Sunday, October 24, 2010

Burton Cummings

I took the above photos at FW Gardens around 1980

As most know,Burton Cummings was the lead singer of The Guess Who,writing most of their hits or co-writting with Randy Bachman or Kurt Winter. Born New Years Eve 1947 in Winnipeg, Burton started his musical journey with his first band "The Deverons". In Winnipeg Burton became a local music rebel of sorts,one of his more notorious performances was as the opening act for a British band. Cummings stole the show as he danced on the piano outshining the main act. "The Deverons" recorded a few records,though in Winnipeg they remained in the shadow of "The Guess Who" who hit the USA Top 40 with "Shakin All Over" in 1965. When keyboard player Bob Ashley left "The Guess Who",Randy Bachman has said there was no other choice than to get Burton Cummings to join "The Guess Who". Burton arrived at the bands manager's office to meet with them and when offered the position replied "I'd like to guys,but The Beatles asked me last week" then left the room figuring it was a cruel joke. Re-entering the room Cummings asked and when told they were serious,accepted immediately. Burton remained with The Guess Who until 1975, then embarked on a very successful solo career. Burton's "I'd like to but The Beatles asked me to" remark would somewhat come to fruition years later when a "Beatle" Ringo Starr asked Burton to join the second version of his "All Star" band. Burton's greatest attribute has been his incredible singing voice. Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin called Burton's voice the best in R&R, and in liner notes Ringo referred to Burton as a singer with "a set of golden pipes", high praise indeed!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Victoriaville Tear Down This Mall ? !!!!!!!!!!!

Has there ever been anything in the history of the Lakehead that was doomed to fail as much as Victoriaville? I am firmly of the belief that this place was a disaster in the making before a shovel ever hit the ground. Victoria & Syndicate was the busiest intersection in the city,and in someone's mind it would be a great idea to close it off,build a mall and route traffic around it, sound like a good idea? The city had been warned against a downtown mall by cities who pursued that route and later regretted it. Rather than revitalizing the downtown Fort William ward,the building of Victoriaville has led to its demise. Since amalgamation Thunder Bay has really not reached a central identity one,yet after forty years we are still to a degree Fort William & Port Arthur. If one goes back to the late 1950's when Simpson-Sears opened at intercity,followed by the strip mall the writing was on the wall if one had the foresight to read it, the intercity area was going to build up as a retail center of the twin cities.

SS Keewatin

The SS Keewatin was a passenger liner in the Canadian Pacific Railway Great Lakes Steamship fleet,transporting passengers and freight from Port McNicoll Ontario on Georgian Bay to Fort William & Port Arthur for close to sixty years. A sister ship to the SS Assiniboia,both ships the first to have radar on the great lakes,the journey was a 2 1/2 day trip across Lake Superior & Lake Huron. Built in Scotland in 1906 the Keewatin carried 288 passengers with a crew of 86,was 350 feet long with a 3300 hp coal boiler with a top speed of 14 knots. Strict regulations were imposed on the wooden cabin steamships on the Great Lakes after the 1949 SS Noronic fire disaster in Toronto with between 118-139 losing their lives. These regulations in a declining market became difficult to justify and combined with faster modes of transportation becoming the prefered choice for travellers,Canadian Pacific ended the service with the final journey on November 28 1965 with the SS Assiniboia departing Port Mc Nicoll. The Keewatin and Assiniboia operated one more year as freighters then were withdrawn from service. The Keewatin is the last of the Great Lakes passenger liners still in existence and is operated as a museum in Saugatuck/Douglas Michigan. It has been offered for sale to Thunder Bay by its owner,but nothing more has been said since news of the offer was made. I think this would be a great addition to our waterfront development with its ties to our maritime history.
Meanwhile check it out here

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Don Edmunds Super Modified

Don Edmunds has been involved in racing since the late 1940's,starting out racing midgets at Huntington Beach,and reaching the Indy 500 in 1957 where he won the award as "Rookie of the Year",though it would be his only start in the 500,failing to qualify in 1959. Edmunds honed his skills as a builder working for Indy car builder Eddie Kuzma while racing midgets and would found Edmunds Autoresearch in Anaheim CA. Specializing primarily in sprint car's and midget's, Edmunds built virtually every kind of open wheeled race car,from Indy cars to Super Vee,winning countless races. Edmunds was even the builder of Evel Kneivel's famed "Sky Cycle" for his famed Snake River Canyon jump in 1974. Monogram Models made a model kit of Don's 1966 Super Modified in 1/24 scale that has been reissued several times. The real car featured a 327 CI Chevy,Hilborn Fuel Injection,Halibrand wheels, Schneider cam & a Hunt magneto. Edmunds was the first to mass produce short track race cars, with a parts inventory for each type,hundreds of these Super Modifieds were sold all built with fibreglass bodies except the first, CBSM-1 which was built in aluminum. Don Edmunds was inducted into both the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame. After selling Autoresearch Don Edmunds turned his attention to building scale replica models of 1920-30's race cars as well as some 1/4 scale sprints.
Check out his site and see his craftmanship.
To see pictures of this Super Modifed restored follow this link.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Beauty's & Beast's !

Like many I've always loved the timeless beauty of the 1955-56 & 57 Chevy,over 50 years later they still tantalize the eyes. Much like many of the 32-34 & 40 Fords,these Chevies would share the same destiny,the race track. They still looked gorgeous throwing the rooster tails through the corners,and with the front plug lining up with the ball joint many considered them natural race cars.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Guess Who

The Guess Who Canada's Premier Rock & Roll Legends!

by Jeff Caldwell

The best thing about growing up with older siblings is,you get exposed to some great things at a younger age. I was exposed to The Guess Who by my older brother Bruce,when their hit was Clock on the Wall,three years before These Eyes. They have been my favorite band ever since. The Guess Who would play the Lakehead numerous times before they broke through with These Eyes in 1969,my brother Bruce became friends with them during this time and would help them set up while here. I recall Bruce receiving Christmas cards from Gary Peterson the drummer. Because of this,I've met the band through the years as well.

The Guess Who started out in the early 1960's in Winnipeg as Chad Allen & the Expression's, hitting the USA Top 40 in 1965 With "Shakin All Over". Burton Cummings joined the band in 1966 leaving his band "The Deverons",initially as the keyboard player and sharing vocals with Chad Allen,Cummings doing the more edgier tunes. Chad Allen left The Guess Who shortly after, and Burton Cumming took over as lead singer,and the lineup of Burton Cummings,Randy Bachman,Gary Peterson and Jim Kale was set. An ill fated tour to England in 1967,brought the band home to Winnipeg not only broke,but deeply in debt. Perseverance would become the bands mantra, as the band played on extensively determined to make it and get out of debt. A big break came their way as they became the Winnipeg house band of CBC's "Lets Go" hosted oddly enough by Chad Allen. Jack Richardson of Toronto saw The Guess Who on "Lets Go" and bought their record contract from Quality Records,mortgaged his home to finance the recording of the album "Wheatfield Soul" in New York. Off the album came "These Eyes",and as Burton Cummings has said several times,"their lives were never the same". The Guess Who followed up "These Eyes" with "Laughing",another big hit for the band. A DJ in the southern USA started playing the flip side of "Laughing","Undun" and The Guess Who had the rare achievement of a two sided hit record. In 1970,during a performance Randy Bachman broke a guitar string,after changing it Burton Cummings was late coming back on stage and the band began to jam, Cummings started singing whatever came into his head and the band unknowingly had created the biggest hit of their career,"American Woman". "American Woman" hit #1 in the USA charts,the first time any Canadian band achieved that feat. In 1970 The Guess Who outsold all other music acts,including "The Beatles"! The joy would be short lived as Randy Bachman left the band shortly after. Kurt Winter and Greg Leskiw were brought in replacing Bachman though Leskiw would stay a short time before Don McDougall replaced him. Jim Kale left in 1972 with Bill Wallace taking over on bass. The final change in The Guess Who's lineup came with Dominec Troiano of Toronto replacing Kurt Winter and Don McDougall on guitar in 174. Troiano was the only member of The Guess Who that was not from Winnipeg.The hits continued through the changes in personnel,and in 1975,Burton Cummings had reached the end with The Guess Who,and the run of The Guess Who had come to an end with their final album "Power in the Music". Jim Kale would later trademark the name "The Guess Who",and tour with other singers and players with minimal success. Meanwhile Burton Cummings had an incredible solo career,Randy Bachman had enormous success with BTO,and both toured with Beatle Ringo Starr's "All Star Band". Through the years,there were periods of acrimonious relationships with band members and in 1983 they reunited for a short lived reunion tour. In 1998 the four original members were asked by Manitoba Premier Gary Filman to reunite to play at the Pan Am Games in Winnipeg. The reunion was a positive one culminating in a 2000 "Running Back Through Canada" tour with Don McDougall added and Bill Wallace replacing Jim Kale. Prior to the tour The Guess Who returned to their roots with a "Community Club" concert played by the original four. The tour line up opened in St John's, crossed Canada,with CBC and Much Music special's, played the Halftime at the Grey Cup in Calgary,both a CD & DVD of the tour followed. A tour of the USA followed and the swan song of The Guess Who would be the SARS concert in 2003,closing the book on Canada's greatest band. Burton Cummings and Randy Bachman have collaborated on a CD of their favorites,a CBC special and DVD. Jim Kale's version of the band tours with Gary Peterson and somtimes Kale, with a replacement singer trying to sound like Burton. John Einarson of Winnipeg has written a great book on The Guess Who,"American Woman" available from Amazon.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Win an Expo 67X from Esso

In 1967 Esso held a contest to coincide with Canada's Centennial,giving away 4 identical custom car's built by the "King of the Kustomizers" George Barris,builder of the "Batmobile" "The Monkeemobile" from The Monkee's, The Beverly Hillbilles truck and numerous others. The plan was totally conceived by Esso with the prevailing theme of "Family Safety and Automotive Traveling. Based on an Oldsmobile Tornado the car's wheelbase was stretched 15 inches from 119 to 134 inches and overall length of 241 inches,an extension of 30 inches. The interior featured Masland Duron vinyl swivel buckets in the front, wraparound L shaped couch in the rear with English Walnut inlay. Two am/fm radio's ,two stereo tape decks and a pop-up table centering the rear and swivelled front buckets sat around. I remembered the Esso contest since I was a child but could not find anyone else who remembered it,is this car that easy to forget? One of these unique cars was won in Fort William, by Paul Sparrow and spent some time in KAM Motors showroom. Only two of the 4 cars are known to still exist,one was offered for sale on ebay in 2009 though in pretty rough condition. The seller described it as a "project car of a lifetime". Because of the car's provenance it had an appraisal value of $21,500 but failed to meet the reserve price. For more George Barris click the link below.

Look back way back!

Look up, way up! Its the Friendly Giant,Rusty & Jerome. How many mornings were we fixated to this show,with "Early One Morning" playing in our ears. The Friendly Giant appeared on CBC TV from 1958-85,though it began on radio in Madison Wisconsin in 1953. Friendly would lower the "draw bridge" for us and put out "One little chair for one of you, and a bigger chair for two more to curl up in, and for someone who likes to rock, a rocking chair in the middle." Soon Jerome would poke his head in the castle's window and Rusty would pop out of the sack and the show would be rolling with a script that was mostly ad libbed. Bob Homme aka Friendly was the show's creator ,was actually from Stoughton Wisconsin moving to Canada in 1958. Rod Coneybeare was the voice and puppeteer of Rusty & Jerome and more that 3000 episodes of Friendly Giant were done by the time the show was cancelled. In 1998, Bob Homme was made a Member of the Order of Canada. Governor-General Romeo LeBlanc traveled to Bob's home in Grafton Ontario to present him with the Order in person. Accepting the honor, Homme said, "I'll always remember this day as a perfect cap of 30-odd years of just having a wonderful time simply being friendly." Homme had become a Canadian Citizen,and died in 2000. Follow the link below and visit with the Friendly Giant.