Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Neil (Young) went to play for awhile in Thunder Bay...

" On the other side of Winnipeg, Neil and The Squires
played the Zone
But then he went to play,for awhile in Thunder Bay
He never looked back and he’s never coming home"
Randy Bachman "Prairie Town"

Neil Young was born in Toronto Ontario Nov 12 1945 the son of famed Canadian sports writer Scott Young. When his parents divorced Neil moved to Winnipeg with his mother and through the years ,both Toronto and Winnipeg have claimed him as their own native son. Fort William Ontario however,has a bit of a claim of its own.  Neil spent time here in late 1964-65,of his time in Fort William, Neil says in
"Don't be Denied" by John Einarson

 "Fort William is like  a forgotten chapter in my life. It had an immense impact on me because I really started to grow on my own. Fort William was more important than Toronto for me in terms of growth as a singer and songwriter. I gained a lot of valuable experience there."

Several interesting things occured in Fort William. between October 1964,when Neil Young and his band The Squires came to Fort William and June 17th 1965. The Squires travelled to Fort William and secured a one week engagement at The Flamingo Club (aka The Flame) starting Oct 13 ,and returning November 2 for a two week engagement. During the November stay, Neil turned 19,and wrote "Sugar Mountain"at the
Vic Hotel (Victoria Hotel) on his birthday.

While in FW, Neil became friends with local musicians,and with then CJLX DJ Ray Dee (Delatinsky),with Ray becoming a somewhat local contact/manager for Neil.  With Ray Dee as the producer,Neil recorded his singing for the first time Nov 23 1964 during a late night recording session at CJLX studio's on Victoria Ave. Three songs were recorded in that session, "I'll Love You Forever", " I Wonder" and "Together Alone".

In April 1965 Neil and The Squires packed up to move to Fort William.While here a spin off of the Au Go Go Singers "The Company" were playing the 4D (Fourth Dimension), April 18 1965. Young became fast friends with a member of that group in a fateful meeting in Rock and Roll history named Steven Stills. "Cruising around and drinking strong Canadian beer" as Stills recalls,when Stills departed both shared a strong desire to play together. The roots of the Buffalo Springfield had been sewn and the later Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
June 17 1965, Neil headed east to take local musician Terry Erickson to play a gig in Sudbury,with Tommy Horricks and Donny Brown of "The Bonnevilles" joining in. Neil's beloved hearse "Mort" blew its transmission and after being unable to have it repaired headed east to Toronto to his father's home in Toronto with Erickson and Fort William would become a part of Neil's past. "Long May You Run" (1976) which Neil played during the opening ceremonies at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics tells the story.

"well it was back in Blind River in 1962 (actually 1965) when I last saw you alive,but we missed that shift on the long decline,long may you run."  

 In the waning days in Fort William,the bands name changed as they became "The High Flying Bird". Having been booked to play an engagement at "Smitty's Pancake House" on Memorial Ave,when the ill fated sojourn to Sudbury took place the date went unfulfilled,the sign outside read "The Bird has flown", ending Neil's time in Fort William.
During his time in Toronto, Neil replaced "Mort" with another hearse, and eventually ventured off to Los Angeles in early 1966 with Bruce Palmer in search of Stills, after a previous trip to NYC hoping to connect with Stills, had Stills already gone. Stopped at a red light on Sunset Blvd., Stills spotted a hearse with Ontario plates heading the opposite direction and chased it down believing it was his friend Neil. Young and Palmer teamed up with Stills, Richie Furay and fellow Canadian Dewey Martin to form Buffalo Springfield fulfilling the seed sewn in Fort William with Steven Stills, to play together.
Years later while compiling his Archives collection,out of the blue Neil called Ray Dee inquiring if he still had the masters from that long ago recording session at CJLX. Ray flew down to Young's California ranch with tapes in hand. The two drove across Young's ranch, Neil stopped the truck,and apologized for leaving Ray behind without a word all those years before. Young explained that without "Mort", he couldn't return.
Having left Fort William in his rear view mirrors back in June 1965, Neil Young would return one day,almost 27 years later on May 23rd 1992, to receive an honoury doctrate in music from Lakehead University. During his speech Young recalled his days in the Lakehead,thanked Ray Dee and told the story of "Mort".

Ad in FW Times Journal for their first appearance at the Flamingo in October 1964.

An article by John Einarson, chronicling Young's time in Fort William
appeared in the Chronicle Journal Saturday December 21/1991

Neil received an honorary doctrate in music from Lakehead University
in May 23/1992 with his father Scott attending the ceremony.

On Buffalo Springfield's second album "Buffalo Springfield Again",members listed influences and inspiration's in their career. Fort William appears in the last column,representing Young's time here and maybe a bit for Stills as well. 

John Einarson's "Don't Be Denied" tells of Neil Young's Canada years.

Neil's dad Scott Young wrote this book on Neil

"Shakey" give's great detail of Neil's time in FW and his friendship with Ray Dee

Neil Young Archives Volume 1 Book has six pages on Fort William


1 comment:

  1. yes I was at CJLX the night I'll Love You Forever was recorded. So awesome to her it again