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By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


Winnipeg, a haven for musicians...

Posted 6/20/17 (Tue)

I don’t think many people are aware that Winnipeg is a mecca for musicians. In a sense, it’s the Nashville of the North.

There was a recent promotion on Moose Jaw radio station CHAB telling of the rock group Streetheart and that it is starting its 40th anniversary tour this summer.

It turns out that Streetheart has used Winnipeg as a base for nearly its entire 40 years. The band started out in Regina, but soon moved to Winnipeg and started cutting albums.

Winnipeg is synonymous with The Guess Who which is arguably the biggest name to come out of the city. Lead singer Burton Cummings still lives there, attends hockey games and sings the National Anthem occasionally.

The group got its start in 1965 and hit the music scene in the U.S. in 1970 with its American Woman album. Since that time, The Guess Who has released more than 20 albums.

A portion of The Guess Who’s music was politically motivated, such as the single “American Woman,” which was banned in the United States for a time for lyrics detesting the Vietnam War.

Share the Land was the name of an album quoting Bible verses in songs. “Guns Guns Guns” was the name of a tune on the album Rockin’ with lyrics suggesting American hunters abused wildlife on the Canadian side.  And “Rich World Poor World,” from the album Power in the Music, pointed out how vastly different the poor and rich see the world.

Burton Cummings’ partner in that group was Randy Bachman who went off on his own to form Ironhorse, then Bachman Turner Overdrive.

BTO’s music was more hard charging rock ‘n’ roll rather than politically suggestive and, as a result, BTO hit the American charts quicker than The Guess Who did.

Bachman later tried performing solo but that didn’t work out as well. He is now host of the CBC radio program Vinyl Tap.

Bachman doesn’t live in Winnipeg any longer but is seen frequently around town.

His son Tal, who grew up in Winnipeg, had a short solo career and is now producer at Vinyl Tap.

Neil Young, of Crosby Stills Nash and Young fame, grew up in Winnipeg and still calls it home.

His group was famous in the 1970s and still has a big following, but Neil himself, has become very outspoken about the environment in recent years, even making a cameo visit to the Dakota Access Pipeline protest site.

Harlequin is another group, much like Streetheart, that started out playing in taverns in Winnip-eg to get its start.

And, like Streetheart, the group has never really had much air time in the United States, but remain hugely popular on Canadian classic rock stations.

Two years ago the Winnipeg country band Doc Walker, performed on the Canadian Pacific Railway’s Holiday Train. This is an up-and-coming country music act to watch in the future.

You might remember the song “Seasons in the Sun,” by Terry Jacks in 1974?

Jacks was born and raised in Winnipeg and had several hit records and albums, but most of them were recorded out of Vancouver.

There was an alternative rock band in the early ‘90s called the Crash Test Dummies whose base was in Winnipeg.

This group was really a flash in the pan as it had a huge following  for maybe four or five years then faded quickly because the music just didn’t keep the interest of the main stream.

Another Winnipeg alternative rock band was The Watchmen. This group had a total of 16 hit singles, but only one, “Boneyard Tree” rose to top the charts.

The Watchmen’s claim to fame is that for a while they opened shows for the Tragically Hip.

Amanda Cook is a popular Winnipeg musician, but her following is more targeted than the others. Cook is a highly touted singer of Christian contemporary music.

It’s amazing how so many musicians got their start in Winnipeg with many of them staying there throughout their careers.

When you read the stories about The Guess Who, which were all childhood friends living on one street, or Streetheart struggling in bars for the first three years of its existence or Randy Bachman who saw a different side of rock ‘n’ roll, you still wonder how so many quality musicians could come from such a concentrated area.

It’s most likely because they were promoted and motivated. Winnipeg has always had an affection for the arts and it shows in some of the brilliant music by these performers.