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Canadian Heritage

Doug Riley


DOUG 'DR. MUSIC' RILEY (pianist, organist, composer, bandleader, producer) was born on April 12, 1945 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He passed away on August 27, 2007.

He studied at the Royal Conservatory of Music and the University of Toronto. Recognized by his peers as a pillar of in the musical community since the early 1960s, Riley was universally lauded for his outstanding composing, arranging, and performance skills with some of the most prolific artists in the classical, jazz, and commercial genres. He lived in Toronto throughout his lifetime, but had recently relocated permanently to his beloved Prince Edward Island where he resided in Little Pond until his death.

By the time he was just 20 years old, Doug Riley was a prolific jingle composer, working in collaboration with Mort Ross, Tommy Ambrose, and Larry Trudel’s Trudel Productions. During the years he was writing and playing pop and jazz and commercial music, he wrote three ballets for the National Ballet of Canada, a double concerto for flute (clarinet, sax) and string quartet for Moe Koffman, a piano concerto for Mario Bernardi's retirement from the National Arts Centre Orchestra, and other important works including a commission from Placido Domingo to arrange None But The Lonely Heart for tenor and orchestra, which he recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra.

He produced and performed on countless recordings with Ray Charles, Natalie McMaster, David Clayton Thomas, The Brecker Brothers, Molly Johnson, Bob Segar, Ringo Starr, Jake Langley, Gordon Lightfoot, Anne Murray, Moe Koffman, and many other solo artists and groups, both under his own name and his long time pseudonym, Dr. Music. In the ‘70s, Ray Charles tried to persuade Riley to take up permanent residence in the U.S. to work with him on a full-time basis, but he chose to remain in Canada where he formed the famous Dr. Music vocal and instrumental ensemble that would have several incarnations over the next 15 years.

Riley served as Music Director for many television, radio, and live productions including JAZZ.FM91’s annual ‘Jazz Lives’ spectacular for two years during mid-2000. He was Musical Director for The Famous People Players for over 20 years and participated in concerts in support of the Easter Seals campaign, The United Way, and the Princess Margaret Hospital Lodge.

In 2006, he toured throughout Canada and the U.S.A. with Canadian star Michael Burgess (well-known for his starring role in Les Miserables) and continued to play at jazz festivals and in clubs throughout Canada with his Doug Riley Quartet until his passing.


Doug Riley has received innumerable international awards for recording, performance, and commercial endeavors.

1993 to 2000 – Annual recipient of The Jazz Report ‘Jazz Organist of the Year’ Award

2003 - Named a Member of the Order of Canada, the highest civilian honour given in this country, granted to Canadian citizens 'for outstanding achievement and service to the country or to humanity at large'