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Piece of Canadian music history for sale

Need to act fast

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A piece of Canadian music history is for sale but you’ve got to act fast if you want to add it to your collection.

The Ace Tone Top 5 keyboard organ that Winnipeg-born Bob Wiseman used during his time with Blue Rodeo in the 1980s and early 1990s is being auctioned off for Kids Help Phone on eBay.

As of late Monday, the bidding for the "concert used" organ had reached $842.

Wiseman helped define the band’s sound with the Ace Tone 5 on their first four albums — Outskirts, Diamond Mine, Casino and Lost Together — before leaving the band in 1992.

The auction will close Tuesday afternoon.

Purchased at Long & McQuade in 1977 for "about $100," the Ace Tone was far from Wiseman first choice. He had his eye on a Yamaha DX7, an Oberheim or the Prophet 5 but they were all out of his teenager price range.

He was in the market after being inspired by the Talking Heads’ debut record, "77," particularly after hearing the sounds that the band’s Jerry Harrison could create with the Prophet 5.

Wiseman, who now lives in Toronto with his wife and infant daughter, admitted that he’s "not really attached" to the organ.

"I always thought, ‘it’s not really about the ship, it’s about the cargo.’ The real deal is the musician. People often want to talk about the it as if I had gone on some pilgrimage to find an Ace Tone organ to play in a rock band," he said.

The organ is distinctive, to say the least, because of its unique paint job. Many times when Wiseman would do interviews, pictures would be taken to accompany the stories and he didn’t feel like promoting the manufacturers of his gear, so he painted the keys and blocked out the brand name.

He also had little time for lesser musicians who paraded around with their expensive organs.

"I just painted (the Ace Tone) because I thought, (screw) you. Blue Rodeo was making a bigger splash than those guys who thought they were good musicians by buying fancy keyboards," he said.

Wiseman admits he wasn’t as into the band during his last year as he was during its early days.

"I played pretty much with my left hand. It became an ongoing test for me to try to do the whole (show) with my left hand," he said.

"The music wasn’t complicated to play, I would often play with my eyes closed. It was like, ‘can you play an E (chord) and an A? Okay, you’re in.’"

As he has since he left Blue Rodeo two decades ago, Wiseman continues to put out his own records and produce for other artists. He latest solo project is called Giulietta Masina at the Oscars Crying, which features guest appearances from the likes of Mary Margaret O’Hara and Serena Ryder. It’s available for sale at

He’ll be in Winnipeg next week producing a new record for Manitoba’s own Jess Reimer and he also scores films. (He’s presently working on five.)

Wiseman said he hasn’t been asked to play with Blue Rodeo during its 25th anniversary tour next year but he would certainly consider it if he was asked. He participated in its 20th anniversary celebration five years ago.


Updated on Monday, December 3, 2012 at 10:57 PM CST: Updates with fixes

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