mainstream media and their 'chosen few.' Imagine if Ben had become mayor!
Donna Sweeney / January 17, 2011 at 01:23 pm
Hi Jennifer Kerr,
I knew Ben personally when I was with an ex bf that He knew back in 1984-1987

I also lived on Jones Ave when He was there then as well.
Plus I am singing the chorus on "Let's Make Toronto #1"

I'm so sorry 4 Your loss, Glad 2 meet U
I really miss Ben's songs I do have a couple Tapes He made but there are still more I'd really love to have

He really did have an amazing voice, He reminded Me a lot of
Hank Williams SR. and Kitty Wells style as well, the best of the best. He really could have made it as big as Them 4 sure

He really was a very kind hearted loving soul
Everytime I sing "Ben" by Micheal Jackson I dedicate it 2 Ben Kerr ;@)

May He R.I.P, You've been missed for years My good friend
please keep in touch if You like Jennifer, it would mean a lot 2 Me

Thanks in advance,
David Cameron / May 14, 2011 at 06:27 pm
I started a health regime today and one of the things I did was mix up a jug of water and cayenne with a splash of grapefruit juice. It really helps to keep you going when you are trying to avoid other things. It made me remember Ben and so I googled and found this wonderful memorial.

I sat beside Ben at a straycats Christmas dinner in '84. I was gobsmacked watching him shovel in tablespoon after tablespoon of cayenne in to his glass of lemon water. He was kind and funny and I sensed I was in the presence of a living legend.

Love you Ben

jennifer kerr replying to a comment from Donna Sweeney / September 25, 2012 at 10:51 am
hey donna sorry for really late reply hope all is well here is my email address you can use it to find me on facebook
Jennifer Keith / July 14, 2013 at 12:36 pm
I looked up Ben Kerr today to find out more about him and found this thread. I remember him on the corner of Yonge Bloor wearing his t-shirts and singing and was recently going through some of my Great Aunt & Uncle's things where I found a 7"of his "Fire on the Other End" recording. It is signed by Ben to my Great Aunt & Uncle. I also cam across a package that he had sent to them with photocopies of newspaper articles about his run and quest for clean air with a note "Dear Health-Minded Friends: It's a real pleasure talking with people as obviously happy and content with life are you are. Just think how wonderful like would be if everyone were happy. Stay Healthy, Ben. He also underline all of the important parts in each article with in red pen. Such an amazing piece of Toronto History! I love it.
Robert / March 25, 2014 at 04:02 pm
I remember Ben at the corner and one time he was invited to an EARN meeting (Executive Advancement and Recruiting Network) to speak to us in the early 90s. It was amazing! Here was this guy who we did not really know and he was so positive and sharing that encouragement with people that were between jobs during a bad recession. He made up a song for the meeting and I remember he was very clear to reach for your dreams and never give up! Too bad he is not here to run for mayor again!
Terry / March 25, 2014 at 04:36 pm
I am a journalist - Ben Kerr is the reason I am one.
For my entrance test for the Ryerson graduate journalism program several years ago I was asked to go find a busker and write a story about them. I zipped up to Yonge & Bloor, had a great conversation with him, went back and typed up my story and got into the (very competitive) program. I was sad when I heard of his passing - a truly unique soul.
Larraine / October 23, 2014 at 10:58 am
I was so sad to hear of Ben's passing. What an interesting man. When he came to the US he always came to Bakersfield Ca where he had his book The Cayanne Pepper Cocktail Does It All. Ben came into our small print shop San Joaquin Rubber Stamp and named my husband and my self the happiest people he ever met. Really though Ben was the happiest person, living life to the fullest. We lost track of Ben when Either Canada or the Us wouldn' t let Ben in because they thought he was msking too much money. We loved Ben and his stories, his music and sweet Marie. God Bless you Ben, until we meet again.
Other Cities: Montreal