The Deverons

The Deverons

Friday, May 28, 2010

Burton Cummings and The Deverons

…At seventeen, Burton Cummings was already a local star with his band The Deverons. He had talent, good looks, a teen following, and one of the most exciting live shows in the city with Burton able to win over even the toughest audiences to his side through his antics, jumping about on stage and standing on pianos. There were other keyboard players, some more talented on their instrument than Burton, like The Shondels’ Mike Hanford, but no one could hold a candle to Burton’s stage dynamics and youthful punk bravado.

Born on New Years Eve, 1947, Burton Cummings grew up an only child on Bannerman Avenue in Winnipeg’s tough, multicultural North Ed. His father abandoned him and his mother Rhoda before he was one, and so the two of them moved in with her mother and father, the Kirkpatrick’s. His grandfather died when Burton was seven. Rhoda Cummings worked at Eaton’s downtown department store in the finance department, and though her single income was meager, she managed to provide her son with everything he needed for a proper upbringing, except a father. “You can’t miss what you’ve never had,” related Burton in a 1981 interview. “So I didn’t miss having a father, except on Father’s Day when all the kids in class were making cards for their dads and I’d get bummed out because I didn’t have a dad to make one for. Or the first day of school when you had to stand up and say what your dad did for a living. That was a nightmare for me. I didn’t have the guts to say I didn’t have a father, so I’d make something up.” Still, he grew up amid the comfort of a close-knit extended family that enjoyed get togethers where everyone played something, mostly piano, as did his mother who also sang. At a very early age, Burton began piano lessons. “I started piano at age four. I loved rock ‘n’ roll but I didn’t much care for classical piano. I hadn’t put the two together yet. But the minute I found out I could play Diana by Paul Anka that was it. Next thing I knew, my mother couldn’t tear me away from the piano.”

In school, Burton starred in three productions of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas at St. John’s High School and sang in the church choir. His interest in popular music was piqued at a tender age, fostering both an obsession and a dream. “I started buying records very young, about seven or eight years of age. My mother had a pile of 78s, forties and fifties pop stuff like Teresa Brewer, Perry Como, Patti Page, and Gail Storm, so there were lots of records in the house. I was fascinated by records very young. You could hear it, put the needle back and hear it again and again. I had stuff like the Kingston Trio, The Battle of New Orleans by Johnny Horton, Everly Brothers stuff. My mother gave me Hound Dog and Don’t be Cruel for Christmas one year, so I must have been seven or eight then. Once I started buying records I went nuts. I would cut lawns and deliver newspapers to save money to buy more records. I remember fats Domino blowing me away. He had such bounce to his voice and I’d never heard anyone talk like that. People in Winnipeg didn’t talk that way. I started thinking, ‘What a great way to make a living, making records.’”

It was Burton’s alto saxophone, however, not the piano, that brought him his first taste of being in a rock ‘n’ roll group. That group was The Deverons, formed at St. John’s High around 1962 by Burton’s classmates. “Ed Smith and I were really good buddies from school,” recalls Burton. “We were inseparable. Then suddenly he started going to these band practices and I was really jealous. I thought, ‘Shit, I’d like to be in a band too.’ But, no matter how much I hinted, I wasn’t invited.” Undaunted, Burton started hanging around their practices, gradually insinuating himself into the fledgling group, first on saxophone, then a bit of piano, and finally as lead vocalist and front man. “They were really into The Ventures and Fireballs, guitar instrumental stuff. Lead guitarist Derek Blake was an instrumentals freak. I had joined the band playing a bit of sax. There were hardly any vocals, it was mostly instrumentals. I would come out and to maybe Wild Weekend by The Rebels on sax, maybe Crossfire by Johnny and The Hurricanes, and sing Walk Right In or Come On Let’s Go by Richie Valens and maybe a Buddy Holly song. Then I’d have to leave the stage. I didn’t like having to leave the stage. So one night instead of leaving I went over and started playing the piano along with their instrumentals, just acoustically and I liked it. I knew all kinds of things to play like Telstar, Bumble Boogie, and Baja. And the kids went nuts! Suddenly the repertoire grew by a hundred songs. After that I went out and bought a fifteen dollar De Armand violin pickup for the piano, fastened it to the back with thumb tacks and plugged into one of the guys’ amps. Now I didn’t have to leave the stage. From that moment on, the band became mine.”

By 1964 The Deverons were more than North End favourites having recruited members form St. Boniface and St. James. For Burton, music had become both his obsession and salvation. “Music was the only think in my life once I was in the band. I just ticked off the minutes in school from Monday to Friday. I couldn’t care less about anything until four p.m. on a Friday, the it was. ‘We’re on tonight!’” Still just high school kids, they were a major attraction on the community club circuit and frequent performers at the recently opened downtown teen nightclub J’s Discotheque. Arriving at the venues early, Burton would check out the usually well-worn and out-of-tune upright pianos at community clubs, locating the dead notes in order to work around them. As fellow Deveron Bruce Decker remembered it, “Burton had to make all sorts of chord inversions around the dead or out of tune notes on these lousy pianos but he was such a good player that it never passed him.” Burton himself helped to put a few pianos out f their misery with his Beatle boots. “All the community clubs hated me because I scratched up their pianos.” In mid 1965, The Deverons were signed to the Reo label, a subsidiary of Quality Records, and released their debut single, a ballad entitled Blue is the Night, backed by Burton’s original composition, the harder edged She’s Your Lover. Burton found the A side on and obscure album by the You Know Who Group. “I must have been the only one to buy their album and Blue Is The Night was a ballad on it played on an acoustic twelve sting guitar.” The Deverons’ arrangement replaced the guitar with Burton’s Hohner portable organ. Recorded in a late night session at CKY radio’s tiny studios, with deejay Darryl Burlington producing, the record became a local hit, selling about 10,000 copies. It success brought the band up a notch or two among Winnipeg bands. “Probably we were next in line with Chad Allan and The Reflections in terms of ranking below,” states Burton. “We were never a threat, they were always a number one, but we were right up there.” The Reflections and Deverons shared a stage together for the first time in mid 1964, opening for Gerry and The Pacemakers at the Winnipeg Arena.

As Bachman recalls, “The hot band in Winnipeg at the time was The Deverons with a little punk lead singer named Burton Cummings. Everywhere they went he got incredible write-ups because he would stand up and dance on the piano. He played a rock ‘n’ roll show at the Winnipeg Arena opening for a much more famous international act. They had a grand piano and he got up and danced on top of it with his Beatle boots, scratching and marring the top of the piano. He got a lot of press for that and was a real little outlaw at the time around the city. And he had an excellent voice. I don’t think there was another choice. We just said, ‘Let’s get him!”

It was late December when the five members of The Deverons journeyed south to Kay Bank Studios in Minneapolis to record their second single, Burton’s and Bruce Decker’s poignant ballad Lost Love. Bob Burns was producing the session, flying there and back while the band traveled the 1000 miles round trip by train. At the session, Bob mentioned nothing of The Guess Who’s current dilemma. Burton relates the tale of his offer to join the band: “I had just come back from Minneapolis. It was freezing cold. The Deverons had gone there for a recording session for Lost Love. Something had gone wrong with the train car that we were returning on and we were five frozen little kids, just a mess. It took something like seventeen hours to get home. I just wanted to get home and go to bed. I did manage to get to bed for about an hour and a half when the phone rang. It was Bob Burns, The Guess Who’s manager, and he said, ‘We have an important meeting and I’d like you to come down to my office immediately.’ My initial reaction was, ‘Good God, can’t this wait a day? I’m exhausted and cold, I’ve got no voice.’ But he insisted it was very important. On the way down in the taxi I figured that maybe The Guess Who were going to use some of their power and experience to help The Deverons, sort of help from the big guys. Then as I got to the office I walked in and Bob Burns was there with Jim, Randy, and Garry. And they just came right out and said, ‘How’d you like to join our band?’ I think I said, ‘Gee, fellows, I’d love to but The Beatles just asked me to join last week’ and I walked out the door. I reacted like a smart ass. I obviously thought it was a cruel joke to play on a young lad. I then came back in and realized they weren’t kidding and I said ‘Yes’ right on the spot. I really didn’t think twice about it. They were the biggest band in the country. Although I had tremendous allegiance to The Deverons, there is that old adage about being true to oneself. I didn’t think about Bruce, Ron, Ed, or Derek, I thought about me. Gift horses are rare animals and you shouldn’t look them in the mouth.” The offer came completely out of left filed but Burton jumped at it, giving The Deverons two weeks notice. They were certainly devastated by the news but bore him no ill will. By the start of the new year and his eighteenth birthday, Burton Cummings was a member of The Guess Who.

Excerpts from American Woman The Story of The Guess Who
Written by John Einarson

WHERE WINNIPEG North End & Selkirk Avenue

St. John's High School Salad Days

Winnipeg Free Press
Friday, June 21,1985

St. John's
salad days

It was the time when the school's
stars were young and innocent
By Doug Whiteway

TUNICS. PINCH the memory of any of the women back in town for St. John's High School 76th Reunion this weekend and what springs forth immediately is a reminiscence of tunics. In the golden years when the school was St. John's Tech, the girls wore the navy blue uniforms with a white blouse, black stockings and black oxfords. And they had to be worn every day. No excuses. And no makeup, either. A girl who showed up in anything but a tunic and a scrubbed face had better have a note from her parents explaining why.

Fashions came and went, and hemlines with them, but tunics could be no more than six inches above the knee. Not many days went by without some reckless female being forced to her knees to prove to a teacher that her tunic was regulation length. If the skirt touched the tiles while the knees were bent, then it passed inspection. If not, trouble.

Shoulder stitches
St. John's High Reunion chairman Janet (Olin) Boonov (class of '54) remembers girls who gathered their tunics at the shoulder so the skirt was lifted. If caught in a raid (they had raids for these things), they could drop the hemline by undoing the shoulder stitches. Then sew them back up at night.

There may have been minor skirmishes over the length of the tunic. But no one questioned the idea of wearing one. "I think they were fantastic," says Eileen (Morris) Jefferson (class of '37) in Winnipeg from Vancouver for the re-union. "We were freed from any ties of how you looked."

Perhaps it's the contrast to modern life at St. John's High that stimulates discussion of school uniforms. At a long table in a school hallway, alumni crowd around, registering for the three-day 75th anniversary gala celebration which officially begins tomorrow (unofficially last night at Kelekis Restaurant) with the renaming of O'Meara Street to Monty Mall Street. It runs through a full schedule of sock hops, softball and a sit down dinner for 4,300 at the Convention Centre, and ends Sunday with breakfast at the school.

Is that you?
As they cluster with old friends ("my god, is that you?"), they can't help but notice the current crop of St. John's schoolgirls in their fluorescent shirts and bubblegum pants, the Madonna makeup, and wonder at the change time hath wrought. Today, high school is a fashion parade. In the old days, fashion was kept well away from the school yard.

On purpose. A microcosm of the North End of the '30s, '40s and '50s, St. John's Tech was an amalgam of rich and poor, ethnic and Anglo, immigrant and native-born, which could have meant a school divided into exclusive and explosive cliques.

But wise and scholarly G. J. Reeve, principal from 1925 to 1952, kept the girls in uniform (the boys weren't fashion-conscious, any- way) while other schools were liberalizing dress codes.

At Reeve's school, class distinctions stopped at Church and Salter where the red-brick 40-classroom structure stood. And he picked teachers who followed his lead.

"We grew up where there were Ukrainians and Jews and nobody drew a distinction," says Provincial Court Judge Ron Meyers (class of '52). "We were all alike, and the teachers had every reason to harbor prejudice in those days. I don't want to get maudlin but I would say Reeve was a saint."

The school this remarkable man presided over and left as a legacy to succeeding generations produced an abundance of talent in its heyday. What Winnipeg high school reunion has been able to mount for its alumni a 2%-hour stage product-ion, A Galaxy of Stars that includes two Hollywood producers (Allan Blye and Aubrey Tadman), two opera stars (Morley Meredith of the JVlet, Norman Mittleman of the San Francisco Opera), a rock star (Burton Cummings) and that TV host of hosts, Monty Hall — not to mention an 80-voice choir primed for Gilbert and Sullivan and the old school song, Jerusalem?

And did we mention the sports stars who came from St. John's? The supreme court justices? The judges? The politicians? The United States senator? And the professionals? Should illness overtake someone at Saturday's dinner and a cry of, 'Is there a doctor in the house?' be heard, 400 doctors will the occasion. If someone slips on a banana peel and feels inclined to sue, 400 lawyers will present their cards.

In the crucible that was the North End of the '30s, '40s and '50s — a bit of urban geography in a slice of time which seems to have passed now into myth —the drive to achieve and excel (and in many cases, to get out) was tangible. Most of the students were children of immigrants who saw in education the key to advancement in a new and less oppressive society.

"It was probably the demographics of the situation," muses Rainbow Stage's flamboyant executive producer Jack Shapira (class of
'43), who describes himself as a shy lad, "one of the three virgins of high school."

"We were all children of parents who came from Europe. We had to prove ourselves."

Medicine was the goal. "Everyone was going to be a doctor in those days," says Morley Meredith (class of MO), who didn't and went on to be a Metropolitan Opera star instead. Why the vagaries of the entertainment business should at- tract so many of these children of security-conscious immigrants seems inexplicable. Could it have been a literal interpretation of the school motto, Usque ad Astra — Up to the Stars?

"I don't really know," says Hollywood producer and writer Allan Blye (class of '53), who abandoned two years of architecture at the University of Manitoba to become a singer and then a producer of such TV hits as The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, the Sonny and Cher Show, and Bizarre. "People ask what was it about the North End that produced such an array of people. There was just such an environment."

Peerless teachers
The shrug is palpable in his voice. What is it about a time and place that produces a concentra tion of excellence? Parental encouragement and peerless teachers help. Many point to Elsa Handel — "a dynamic little lady," says Meyers —who presided for years over the musical productions, discovering and encouraging talent. Meyers says Norm Mittleman, the San Francisco Opera star, was about to try out for the Bombers but Handel persuaded him to stick with singing.

But alumni say St. John's was more than academics and doing well at school. In a pre-television age, in an age before kids had cars and after-school jobs, and mobility, and money, school was the hub of social life.

"We spent 80 per cent of our waking hours at Tech," says Blye. It was on teams, and in clubs, in school politics and the operetta, as much as in the classroom, that students found their direction in life.

"I'll tell you what was special — most of the girls married the boys they went to school with," says Clare (Rasch) Pudavick (class of '41), who remembers her husband- to-be waiting outside the chemistry room to catch a glimpse of her, and remembers skipping out of class to consume the best jam busters in town at Salter Drugs. A dozen years later, in Boonov's time, the hang-out had changed to College Drugs, known as Room 41 because the school rooms ended at No. 40.

"I wasn't a skipper," Boovov says, but when a teacher she re- members as "Mr. Allison" said to her in his Scottish brogue, "get your hoot, and your coot, and get oot," she got oot and had to go somewhere other than home.

Many returning to Winnipeg for the first time in ages see a school that isn't the school they went to. The charming post-Victorian brick pile was torn down in the mid-'60s to make way for the baby-boom bulge. Seeing today's St. John's, a squat, fortress-like structure, was "a shock," says Los Angeles chiropractor Harold Reuben (class of '29). "It isn't the same thing and it couldn't give the same spirit. The old school was a symbol of the fellas and the gals and people of the north end of the city who were immigrants or the children of immigrants."

School is the people
But Boonov says "the school is the people, not the building," and those who hear her agree. Rhoda (Kirkpatrick) Cummings (class of '38), mother of Burton Cummings (class of '66) sighs over memories of meeting friends on the now-gone big high front steps with the curved balustrade but remembers the athletics, and the teachers, and the fun. "They were wonderful years, the best two years of my life."

The people who went to Tech in the golden years are convinced of its unique place in the social fabric of the city, not to mention their hearts. Never again, they suggest, can that grafting of striving and innocence in a safe little corner of the world bear such rich fruit. "It was," says Pudavick, "a very romantic time."

Community Centres Nourished City's Fledgling Rock Concerts

Winnipeg Free Press
Sunday, June 21,1987

Teen scene erupts at clubs
Community centres nourished
city's fledgling rock concerts

Early Winnipeg Rock Part 2 /)
By John Einarson Special to the Free Press

"If anyone ever asked me when the best times were in music for me," recalls Bachman Turner Overdrive's Fred Turner, "it was back in those early days in the community clubs." Without doubt, the most important and unique feature of the early Winnipeg music scene was the proliferation of community clubs in every neighborhood. The seeds of the '60s Winnipeg music scene were firmly planted in those clubs.

The postwar baby boom resulted in a huge population of young people. This caused a problem for the City of Winnipeg and the suburban areas which were not yet incorporated into one urban centre.What were they to do with all the kids to keep them off the streets? Their response was to build community clubs in each neighborhood. Some clubs already had been in existence since before the war, but dozens more sprang up in the late '40s and early '50s. Each offered organized sports, recreational activities, a wading pool, canteen, summer programs for children, and teen dances.

"Community clubs were tremendous," recalls the Guess Who's Jim Kale. "I grew up at community clubs. If it hadn't been for a community club, I would have been a delinquent. There were so many activities there. They were the hub of the community, and dances were a logical extension."

'Champlain was a magic place to play'
A feeling of youthful innocence typified the community club teen dance scene in the '60s. Kids went to have fun. There was no alcohol or drugs. "Only the music was the high," says Burton Cummings.

Colin Palmer of the Quid remembers; "It was a time when everyone wanted to dance, so the community clubs were always packed." Kids wanted to see live music, and they would follow bands week after week. "That's when the music was fun and the money was secondary," says the Jury's Ray Stockwell. "I probably paid more for the gas to get there than I made."

For anywhere from 25 cents to a dollar you would crowd into the tiny, sweaty halls and dance to your local band. The raised platforms that served as a stage would shake as the band rocked and the teens danced. Between songs, a DJ from CKY or CKRC reminded kids not to smoke in the hall, and introduced the next number. "Doc Steen would come and DJ community club dances for only $10," Kale remembers. The DJ would promote the dance all week on his show. A popular DJ meant a lot of kids at the dance. According to Kale, "If you got PJ the DJ (CKY's Peter Jackson) to DJ your dance, you were guaranteed a crowd."

Teens could meet all their friends at the club on Friday or Saturday evening. Most often the girls sat on one side of the hall and the boys on the other. Boys worked up the courage to ask a girl to dance, while the girls anxiously awaited an invitation. Invariably the girls danced with each other until that first male crossed the floor. Once the ice was broken the floor would be jammed within minutes, and sweaty teens continued to dance all evening. The DJ, or a parent chaperone, announced spot dances or lady's choice. Between sets, an old Califone phonograph would blare out the latest 45s. At the end of the evening, the lights would come on,
newly kindled romances would be suspended until the following week, parents would be waiting at the door, and eager young fans would crowd the stage to talk to the band or seek autographs. The next week it would happen all over again.

First gig
For young bands, the local community club was often their first gig. You could convince the kids on the club teen council to book your band, usually on a percentage of the gate, and all your friends would show up. Almost every musician in the city got his start at the neighborhood club. "The first real gig I ever played was at Orioles Community Club," Turner fondly remembers. "I played for a soft drink and a chocolate bar." Ken Smyth says Neil Young and the Squires' first booking was at Riverview Community Club. They got $5 for the whole band.

Jack Wong recalls that in the late '50s, the Continentals were one of the first bands to play community clubs. "We broke the field for a lot of bands by getting community clubs to book us."

In the latter '60s, after the Shondels had established their reputation at the Town and Country lounge, they abruptly left the adult crowd for the excitement of the community clubs.

The Orfans developed a strong, supportive following.
Cummings: the only high

When radio stations started broadcasting from community clubs, local bands were heard by a wider audience. "In 1959, I was 15 and playing community clubs in the Velvetones with the Pepsi-Cola Club every Friday night from 9:30 to 10 on CKY," recalls Mike Hanford. In the mid-'60s CKRC featured live broadcasts from West End Memorial Community Club every Thursday evening at 7:30. Soon after their return from Liverpool, the 5 AM Event (the Crescendos) were featured on one of those broadcasts, and the whole city heard the new sounds they brought back. Within two weeks of the release of the Beatles' Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album, Footloose and Fancy Free performed cuts from the LP live from West End Memorial on CKRC. FLAFF's Dave Burgess remembers: "We even played a banned song on a broadcast from West End Memorial. CKRC had banned the Stones' Let's Spend The Night Together, but we played it over the air without them realizing it."

Strong following
Through community clubs many loyal fans supported local bands. The Orfans developed a strong following. "The kids in the community clubs really took a liking to us," says Ed Heppner, "and once that started to happen, it just snowballed, and it was Orfans everywhere."

Bands would distribute their business cards to the community clubs for bookings. Other bands would phone the clubs to find out who was on the teen council and make a direct approach. Sometimes it was difficult to locate the clubs. "All the community clubs were listed in the phone book under clubs and organizations," recalls the Crescendos' Glenn MacRae. "You were never sure who you were phoning, or whether it was the Foresters organization or something." Often the teens in charge of the bookings at a club would attend other community club dances, so you could hand out cards at the end of a gig and get a booking for another club.

John Maclnnes recalls how the early Mongrels got their first community club engagements: "We used to get gigs where the Deverons had been. Where Burton Cummings had broken a piano, the community club organizer always asked first if we had a piano player. If we didn't, then we got the job."

Some community clubs were favorites with the bands. "Champlain was a magic place to play," recalls Glenn MacRae. "So was "Mapes" (Maple Leaf Community Club). The best community clubs were the ones that were well organized by their teen council. The enthusiasm seemed to flow down from them. They seemed livelier and the kids had more fun." West End Memorial Community Club was an important gig for many bands. "That was the first community club we played in Winnipeg," says the Fifth's Jim Grabowsky,after the band moved from Winnipeg Beach. "All of a sudden everybody wanted us." Glenwood Community Club was a hot spot as well, according to Glenn MacRae. "All the good bands played there."

However, River Heights Community Club was the most prized community club gig in the city. Chad Allan and the Reflections, and later the Guess Who, routinely held attendance records there. Drawing a big crowd at River Heights was a band's recognition of success. "My only regret," says the Cordells' Dennis Guyot, "is that we never played River Heights. That was the big gig."

When the Fifth played at River Heights people would line up at 5:30 p.m. to get in. According to Richard Gwizdak, everyone wanted to hire the band because they could pack the community clubs. Gwizdak recalls a humorous incident: "We played Charleswood Community Club and the whole ceiling came down. People were dancing and stomping their feet and pieces of the ceiling were falling on us as we played."

NEXT: The Cellar

An excerpt from John Elnarson's book Shakin' All Over: The
Winnipeg '60s Rock Scene.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Teen Clubs Reflect '60s

Copy from
Winnipeg Free Press Monday, June 22,1987

By John Einarson Special to the Free Press
Teen clubs reflect '60s

WITH THE growing popularity of community clubs and live bands spreading throughout the city, a few enterprising individuals attempted to capitalize on the excitement in the early '80s by opening teen night- clubs. These were non-licensed clubs featuring rock bands not only on weekends, but throughout the week as well. They were like "souped-up" coffee houses. One of the first to open was The Cellar.

Located off Fort Street, The Cellar was originally a jazz club until the Duguay brothers took it over in late 1962 and began booking rock bands. Although The Cellar only remained open until late 1964, its importance to the Winnipeg scene was enormous. It had a tremendous influence on similar teen clubs that opened in its wake, and on local musicians.

Forbidden place
The Crescendos played The Cellar on a regular basis. "We were like the house band there," recalls Glenn MacRae. "We played there for months at a time, and used to practise there. We'd make maybe $10 a night during the week and $25 on the weekend."

What The Cellar offered that was different was its atmosphere: it was the antithesis of the community clubs. Whereas the community clubs epitomized innocent fun, The Cellar was a forbidden place that you dare not tell your Mom you went to. Glenn MacRae vividly remembers how The Cellar affected him. "The entrance was in a lane off Fort Street between Portage and Fort. Just even going down that lane was an experience, like you were in New York going to some subterranean bloc. It was like something you'd see on Naked City. It felt exciting, seedy, forbidden. There was a big red door with 'The Cellar' on it, and you went downstairs to the basement. It was pitch black and smokey. The walls were even painted black, with a mesh chain-link ceiling with pipes hanging down. It was dingy with no decorations. There was no stage, just a little platform."

In 1963, the Squires with Neil Young played The Cellar, and Ken Smyth remembers that experience. "A girl was standing up on a table taking her clothes off, and a fight erupted near the stage. I just caught a glimpse of a beer bottle that came at me and smashed on the wall." According to MacRae, people often carried in hidden liquor bottles and soon the place would get quite rowdy. "One night some guy walked down the stairs, pulled out a gun, and started shooting. Everyone hit the floor. He emptied the gun and then walked out." There were also numerous stories of knifings that occurred. Guitarist Chris Anderson was stabbed on his way down, the stairs one night.

But despite the infamy of the club, The Cellar was an important trendsetter. Many musicians recall that it was at The Cellar in 1963 they first heard Beatles music played by Chad Allan and the Reflections. This was months before the British Invasion hit North America. Jim Kale remembers playing the Beatles' hit I Saw Her Standing There at The Cellar in mid 1963. A number of bands got their first exposure outside their neighborhood from a Cellar gig.

Raunchy club
"We used to audition at The Cellar," says MacRae. "That's how I first met Bill Wallace and Kurt Winter (then in the Cavaliers). They came down to audition and had homemade amps with the transformers and tubes on two-by-four planks."

Burton Cummings tells of an early experience at the Cellar: "One night I got a call from the Cellar, on a Wednesday, a school night. I was about 14 or 15. They said they were stuck. The band didn't show up and they had a pile of people who were getting angry . So I had to beg my mother to let me go to The Cellar for about three hours. I said: 'Please, I know it’s a school night but just let me go.' It was pretty good of her to let me go. It was different when I was with the other guys in the band, but I was all by myself. I took the bus down. It was dark and winter and I was going into this real raunchy club where guys got knifed and stuff. All there was the upright piano. No mikes, nothing. I sat there and screamed as loud as I could and blew them away for about 2 l /2 hours. I did everything I knew: Great Balls Of Fire, Blueberry Hill, What'd I Say, Once In A While, If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody, Mother-in-Law. Well, they went nuts. They even got up and danced. I made $8 for the night.".

Shortly before the demise of The Cellar in late 1964, another teen nightclub opened on St. Mary's Road in St. Vital. Patterned somewhat after The Cellar, the Twilight Zone quickly became a popular teen attraction as well as an important gig for bands.

"There was something about that place that symbolized the whole sixties scene," says the Quid's Morley Nickles. And according to Duncan Wilson: "The Zone had more of an impact than any other place."

MacRae recalls that the Twilight Zone was established by a retired farmer. "He had sold his farm in some place like Sperling and had a pile of cash, and wanted to open a teen club like The Cellar. He asked us (the Crescendos) to help set it up." The club was located beside the St. Vital Hotel. You would enter through a recessed door that led to a cash register where you were issued a card. This was punched when you arrived, and any food or drinks were recorded throughout the evening. When you left, you paid your accumulated tab. The club itself was blue, with red and white checkered cloths on the tables. The tiny stage was to the left, between the two washrooms, and framed by a pillar and a wall, which left a minimum of space for performing.

"We always used to hang out at the Zone and see other bands when we weren't playing," Colin Palmer remembers. Indeed, it was at the Zone that the nucleus of the Quid was formed.

Because it featured bands throughout the week, the Twilight Zone provided an opportunity for new, or less established bands to gig. After Palmer and Billy Pavlik disbanded the Viscounts in early 1965, they would frequent the St. Mary's Road nightspot, checking out younger bands for musicians. There they found bass player Morley Nickles from the Kingbeats, drummer Lenny Fidkalo in the Untouchables, and singer Ron Rene playing bass in the Torquays. "We thought he had a pretty good voice, so we asked him to join. We spent a lot of time teaching him how to hold a mike and be a front man." Thus the Quid was born at the Twilight Zone.

The Orfans' Dutch Schultz remembers that it didn't take a great many people to fill the place. Everyone who wanted to see you was there and you could look out and recognize all those familiar faces. In early 1965, the Saints made their first Twilight Zone appearance. "We played the Zone doing Buddy Holly stuff and Beatles," says Richard Gwizdak.

Rock video
Neil Young would hang out at the Twilight Zone on off nights. The Squires also played at the Zone for one week in December 1964 for $150 ($20 per night was good money for the Zone). Jim Petrin of the Renegades recalls seeing Young there playing acoustic guitar and harmonica, with Al Johnson on drums and a bass player called Stretch (six-foot five-inch Ken Koblun).

There were many strange and wonderful things that happened at the Zone. "Lenny (Fidkalo) brought his motorcycle right into the club one night," laughs Palmer. And the Quid may have pioneered rock videos there. Brian Cooper, a photographer and Quid follower, had filmed the band in an early 1966 recording at CKRC and used to show the movie during breaks at the Zone.

More teen clubs soon sprang up throughout the city. The old Prosvda hall on Pritchard Avenue and Arlington Street became the Proteen club on Sunday evenings. The Chancellors' Ron Adams recalls his first visit to the club: "There were about five of us and we went to see the Galaxies. It was a really tough place. We just stood in the middle of the floor, afraid to move. We wanted to leave, but couldn't walk out. Then Jumbo Martin came by and recognized one of the guys with us. When he asked us outside for a beer we were so relieved to be able to get out of there."

Another wild place was Paterson's Ranch House at Logan Avenue and Keewatin Street. Neil Young recalls when the Squires played there. "We had to really work at it to get paid. There was a band that used to play there at night called Bluegrass Bob and the Bobcats, but they let us do our thing Saturday or Sunday afternoons."

The Cinema Hall opened in 1964 at Colony Street and Memorial Boulevard. It got its name because the film distribution companies had their offices along the Colony row, but it tended to draw a rough crowd.

End of series
An excerpt from John Einarson's book Shakn' All Over.

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