He asked how serious I was about my music. I said very serious. He said I had to make some choices about how much time I devoted to it. Then he said he had a gig lined up at the Crypt Coffee House in Saskatoon, but could not make it due to scheduling difficulties with his program. “Can you do it instead? They will fly you there, pay for your hotel…” I said yes immediately.
I remember the manager treated me very well and stuck to the agreement I had… I remember that it was fairly dark in there. And though every night wasn’t a large turnout, there were two evenings that made it all worthwhile. I’m thinking it was 3 or 4 nights, maybe Wed. – Sat. but not a week. I was a little nervous.
His Saturday night crowd was unusually small – but it was not his fault. The Centennial Auditorium featured Pink Floyd that evening, and they turned out to be a slightly more magnetic draw. Rhody’s repertoire included several original songs “I had only written maybe four or five songs that I liked well enough to perform” including “Stranger in the Street”, “Cathy From Ohio” and “My Kentucky.” He also recalls covering Gordon Lightfoot’s “Ribbon of Darkness“, “Early Morning Rain” and “Sixteen Miles,” as well as Ian & Sylvia’s “Marlborough Street Blues.” He continues:
At any rate, I felt good about my shows there and that was very important to me at that time because it was my first “real” gig. I’m not sure they knew that, but Barry certainly didn’t seem displeased with my show or my music. …All I had played up to that point were a few open stages and a few nights back home in Kentucky where I first stepped on a stage. There would be two acts on the bill and we’d split the tips. And in Vancouver where my family and I were living in 1970, a couple church folk gatherings and some pizza places I want to say was over in West Vancouver. They gave me free food and allowed me to collect tips…
His several days in Saskatoon resulted in another break:
I was having breakfast or lunch in the restaurant of the hotel, and I noticed a bunch of young guys who looked like they could be musicians, so I went and introduced myself. It turned out to be Holger Petersen and the band he was managing, Manna. We became pretty good friends, and later Holger invited me onto his radio show. Holger also took me to a friend’s house in Saskatoon, and told me to listen to a new album – it was Joni Mitchell’s Blue. It was great…that changed a lot for me!
The Crypt experience was nothing but positive for the neophyte Rhody. He would shortly go into music full-time, would move first to Toronto where he appeared on the television programs The Performers and the Ian Tyson Show, then onto Nashville. He would go on to a lengthy and successful career, both as a touring and recording artist, but also as a Nashville-based songwriter. His compositions would be covered by Suzy Boguss, Murray McLauchlan, Lee Greenwood, Tanya Tucker, Toby Keith, the Atlanta Rhythm Section, Oak Ridge Boys, Billy “Crash” Craddock, Lynn Anderson, Michael Martin Murphy, Hoyt Axton, Del McCoury, Ronnie Prophet, Ricky Van Shelton, Lorrie Morgan, and George Jones.
Another set of local rockers who owned the stage from October 12 to 17 were Jr. & Dudley Dean. Founded as the Pig Bristle Brush Blues Band in 1966, they split and reformed numerous times as band members tried their chops with other ensembles. They reformed again in June 1969 and after a period of calling themselves The Cornerstones, renamed themselves after the authors of an obscure 1963 western novel Gun Shy (by Les Savage Jr. & Dudley Dean). They had recently lost some members – namely the aforementioned Gord Pendleton who had struck out on his own as a folksinger, and guitarist Cal Poole. The core lineup then of this oddly named band included Malcolm Buchanan and Bob Silversides on dual keyboards and vocals, Tom Cunningham on drums, and Terry Crockett on bass. Without a traditional frontman, the band could have been static and unexciting. However Silversides and Buchanan refused to sit behind their respective keyboards – they were constantly on their feet, frequently switched instruments, and played each others parts. A big topic amongst their followers was which one was Jr. and which one was Dudley Dean?
Jr. & Dudley Dean by Creative Professional Photographers, June 1970 CP-5943
courtesy Saskatoon Public Library – Local History Room
Audiences were starting to notice the band. The Star-Phoenix featured them in an article entitled “Saskatoon rock quartet ready to be discovered” in the September 26th 1970 issue:
Jr. and Dudley Dean are approaching rock music in a progressive, imagin- ative manner. The four Saskatonians have left out what has become an integral part of most groups: the lead guitar. They more than compensate for this by using two keyboards.
Bob Silversides handles the organ chores adeptly, his nimble fingers jumping about, constantly caressing the key[s] in the driving, expressive manner peculiar to accomplished musicians. Filling in for the absent guitar is an electric piano played by Malcolm Buchanan. He adequately transposes even the most difficult of guitar riffs to suit his instrument.
Providing the solid beat is Tom Cunningham on drums and Terry Crockett on bass. While Silversides and Buchanan are flying about on the keyboards, they supply a touch of hardness. Silversides mentioned they were reaching towards a “rhythmical and melodic” sound. Presently they are easily fulfilling this task in fine fashion.
They were chiefly a cover band – but a very intense album-oriented and early progressive cover band, miles away from anything resembling the western connotations of their name. They shone with versions of “Green-Eyed Lady” (Sugarloaf), “Honky Tonk Women” (Rolling Stones), “See My Way” (by the Jethro Tull off-shoot Blodwyn Pig), “Evil Ways” by Santana, and “I’ve Seen All Good People” (Yes).
They had had a very busy summer playing festivals in the Qu’Appelle Valley, and at North Battleford, Winnipeg, and Lake Metigoshe on the Manitoba-North Dakota border. As well they had been booked into several week-long engagements at the King’s Hotel in Regina. As the Star-Phoenix writer explained: “Finances play a major part in any group’s existence, and it is for this reason that they became primarily a club band. But although club crowds are more of a challenge to play for, they would rather play dances.”
Drummer Tom Cunningham recalls the Crypt gigs well:
Well, the place was long and narrow – dark with tacky stage lighting. I think we added a few of our own lights. It sounded pretty good in there even though the wall across from us couldn’t have been more the 20 ft. away. I thought the band was pretty good. We rehearsed a lot. We had a good work ethic and we wanted to be good….Most of the bands back then took their work seriously and worked very hard, consistently. I had the opportunity to grow up around very good musicians and the discipline thing rubbed off… Doug Rusu, guitar player from A Group Called Mudd [from Regina] sat in for one or two sets. The audiences as I recall were receptive and enjoyed the music and the club.
That same Star-Phoenix writer opined “Jr. and Dudley Dean are full of ambition, and the members have been in music so long that persistence is another of their virtues…” and then summed up with “Their unique keyboard arrangement may offer them an excellent chance for making it in the rock field, which lately has become overpopulated by groups that all sound alike.”
By 1971 Jr. and Dudley Dean’s manager Lorne Horning was negotiating with GRT Records and they started planning their first album. They received considerable press when they opened for their new label-mates Lighthouse at the Centennial Auditorium on March 24 when the Toronto band toured Canada in support of their new album One Fine Morning. Susan Jasper somewhat awkwardly worded her note that Jr. & Dudley Dean were “…a very noticeable Saskatoon group, which according to pianist Malcolm Buchanan should be recording on the GRT album when it opens its studio in Edmonton this spring.”
The studio in question was actually Tommy Banks’ Century II Studios, and R.P.M. magazine announced the three-way deal with the studio, the record label and the band in August 1971. Jr. & Dudley Dean did indeed put a full album on tape, but it was never released. That stopped them in their upward progress, and they dissolved in April 1972.
Cunningham had already left to become a founding member of Saskatoon’s first “power trio” Trina with Greg Delaronde and Brian Plummer. Bob Silversides soon after joined Rik and the Ravens for the summer of 1972, then moved on to the Society of Four (where he was of course the fifth member). Malcolm Buchanan re-engaged with Cunningham in Trina (where he became the fourth member of a three member band – only in Saskatoon…?), and then moved to Toronto in 1975 to play keyboards for Aerial.
The third week of October saw the previously-mentioned band Manna from Edmonton take the stage. They were an unusual act which included Larry Reese (vocals, guitar), Jan Randall (keyboards), Chuck Carson (keyboards), Tom Cairns (drums) and Bev Ross. They did not do any cover songs – instead they wrote their own compositions such as “The Wizard”, “In a Japanese Garden”, “Uncle Clarence’s Piano”, “Snazz” and “John Hammer.” Recalls vocalist Bev Ross:
We were all pretty excited about Manna, fresh out of high school, having postponed further education to see how far the band would take us. All five of us were writing material, so by that time we had easily enough original stuff for an hour and a half of songs, probably in two or three sets at the Crypt.
Eclectic folk-rock is one descriptor for Manna’s music. Chuck Carson was writing into roots Americana (The Band), Larry Reese wrote folk- rock ballads & anthems (early Jefferson Airplane?), Jan Randall was exploring piano-based singer-songwriter stuff (early days in that genre: Randy Newman), Tom Cairns was much into Frank Zappa and The Who and I was writing, on piano, British folk-derived rock-tinged stuff (Pentangle, Incredible String Band). And when we collaborated, as we sometimes did on tunes, we’d get everything from British music hall-style comedy songs to bigger ballads and wizard rock.
Manna live on stage, photographer unknown, 1970
courtesy Beverly Ross
Their first gigs took place at The Barricade Coffee House located in the basement of Garneau United Church. Manager Holger Petersen started looking for more work, and a booking agent directed him to the Diamond Head room in Saskatoon’s Executive Hotel. Reese – now a film/theatre instructor at Red Deer College – recalls the band’s expedition – horror followed by relief:
Holger… got us a two week gig at the Executive Motor Inn in downtown Saskatoon. We arrived and set up to play only to discover (during our first set no less) that in fact we were supposed to be the back up band for some “exotic” dancers who just showed up on stage and starting stripping. I remember one dancer named Vicky who we dubbed “Victor” because of a certain bulge where on a female there should not have been one. Thankfully he/she never stripped down entirely…saved by a g-string.
Now Manna… was a folk/rock group with a lovely mild-mannered female lead singer, Bev Ross, and our repertoire consisted totally of our own compositions. In fact we prided ourselves on the fact that although most bands of that era played top 40 cover tunes to survive – we did not. However it became immediately apparent that this particular gig was not “our thing”. Perhaps the booing from the biker crowd and complaints from “Victor” were our first clues.
Petersen interjects “…we were told to play cover tunes or go home!” They also found that the stars of the Western Canada wrestling circuit were staying on their floor that week, so needless to say they did not get much sleep. Flamboyant wrestler Sweet Daddy Siki jumped on stage with Manna – without being invited – and sang a song with them. Petersen adds “it was bizarre, scary and over the top.” (in one of those musical crimes against nature, Siki would later release his own album called Sweet Daddy Siki Squares Off with Country Music on the Arc label)
Holger, bless his heart, got us out of that contract within a couple of days. Since we were already in the area, and since we had some mutual acquaintances with Humphrey and the Dumptrucks, and since we had to heal from our beer-bottle dodging experience at the Executive Hotel we decided to stay in Saskatoon for a few days and celebrate Thanksgiving. I believe we stayed at Dumptruck singer Michael’s house.
Manna: all five of us and Holger, our manager, (and possibly a girlfriend or two), stayed in the Dumptrucks’ house for that gig in Saskatoon – was it called the Merry Mansion? – as Humphrey and the gang were on tour at the time and very kindly offered a free spot to stay – significant, as money was tight.
Laughs Petersen “…my “room” was a closet under the stairs!” Reese carries on:
Anyway we went to see somebody play at the coolest happening place in Saskatoon at the time…the Crypt. I remember going down some outside stairs and entering an oasis of hip music and wonderful artsy people. The crowd consisted mostly of university students and people with an appreciation for roots, blues, indie folk, FM radio (like CKUA in Edmonton) and music of sensitivity and quality – true, honest, left of centre original stuff. Can’t remember who we heard that night but I do remember a lot of vodka and a girl with beautifully long wild frizzy hair at a party afterwards (which went on ‘til dawn)
For us in Manna this club felt like a musical home, and boy did we feel lucky and honoured when Holger announced that he got us a gig at the Crypt… So we spent the rest of our two weeks playing the Crypt and the University of Saskatchewan and jamming with some truly incredible Saskatchewan musicians. In the early 1970’s on the prairies there were only a few places promoting this life style and music. Nowadays there is a thriving industry whose “roots” can be directly traced to musical ground breaking places like the Crypt.
Bev Ross seconds that:
I do know that it was an important gig for us, out of province for the first time. And that the Crypt, like the Hovel and the Barricade in Edmonton, was an important link in the long, thin, tenuous chain that was the original Canadian folk-rock-roots music scene in those pre-Juno, pre-Can-Con days. Manna opened for Iron Butterfly (!!) in Edmonton, but playing a club like the Crypt was us arriving at an audience that might really get what we were trying to do.
Larry Gelmon gave them a thumbs up. In his column he wrote:
There is a group playing at the Crypt this week that is well worth the listening. This is Manna, from Edmonton. The S-P [Star-Phoenix] labeled them as a folk-rock group, but that really does not do them justice. They do mostly their own material, and it ranges from all the way from medium-
heavy rock to folk and mountain music. They use a lot of different instrumentation too, at times they sound like The Band, at other times like The Pentangle, and at other times like nobody else. The word “pleasant” has unfortunate connotations of syrupy ear listening music, but I cannot
think of a better word to describe Manna’s sound. They have a very relaxing enjoyable sound, much the same sort of feeling one gets from the music of The Band, Joni Mitchell, or Dylan’s Nashville Skyline; a pleasant (that word again) change from the electronic mind-wrenching music that a lot of groups are still into. Go hear them. You’ll like it.
Things were starting to happen for Manna. In the fall of 1970 they signed a commitment to deliver a single to RCA Records. Upon their return to Edmonton, they went into the CKUA studio for several nights with Petersen engineering and producing. They recorded almost an album’s worth of their own material. Unfortunately RCA backed out of their agreement after the New Year. They opened for Iron Butterfly in December which really put them in the spotlight, and were highlighted in an article in the Edmonton Journal “The group is busy at the moment. They’re working on their first album; are negotiating a sound track for an NFB film, and will be making a college tour of western Canada with the Original Caste in January.”
The Original Caste tour did not pan out, but Manna signed on to another major tour of an Edmonton-based Jesus Christ Superstar show in March-April 1971. They were both the opening act, and then became a part of the vocal troupe for the main performance. The tour hit Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, Vancouver, and went as far afield as Detroit (Cobo Hall), Spokane, and even Hawaii.
The band lost several key members that fall, and they broke up shortly after. Bev Ross would record a full album in 1973 for the Century II label, but as the company went out of business, it was never released. She put out a solo album a decade later called Leap of Faith. Larry Reese also continued as a solo act for several years. He opened for Procol Harum at the Jubilee Auditorium in Edmonton when they recorded their November 1971 ground-breaking LP Live with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (and he played sitar on their track “In Held “Twas I”). Reese also scored several National Film Board productions for Edmonton-based director Gil Cardinal.
The folk vibe continued at The Crypt. Next up was another artist on her way across Canada who dropped into the Crypt for a week at the end of October. This was Montreal native singer/songwriter Dee Higgins who had recently signed a contract with Polydor Records and put out her first single “The Song Singer” b/w “Long Way Home.” She certainly appears to have had hype on her side – Melinda McCracken of the Globe & Mail wrote of her in February 1970:
Dee Higgins is sort of an ideal woman – she has long blonde hair, she’s young, pretty, has a beautiful voice, writes very simple effective love songs, and plays a pretty good guitar. She can’t help but be appealing. Her voice is clear and full, and her songs come across beautifully and easily.
Advertisement for Dee Higgins The Sheaf, 27 October 1970
courtesy University of Saskatchewan Archives
She was mentioned numerous times in Billboard magazine that summer. First and foremost she had impressed industry players and audiences at the 10th Annual Mariposa Folk Festival in Toronto alongside Rambling Jack Elliott, Doug Kershaw, the Perth County Conspiracy, Rick Neufeld, and Bruce Cockburn. She was noted to be a member of the writing stable of Early Morning Productions along with Gordon Lightfoot, Rolf Kempf, Christopher Kearney and Ivan Burgess. An article in the August 15th issue announced:
Following her highly successful appearance at the Mariposa Folk Festival, Polydor’s Dee Higgins has been booked to fly to Japan for a six-week engagement at the Canadian Pavilion at Osaka ’70. Al Mair of Blythwood Music, which publishes most of her songs, says that Dee’s first single “The Song Singer” is starting to pick up action across Canada, and a college tour is being set up for the fall, when she returns from Japan. An album will be recorded at that time, and will feature mainly original material.
She was also on the public radar having played at the Global Village club in Toronto in April, the famed Nite Owl in Yorkville in June, and was videotaped singing the Leonard Cohen song “The Story of Isaac” in the CBC special The Good Company with host Alan Thicke two weeks prior to arriving in Saskatoon. She even came with a touch of street cred, for she had played at “The City is for People” demonstration in front of 8,000 people at Toronto City Hall in May 1970. The demonstration turned into a protest at the American consulate, and police responded by sending in horses to corral the crowd. Ninety one people were arrested.
Dee Higgins Beetle Magazine, 12 August 1971
Pete White – the songwriting partner of Paul Hann – was involved with the planning and execution of Higgin’s recent tour. He recalls that she may not have eagerly jumped at the chance to play for the people of Western Canada:
When Paul first played the Crypt, I had already moved from Edmonton to Vancouver where in order to survive in the music business, I reinvented myself as an agent/manager… When Dee Higgins played, I think it was tied in with what I recall as “the fucking winter tour” that I put together with her, The Dumptrucks, Russ Thornberry, and Paul. She got included because Al Mair … wanted some western Canadian exposure for her and had phoned me looking for some gigs. The Crypt and Gastown Saloon gigs were the book-ends of the tour which hit the big cities of Castlegar, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, and Regina (I think). We travelled by bus and it was totally low- end and Dee was bummed that Al had made her do it, believing she was fated to be the next Joni Mitchell. She saw it as slumming with Western Canadian low-lifes and would not socialize with any of us – though admittedly we were a little rough around the edges…
A fresh-face with indeed a Joni Mitchell-ish voice, Higgins appealed to both sexes for different reasons. An uncredited Sheaf writer (obviously male) profiled her:
At the Crypt this week is Dee Higgins, a singer and songwriter from Montreal by way of Toronto. In the past two years she has worked coffeehouses in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa, has been in several TV productions, and recorded a single “Song Singer” which has been getting a lot of air play. She made quite a hit at the “Mariposa Folk Festival” this past summer, and it resulted in her being invited to a six-week gig at Expo ‘70, which she has just completed. A reviewer in the Montreal Star noted her strong presentation, the pearl-like clarity of her voice, and her ability to impress even the most cynical audience. And all that is at the Crypt all this week. And even if you don’t like music, go down to see Dee Higgins. She’s beautiful.
From Saskatoon, Higgins continued west and south, playing the original Troubador Club in Los Angeles and the newer Troubador in San Francisco. Then it was back to Canada where she dropped into Winnipeg to accept a Moffat Broadcasting Award for “The Song Singer” alongside its writer Rick Neufeld, and to play a three-night gig at the new folk club there called The Galley.
Dee Higgins “The Song Singer” 45 rpm label Polydor Records, 1970
She signed with RCA Records in February 1971, and released a new single “Wishful Thinking b/w “Got to Find Someone to Love,” and later an album Love is Still Around in July – all to favorable reviews. Admiring her for writing nine of the eleven tracks, Andy Mellon of the Winnipeg Free Press wrote:
Dee, who hails from Montreal, has an album out now…which shows enough promise to indicate that she could be the next young Canadian to hit the folk music big time. Within the past several years, Canada has become universally recognized for producing some of the finest singers and composers anywhere. Names such as Gordon Lightfoot, Buffy St. Marie, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen and Bruce Cockburn, to name a few are familiar to folk music lovers everywhere. Although Miss Higgins might not be quite ready to join them in folk’s higher echelons, she does have a way with a song that catches your attention easily… it adds up to a very pleasing record.
Higgins would become a fixture on Canadian television for the rest of the 1970s, making frequent appearances on Nashville North, the Ian Tyson Show, Rollin’ on the River, the Mike Neun Show, and Singalong Jubilee.
Paul Hann returned for his second engagement during the week of November 2nd. This time around he was a known quantity, had built up a fan base, and accordingly received a full review by Susan Jasper in the Star-Phoenix. She hooked in the readers quickly:
During the ‘50s and ‘60s coffee-house era when serious folk music became popularized, it had one outstanding characteristic; an audience reward that was directly proportional to the degree of attention. When Vancouver artist Paul Hann appears at the Crypt Coffee House tonight, you’ll recognize the principle is still alive, despite the intervening years of rock pyrotechnics. Invest the concentration that his words and music demand, and you’ll receive it back in triplicate because the man has obviously invested so much of himself in what he sings.
Accompanying himself on six or 12-string guitar, Paul lacks the gimmicks that make soft-core entertainment a one-way easy street from the stage to the crowd – no inane patter, no diversionary jokes, no easy style that lulls audiences to peaceful inertia. Instead, he has a soft-spoken earnestness when he talks, and an amazingly powerful blues voice and style that can drop to a whisper if it’s necessary. And the 12-string musicianship is never allowed to overpower the most important facet, namely what he’s saying.
She then gives some of his background:
Born in England, Paul worked folk clubs there before coming to Canada three years ago where he’s been playing clubs, festivals, and television spots in Western Canada. He left England “because I worked in the English civil service – do I need to say more than that?” But he’s brought some English influence to his music in Ewen McColl’s Springhill Mine Disaster and truck-driving song. His strength is blues or country-blues as he calls it. His voice has the depth and power for Doc Watson, Fred Neil, and Richard Farina. Paul sings James Taylor’s Fire and Rain with Taylor’s wistfulness, but adds his own conviction to it.
She brings his writing partner – Pete White – into the story:
With Peter White, his manager, he has a unique working relationship, which is about to prove fruitful in a recording they believe. For Pete writes much of the material that Paul excels at, a thoughtful, thought- provoking, and articulate writer of personal episodes and feelings. In Queen of the May, Pete captured fear and spirit in a young girl from a small town who moves to the city and undergoes the changes young people know so well… although skid rows the world over have been written in verse, Pete manages to give Edmonton’s 97th Street a strangely sad dimension for a 24-year old.
She finished with a few comments about a possible folk scene:
Both Pete and Paul believe in the folk-music following… Coffee- houses and folk music are only just beginning in Western Canada, and prairie audiences in particular have an affinity for folk-music they said. If the Crypt Coffee House in Saskatoon stays alive, and others in Vancouver, Edmonton, and Calgary flourish, a circuit could be set up, says Pete… Neither Pete nor Paul are about to desert, despite the upcoming recording session. “A record adds exposure, but I just want to get around and play my music to people who like it” says Paul.
Hann would not realize that recording for a while. Pete White recalls:
In those days, getting an album was a huge deal. We’d had an offer from a studio in Vancouver but I thought we could do better, and so we moved to Toronto which turned out to be a totally stupid and retrograde move….after maybe the worse year of our careers, we moved back to Edmonton. We were flat broke but Holger Peterson offered us digs at his place behind Larry’s Barbershop and that’s where we lived for awhile.
This first album – entitled A Fine White Thread – was finally recorded and released in 1973. Hann became the first artist signed to Petersen’s label Stony Plain Records, and would go on to record three more: Another Tumblweed (1975), Paul Hann (1978 – with guest appearances from Mason Williams, David Essig, and members of The Dillards and Ozark Mountain Daredevils), and High Test (1979). There were two more for other labels Hometown Hero (1980) and Brand New Boogaloo Zoo (1982), and then a string of children’s albums. Hann became known as “The Cockney Cowboy” (after a 45 rpm of the same name), was nominated for two Juno Awards, and hosted his own television program entitled Paul Hann & Friends from 1982 to 1988 on CTV and YTV.
The following week – November 9-14 – Humphrey & the Dumptrucks took to the stage, and gave five full nights of benefit performances. All proceeds went to re-financing the Crypt. Singer was overjoyed, and spent most of the funds on redecorating the venue.
Although the Dumptrucks were everywhere and known by everyone in Saskatoon, they were difficult to pigeon-hole. Band member Michael Taylor described their music as “prairie music…It’s not country and western; that is, it’s not a conventional Nashville sound. It’s not rock ‘n’ roll. It’s not folk – though it incorporates all three.”
Having done their noble duty for God and Saskatoon, the Dumptrucks started their rise to jugband fame. They signed a recording contract with Boot Records in the first week of December, and almost a month later started recording their first album Six Days of Paper Ladies (an oblique reference to spending an unhealthy amount of time with magazine pinups) in Toronto’s Eastern Sound and RCA studios. For the two weeks it took, they stayed at the home of their friend and label-mate Stompin’ Tom Connors. The album was a minor success, and led to their appearance at the 1971 Mariposa Folk Festival and Saskatoon’s own Woodtick II Festival that summer. Although they did not include a song for the Crypt on that album, they did compose “Merry Mansion Quadrology” in honour of their infamous residence.
They seemed to have continually increased their following and garnered nothing but favourable reviews. A writer for What’s Up wrote of them in March 1972: “…always popular, always tasty in their light-hearted-headed-handed presentation, the evening seems to just stroll along as they run through their many Saskatoon favorites as well as new stuff from their…already recorded album “Hot Spit.”
This second LP followed before the end of 1971, and it also did well. They continued to play clubs and festivals (even the Prince Albert Penitentiary), and recorded one more album as a foursome: the aptly titled Saskatoon on United Artists Records. Graeme Card left the band in 1973 for a solo career, while the other three soldiered on with experiments in live recordings Gopher Suite (1974), musicals – Cruel Tears (1975 – co-written with Regina novelist Ken Mitchell), and ballet – Goose (performed with the Regina Modern Dance Co.). They appeared many times on CBC Radio especially This Country in the Morning, on CBC television programs such as Countrytime, and even founded their own label in 1975 – Sunflower Records. They finally threw in the towel in 1981.
Crypt audiences were surprisingly homogenous, considering the many different types of performers and musical genres. They fit almost perfectly into Singer’s predicted 16 to 30 years old age group – mostly University of Saskatchewan students with a smattering of adventurous high-schoolers and a few slightly older hipsters. During the week they were small in numbers, but most weekends the place would sell out. Larry Gelmon noticed this, and felt he should remind people that the club was open all week:
For those of you who have been getting down there, you may have noticed that the place has been packed on the weekend nights (with good reason considering the talent that has been playing) but the Crypt is also open Monday through Thursday, so if you’d like more room to get into it, trip down earlier in the week. Better yet, drop down more than once during the week. Musically it’s worth it.
Repeat customers were high in numbers – and high otherwise. The “atmospheric” smoke that both musicians and attendees fondly recall did not come only – or even primarily – from ordinary cigarettes. It was the tail end of the first heyday of recreational drugs in Saskatoon, and many habitues of the Broadway district – and particularly The Crypt – were serious and regular marijuana smokers. On any given night one could see a wide field of nodding heads, glassy eyes, and more headbands in the club. Stoners dominated the audience, but as The Crypt was a safe haven, they were exceptionally peaceful and overly sincere. An unspoken understanding evolved with the Broadway beat cop – he got his free cups of coffee, and in return he did not see any reason to venture past the front desk into the seating area proper.
Attendance was noticeably good in September and October of 1970. This was partially due to the buzz surrounding the talent being offered, and partly to the doors being left open all evening. The amplified music and coffee aromas wafting out onto Broadway Avenue attracted considerable walk-in traffic. With the colder weather descending in November, the doors were closed and the spontaneous sidewalk clientele lessened. The musical talent became more hit-and-miss, the novelty of the venue started to wear off, and the number of paying customers took a nosedive. Singer decided that a slightly new approach to talent and promotion was needed to bring back the regulars and reach out to the new. He decisively left the mainstream with his next booking, and the new daily paid advertising – in both the Star-Phoenix and The Sheaf – and from this point on it started to get strange.
An enigmatic, truly under-the-radar band called The Exit took the stage from November 25 to 28. They were originally from Rycroft in the heart of Alberta’s Peace River country. In their previous Edmonton-based incarnation called The Stonefield, they had recorded an obscure, distorted, self-penned, drug-addled 1967 single “Deep Shades of Blue” b/w “Morning Hours.” A recent review of the record by Aaron Levine on his website Weird Canada (weirdcanada.com
) called it a “serious head-scratcher with its brutal fuzz massacre” and its “dual piano weirdness.” One side “oozes an addictive, lysergic weariness with its mid-tempo somber organ stuck firmly in a minor key while their drummer, seemingly in his own universe, augments the pacing with a complete disregard for drum pattern awareness.” The other side was “equally confusing, with a relentless bawdy piano swirling beneath the primitive fuzz lead…and bleary vocals…one of the most intense and ridiculous fuzz-guitar solos totally drowns out the entire track.” Levine, who traveled to Rycroft to unearth the story of the band, came back empty handed – they seem to have vanished from the face of the earth. He could only add that “they recorded in Edmonton and later reformed as The Exit, leaving the rest of the world to ponder the sheer awesomeness and absurdity of their legacy.”
Singer tried to make his advertisement in The Sheaf equally bizarre: “Expect anything at The Crypt. The Exit not only lives and breathes; tonight, Wednesday and Thursday, The Exit will even sing and play for you. All without the aid of chemical, optical, mechanical, psycho-physical or religious influences. See it and believe.”
Advertisement for The Exit The Sheaf, 25 November 1970
courtesy University of Saskatchewan Archives
No one knew what to make of them, or their three-night exploration into the dark side of musical atonality, and their searing and incomprehensible use of fuzz and feedback. The few Saskatonians who saw The Exit were either psychologically scarred or possibly lost all interest in music thereafter. Their performance was akin to going to a house party where something “uncomfortable” occurred, and all participants agreed never to talk about it again. While there are many audience members who gladly reminisce about seeing James and the Good Brothers or Paul Hann or Jalal – no one who saw The Exit has yet to come forth to recall the event.
On November 27th more print weirdness revealed itself in The Sheaf:
Home to the Sponge People. That is, to people who like to soak things up. Like live music. Teas. Coffee. Eats. ATMOSPHERE. People who dig breathing easy, but figure a night out should be fun too. So ease into the Crypt. It’s an absorbing experience.
Advertisement for the “Sponge People” The Sheaf, 27 November 1970
courtesy University of Saskatchewan Archives
December 1st’s ad asked “Are You a Cryptomaniac?” and went on to say
It’s the catchiest thing since Christmas. The happy victims display the following symptoms…a compelling drive to keep returning again and again to the Crypt Coffee House (usually after a movie), an insatiable need of coffee, tea, eats, live music and ATMOSPHERE. The afflicted simply relax and enjoy it, at $1.00 a person or $7.50 a couple per month (for those in more advanced stages). Join them tonight.
It appears the new “edgy” approach did not reverse the decline. Singer realized there had been a slight derailment, and hastened to put the train back on the tracks with tried and true folk singers for the first week of December. Even the ads headed back in the direction of normalcy. The December 2nd one read: “WE’RE EYE, EAR, NOSE AND TUMMY SPECIALISTS” and then explained:
How so? Re-decorate a Coffee House so it looks as good as the name sounds, bring in first-class entertainment 7 nights a week (like folk singer Dave Wright from Edmonton, tonight and Thursday) and serve coffee, teas and eats that smell as good as they taste. It adds up to a complete evening. Drop down tonight for a treat-ment.
Wright recollections are short but sweet: “I do remember playing the Crypt for two or three nights in deepest darkest February?, I think. It was a really cool club, and the fella who put me up at his place was a real nice guy. Saskatoon fans and music aficionados are great. Very warm folks even if the weather isn’t …!”
And the December 4th advert played to the man about town:
For the après-show set. The end of a movie mean the end of your evening? Dull, dull, dull. Super bored, totally unimpressed chick. Absolute waste of swinging night hours. After the show is the time to begin a great evening by dropping down to the Crypt. Tonight and Saturday take in “The We’ed Two” from Lethbridge. Their bag is folk…
For two nights, We Two (not We’ed Two as the advertisements claimed – although that no doubt attracted a few more stoners) was featured. We Two was formed in 1969 while still in high school, and consisted of Kathy Pisko and Wendy McFarlane. In January of 1970 they entered and won the first Winston Churchill High School Folk Festival – an important stepping stone for Lethbridge. They were clearly superior to the eight other acts from their home town, Calgary and Edmonton. According to the Lethbridge Herald: “the two adjudicators complimented the guitar-playing duo on their confident manner, harmony and accompaniment in the four songs they gave.” We Too had had a busy year: they played at conferences, coffee houses, a free concert in Henderson Park at the beginning of July, and the Whoop-Up Days Exhibition coffee house at the end of July. Unknowingly they were preparing the ground for later two-girl/two-guitar groups such as Lava Hay in the 1990s, and Tegan & Sarah in the 2000s. The Crypt was the first out-of-province gig for We Two.
Advertisement for We’ed Two The Sheaf, 4 December 1970
courtesy University of Saskatchewan Archives
This also did not succeed in bringing in the audiences, and with a lack of funds to pay artists, the Crypt remained without paid live entertainment for much of the second half of December. That is not to say the place was empty. It did however let a number of performers take the stage of their own accord. Recalls Singer:
We often had an empty stage during the week. I could only afford the out of town acts on the weekends usually, so lots of locals played those nights. We didn’t usually advertise them, they would put up flyers or call their friends and relatives on their own so there is little record of who was there. I only paid the union bands. Nobody seemed to mind the amateurs who sometimes played for free during the week.
Some of those free acts were memorable. Singer again:
One fellow sticks in my mind more than most. That is Romer Reo (his real name). He begged and begged to sing at the Crypt for months. We gave him a Wednesday night… We didn’t have time to put ads in any papers so I called my friends at the radio station and they made a big deal about it and about 12 people showed up. Romer got going about 9:00 o’clock and he was either pissed, high or just on another planet…[He] played his guitar until his fingers bled, sang until he went hoarse, and actually fell off his chair dramatizing one of his more autobiographical presentations. By about 10:30 he was still on stage but he was screaming, frothing at the mouth – and when he actually smashed his guitar …to make a musical point of some sort he was done. Guitarless he couldn’t go on. He had a friend who arrived about then and took him exhausted off the stage and out the door. We never saw him again. We had just enough letters to put “Tonite -The One and Only Romer Reo” on the sign that went round and round out side. I think it was his one and only performance, though there were rumors he played the university but was removed by security before the end of his first set…He was awful, but he was pleased to be given the… opportunity to perform.
He relates another story:
We had a couple of plays performed there as well by traveling groups. They passed the hat, I just provided the stage and refreshments. The only thing I remember about the plays were there was lots of nudity – but then who could forget that!… one group was from the States and another from Vancouver.
He goes into more detail:
[This] traveling bunch of actors… were in need of a venue on a Sunday night, when we were usually closed, to put on a play. We called all the radio stations for free advertising, cranked up the coffee machines, opened the door to a surprisingly sold out crowd, and they were wonderful. I can’t remember any of their names…maybe they are all famous actors now?
Sometime in mid-December (the exact dates can not be determined as there are no advertisements nor reviews) Saskatoon’s “jazz royalty” took to the stage for a two-night spur-of-the-moment gig. The Gordie Brandt Trio with Brandt (guitar), Barney Kutz (upright bass), and a drummer no one recalls, showed what master musicians could do with thoughtful, understated jazz. Both Brandt and Kutz had numerous decades of experience and musical knowledge. Both were raised in Saskatoon but ambitiously sought their musical education elsewhere. Brandt got his professional start in the country band Sleepy & Swede and the Tumbleweeds. He then found a spot more to his liking playing in various Vancouver jazz bands from 1941 to 1948.He then tried his hand at the Toronto club scene where he played with Vic Centro and Phil Nimmons, and joined the CBC radio orchestras led by Johnny Burt and Bert Niosi.
Brandt returned to Saskatoon in 1952, bringing a whole new awareness of jazz guitar to hometown audiences. He opened his musical instrument store and teaching academy in 1954, and not only prospered but “raised” the generation of guitarists which would come into its own by the middle of the 1960s. And by night he performed at local venues such as Club 400 (in the Avenue Building) and JayDees.
Barney Kutz, on the other hand, started in show business as a vaudeville tap dancer at the Empire Theatre in the early 1930s. He moved to Montreal in 1936 where he learned to play bass from Roger Charbonneau of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. Kutz played in a jazz trio at nights, studied at the Quebec Conservatory of Music, and ultimately secured steady employment in the Jimmy Laing Band. He returned to Saskatoon for good in 1948 to take over his father’s tailoring business. During the 1950s Kutz was extremely busy – he played with the dance bands of Gordie King, Don Keeler, Ken Peaker and Ray Dahlen, became a permanent member of the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra, and explored the rapidly changing world of post-bop “cool” jazz with his longtime friend on the CFQC television program The Gordie Brandt Show.
Brandt tried to make inroads with the younger crowd: in 1965 he played in the first jazz festival ever held in Saskatoon (it was organized by a young Skip Kutz) as well as at the second festival a year later. More recently his combo had played in the multi-generational “Seventypop Festival” in February 1970 at the Centennial Auditorium. The other acts included the University of Saskatchewan Jazz Band, the Tommy Banks Big Band, the Skip Kutz Sextet, Paul Horn, Witness Inc., Appleby’s, and Humphrey & the Dumptrucks.
Their repertoire at the Crypt was clean, crisp and classy…including ”Four on Six” by Wes Montgomery, ”All the Things You Are” (written by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein and made famous by Stan Kenton, Paul Desmond and Bill Evans), and “Bullfight” (from the 1965 George Benson Quartet album It’s Uptown).
It was an unexpected coup for The Crypt to get the Gordie Brandt Trio, and the city’s musical community came out in force. As well this was the only audience where a large proportion were past the age of 30. Unfortunately Brandt and Kutz were underappreciated by the segment of the audience who were not “in the know,” (or who were focused on the age of the performers rather than the obvious talent). Many of the younger attendees rudely left after their first set.
Gordie Brandt Trio (plus two guest saxophonists Art Britton & Bob Klassen), photographer unknown
courtesy Kim Brandt
The swansong Crypt performances took place after the Christmas closure. On December 26 and 27, Jalal returned for three sparkling sets each night, playing to a full house. This third set of Crypt performances were staged during a brief hiatus on their Canada-wide tour. It had started in October in Yellowknife, carried on through B.C., and Alberta, and stopped for a week in Saskatchewan. (It would continue in Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes, ending in May 1971). The third Crypt stop made for magical nights in all respects.
Larry Brown reminisces about some special guests:
At the December concert, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels had performed in town the same night, and a bunch of them came down and jammed with us during the late hours. Our group before Jalal (the Mozart Group) had played on the same stage with them at the Montreal Pop Festival, so we had some previous connection with them.
Larry Gelmon again reviewed their concert for The Sheaf:
As you may know, Jalal, the group that was last in town early in the fall, breezed back into Saskatoon after a many-thousand-miled tour… they played about 75 concerts in 80 days, and they were more than a little exhausted when they got back. They played for two nights while here, and drew several hundred people each night into the sardine can that was the Crypt. Musically they haven’t changed that drastically since they were last here, except to get a little tighter, and make their jams a little longer… but the material they are playing, although we have heard it before, continues to be impressive. And their ability to draw crowds of dedicated listeners, such as no other Saskatoon group is able to do, speaks of their ability to communicate with music lovers.
Handbill for final Jalal concert at The Crypt artist unknown, December 1970
They continued on their cross-Canada tour for the next four months under the sponsorship of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Canada. They “performed concerts for informal gatherings, talking later with any who expressed interest in the faith.” Although they were quietly firm in their beliefs, they were not evangelical. Susan Jasper of the Star-Phoenix noted their balancing act in May 1971:
Jalal treads a thin line between conversion and conquest by virtue of its music. Jack Lenz says the order forbids overt conversion. “We just want to tell people we exist, all around the world” he says…According to Jack, the group would not at all be unhappy to make records and perform large concerts, but the earnings will be channelled back to the Baha’i organization. “We have very few thoughts about being commercial.”
They appeared on the CBC television program The New Majority in June to discuss the connections between music and religion. They also played an important double bill with Lighthouse at the University of Saskatchewan in July. A reviewer mused that “Lighthouse and Jalal together are something to go to: they’re both out on the edge of their own experience, learning and playing.”
By 1972 they were writing and performing lengthy and ambitious works – which even in the staging were no longer possible within a club like the Crypt. One was simply called “Four Seasons” – a multi performer extravaganza from the summer of 1972 that reminds one of a circus. The crowd was warmed up with Fred Kernan (emcee), the Theatre Project Players, Glen Erickson (dog act), the Epp Brothers (Mennonite folksingers), Gord Wilson (magic act), Glen Genthes (sword swallower), Sheila Bunn (poetry reading), Max Hanson (folksinger), and Susan Wright (surprise act). Finally Jalal appeared and played the four movements of “Four Seasons.”
The reviews were no longer universally positive: fans tend to dislike too much change. A writer for the local entertainment magazine What’s Up noted in June 1972:
…a local group they strike some wonderful rock n’ roll heights when digging into the past for those groovie goldies, but be fore-warned that their original material tends to encourage boredom as the energy is mired by lengthiness and what often appears to be over-self-indulgence.
Their crowning glory was a joint concert with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra at the Centennial Auditorium called “Jalal and 73” It was so called because it took place February 9, 1973 and there were 73 orchestral accompanying instruments. The SSO performed Ernest Bloch’s “Sinfonia Breve” and Brahms’ “Serenade in D”. They were then joined by Jalal to do two exploratory, complex and …well, symphonic…original numbers entitled “Prologue: The Great Announcement” and “Love is the Mystery of Divine Revelation.” By this point Jalal – much to the chagrin of many of their long term followers – had completely left behind their cover tunes, and had firmly established their new identity.
Later in 1973 Jack Lenz moved to Toronto to expand his musical horizons. While there he hooked up with Seals and Crofts, following them to Los Angeles where he became their arranger, composer and band member. He played on their 1975 LP I’ll Play For You. He also was in Loggins & Messina’s band for their last album entitled Finale (1977). Lenz was enticed back to Canada by composing and production work in television (90 Minutes Live with Peter Gzowski, Due South, Robocop: the Series, Doc, Sue Thomas: FBI, Atomic Betty, and Little Mosque on the Prairie), movies (Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, Men with Brooms), theatre (Tribute to Mordecai Richler), and especially advertising. He also wrote the opening themes to numerous programs on CBC, CTV, and Global – not to mention the Blue Jays theme “OK Blue Jays” with Tony Kosinec (which, when issued on True North Records, sold so many copies that it became a “gold” single). The Brown brothers assembled bands under the name The Mozart Group from time to time throughout the 1970s and 1980.
With the start of the new year 1971, Singer frankly assessed his financial position, and realized he did not like the look of it at all. In retrospect, the Crypt should have been prospering. All the criteria were present for a truly enjoyable 1970 night out for both women and men. The patrons had nothing but favourable experiences, and most returned weekend after weekend. There was no rowdyism or drunkenness in the club itself (that was saved for the post-concert parties). The various musical acts wanted to play there – and the club received great ratings when members of the Canadian music community compared notes. The performers were paid the lowest scale fees permissible with the American Federation of Musicians (Singer stressed “we always paid scale, but couldn’t afford a penny more”), and the Crypt rarely had to pay for accommodation. The Saskatoon acts did not need a hotel, and those artists passing through usually passed out on the floor of the Dumptruck’s house across the alley. Cheap advertising was mostly done in The Sheaf or on the radio by talking to the disc jockeys and having them talk about the upcoming acts.
Yet it was not ultimately successful for several reasons. Firstly it was a totally independent venue. It was not hooked into a circuit like the Louis Riel Coffee House enjoyed. Singer did not want to deal with any booking agency exclusively (especially Saskatoon’s pre-eminent agency Actron with whom he had had serious arguments), so there was not the steady, reliable stream of talent. Almost every week’s booking involved phone calls, negotiations, accidental meetings, subtle poaching from other nightclubs, and especially off the cuff personal recommendations. And although Singer recalls being desperate for performers only once or twice, it still took up an inordinate amount of time.
Some days of the week brought in more money than others; some weeks were better than others, and some months were better than others. Over the five months though – on average The Crypt never managed to make a profit. The chief factor as usual was finances. Though it seemed reasonable at the time, the cover charge was obviously too low. The purchase of the food and coffee supplies – usually for a week at a time – was a major and continuous outlay for Singer. Payments due to the performers, and wages to the staff had to be paid regardless of how much money came in from the cover charges and food sales. In essence then, the Crypt was subsidized throughout its short life from the profits made by the Sol Store. Recalls Singer: “I made as much as the average Canadian poet, though we got to eat a lot of cold cuts and buns that were left over.”
Larry Gelmon comments: “The lack of a liquor license is what probably killed it — hard to pay a class act on coffee receipts…And it would have been more successful if Barry (and Lee) had been more of a gatekeeper and not let in so many of their friends (me included) for free.”
In the end Singer had to walk away from the Crypt to keep the Sol Store solvent. The lease once again reverted to Lyle Wallace. He recalls that Wallace: “actually tried to run it on his own, though I can’t remember if he actually had a group play or not. He eventually sold it to a fellow called Adrian Stockings. The place stayed open for about three months after I left.” It was not a glorious finish: the bombastically-named Sox & Stockings Rock Palace did not advertise, nor is it mentioned in Ned Powers “Sights n’ Sounds” column. No one knows when it opened, no one knows when it closed for good. There is only one documented band that played there – the Andantes from Regina.
The Crypt is fondly remembered by both performers and audiences. It certainly left a legacy – a legacy of openness amongst Saskatoon popular music aficionados for all types of live music, and an established and hungry audience awaiting the next club or clubs that could provide it. For performers it played an acknowledged and pivotal role at the beginning of their careers, and left a legacy of feeling welcomed and appreciated. As well it established a basis for future musical networking and collaboration. Holger Petersen recalled on behalf of Manna “… we felt really good about the Crypt. It was a listening audience…they were supportive and appreciative…we felt encouraged to keep doing original material.” Existing and prospective club managers took note of the Crypt’s popularity, and quickly moderated their stand on cover band-only bookings. By the following summer many of the acts that played the Crypt were being booked into the more mainstream clubs – and their original material was welcomed.
Notice for renovations The Sheaf, 17 November 1970
courtesy University of Saskatchewan Archives
The spider webs of musical cooperation started to be spun immediately, and some were holding strong almost four decades later. For example Humphrey and the Dumptrucks recorded a song called “Pretty Mairi” about Mairi Maclean of Skip Kutz’s band, and she in turn sang on their album Cruel Tears. All of the Dumptrucks appeared on Paul Hann’s first album A Fine White Thread in 1974, and the original foursome reunited to play at Hann’s wedding in 1978. Bob Evans of National Washboard & Co. made the leap from being a Dumptruck admirer to being a Dumptruck in 1977. He had played on the CBC broadcast “Air Mail Special” as a solo artist, and then joined the Dumptrucks for several songs. They then recruited him to replace Humphrey for the recording and touring of their next LP Goose!
Hann co-wrote a song with Bev Ross of Manna, and recorded another song penned by Alan Rhody on his Hometown Hero LP. The Good Brothers recorded three other Rhody songs over the years – “Mighty River”, “The Garden Wall” and “I Really Dug Myself a Hole This Time.” Rhody describes their post-Crypt relationship:
As for the Good Bros…..we’ve been bosom buddies all these years. We’d meet up in … the infamous Richmond Inn, which was a decent little bar gig for a solo upstairs, and … later bands downstairs in their large room which is where the Goods played quite a bit back then. They’d come upstairs sometimes on their break and sit in, or I’d go down stairs on mine and sit in with them…. it was always fun. Then after I’d moved to Nashville and they went on to become very popular up there, we stayed in touch and they asked me to come up and do a northern Ontario tour with them in ‘80 and a cross-Canada tour in ‘81 – both very memorable experiences! We still co-write (Bruce and Brian, Larry doesn’t write) whenever possible up there or down here, whichever works and they’ve included a co-written song on each of their last three releases. And we still get together whenever possible just for a visit, etc…Great guys and long-time musical friends.
Rhody also recalls spending time with Hann:
Paul Hann, Pete White and I became fast friends in Vancouver not long after my Crypt gig, when we were all in Vancouver. I’d been on the TV show in Edmonton a time or two by then. I really liked Paul and Pete a lot and they’d come by my place and mostly just played songs for each other and drink beer or go to one of the local pubs. We’d talk about our hopes for the future, songwriting, kind of a mutual admiration society of three (ha!).
Hann and Humphrey and the Dumptrucks became regulars at the Winnipeg Folk Festival in the 1970s, while Hann and Bev Ross played the Edmonton Folk Festival throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Jalal, Jr & Dudley Dean, Humphrey & the Dumptrucks, and Gordie Brandt all appeared at the Woodtick II Festival in Saskatoon in August 1971.
The Dumptrucks, Manna, Rhody, Hann, Wright, and Mairi Maclean (with her next band called Fat Chance), all appeared on Holger Petersen’s long-running CKUA radio program entitled Acme Sausage Company. Petersen assembled and produced a various artists album in 1972 by the same name, and on it were Humphrey and the Dumptrucks’ “Third Song,” Paul Hann’s “Workin’ Up the Line,” Manna’s intended RCA single “Uncle Clarence’s Piano,” and Larry Reese’s “Second Song.” Mairi Maclean and Bev Ross (along with Allen Stein and Tom Crighton) co-wrote a CBC radio (Edmonton) drama pilot entitled “Thurston Bradshaw: Not Gone, But Forgotten” – the story of a fictional band leader. According to Ross:
We invented a prairie band leader from the swing era, faked his life and times, including his songs (my favourite was “I’m Gonna Write You a John Deere Letter”) and had great fun putting it together. It aired as a one-off but didn’t fly as a series – thanks to “This is That”, I can cling to the notion we were ahead of our time.
Both Hann and Larry Reese played and sang on a children’s album on Mudpie Records entitled Ice Cream Sneakers in 1980. Gord Pendelton and Gordie Brandt contributed two songs each to the 1982 commemorative album Century Saskatoon 1882-1982. Graeme Card of The Dumptrucks and Hann both contributed songs to the ambitious and heavily-hyped, but commercially unsuccessful concept album Cantata Canada from 1973 on Century II Records. Finally several of the Crypt performers were sought out by and released material on the independent Canadian record label Boot Records. It was founded in 1971 by Jury Krytiuk and Stompin’ Tom Connors to promote the careers of Canadian (and some international) country, bluegrass and folk artists. Both Alan Rhody and Gord Pendleton had their first single releases on Boot Records, while Humphrey and the Dumptrucks issued five singles and two LPs on the label.
Pete White sums up this period:
For Paul and I and our days together in the music business, Edmonton was home, Vancouver was heaven, Toronto was hell, and Saskatoon was the best stop on the road ever. It had a special spirit which had to do with our good friends the Dumptrucks who we always got drunk and stoned with; and of course because of those early days at the Crypt.
The final word rightfully comes from Barry Singer:
I have no regrets at all…The best part of the Crypt was the music, and learning about that business. The musicians were really screwed by their agents, the club owners, record companies and publishers in those days and I felt sorry for them. Indeed, when I was a lawyer, I used to act for the Musician’s Union. However, they made that all up in life style, and I still wouldn’t let my daughters date one, as if I had a choice!
In summary, The Crypt was both a success and a failure. As a series of closely-sequenced musical and cultural events, it was a roaring and memorable success. It offered a smorgasbord of new (and some older) music to Saskatonians who were open to it, as well as a first important step up the entertainment ladder to many unknown acts. But as a self-sustaining commercial venture without a liquor license, it was totally unrealistic.
Director – Media Commons
University of Toronto
Humphrey & the Dumptrucks
17 – 22 August
Skip Kutz Sextet (with Mairi Maclean)
24 – 28 August
Rick Dawson, Keith Bartlett
2 – 5 September
7 – 12 September
15 – 19 September
James & the Good Brothers
21 – 26 September
Al Bond, Steve Carter
1 – 2 October
National Washboard & Co.
4 – 6 October
7 -10 October
12 – 17 October
Jr. & Dudley Dean
20 – 24 October
26 – 31 October
2 – 7 November
9 – 14 November
Humphrey & the Dumptrucks (benefit week)
16 – 17 November
closed for renovations
21 – 26 November
2 – 3 December
4 – 5 December
The Gordie Brandt Trio
26 – 27 December
New management – becomes Sox & Stockings Rock Palace