John Einarson

John Einarson

Born and raised in Winnipeg, music historian John Einarson is an acclaimed musicologist, broadcaster, educator, and author of 14 music biographies published worldwide including Neil Young, Randy Bachman, John Kay of Steppenwolf, Ian & Sylvia, The Guess Who, The Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers, Arthur Lee & Love and Buffalo Springfield.

Several of John’s books have been ranked among the top ten best music biographies and received award nominations. His book Hot Burritos: The True Story Of The Flying Burrito Brothers received the 2006 ARSC (Association for Recorded Sound Collections) Award for Excellence in Historical Recorded Sound Research.

John is the author of the critically-acclaimed Desperados: The Roots of Country Rock. He also collaborated with Randy Bachman on his two bestselling Vinyl Tap books.

John has written for Mojo, Uncut, Goldmine, Discoveries, Record Collector, and Classic Rock and is a regular contributor to the Winnipeg Free Press with his features “John Einarson Remembers” (also the name of his Facebook page) and “My Generation.”

John wrote the Juno-nominated Bravo TV documentary Buffy Sainte-Marie: A Multi-Media Life, served as writer/consultant for A&E/Biography Channel’s Neil Young Biography episode, and wrote CBC TV’s The Life & Times of Randy Bachman

John curated the 2010 Manitoba Museum exhibit Shakin’ All Over: The Manitoba Music Experience and organizes the popular Magical Musical History Tour of Winnipeg. He teaches his unique “Off The Record” music history classes Friday evenings at McNally Robinson Booksellers as well as teaching music history topics at the University of Winnipeg, the Manitoba Conservatory of Music & Arts, and the Creative Retirement Centre.

John is an award-winning high school teacher and former consultant for the Manitoba Department of Education. In January 2016 he was the recipient of the Order of the Buffalo Hunt by Premier Greg Selinger in recognition for his work in preserving Manitoba’s music history. John can be heard every Tuesday evening from 8 to 10 p.m. on radio station UMFM 101.5 FM hosting “My Generation.”

Soon after witnessing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964, John acquired a guitar and played in several well-known local bands through the 60s and 70s (and a bit in the 90s).

He has played onstage with Neil Young, Randy Bachman, Burton Cummings, jammed with Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention, and at age 17 opened for Led Zeppelin and Iron Butterfly before 14,000 people.

For 25 years John ran a popular extra-curricular rock music program at St. John’s-Ravenscourt school that involved some 100 students a year.

Recent articles of John Einarson

Without new purpose, once-vital North End theatre could face the wrecking ball

John Einarson 5 minute read Preview

Without new purpose, once-vital North End theatre could face the wrecking ball

John Einarson 5 minute read Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022

Don’t it always seem to go,

Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022


If the University of Manitoba, current owners of the historic Palace Theatre at 501 Selkirk Ave., can’t find any use for the building, it could face demolition.

Music Hall of Fame should drop the glitz and honour the elder acts

John Einarson 6 minute read Preview

Music Hall of Fame should drop the glitz and honour the elder acts

John Einarson 6 minute read Thursday, May. 26, 2022

Watching the annual Juno Awards two weekends ago only reinforced my alienation from the current crop of Canadian recording artists and pop stars. I could probably name a handful of them at best. That doesn’t diminish my respect for their achievements and the acclaim they bring to our recording industry.

But each year as I scan the list of winners, I am increasingly dismayed at the choices for induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. While I applaud the induction this year of R&B singer Deborah Cox, the first Black female solo Canadian artist in the Hall, I remain increasingly disappointed at the myopic decision-making of the members of the Hall of Fame induction committee. Their sense of history appears to extend only 25 years into the past as if no one of any significance mattered before that time.

The list of worthy Canadian recording artists who helped build a successful homegrown music industry, the industry that helped give more recent inductees a chance at success, yet who continue to be overlooked when it comes to being honoured by induction into the Hall of Fame, continues to grow. With each year, more and more of these groundbreaking Canadian artists pass away never having received a nod of respect and admiration from the Canadian music industry.

One of the saddest cases of the flawed Hall of Fame induction process was passing over Canada’s first teen idol, Bobby Curtola, year after year. Curtola helped foster a homegrown Canadian music industry from tiny Port Arthur, Ont., selling his records from the trunk of his car at personal appearances before achieving national success. Curtola was our first coast-to-coast pop star. It was only after he passed away that the selection committee deemed him worthy of inclusion, denying him the opportunity while still alive to be acknowledged by both his peers and fans for one last accolade.

Thursday, May. 26, 2022

It’s too late to honour the Poppy Family’s Susan Jacks, who died recently, but the list of greying greats is long and full of talent.

Late musicians all contributed to Manitoba scene

John Einarson  17 minute read Preview

Late musicians all contributed to Manitoba scene

John Einarson  17 minute read Sunday, Mar. 5, 2017

I received word recently my old friend and fellow guitarist, former Winnipegger Bob White, passed away. White was a journeyman musician who toiled on the local scene with early groups such as the Back Pages before stepping into the limelight as a member of Justin Tyme, Spice, Hurricane Hannah, LesQ and Rocki Rolletti.

In 1982, he moved to Vancouver, where he carved out a career as a guitarist-for-hire. His band the Bobcats — featuring another former Winnipegger, Danny Casavant, and for a long time drummer Harvey Kostenchuk — held down a regular gig playing the oldies for packed houses on weekends at the Dover Arms pub. Despite his absence from our scene, White is fondly remembered here not just for his talented playing and singing but for his friendly demeanour and gregarious personality.

“I was honoured to have been able to play with Bob for so many years,” says Casavant, who worked with White in several bands. “His career was a long and interesting one that took him outside Winnipeg. He was like a brother to me, and I learned a great deal from him.”

White was in Justin Tyme’s lineup when the group performed at the legendary ManPop 70 rock festival at the old Winnipeg Stadium.

Sunday, Mar. 5, 2017

Larry Laker sings during a performance by United Soul Appeal.

Record company’s gimmick launched Guess Who’s career

John Einarson 16 minute read Preview

Record company’s gimmick launched Guess Who’s career

John Einarson 16 minute read Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017

Fifty-two years ago last week, on Jan. 16, 1965, the record that put Winnipeg on the national music map was released.

Quality Records, headquartered in Toronto, sent out radio-play copies across the country of a 45-rpm single mysteriously credited simply to Guess Who? With everything British dominating both the pop charts and the collective consciousness of teens, it was nearly impossible for homegrown recording artists to gain national airplay on radio stations. Regulations that mandated radio play 30 per cent Canadian content (now 35 per cent) were six years away. Quality Records decided to hoodwink radio programmers into giving this curiously labelled record a spin, gambling on the fact the distinct British style and infectious sound of the 45, along with the ambiguous identity, would pique interest.

The ruse worked. Within weeks, Shakin’ All Over was charting coast to coast, and by March it was either No. 1 or in the top 5 on every major radio station nationally. It was then that the mystery was revealed. Guess Who? was none other than Winnipeg quintet Chad Allan & the Expressions. Suddenly, Winnipeg became the rock ’n’ roll capital of Canada. What’s more, the single broke down the regional barriers that had prevented Canadian recording artists from achieving cross-country success.

“The importance of Shakin’ All Over cannot be overestimated for the Canadian pop music landscape of early 1965,” states writer/broadcaster Bob Mersereau, author of The Top 100 Canadian Singles and A History of Canadian Rock ’n’ Roll. “There had been plenty of regional hits from local artists that made the charts in different corners of the country, local artists that got the kids in say, Vancouver or Halifax all excited. But a national Canadian-made smash was a rare beast. National No. 1s were reserved for the Beatles, and after them came a dozen more British Invasion artists. With no Canadian-content regulations in place for radio, no decent recording studios and little incentive for big record labels to promote anything but the proven sellers, regional acts barely had a prayer. But before programmers knew it, they’d been tricked into giving the mystery band an even playing field. Then the kids took over, loving the song and making it a No. 1 hit in several markets.”

Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017

Jimmy Kale (from left), Chad Allan, Garry Peterson, Randy Bachman and Bob Ashley.

Winnipeg’s Steiner Brothers didn’t seek celebrity but made it big

John Einarson 17 minute read Preview

Winnipeg’s Steiner Brothers didn’t seek celebrity but made it big

John Einarson 17 minute read Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016

It’s a pretty safe bet few people in Winnipeg, or in Western Canada for that matter, knew the likes of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, George Burns, Bob Hope, Dinah Shore or Ed Sullivan on a first-name basis. Winnipeg’s Steiner Brothers did.

Throughout the 1950s and ‘60s, the Steiners — Roy, Ron and Rob — performed alongside these and other entertainment luminaries at some of the most famous nightclubs and theatres in North America. Constantly in demand, they were ranked among the best tap dancers in the world.

“We worked with every major star in the business at one time or another,” says Ron Steiner from his home in north Winnipeg, where he and his brothers gathered recently to talk about their show business career.

“I can’t even remember all the people we worked with. Most of them are gone now. We were very well-known and respected in the business because we took it seriously and we loved to perform.”

Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016

The Steiner Brothers — Ron Steiner (from left), Rob and Roy — are now in their 70s. They had a long and successful career as entertainers and rubbed shoulders with some of the world’s biggest stars.

Singer made her mark

John Einarson  15 minute read Preview

Singer made her mark

John Einarson  15 minute read Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016

The 1960s was a golden decade for Canadian television music production, with CBC Winnipeg serving as a regional centre for music shows.

Local performers such as Peggy Neville, Reg Gibson, Georges Lafleche, Ray St. Germain and Lorraine West, to name a few, were featured on their own television shows backed up by the cream of local musicians, including Lenny Breau, Ron Halldorson, Dave Young, Reg Kelln, Dave Shaw and arranger Bob McMullin. CBC Winnipeg employed a roster of talented backing singers who served duty on several productions. They included Yvette (Shaw), Micki Allen, Lucille Emond, Barry Stillwell, Hector Bremner and Karen Marklinger.

Marklinger enjoyed a prominent career as a well-respected and in-demand backing vocalist, featured performer, guest star and recording artist. Toronto broadcaster Fred Napoli once said, “Karen Marklinger is, in my opinion, probably the best female vocalist I’ve ever heard in Canada. Her approach is timeless because it has nothing to do with fads or styles.”

“I feel so privileged to have played so often with Karen,” veteran guitarist/bass player Ron Halldorson, who worked with Marklinger at CBC Winnipeg, says. “She had such wonderful phrasing, and her voice just floated through the air. Karen and Yvette were the best singers I ever worked with.”

Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016

Marklinger’s lone solo album, released in 1971 and poorly promoted, was soon forgotten.

Veteran musician reflects on spinning wheel of career

John Einarson 6 minute read Preview

Veteran musician reflects on spinning wheel of career

John Einarson 6 minute read Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016

In his recent memoir, Blood, Sweat, and My Rock ‘n’ Roll Years, veteran rock musician Steve Katz poses the question in the subtitle: “Is Steve Katz a rock star?”

While he has never trashed a hotel room nor OD’d on drugs, Katz is unquestionably a rock star who has seen it all in a career spanning some five decades. He’s done it all as well, from musician and songwriter to record producer and record label executive. The unassuming guitarist/singer, founding member of seminal ’60s New York bands the Blues Project and Blood, Sweat & Tears, will be sharing stories from his remarkable resumé on Nov. 15 as part of the Tarbut Festival of Jewish Culture at the Berney Theatre at the Rady JCC.

Hanging around Greenwich Village in his late teens in the mid ’60s, Katz (pronounced like the Broadway musical) took guitar lessons from legendary folk performer Dave Von Ronk and served as road manager for 70-year-old blind bluesman Rev. Gary Davis.

Together with other Village habitués including John Sebastian, David Grisman and Marie Muldaur, Katz joined the Even Dozen Jug Band, which recorded an album in 1964.

Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016

Oscar Brand, raised in Point Douglas, became music pioneer

John Einarson 14 minute read Preview

Oscar Brand, raised in Point Douglas, became music pioneer

John Einarson 14 minute read Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016

Here’s a trivia question: the Sesame Street character Oscar the Grouch is named for what Winnipegger? The answer: folk music legend, singer-songwriter and broadcaster Oscar Brand.

“I was on the original board of the Children’s Television Workshop,” he told me a few years ago from his home in Great Neck, N.Y. “And I was so fastidious about everything that I gave people a hard time. So they named the grumpy character after me.”

Brand died of pneumonia Sept. 30 at the age of 96. He taped what became the last of his Folksong Festival radio shows on New York’s WNYC the week before. His weekly show ran for a record 71 years, the longest-running show with a single host, Guinness World Records says.

In a recent article on Brand, the New York Times wrote, “Every week for more than 70 years, with the easy, familiar voice of a friend, Mr. Brand invited listeners of the New York public radio station WNYC to his quirky, informal combination of American music symposium, barn dance, cracker-barrel conversation, songwriting session and verbal horseplay. Everyone who was anyone in folk music dropped by. Woody Guthrie — Woodrow Wilson Guthrie, as Mr. Brand called his rambling friend — was known to burst in unexpectedly to try out a new song. Bob Dylan told a riveting tale about his boyhood in a carnival, not a word of it true.”

Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016

A publicity photo of Oscar Brand from the late 1970s or early 1980.

Radio mainstay Howard Mandshein a human encyclopedia of popular music

John Einarson 15 minute read Preview

Radio mainstay Howard Mandshein a human encyclopedia of popular music

John Einarson 15 minute read Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016

He’s Winnipeg’s own rock music guru, known to everyone simply as “H.” Howard Mandshein has been a staple on local radio for four decades, his distinctive baritone voice intoning his unrivalled passion for the music he plays. If Mandshein likes a song, you know it. He is an institution, a local legend of the airwaves and concert stages as master of ceremonies, as well as an ardent supporter of the local music scene.

“Howard is a sage,” artist manager and impresario Gilles Paquin says. “He knows about music from A to Z. But more than that, he understands how music affects and impacts people. He’s one of the guys I’ll call to get an honest perspective on music. He has a wide understanding of popular music and is extremely well-informed. He’s like Winnipeg music’s very own Yoda.”

In an interview from his home in Aurora, Ont., former 92 CITI FM colleague Andy Frost said Mandshein’s “passion for people and music makes him unique.”

“He means so much to so many people, and yet he is a humble guy,” Frost said.

Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016

Howard Mandshein started working in local radio in the late 1970s.

Looking back at Winnipeg experiment to isolate, enrich advanced students

John Einarson  29 minute read Preview

Looking back at Winnipeg experiment to isolate, enrich advanced students

John Einarson  29 minute read Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016

Beginning in 1954, an experiment in social engineering was set up in several Winnipeg schools.

The program, known as Major Work, was designed to identify who were considered gifted students, remove them from the mainstream and provide enriched educational experiences and opportunities beyond the standard curriculum in a segregated environment.

For six years, grades 4 through 9 (1961 to 1967), I was one of its guinea pigs. Major Work was discontinued by the early 1970s, when streaming became a bad word in education and inclusion, rather than exclusion, became the norm.

I thought my Major Work group was the only one of its kind. I had no way of knowing otherwise, since we existed in isolation. Years later, I learned the program operated in several Winnipeg schools, and there are a few hundred Major Work alumni. I have often wondered if their experiences mirrored my own and if the program had an impact on their further education, careers and life.

Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016

Looking back at Winnipeg's Major Work experiment to isolate and academically enrich and advanced segment of the student population.

Not every Winnipeg musician went on to be the Guess Who

John Einarson My Generation 19 minute read Preview

Not every Winnipeg musician went on to be the Guess Who

John Einarson My Generation 19 minute read Sunday, Sep. 11, 2016

What happened to many local musicians once the lights turned off and the curtain descended? In the 1960s and ’70s, Winnipeg boasted hundreds of bands made up of musicians and singers from every neighbourhood and beyond. Inspired by Beatle dreams, they had taken up instruments, formed bands and played the thriving local circuit, some for a short time while others hung on longer. But for every Burton Cummings, Randy Bachman or Fred Turner, there are a thousand others who never scaled the heights of fame and fortune and instead set their dreams aside for careers beyond the spotlight.

Veteran drummer Al Johnson (the Quid, Chopping Block, Fifth, Next) and guitarists Paul Newsome (Musical Odyssey) and John Burton (Power Company) became railway engineers. The Jury’s guitarist, George Johns, made a smooth transition from making records and playing music to a career in radio becoming a major programmer and radio station owner. Electric Jug & Blues Band frontman Blair Wheaton is currently head of the sociology department at the University of Toronto, while harmonica player Don ‘Stork’ Macgillivray is a journalist. Ed Smith of the Deverons, Cummings’ first band, retired not long ago from a long career behind the scenes at CBC Winnipeg where he might have crossed paths with Janice Harding-Jeanson (Sally Screw & the Drivers) and Kinsey Posen (Blue Frizz). In the late 1980s, the fellow delivering my Dominos pizza one evening was former Galaxies and James & the Good Brothers member Jim Ackroyd.

'I never thought that I would become a lawyer'Chances are if you flew in or out of Winnipeg in the 1970s to ’90s, ex-Mongrels bass player Garth Nosworthy may have guided your plane as an air traffic controller. Mongrels drummer Larry Rasmussen became an upholsterer. The Third Edition’s keyboard player, Milt Reimer, is an accountant, while drummer Marcus Fisher was a longtime firefighter in Vancouver. Two members of the Fifth, Melvin Ksionzek and Richard Gwizdak, became professional photographers. The Love Cyrcle’s Wesley Doll went on to a lengthy career with paper manufacturers MacMillan-Bloedel. Moody Manitoba Morning composer, singer/songwriter Rick Neufeld became a tour bus driver for the likes of Bruce Cockburn and Norah Jones.

“I never thought that I would become a lawyer,” said John MacInnes from his office in Calgary where he has practised for three decades. After founding the Mongrels with junior high buddies Geoff Marrin, John Nykon, John Hardt and drummer Joey Gregorash, MacInnes helped assemble Sugar & Spice — five Rolling Stones-crazed guys and the angelic-voiced Murphy sisters, Kathleen, Maureen and Aileen — in late 1967. In February 1968, the group released a Randy Bachman-penned single, Not to Return, and debuted live before a sellout crowd at UMSU. The following year they recorded a lushly orchestrated anti-war single, Cruel War, and signed to an American record label.

Sunday, Sep. 11, 2016

Barney Charach photo
Finder’s Keepers

Rockabilly star put down Manitoba roots

John Einarson  17 minute read Preview

Rockabilly star put down Manitoba roots

John Einarson  17 minute read Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016

I remember hearing a rumour in the 1980s rockabilly pioneer Buddy Knox, the man who sold more than 10 million copies of his own composition, Party Doll, was living in Dominion City.

I didn’t believe it was true. What would Knox — who chummed around with the likes of Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly and Waylon Jennings, appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and toured the world — be doing in a town of barely 350 people in southern Manitoba?

Knox was born on a farm in the tiny Texas panhandle town of Happy (the town’s motto is “The Town Without A Frown”) in 1933.

“We didn’t even have electricity or a radio,” he recalled in a 1993 interview. “I played guitar and harmonica to entertain myself.”

Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016

Buddy Knox at his home in Dominion City in August 1988. He had four hit singles by the end of 1957 but was frustrated later in life about what his career might have been.

Ex-Winnipegger found success with jingles after rock hit

John Einarson 14 minute read Preview

Ex-Winnipegger found success with jingles after rock hit

John Einarson 14 minute read Sunday, Jul. 31, 2016

The trick to writing a successful commercial jingle is in creating a tune and lyric that, while less than a minute in length, nonetheless sticks in your brain forever.

It’s an art form that requires both talent and a gift for phrasing and nuance. Unlike a hit record, though, the downside of a catchy jingle is while everyone can sing it, no one knows who composed it. Take You’re on Your Way With Esso, one of the most successful Canadian jingles of all time. While I’m betting many of us know it instantly, few are aware it was composed by Winnipegger Graham Shaw, one of the finest jingle composers in Canada.

His list of jingle credits is staggering and includes the Bay, Home Hardware, Canadian Tire, Budweiser, 7Up, Labatt’s, Bacardi Breezer and Bell Canada, to name a few.

“I became the go-to guy for jingles for 10 years in Toronto,” says the unassuming Shaw from his home in rural Ontario.

Sunday, Jul. 31, 2016

Graham Shaw’s list of jingle credits is staggering.

Manitoba’s blues roots date back to 1960s

John Einarson 14 minute read Preview

Manitoba’s blues roots date back to 1960s

John Einarson 14 minute read Sunday, Jul. 10, 2016

Winnipeg may be a long way from the Mississippi Delta and Chicago’s South Side, but that hasn’t stopped this city from fostering a vibrant blues scene.

Beginning in 1960s-era coffeehouses such as the Ting, Wise I and Latin Quarter, blues performers found like-minded supporters for their music.

Blues bands brought exciting electric blues to clubs, pubs and universities. Hotels on the Main Street strip such as the Occidental, Bell, Brunswick (where guitarist Billy Joe Green offered his unique brand of electric blues for several years) and Sutherland offered blues music before the Royal Albert, Marlborough and Viscount Gort hotels began hosting regular blues jams and booking blues performers.

Beginning in the mid-1980s under the management of Rick Penner, the downtown Windsor Hotel became a blues bastion. The Manitoba Blues Society formed in the 1990s to promote and encourage blues music and publish their newsletter, Blues News.

Sunday, Jul. 10, 2016

John Einarson (right) and Pig Iron perform for the last time at the Love-In festival at Assiniboine Park in June 1970.

Sharing the stage with a music sensation

John Einarson  14 minute read Preview

Sharing the stage with a music sensation

John Einarson  14 minute read Saturday, Jun. 18, 2016

This year has seen the loss of so many of our pop-culture icons, and we’re not even halfway through 2016. Much publicity and outpourings of tribute have followed many of these passings.

However, there was one celebrity death that, sadly, fell below the radar of most of us. Canadian popular music lost its original 1960s teen idol, Order of Canada recipient Bobby Curtola, June 4. He was 74.

Decades ago, Canadian music was divided by regions, our vast size and geography making it nearly impossible to achieve national stature. Until the kid from Port Arthur, Ont., (now Thunder Bay) came along. Curtola was Canada’s first homegrown national pop star.

“There was not another pop star on that level in Canada at that time than Bobby Curtola,” says Larry LeBlanc, a veteran Canadian music journalist and senior editor at Celebrity Access.

Saturday, Jun. 18, 2016

Singer Bobby Curtola in 1964. The former Canadian teen idol died earlier this month at age 73.

Stint with Guess Who just one part of Leskiw's eclectic career

By John Einarson  16 minute read Preview

Stint with Guess Who just one part of Leskiw's eclectic career

By John Einarson  16 minute read Saturday, May. 28, 2016

Though he is reluctant to accept the title, guitarist and singer/songwriter Greg Leskiw is a Manitoba music elder statesman. He has recorded in every decade since the 1960s, and his impact and influence on the music scene in general and on musicians in particular is extraordinary.

“I’ve stuck with it because I could,” he muses from his Fort Garry home.

“What a crazy bugger I was. I’ve dedicated myself to music. It’s nice to be respected for what you love to do.”

Born in Brandon and raised in Shilo, Leskiw began playing guitar at an early age. He didn’t have to go far for lessons.

Saturday, May. 28, 2016

Greg Leskiw performs at the Muddy Rivers Music Festival at The Forks in August 2001.

Unique albums by local bands have fascinating looks

By John Einarson  11 minute read Preview

Unique albums by local bands have fascinating looks

By John Einarson  11 minute read Sunday, May. 8, 2016

As an ardent vinyl collector for more than five decades, as well as a zealous Manitoba music booster with an eye to preserving our local music history, I have in recent years been drawn to searching out albums that are unique to our province.

In many cases, these are albums that weren’t huge sellers nor on major record labels. Quite the contrary, the artists who recorded these gems may have financed the recordings themselves for small independent labels and sold them to a loyal fan base.

Several of these album covers boast local imagery only a Manitoban would recognize, rendering them of even greater significance to posterity.

Here, for your edification and nostalgic pleasure, I offer a few samples of fascinating local recordings that have crossed my path (all quotes are from previous interviews). Perhaps one day these and others like them will be enshrined in a Manitoba Music Hall of Fame for future generations to appreciate.

Sunday, May. 8, 2016

Chance encounter between Young and Stills in L.A. traffic changed music forever

By John Einarson 17 minute read Preview

Chance encounter between Young and Stills in L.A. traffic changed music forever

By John Einarson 17 minute read Sunday, Apr. 17, 2016

In the annals of popular culture, there are a few key serendipitous moments that altered the course of music history.

For example, the day in July 1957 when a teenage Paul McCartney was introduced by mutual friend Ivan Vaughan to John Lennon following a performance by Lennon’s nondescript skiffle band the Quarrymen at a local church festival in the Liverpool suburb of Woolton. While hardly knocked out by the band, McCartney was nonetheless curious about their singer.

History records McCartney showed Lennon how to properly tune a guitar (at that point, Lennon only knew banjo tuning from his mother) and sang Eddie Cochran’s Twenty Flight Rock, impressing his new-found friend by knowing all the lyrics. Still eager to please, McCartney also sang Gene Vincent’s Be-Bop-A-Lula and a medley of Little Richard tunes. McCartney and Lennon instantly discovered common ground and a shared love for rock ’n’ roll music. That moment marked the beginning of the Beatles. It’s almost unfathomable to ponder what popular culture would have been like had that encounter never taken place.

Or consider the time in October 1961, when first-year London School of Economics student Mick Jagger, toting several Chuck Berry and Jimmy Reed albums under his arm, was spotted by a guitar-toting Keith Richards on a Dartford, East London train platform. Noticing the albums, Richards approached Jagger only to discover they had known each other years before at Wentworth Primary School. The two shared a love of blues music, and from that chance meeting, the Rolling Stones would ultimately emerge. Imagine what impact on music we would have lost had one of them taken an earlier train that day.

Sunday, Apr. 17, 2016

Buffalo Springfield: Dewey Martin (from left), Stephen Stills, Richie Furay, Neil Young and Bruce Palmer.

Burton Cummings' stellar solo career long overlooked

By John Einarson  14 minute read Preview

Burton Cummings' stellar solo career long overlooked

By John Einarson  14 minute read Sunday, Mar. 27, 2016

One week from today, the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences will induct Winnipeg’s favourite son, Burton Lorne Cummings, into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. This is his second induction into the Hall, having been honoured in 1987 as a member of the Guess Who. This time around, he is being recognized for his post-Guess Who solo career.

Following his gold-plated tenure fronting Canada’s original rock ’n’ roll superstars, Cummings launched a solo career in 1976, beginning with the million-selling single Stand Tall. Gold singles, platinum albums, television specials and multiple Juno awards followed as Cummings became one of Canada’s best-known, most respected and universally celebrated music icons from the latter 1970s through the mid-’80s. For Canadians, Cummings’ music represents the soundtrack to our lives. He is Canadian music royalty.

The criteria for nomination as set out by the academy state a potential inductee’s “first recorded release must have occurred a minimum of 20 years prior to end of day Jan. 1 of the current year.” That means Cummings became eligible for inclusion in 1996. Next week’s honour is certainly long overdue. One wonders what took the academy so long.

The boy from Bannerman Avenue in Winnipeg’s tough North End who, as a kid, spent all his paper-route money on records, notched up some staggering statistics. He’s released 51 albums, 47 singles and earned 23 Canadian gold singles, 22 Canadian gold albums, eight Canadian multi-platinum albums, one American platinum album, six American gold singles, six Juno Awards and five RPM Awards, along with 22 SOCAN Classic and three BMI America awards for his songwriting. He has been honoured with the Order of Canada, the Order of Manitoba, the Order of the Buffalo Hunt and the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, and received an honorary doctorate of music from Brandon University. Here in his hometown, both a performing arts theatre and a community centre bear his name.

Sunday, Mar. 27, 2016

Einarson and Cummings in 2010

Decades into career, indigenous icon's creative drive burns bright

By John Einarson 15 minute read Preview

Decades into career, indigenous icon's creative drive burns bright

By John Einarson 15 minute read Sunday, Mar. 6, 2016

At last month’s Grammy Awards celebrating the best in music for 2015, two Manitoba recording artists were among those nominated for Best Historical Album. Native North America (Vol. 1): Aboriginal Folk, Rock, and Country 1966-1985, a two-CD or three-record box set, included archival recordings by country artist Ernest Monias, known as the Elvis of the North, and folk performer Shingoose. Vancouver-based record collector, archaeologist and curator Kevin (Sipreano) Howes spent 15 years searching for the hard-to-find recordings by some two dozen indigenous artists and remastered them for this vital collection. Although the box set was beaten out for the coveted Grammy by a Bob Dylan historical collection, it succeeded in garnering considerable media attention worldwide and shining a light on music long neglected.

“The relevancy of the messages in these songs, with their substance, depth, culture and soul, are still very timely today,” Howes told the Globe and Mail. “It’s resonating with people because so little has changed… and because there is a desire to appreciate, preserve and share this culture.”

For Shingoose, the long-overdue attention for his earlier work is very much appreciated.

“It was exciting,” he says from his home at a care home in Fort Garry, where he has lived since suffering a stroke in 2012.

Sunday, Mar. 6, 2016

Rocker had change of tune

By John Einarson 14 minute read Preview

Rocker had change of tune

By John Einarson 14 minute read Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016

I first met Ralph James in the locker-room of the River Heights Cardinals 12-man football program in fall 1965. I had been playing six-man football for several years at my local community club, Crescentwood, but decided to try my hand at the real deal.c

Ralph was in junior high at J.B. Mitchell School, and I was at Grant Park High School. Ralph was a rock-solid lineman, while I played in the defensive secondary. He was a very popular guy among his teammates. I can't recall if we ever talked music, but I think I knew he played guitar, as did I. He also had the longest hair of anyone I knew at that time.

Ralph's father, Doug, had been a mechanical engineer in the aircraft industry in Toronto. He had worked on the legendary Avro Arrow jet plane for A.V. Roe and Orenda Engines, but after the federal government shut down the project in 1959, he moved to Winnipeg and took a job at Dominion Bridge. Doug James later managed the Selkirk Rolling Mill. The family lived on Borebank Street south of Grant Avenue in River Heights. Ralph was the middle child between older brother, Carl, and Ian, the baby of the family.

"I don't remember Ralph having musical inclinations early on," says brother Carl, "but the British Invasion sure got us excited about rock 'n' roll."

Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016

James in a photo from a high school yearbook.

Unsung bands helped build rock scene

By John Einarson 13 minute read Preview

Unsung bands helped build rock scene

By John Einarson 13 minute read Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016

Burton Cummings once said that while daydreaming in school one afternoon in 1965, he started a list of all the bands he knew of that were active on the local scene. He got to 200 before stopping.

Colourful names such as the Dawgs, House Grannies, the Many Others, the Cellar Dwellers, Pebblebeaters, Matched Set, Footloose & Fancy Free, the Luvin' Kynd, Deverons, Misfits, Mourning Missed, Shondels, VIPs, Syndicate, Crescendos, Pallbearers, Feminine Touch and Pink Plumm conjure up fond memories of fun evenings spent boogalooing at your neighbourhood community club.

The Guess Who, Bachman-Turner Overdrive and Neil Young garner the lion's share of attention whenever the subject of the flourishing local music scene in the 1960s comes up, but there were several hundred bands that made that scene swing and kept teens dancing at community clubs and sock hops. They may not have scaled the dizzying heights of fame and fortune, but they were nonetheless hometown heroes and standard-bearers for Winnipeg rock.

While each band has a story to tell, here are a few local rock stars' stories from back in the day.

Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016

The Quid circa 1966 (from left): Lenny Fidkalo, Ron Rene, Billy Pavlik, Colin Palmer and Morley Nickles.

Vinyl revival

By John Einarson 14 minute read Preview

Vinyl revival

By John Einarson 14 minute read Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016

One of the biggest music-business stories in the last couple of years has been the surprise re-emergence of records.

While hardly a threat to digital downloading or even CD sales, vinyl sales have been on the upswing, increasing some 38 per cent in 2015 from the previous year. Even contemporary artists such as Taylor Swift and Alabama Shakes are having their latest efforts pressed on vinyl, showing vinyl's domain extends beyond the mouldy oldies.

Nielsen Music, which tracks music sales in various formats, said 5.6 million vinyl records were sold in 2015, more than double the figure for 2010. And it's not just baby boomers leading this resurgence: young people are discovering the joys of vinyl recordings.

For many of us who grew up with vinyl records -- the 12-inch 33 1/3 r.p.m. long player album (LP) and the seven-inch 45 r.p.m. single -- there is a special feeling that comes from listening to a record. For some listeners it's partly nostalgia, but it's also the depth and richness of the sound a decent-quality vinyl pressing offers.

Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016

Jason Halstead / Winnipeg Free Press
John Einarson checks out some records at Into the Music in the Exchange District.

Swingin’ spot brought in big names

By John Einarson 11 minute read Preview

Swingin’ spot brought in big names

By John Einarson 11 minute read Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015

While much is made of Winnipeg's flourishing rock 'n' roll scene in the 1960s, the city swung to a different beat in the decade that preceded it.

The latter 1940s and '50s were a golden age for dance bands, with nightclubs and dance halls throughout the city and beyond. Hundreds of local musicians were kept busy with steady work as the demand for live big band music was insatiable.

Clubs such as the Cave on Donald Street at Ellice Avenue, Rainbow Dance Gardens (later J's Discotheque) on Smith Street at Graham Avenue, Harry Smith's Club Morocco on Portage Avenue, the Highwayman supper club out on Pembina Highway near University Crescent, Jack's Place (later the 4th Dimension coffeehouse) behind the Pembina Drive-In theatre, the Normandy Dance Hall on Sherbrook Street, the Alhambra Dance Gardens on Fort Street and the Roseland, on the second floor of the Bradburn Building at Portage and Kennedy Street, were drawing crowds every weekend. You could also take the Moonlight Express train to Winnipeg Beach and dance at the Pavilion, which boasted the largest dance floor in the province.

The best-known of the many clubs and dance halls was the Rancho Don Carlos at 650 Pembina Hwy., just south of where Grant Avenue intersects with Pembina, between what is now a McDonald's restaurant and Knight Auto Haus. The Rancho opened its doors on New Year's Eve 1951, and over the next six or seven years booked some of the top names in the entertainment world, including Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Vicki Carr, Rosemary Clooney, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Bob Hope, Lena Horne, Harry James, Spike Jones, Frankie Laine and Sophie Tucker, and comedians such as Shelly Berman and Myron Cohen, among others.

Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015

Owen Clark collection
The José Ponéira quartet - Jimmy Weber (from left), José Ponéira, Jim Cordupel and Ed Sersen - at Rancho Don Carlos in 1958.