Berkowitz, Steinkopf, Katz: Jews had big impact on rock


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You can’t write the history of rock ‘n’ roll in Winnipeg without noting the contribution of the Jewish community.

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You can’t write the history of rock ‘n’ roll in Winnipeg without noting the contribution of the Jewish community.

That’s the view of Winnipegger John Einarson, one of Canada’s best known rock music historians.

When it comes to rock music in the province, “Jews played an important role behind the scenes,” he said, adding “if someone from Manitoba went to a rock concert in the 1960s through 1980s, there’s a good chance it was put on by a member of the Jewish community in Winnipeg.”

Winnipeg music historian John Einarson. (Jason Halstead / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Einarson lists off some names: Franke Weiner, Dick Golfman, Gerry Shore, Freddy Glazerman, Ivan Berkowitz — who connected fashion for young people with rock music — Maitland Steinkopf and Sam Katz.

Between them, they booked the biggest acts at Winnipeg Arena, Winnipeg Stadium and the Centennial Concert Hall — groups such as Led Zeppelin, Iron Butterfly, the Bee Gees, the Supremes and many others.

The shows included Man-Pop, a stadium concert in 1970 to help celebrate Manitoba’s centenary. The concert, organized by Steinkopf, “was legendary,” Einarson said. “It was one of the greatest rock concerts in Manitoba history.”

“When you break it all down, Jews played a significant role in rock music in this city,” he said.

Einarson is one of three speakers at a presentation set for Sunday, May 28, called The Soundtrack of our Lives: Jews in Winnipeg’s Music Industry.

The presentation takes place at 2 p.m. at Temple Shalom (1077 Grant Ave.), and is sponsored by the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada. It will also feature Owen Clark, speaking about Jews and big bands, dance bands and jazz in the city, and Len Udow, who will talk about the connection between Jews and the folk music scene.

The goal of the event is to “amplify the contributions made by Jews to music in Winnipeg,” said Stan Carbone, director of programs and exhibits at the heritage centre. “We want to recognize and celebrate their contributions to the wider community.”

Those contributions, he said, were “inestimable,” whether that was as promoters, booking agents or operating venues such as Club Morocco, which was “a hotbed of jazz” from the 1950s to 1980s.

The club, owned by Harry Smith — originally Herschel Schmutkin, who came to Winnipeg from Poland — was the top nightspot for jazz in Winnipeg during those years.

While the presentation will cover rock, folk and jazz and big bands, one area not covered is classical music. “We are hoping to do a program about that next year, Carbone said. “That would be a program all in itself.”

There is no charge for the presentation, but registration is recommended by emailing or calling 204-477-7467.

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John Longhurst

John Longhurst
Faith reporter

John Longhurst has been writing for Winnipeg's faith pages since 2003. He also writes for Religion News Service in the U.S., and blogs about the media, marketing and communications at Making the News.


Updated on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 12:46 PM CDT: Corrects name of presenter and year of Man-Pop.

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