The rain poured, but Maitland made the show go on
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/08/2010 (4481 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
IN the summer of 1970, Manitoba had turned 100 years old and I had turned 23. As luck would have it, that made me just about the same age as one of the great phenomena of the 20th century — rock ’n’ roll.
It was a great time to be involved in rock. The local music scene was developing nicely. Local musicians, agents and promoters could actually make a living. Media coverage was in its infancy and big stadium productions were almost unheard of.
I was managing a band called Next. We had recently landed a recording contract and the band had recorded and released Dusty Shoes on Warner Brothers. I was also in the final months of a two-and-a-half-year stint writing a column — Popular Music by Bones — for the Winnipeg Tribune. I tried to keep the column controversial, even deliberately antagonistic at times, taking shots at local announcers and celebs. I used the alias "Bones" to avoid being discovered and it worked well for some time. Peter Warren, later of CJOB Action Line fame, was at the Tribune and my editor at that time. The weekly column gave me my first taste of public recognition and a lot of contacts.
Which was why, I guess, that I got tapped for a role in the biggest show Manitoba had seen, a festival called Man-Pop. That’s what I want to tell you about. It was a day that looked like disaster but ended in triumph and I’ll bet nobody who was there will ever forget it, though the memories may be befogged. I want to tell you about the promoters Frank Weiner and Jerry Shore, about the band Led Zeppelin, about a pounding rainstorm that made it all wetter than Woodstock and mostly about a 58-year-old man, a stranger to rock n’ roll, who made it happen.
His name was Maitland Steinkopf.
He had been a cabinet minister in Duff Roblin’s Conservative government — he was the province’s first Jewish cabinet minister. So he was establishment and not quite establishment.
Though Steinkopf did not run for re-election in 1963, he held one of the most important posts in the Roblin government, heading up the preparations for Manitoba’s centennial celebration in 1970.
There were many centennial projects and events, including the construction of the Centennial Concert Hall, Man-Pop, and the Mom & Pop Festival at the CPR’s Royal Alexander Hotel. And, perhaps because there were teenagers in the Steinkopf household, there was to be something for young Manitobans. It was to be the very first outdoor festival-style event at the Winnipeg Stadium.
Some heavy contemporary names were being tossed around. John and Yoko Lennon, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Iron Butterfly, the Youngbloods and Canadian acts like Chilliwack were among those being considered. There was talk originally of the tickets being free although eventually it was decided that would create problems and tickets were eventually priced at $6.50.
It was a bold plan that was not well received in all quarters. Some politicians and others publicly criticized the very thought of public monies sponsoring a rock concert. There was also much banter in the government caucus room about the inappropriateness of inviting John Lennon and his wife Yoko to attend the event. They considered it inappropriate for the Centennial Corporation to sponsor such an event, as they felt it promoted an objectionable lifestyle. It was typical conservative BS and it could not derail Maitland Steinkopf. He remained adamant that the youth of the province were entitled to have a celebration. It was going to happen and would be called Man-Pop. It was a wonderfully bold idea from a sometimes crusty, but sincere, driven, dedicated father and Manitoban.
Frank, Jerry and I promoted shows together for years including the first Aerosmith show in Western Canada. It’s long story but it took three tries to pull that show off but when Aerosmith finally performed, for us here, they were traveling with a skyrocketing young support act called AC-DC. Aerosmith/AC-DC was the largest arena show ever at that time.
Maitland retained Frank to book all the talent for Man-Pop.
Jerry was responsible for all entertainment for the Centennial Celebrations for the province, so he, too, was very involved in Man-Pop right from the start.
Jerry eventually recommended that I be hired to assist with the event and so I was, soon after planning started. The show would be an all-day event, on Aug. 29.
Frank was a notorious night owl. He was usually up late and not in the office until early afternoon. Maitland, on the other hand, was an early riser, and started his day before dawn.
It was hilarious to hear Frank rant and rave about how he had to stay up all night to meet with Maitland at one of his routine early morning meetings, and then go home to sleep.
"I’m not kidding you, I have to stay up all (bad word) night or I won’t wake up.
"I’m serious, I stay up all night and Maitland comes in the room and starts on me right away. ‘Why don’t we have an answer on this? Did we hear back about that? Why is this taking so long? Why do they want so much money?’
"He doesn’t understand how hard it is to talk these bands into coming up here for a one-off outdoor date.
"I can’t take it any more, I swear he’s going to drive me (bad word) crazy. Why seven in the morning? I can’t even think straight and he starts grinding me."
I would have given anything to be a fly on the wall at their early morning get-togethers. It was always hilarious to listen to Frank complaining about Maitland and Maitland never missed an opportunity to publicly berate Frank about how much money he was trying to charge. Jerry used to love to stir that pot.
Maitland was insisting on the most popular bands of the time and had the kids at home to coach him. In all fairness to Frank, it was no small chore in 1970 trying to lure major acts to such an obscure market in Canada. The acts also had concerns about the production side of the event, things like the stage, sound and lights. The performers were concerned and wanted assurances that the production would be up to snuff.
They needed to hear the name of an American with production credentials.
There was of course, the matter of cutting the deals. The other concerns were logistics that could be resolved, but what really makes show-biz go-round is money. Acts were available but at what price. On-again-off-again, negotiations were taking time.
In spite of the fact that the talent budget was enormous, for some it is not a matter of money. John and Yoko, as it ended up, were either not interested, or not available, at any price. Led Zeppelin and Premier Talent were at least taking calls. They had the date open but turned down $35,000.00 US, an enormous fee for the times. They finally settled on $50,000.
To ease artists’ concerns it was decided, much to my personal chagrin, that an American professional be brought in to supervise the production of the event. The bands wanted to know there would be an experienced hand. Frank recommended a guy named Joel. According to associates of Frank’s he came with the right credentials. Joel was retained to supervise all aspects of production. He was an American citizen from San Francisco.
Joel was a regular looking guy, average height, with shortish brown hair and was rather soft spoken. He hid, perpetually, behind a pair of dark shades. He checked into the City Center Hotel on Ellice Avenue on the cuff of the Centennial Corporation and would now be a player in this mega-rock event in Winnipeg history.
For a young guy in the biz from ‘Frisco, he looked pretty straight. In fact I cautioned the guys in Next to keep all weed-smoking out of his sight.
That didn’t last long.
He and some of the guys got into it almost immediately. A week prior to the event, one band member even got busted and eventually fined $10 for possession of grass he was getting for Joel.
Joel wasn’t in the ‘Peg long before a pretty, rather spaced-out, slightly scruffy, lady friend arrived on a plane from San Francisco and moved into his hotel room, with her bag of goodies, I presume. As time passed. Joel would spend more and more time in his pitch-black hotel room with his lady friend. But soon, they weren’t in Winnipeg or anywhere else on earth — they were on another planet!
Joel had Maitland’s blessing from the start and Maitland accepted what Joel told him without question. All production decisions were clearly to be in Joel’s apparently very experienced, and capable hands.
Jerry and I knew better than to criticize Joel around Maitland.
In the meantime, at Joel’s direction I was contracting forklifts, trailers, scaffolding and other essentials using local contacts as much as possible. I was also plugging the show and releasing information through the column. I also secured a spot on the show for Next. They were very popular and yes, Frank was our agent, and yes we paid him a commission.
Tickets went on sale before the final lineup was announced but the event was selling well in spite of the fact that not all the talent had been confirmed. Finally, contract negotiations were completed and the shows’ talent line-up was confirmed. Frank really pulled though. Drum roll please…
It was an impressive roster for sure. Led Zeppelin, Iron Butterfly, the Youngbloods, Chilliwack, the Ides Of March, Dianne Heatherington and the Merry-Go-Round, the Mongrels, Next, Justin Tyme, Chopping Block, Sugar & Spice, Haymarket Riot and Euphoria. This was a huge show anywhere in North America, never mind Winnipeg, Manitoba. The buzz on the street was incredible.
The minute the lineup was announced, Frank started grinding Maitland for immediate payment. However, now that the acts were all confirmed, Maitland was in no hurry to pay Frank. In fact, he seemed to delight in antagonizing him. He was not alone. Jerry took great delight in telling him that Maitland planned to reduce his fee. He would go ballistic every time. Jerry recalls Frank saying, "If he doesn’t pay me what I’m supposed to get, I’m going to get carried into his bloody office on a stretcher, and I’m going to stay there on the stretcher until he pays me."
As the event got closer, Joel started to get downright weird. One time I called the hotel room and after about 15 rings girlfriend answered the telephone and barely whispered "Hello." I asked for Joel and heard the telephone slowly tap the desk. I could barely hear her speaking in the background. It seemed forever and it must have been at least five minutes before he came on the phone.
"Hello? (pause) Who’s this?"
It’s me. Bones. Are you OK?
The line went silent. He had hung up.
They were both on something, but nobody ever figured out what. It was more than pot though.
It was now the day before the event. Our temporary production office was in the arena. We had motor homes set up on the parking lot for the acts and some dressing rooms inside the arena.
I checked the forecast the day before and spoke to Joel. The earlier forecasts were rather nebulous. Now there was a possibility of rain in the forecast. We all mused about how it would be a bummer to have the fans get wet after all this sincere effort. It won’t rain, we said. Well, not much, anyway.
Some acts were starting to arrive and do interviews on the radio and with the press. I was also interviewing for my column between festival duties. The official hotel was the International Inn Hotel near the airport. Jerry was busy with that end of things making sure the acts got checked in OK and taking care of "special requests."
Joel seemed to be pulling it off. The stage, sound, lights were all in town and being unloaded. The stage was late going up and backstage power was a chronic problem, but Joel remained nonchalant. Eventually we came into stride and all was ready.
I called the hotel the night before late in the evening to talk to Joel about what we would do in case of rain. Joel was right out of it and I could hear his girlfriend carrying on, mumbling to him in the background. After a few minutes I realized that it was pointless to continue and said good-bye. It was going to be interesting in the morning.
Morning meant 5 a.m.
The morning forecast was gruesome. Maitland was worried. Joel was back on scene and frantic. I don’t think he had slept at all. Power to the stage and outdoor dressing rooms remained a problem and the crowd was arriving early, camping outside the stadium fence.
We had a meeting at 6 a.m. and decided to open the doors as soon as we could to relieve some of the pressure outside.
By mid-morning the skies were overcast, but it was warm, with a gentle breeze, The weather office however, was telling us rain, lots of it, was a now certainty. There was a huge cell with a lot of moisture in it going to hit us by mid-afternoon. With rain now a certainty we decided to get started right away and sacrifice some of the local bands. Next said they were willing to go on early, at 11 a.m.-ish, and did so. The schedule was changed as it became more overcast. Dianne Heatherington and the Merry-Go-Round would go on next, followed by Chilliwack.
You could feel the dampness in the air, but spirits were high with music finally playing. I think momentarily we were all lulled into thinking things were going to be OK. By the time Chilliwack hit the stage, it was about 2 p.m. The black clouds were moving in and it started to sprinkle off and on just as they started Rain-O. As they progressed the real rain started and eventually poured. Chilliwack played a stellar performance. They made many fans that day.
The stage had been hastily covered but not the sound power amps, and by time we got to them, they had shorted out and were useless. The sound company, Kelly Deyong, were furious at Joel and refused to let us use any of their speakers or equipment that had survived. All the speakers used in the final arena system were guitar amps!
Nobody, including Joel, had planned for torrential rain. No precautions or preparations were made to protect the sound and lighting equipment power amps, which is automatic these days. The sound equipment wasn’t going to provide another note of music and Joel lost his mind.
As the wind blew cold, the crowd began to seethe. Raincoats and sweaters were donned, makeshift tents erected and the young fans moved around restlessly. But few — maybe 1,000 –of the 15,000 went home, even when the skies opened up at 5 p.m.. They held tight, dancing and singing in the rain, some of the males peeling off wet clothes.
Maitland came out about 7 p.m. to announce that everything was being adjourned to the arena. The rain was coming down in torrents and the crowd ran for the arena doors.
The whole thing was screwed, and I had no idea what could be done to straighten it out. Besides, neither Maitland nor Joel ever listened to me anyway. I decided I needed a drink.
I ended up in the Youngbloods’ motor home drinking wine with them. They were great guys and we were having a fine time relaxing, getting stoned and speculating in the midst of the pandemonium all around us in the backstage compound. I thought the event was dead. I figured we could not possibly reschedule and the arena was far too small — this was before the upper decks went in, and it sat only 10,000. I was having a great time till the knock on the door.
Lorne Safer, the manager of the Mongrels, was at the Youngbloods’ motor-home door. Once inside he looked right at me and said "Maitland wants to see you right away."
Maitland got right to the point.
"Bruce, Joel is sick."
(Sick? He was stoned out of his mind).
"He cannot continue. He needs to be taken care of. I am negotiating with the Enterprises to move the show indoors." As Jerry recalls it, Maitland used his "unique" style of persuasion on everyone from the fire marshal to the arena manager to the police. He told them what he was doing, he didn’t ask.
"We will not have room to accommodate everyone and I’m not sure how we will deal with that. My understanding is that the sound company is refusing to co-operate. I want to try continuing and I want you to take over for Joel. Do you think a sound system can be arranged? Can we continue if the bands will agree to play?"
It was the first time I ever felt Maitland cared what I thought.
I said I thought we could but needed to go meet with some people. I said that if I did agree I didn’t want any interference from anyone (meaning him).. He grudgingly agreed and I went to find Joel.
I found him literally hiding behind a desk in the production office. Joel was so destroyed he couldn’t communicate. He didn’t know where his hotel was or what it was called. In the midst of the massive confusion I flagged a cab over and gave the cabby instructions to take him to the lobby of the City Centre.
I paid the driver and off they went into the maze of buses and cars, police vehicles, and parents frantic to find their kids in the rain.
It was then that it hit me. What the hell did I just get myself into? I couldn’t afford to screw up. Maitland would eat me alive. Well, here goes. I gotta get some wine.
I got together with Herman Fruhm, the Garnet brothers, and some of the band production people among others in the backstage area. After a lively discussion and a lot of blind faith they decided they were simply going to "black-tape it." They would use a combination of Garnet guitar amps, and local band amplifiers and equipment, and we could have a usable system — they hoped. But it was going to take time and the kids were wet and getting restless outside. And there was the matter of convincing the major acts to play on it.
I found Maitland with Jerry. They were asking Frank what the status was with the bands. Frank says, "The bands are concerned about the sound system. They don’t think they can play on it."
Maitland asked how my meeting went. "Can it be done? Can we announce the move?"
He loved to make announcements and did so constantly until I stopped him. You know, the "would little Johnny so-and so call his mother" stuff. He was trying to be helpful, but I finally told him to relax. They would all be fine, and would all live without him re-uniting every individual in the place. Only a few real emergency announcements were allowed after that.
I said, "We need some time. We can do it, but we’ll need to hold the doors while we section off the stage and start to build it and the system. We won’t have any lights, but we will fire as many spotlights as we can. We are picking up some equipment from Garnet’s warehouse now."
I told Frank to tell the bands that we were putting a system together that the Guess Who use on tour. Dropping the Guess Who’s name really helped. The Guess Who used Garnet equipment exclusively. Otherwise, Garnet was certainly not well known in the States, and we had a lot of their gear in the system.
Maitland told Frank. "Tell the bands we expect them to play or they won’t get paid." Frank was exasperated. He couldn’t do that in his position as an agent. He told Maitland that it wasn’t that easy. The storm was an "act of God." They had a right to cancel.
Maitland had no patience for that. "I’ll speak to them myself in a bit."
I added that if we could win their individual soundmen over, the bands would likely play. And some of the soundmen were already pitching in.
Cords and connectors were custom-made on the spot. You could have wrapped the arena with the gaffer and electrical tape used that day. It was non-stop crisis after crisis. We’d just get one problem solved and another would pop up.
At the time I was a pretty good social drinker and as I said, I started drinking with the Youngbloods before I first talked to Maitland. I had dispatched a runner to get more wine at Polo Park. It was sitting in some water under the loading dock, to keep it cool. But when I went for a drink it was gone. I wanted that wine. I felt it would keep me going if I drank it slowly.
We found out that the police had discovered my stash and confiscated it. I said if I didn’t get my wine back right away I was going to "stop the whole (bad word) process" and "you can deal with 14,000 pissed-off kids." It was a bluff of course, but it worked, and the Mateus was put back in the water at the loading dock. Rock SSRqnSSRq roll. Ya gotta love it.
My wine aside, the police were absolutely fantastic that day. They kept their composure through some pretty tense moments.
The doors were opened about 7 p.m. The pressure buildup against the arena doors was getting dangerous. There was no way to let all the ticket-holders in. According to all accounts when the doors were finally shut, about 14,000 squeezed in leaving about 800 outside very wet, and very angry. They would all receive refunds later but it was a drag. Three big windows at the front eventually got smashed. No charges were laid.
Meanwhile, the sound system was being tested and by now the roadies and soundmen from the major bands had become believers. The system was not pretty but it seemed to work and actually kicked ass during testing.
Meanwhile at the International Inn, Led Zeppelin were being difficult.
The band was already partying, the whole "sound system thing" concerned them and we had no lights except for the follow spots. Maitland had arranged for Government of Manitoba cheques for the balances due. They had all received a 50 per cent deposit. However, Peter Grant, Zeppelin’s manager, was now demanding U.S. cash instead of a cheque or they would not perform.
There was also the matter of the naked man in the hallway outside one of their hotel rooms. He was knocking on one of their doors begging for his clothes back. Nobody cared. Too much going on.
It was now around 8 p.m. The arena was bursting at the seams. It was hot and humid from all the wet clothing. You could actually see the steam coming off the crowd. It took a long time to get patched in and ready but the Youngbloods were going to be the first to try the system. They were about to take the stage, but at the last minute decided they too wanted to get paid before they went on, in U.S. cash. They were finally convinced to start and that payment was coming. They went on to thunderous applause.
At the hotel the other major acts were now also concerned that if they didn’t get to play they wouldn’t get paid or the cheques would bounce when they got back home. They were all demanding U.S. cash and Frank was frantic.
Just after that Maitland went to the hotel to talk to Peter Grant. The very heavy-set manager was getting a bit drunk. As Jerry recalled it, Maitland plunked $25,000 US cash in mixed bills on the table in big stacks. Jerry didn’t know where he got it, on a Saturday night in Winnipeg in 1970, but there it was.
Grant said, in a slurred thick British accent, "Mr. Steinkopf, you are a gentleman. We are ready to give the best goddam show we’ve ever played. We will play anytime you’re ready for us and as long as you’ll have us!" And that was that.
The only problem was, it was so late by the time the band took the stage, they were all hammered.
Meanwhile back at the arena the Youngbloods, who at first wouldn’t take the stage without being paid, now wouldn’t stop playing until they got their money. They went on and on but Youngbloods fans, oblivious to what was really going on, thought it was great. It was quite some time before their road manager was satisfied but he finally gave the signal and they left the stage.
Next up, the Ides Of March, who from all accounts performed beyond expectations and were very well received. George Belanger of Harlequin fame noted, "They weren’t really a favorite band of mine but I thought they stole the show musically; them and Iron Butterfly."
It was after 11 p.m. when Iron Butterfly got on stage. According to Dennis Lind "They easily had the largest stage set-up. The drummer was so loud he was behind Plexiglas, un-miked, and was still loud!! They were smokin’ right from the start with David "El Rhino" Reinhardt and Mike Pinera, the singer from Blues Image, on guitars. Their version of Easy Rider was phenomenal. Their show was unbelievable. They got standing ovations. They were the best act there."
Then, finally, what everyone was waiting for. With spotlights swirling, Led Zeppelin took the stage to deafening applause. It was obvious they were really enjoying themselves, and they played forever. You could tell they were all loaded, but who wasn’t? I remember Jimmy Page’s guitar solos being incredible. After many standing ovations they finally closed the show and left the stage. It was 3 a.m.
Everyone including the audience was exhilarated, exhausted and a little numb from the experience.
It was surreal as the crowd slowly left the building. Outside, buses had been kept on to take fans home and were even instructed to pick stragglers up along the way. Hundreds of concerned parents came to pick up their kids.
I had been awake for 24 hours, with little sleep the night before. Like everyone, I was exhausted, but still high from the sheer excitement and energy of the whole thing. More cold beer and wine surfaced and we had a few. While fans went home there was much to do dismantling the equipment and wrapping up. It was daylight when we finally left the arena.
Man-Pop was a reflection of the wonderful innocence, innovation, experimentation, excitement, and livin’ for the moment, rock SSRqnSSRq roll of the SSRq70s.
The show did go on. It was an experience that all of us who were there, will treasure forever.
Thank you Maitland. You pulled through for us and we remember.