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WASCANA – Aiming for a Higher Plane on the Regina Plain

November 28, 2019

WASCANA – Aiming for a Higher Plane on the Regina Plain

In the first half of the 1970s, a red hot jazz-rock fusion ensemble emerged in the western Canadian province of Saskatchewan. It may be an understatement to call them an anomaly, for the region was not fertile ground for the new intense jazz. However, after decades of country, polka, and pockets of rock and pop, a rip in the fabric of space/time allowed a new brand of music to emerge for about four years. The members of the band were all extremely innovative, thoughtful and accomplished musicians and, considering the era, should have achieved national or even international acclaim. However due to a combination of bad luck, and sometimes counter-productive attitudes towards commercial success, they remained a regional presence.


The origins of this band lay in an easy-going, amorphous, ever-changing group of Regina musicians hanging out and rehearsing at the former residence of Duncan Blewett in the Hillsdale area where several members were tenants. Blewett was one of the pioneers of LSD research alongside Abram Hoffer and Humphrey Osmond, and since 1961 had been the University of Saskatchewan/Regina Campus’ “psychoactive drug lord,” their own resident Timothy Leary. This musical force thus germinated in appropriately rich ergot-friendly soil.

Originally calling themselves Smoke – as if the emphasize the ephemeral nature of its membership (and no doubt hinting at their second favorite activity) – they were interested in exploring all kinds of music. The core group in the fall of 1970 included drummer Drew Lawrence, guitarist and songwriter Mick Grainger, vocalist Gerry Klein, guitarist Brian Davis, and two horn players, Norm Allard on saxophone – and Tom Toddington on trombone. Grainger soon came up with a better band name, Wascana – which has to be the quintessential Regina title – being named after the creek which runs through the heart of the Saskatchewan capital.

Ringleader Drew Lawrence already had an impressive background, and was another prodigy in a long line of prairie drummers. He started playing the snare in the Regina Accordion Band at the age of eight. The conductor, Gordon Clarke, immediately saw talent, took him under his wing, and started him on formal lessons. Lawrence continues the story:

I then joined the Regina City Police Boys Band and worked my way up from the “B” band to the “A” band playing snare. I became pretty efficient at reading music. By age twelve I was the lead drummer and one of the youngest band members. All the other drummers under me were older, sixteen plus years. We entered all major marching band and concert band competitions and played in many parades including trips to and appearances in Grey Cup parades in Toronto and Vancouver. Also at age 12, the band formed a fifteen piece Dance Band from within its ranks. We rehearsed and played 40’s big band music, such as Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, etc. I learned a lot in that circumstance…

Lawrence joined his first rock band – The Castlemen – at the age of 14. He then jumped to the Stonehenge Slum Clearance which included Brian Davis on guitar and vocals, Gerry Klein as lead vocalist, and Bill Rothecker on bass. According to Rothecker: “this was a great little three piece group that played songs by Jimi Hendrix, Cream, the Guess Who, the Who, Moby Grape, the Stones, etc.” They played a number of impressive gigs – they opened for Paul Revere & the Raiders in October 1969 at Exhibition Stadium, and they led the “New Year’s Eve Happening” at the Trianon Ballroom as 1969 became 1970. However as Lawrence was eager to play with other people and sometimes over-committed himself, the rest of Stonehenge eventually decided to replace him with Harvey Frazz, formerly of the Checkerlads.

Ever restless and driven to learn, Lawrence continually hired himself out as a freelance drummer to bands of any description, of any age, playing any type of music. He did time with Rod Kennard and the TeeKays, Bill and the Furys, and regularly gigged with the adult MOR band of Ken Jefferson. It was with Jefferson that he participated in his first recording with the LP The Ken Jefferson Quartet Do Their Thing. Released in March 1970, it was given considerable attention in Saskatchewan.

The Regina Leader Post published a four column story about it. Released on the Quality-Birchmount label, it was engineered by Jim Gerlock and produced by Stew Blancher of Regina and Bernie Grinstead of Moose Jaw. The reviewer ran down the talent:

Mr. Jefferson, who has played piano for approximately 15 years and teaches piano, arranged and composed three of the 10 instrumentals on the album, including Boss Bossa, Commercial, and The Spell of the Arctic…. Mr. [John] Klimczakis a second year music major at Regina Campus and teaches guitar. He was a regular entertainer for many years at the Calgary Stampede and has backed many prominent country singers including Wilf Carter, Debbie Lorrie Kaye, Tommy Hunter and Gordie Tapp. Mr. [Drew] Lawrence, a first year music major at Regina Campus, has played drums for about seven years and also teaches drums…Mr. [Floyd] Mueller, who is an accomplished bass player, also plays accordion and guitar.

The album contents were discussed:

The album, from the Canadian Artists Collection, provides a variety of listening and dancing music, including rock and soft ballads, which can be enjoyed by people of all ages. In addition to the three original numbers, other songs include The “In” Crowd, Like Young, The Fox, Flowers on the Wall, Canadian Sunset, Love is Blue, and A Walk in the Black Forest…The Record was pressed at Quality Records in Toronto and an attractive bold cover was also designed there….

The more Lawrence ingested, the more he wanted to learn. All this experience, all this learning, pushed Lawrence to enroll at the University of Saskatchewan – Regina Campus in 1969 as a music major. Although his emphasis was obviously on percussion, there was no faculty member with this expertise. Lawrence thus ended up studying flute, piano and theory, as well as teaching himself: “… the professor who was teaching percussion was an accomplished French horn player with the Regina Symphony. There was no percussionist on the faculty. Translation – the most qualified person there to teach me percussion… was me!”

To support himself Lawrence also worked behind the counter at Arcade Music, which then led to his teaching drums every Saturday and throughout the summer at the store. In this position Lawrence was in an ideal position to put together his ideal band. He had either played with, was friendly with, or at least knew of each and every musician in the southern Saskatchewan area. It was inevitable that he do so – not in a svengali-like way – but tapping into friendship and common enthusiasm. One of his first recruits with a deep love of jazz was Norm Allard, a Commerce student from the francophone community of Gravelbourg. The two became close friends.

His next draftee was George Martin, a native of Swan River in Northern Manitoba. He came to the band with no experience and no preconceptions. He began his association with music by joining his high school brass band under director Vern Bell. Martin recalls that: “Bell was a great horn player and he really turned me on to music, especially jazz. On his advice I listened to my first Miles Davis album Sketches of Spain, which I wore out.” In his off hours he also played in a dixieland jazz band which was led by a middle-aged pianist who, in an earlier time, had accompanied silent movies. In 1967 Martin started studying arts at the University of Brandon in anticipation of a career in law. During his three years in this institution, he received further instruction in trumpet from Merton Utgaard, the head of the Peace Gardens Music Camp.

Rather than continue in law, Martin moved to Regina in 1970 to eke out a living as a musician. In that time since he left Swan River, his mentor Vern Bell had moved to Regina to take up the position as head of the Saskatchewan Arts Board. Bell recommended Martin for a position in the 17 piece pit band in the newly opened Saskatchewan Centre of the Arts. The pit band backed up visiting artists and productions such as “My Fair Lady”. In addition Martin started teaching trumpet and saxophone at Arcade Music (“I didn’t really know how to play sax – I was usually one lesson ahead of the student!”).

In the Fall of 1970, Martin got a job with a throw-together band playing a one-night engagement at the Trianon Ballroom. The drummer was Drew Lawrence and the two hit it off immediately. Recalls Martin “at the break, he asked me what kind of music I was interested in. I said “Oh, anything.” He said “would you like to try rock and roll?” I said “absolutely, why not?”

Martin thus joined the prototype Wascana, and in the next month and a half, the group worked out arrangements for about ten songs such as “Lonesome and a Long Way from Home” from the Eric Clapton/Delaney & Bonnie and Friends album. The band never actually played a concert though, as they knew they were not yet ready.

At this time Mick Grainger brought in three of his friends – Daryl Gutheil, Don Gutheil, and Bob Deutscher. All had been integral members of the recently disbanded Andantes, and although that band had run its course, they were all still pumped, and ready to jump into something new. (for the full back story of The Andantes, see here).

The three, along with Lawrence, had recently backed Grainger up on a series of CBC Regina television performances promoting local musical talent. Three songs were recorded in the old CBC studio on McIntyre Street – “Once With My Lady”, “Island Queen” and “The Legend of Jackie and the Sea.” They played together so well that, one by one, Lawrence and Grainger lured the ex-Andante members into their growing circle. Lawrence recalls:

I had known Bobby for years since we went to elementary school together although he was a little older than me. I once auditioned for his band – it might have been the Chevrons – when I was quite young, but didn’t make it. He told me “you don’t have enough innovations!”

There we no hard feelings though: “Bobby is one of the best musicians I ever played with. The man is a monster on guitar.” As for the Gutheil brothers:

Daryl and Don I knew from the singing group they were in for years as kids, and also from the Lions Band since the Lions Band would always beat the Police Boys Band in concert competitions! I met and got to know Don at Campion College when he was in the Andantes. We also did a “Battle of the Bands” together once at the YMCA. The Andantes came in first and we, the Castlemen, came in third. They were still kicking my ass!

Lawrence was immensely impressed with Daryl Gutheil’s skill with many instruments – he was “a virtuoso musician playing keyboard pitched in C and trumpet pitched in Bb while simultaneously transposing key signatures and then singing lead and backup when he removed the horn from his lips. How many people do you know who can do that?” For Lawrence, Don Gutheil was going to be the key connection between the band and his envisioned audience. He was “charm personified. All the girls and everyone else loved him as a front man. He was a highly schooled musician and an absolutely brilliant pop music historian, second to none. Irresistable onstage.”

For Lawrence everything suddenly crystalized the minute the ex-Andantes came on board. Deutscher recalls that “Drew said he’d like to get together with us but only if he could bring in the horn players – so we said “oh, what the hell…” The three Andantes outshone most of the other participants, and inevitably became the hub. Grainger was one of those inadvertently pushed aside for as he puts it “my musicianship wasn’t up to what would become the core of Wascana… and the musical cream rose to the top without me.” He would remain a valued friend though, and as a writer would supply them with songs.

The key to the uniqueness of the band though rested with the two horn players. Deutscher described Allard and Martin:

Norm played mainly tenor sax, some soprano sax, some flute and even some clarinet. He was one of the most intense people I’ve ever met, and when you get someone like that who played sax like John Coltrane… There were other players around who were more selective with their notes, who were more schooled, but Norm played straight from his heart, from his soul. It was inspiring to play with him. George played trumpet, valve trombone and percussion. He was a wild man on stage. He also came from the Miles Davis-John Coltrane school.

While some members continued to explore the material of the “horn/flute” bands like Blood, Sweat & Tears, Chase, Seatrain, the Ides of March, and Chicago, others wanted to dig much, much deeper into the free jazz that was starting to rear its head in the 1970-71 period. They started reconnoitering in totally new musical territory. Deutscher in particular discovered John McLaughlin who had played guitar with the Tony Williams Lifetime, with Miles Davis and with his own ensemble, the Mahavishnu Orchestra. This led the band to start digesting Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, and Keith Jarrett. Lawrence and Martin in particular were listening to Weather Report, Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter and Freddie Hubbard. Drummers Billy Cobham and Jack DeJohnette were also major influences.

The one musician though, who was daily on everybody’s mind, was Miles Davis – the “Dark Magus” – who had played with most of the above musicians and had issued a number of recent groundbreaking albums In A Silent Way (1969), and Bitches Brew (1970). Wascana were hooked into his vision of the self-proclaimed “new direction” in music with the zeal of converts. Stuart Nicholson wrote in his seminal book Jazz Rock: A History:

What Davis was playing was neither lowbrow nor high brow, but directed completely over the heads of his audiences who, for the most part, accepted it with perplexed patience… [he] was exploring free jazz with a vengeance, a music of random association, fragmented ideas and swirling textures where rock rhythms were bent in and out of shape.

The result was: “a complete paradox with jazz fans thinking it was rock, and rock fans imaging it was jazz.” It was exactly what Wascana aspired to – no borders.

Wascana gave the appearance of a group of highly gifted and earnest university students methodically seeking out, listening to and absorbing the jazz legacy. It was an intense period of “self-study”, ascending level after level of knowledge – with their performances being their “seminars”. Unique amongst prairie bands, Wascana’s musical journey took on a character and fervor of a spiritual journey. What saved them from being just a theoretical study group though was their superb musicianship, their urge to perform live, and their willingness to intersperse some accessible rock and pop songs into their repertoire like Rare Earth’s “Get Ready”, Van Morrison’s “Domino”, Elton John’s “Your Song”, Joe Cocker’s “Sticks and Stones” and Chicago’s “Ballad of a Girl”.

As well, the combination of drugs and experimental improvisation pushed the members into a new mental framework. Recalls Deutscher:

We just jammed all the time – constantly rehearsed because it was both fun and challenging. We liked to get high and just play. Some of the stuff that came out of it sure turned our heads! That was the beginning of a major time in my life musically – probably the most creative and inspiring moments of my playing career.

Martin seconds that:

We used to rehearse every day that we weren’t playing. We’d always do at least three to four hours. Drew also had this incredible Orange Barrel acid, so we would do this stuff and go for eight hours non-stop. The band were all on the same wavelength. You would get so attuned to what the others were doing, that you knew somebody was going to do something, and then the whole band would move at the same time. And the band started doing that live.

Grainger admired and supported their direction, but knew immediately that there were eventually going to be consequences:

Wascana was pushing musical limits and moving into what would come to be called jazz fusion. But it wasn’t necessarily a genre that had broad popular appeal. While I and some others, notably from the musical community appreciated what they were trying to do, they were slowly leaving mainstream pop behind with its enormous audience. But this was the Wascana I loved even though I figured it was probably doomed.

The writing of original material accelerated for most members. Many possibilities had been opened up both musically and lyrically, and a competition arose within the band, Deutscher, the only composer in the Andantes, started to write new and different songs for Wascana. They were less structured and contained unusual time signatures. “Inspiration Dedication”, “Release”, “Nature Nature”, “In The Need of Company” and two instrumentals “Time For Now” and “Master Key” epitomized his new approach. Daryl Gutheil started writing at this point and, according to Deutscher: “his first attempt was very very good – damn him! He always had it in him – it was just a matter of bringing it out in the right atmosphere.” Lawrence also contributed two songs “Rat Race” and with Daryl Gutheil the jointly written “Who Can They Be?” Although Don Gutheil, Allard and Martin did not do any composing at this point, they all contributed to arrangements.

Grainger also dipped his feet into drug-infused composing, but it turned out to be more of a nuisance to him: “while it was nice initially to write with a little buzz on… I found the material didn’t hold up all that well. I’d just put a large reel on my tape recorder and record 3 or 4 hours of me and my guitar, but in the morning it came out more like just doodling with bad lyrics.”

From the beginning Wascana were at best indifferent, and at worst opposed to having a manager. The three Andantes had managed to make it through almost five years with only the help of their booking agent Don Edwards. Lawrence on the other hand was against the idea. In his words:

…in my first rock band, the Castlemen…we had a falling out with a DJ at CKCK Radio who said he was going to blacklist us. The other guys in the band were in their late teens. I was the youngest. I called the DJ up and let him have it about threatening to blacklist us. He relented. From that time forward, I didn’t trust agents, promoters, etc., for quite some time.

For bookings then, Wascana stayed with Edwards in Saskatchewan, Spane International in Alberta, and Hungry I in Manitoba. Deutscher became the band’s treasurer and handled financial matters. Everything else was a democratic group decision. It was idealistic and admirable, but their lack of appreciation for what a knowledgeable, connected manager could do for them would come back to bite them.

The band’s first constituency – and the one that stayed loyal to them throughout – were the students of the University of Saskatchewan – Regina Campus (it would become the University of Regina in 1974). Their very first gig took place there on January 29, 1971, and from the beginning they found an audience as open to experiment as they were. Remembers Martin:

Fine Arts students would show up en masse and dance their art dances. And we would start playing to it – and why not? Then everybody would get drunk and disorderly, and by that time it would ferocious!

advertisement for first Wascana Concert – Dance at Student Service Centre, University of Saskatchewan/Regina Campus
Carillon, 29 January 1971
courtesy University of Regina Archives & Special Collections

Daryl Gutheil puts it more succinctly: “…packed and pissed! … they were probably the best audience in Regina.” One could be forgiven for assuming that a concert in the more mature university community would be all about the music and not about causing trouble. One would be wrong though – Pubnite was as rowdy and disorderly as any rock concert. Each concert seemed to be a free-for-all with overcrowding, underage attendees, fighting, and generally rowdy and drunken behavior. It was a good testing ground.

advertisement for Wascana concert at Pubnite, University of Saskatchewan/Regina Campus, Regina SK
Carillon, 29 June 1973 
courtesy University of Regina Archives & Special Collections

Another stronghold of Wascana fans – at least during the summers – was at Grandison Hall at the resort Kenosee Lake in Moose Mountain Provincial Park in southern Saskatchewan. It had been built and operated by Archibald and Ethel Grandison in 1969. The ground floor was a restaurant, the second floor was a nightclub (specifically for teens), and the top floor was an office and small apartment.

Many a Regina band travelled that fabled two hour drive – east along the Trans-Canada then turning south at Whitewood onto Highway #9. Daryl Gutheil remembers:

If memory serves me well the Andantes never played at Grandison’s, but we did play at the original larger dance hall (Clarke’s Resort??) during the late 60’s. I think Grandison’s opened a bit later down the street and immediately began attracting a crowd. It was a smaller hall, long and not very wide, but a cozy atmosphere with a few hundred kids inside. I think the building is still there.

Grandy (British I believe), a retired diplomat and his wife Ethel ran the place and lived next door. The original Wascana played there many times… These were always good gigs; very responsive audiences. The Grandison’s were quite elderly, but very business-like and extremely accommodating. I remember at the end of every performance Grandy would make his way up on stage and ask the crowd if they had enjoyed us and which other bands they might like him to bring in. Kids would shout out band names while Grandy took mental notes.

After we packed up, we were invited upstairs at the back of the hall where Grandy and Ethel and some of their friends would serve us hot dogs and drinks. That was always a nice touch. Then about 2 a.m. we’d say our goodbyes and hit the road.

Wascana’s first recording session took place on July 17, 1971 at CHED studios in Edmonton. With noted pianist and producer Tommy Banks at the board, the group chose to do two thoughtful Mick Grainger compositions that they had been performing for some time. I Need a Rest From the Music was a songwriter’s self-critique – somewhat surprising since the writer was still in his teens. But as Grainger explains: “songs of undetermined quality were coming at a fairly prolific rate, and I wished I could turn the gushing stream off at times.”

First promotional photograph of Wascana, in Wascana Park, Regina (l. to r. Don Gutheil, Bob Deutscher, Drew Lawrence, George Martin, Daryl Gutheil, Norm Allard)
Spring 1971
courtesy Drew Lawrence

He continues: “the first verse is me imagining how I must seem to some of my friends, particularly musical ones. The middle verses addressed what I considered my overly cerebral approach to songwriting and references getting a ‘brand new bag’ – that was the James Brown hit at the time – “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” – which I loved and considered the anti-Mick style of songwriting – gritty, free form and groin-focussed.”

Tables Turning, written in 1968, was a political song concerned with the unrest and societal breakdown that had swept across the U.S.A. that year and beyond. Incorporating references to Vietnam veterans needing to return home and urban neighbourhoods such as Detroit and Watts going up in flames, it was, in Grainger’s words “…a kind of ‘you think you have a war going on over there, but you’ve got one at home as well’”

Although skillfully arranged and performed and, according to Banks “very commercially salable” the tunes languished in Banks’ vaults for over a year. Deutscher remembers that a highlight of the session was meeting Lenny Breau who was cutting several tracks in the second studio at the same time. Representing Century II Publishing, Banks also saw something unique in Grainger’s writing and invited him to Edmonton to “discuss possibilities.” Recalled Grainger “he was a nice guy – I really enjoyed meeting him but nothing developed.”

Wascana continued to incorporate Grainger compositions into their repertoire. The songwriter remembers:

I usually did home recordings and gave them to Bob… Bob would listen and if something interested him he would play it for the band and a decision to work up an arrangement would be made. I wasn’t always aware that they were playing one of my tunes, but they knew I would be pleased that they were… I’ve always been a melody guy and I think they thought some of the songs had a melody core that they could build on with their musicianship.

He was usually pleased with their treatment:

Sometimes I thought they took them places I didn’t envision or particularly like. Other times, they improved the song dramatically by injecting their talent and musical sense, to the point where I was almost embarrassed to claim sole authorship.

The band continued to perform “Happy Love Day”, “Jonah Give Up Your Mind and “Hello Stranger”, but also included newer songs such as “I Met You On A Rainbow” and “Mother Goose.” By 1973 however, the band members were writing so much of their own material and had acquired the necessary confidence to present them to the public, that Grainger songs were gradually phased out of the set list and the link was broken. Lawrence looks back with considerable pride in the fact that Wascana covered Grainger’s tunes:

Micky Grainger is a truly gifted songwriter and wrote our best stuff. What we wrote ourselves was not on his level of craftsmanship in my opinion. His was a uniquely original voice. He wrote some beautiful songs – but I have to hand it to Daryl in particular and Bobby secondarily for the many great horn arrangements they brought to Mick’s and our own compositions.

Daryl Gutheil also remembers Grainger’s tunes with affection: “Mick was and probably still is a highly skilled and prolific songwriter. We always looked forward to hearing his latest batch of material. We performed and/or recorded quite a number of his songs, and I liked every one of them.”

Jeff Wyatt, another Regina musician, confirms that Grainger’s reputation had spread beyond the Wascana network:

Mick probably wrote more songs than any other Saskatchewan songwriter. He is probably Saskatchewan’s best and hardest working unknown songwriter. I never knew him personally… but I always heard about him from people that did know him. And I certainly don’t mean any disrespect to the guy in my use of the word “unknown”. He was just more known among other local musicians and songwriters than he was among the general public.

Wascana participated in the second Woodtick festival known as “Woodtick Plus” which was held August 29, 1971 at the Exhibition Grounds in Saskatoon. Woodtick was the Saskatchewan equivalent of Woodstock, but with tongue firmly in cheek. It was staged by the University of Saskatchewan Student’s Union and their partner organization Head On. The talent included Jalal, Sunband, Trina, Humphrey and the Dumptrucks, Rik and The Ravens, Gordie Brandt, Benjamin Chow, “plus a tabla and sitar performance.” In addition to the music there was a frisbee court, workshops on the new and exciting medium videotape, “opportunities for self expressive painting on the green and spontaneous dance”, a light show, exhibitions of sculpture and pottery, a daycare center, and most importantly “a rap on becoming your true self.”

poster for Woodtick Plus Festival, Saskatoon
29 August 1971
artwork by Dave Geary
courtesy Derwin Powell

Wascana assembled an unusually wordy six page press kit at the beginning of 1972. Small profiles of all members, written by Lawrence, were interspersed with a montage of photographs of them in concert. A complex cover by University of Regina art student Peter Zwiggelaar, containing a tangle of skulls and bones (meant to illustrate Wascana, the Cree word for “pile of bones”), and faux-Celtic border decorations was almost medieval in its execution. These were not your normal teenage musician bios – they touched on character, ideals and aspiration. For example Daryl Gutheil:

If you do not see him, you may not know he is there. Daryl is quiet and unassuming but when he does have something to say, it is truthful and sincere and always logically thought out. Daryl’s intellect extends into his musical taste in that he is discriminating and exacting. His compositions prove him to be a constant innovator, forever in pursuit of something newer and better…and as an added extra, he has a fine voice.

Don Gutheil:

Don is openly an extrovert. His greatest love is music – demonstrated by the fact that his profession is playing music and he spends most of his leisure hours listening to music… Don is a born entertainer and happily asserts his natural feeling and ability while playing. Personal warmth and love of music are two readily recognizable traits of this musician.

Bob Deutscher:

His originality and versatility are definite products of the music he has written, while artistry and imagination shine through in many of the arrangements he has contributed to the group. Soloing on guitar is his forte and many are the eyes and ears that have watched and listened in amazement. Perhaps he is aware of something we are not – occasionally he has dreams of incidents before they occur.

George Martin:

George is synonymous with energy. His ordinary daily life functions at a much faster rate than any average human being. Nevertheless George’s heart affectionately goes out to everyone…. On stage, his dynamic and fiery performance is an energetic outlet thorough which the vital force and power of the group is expressed. George’s intense personal emotion and high spirit are integral components of his solos.

Norm Allard:

Norman possesses a strong character coupled with sincerity and warmth. He is deeply religious in that he practices the principles in which he believes which are concentrated in the pursuit of higher ideals…Those who have met him are readily attracted by his personal magnetism and his deep concern for freedom of expression… The spiritual heart and fiery emotion of this musician are not only heard but felt in his solos. His natural restlessness and firm dedication are the reason he is never completely satisfied with what he has done. Always his steadfast will keeps him reaching higher.

And finally Drew Lawrence:

He is sensitive, frank and continually aspiring to meet his goals. His serious persistence for change and improvement is oft times lightened by his quick wit and sense of humour. His detailed concern for precision is an obvious trait of his music, and his determination makes him one of the main, powerful and driving forces behind the sound of the group…His sharp intellect and keen ambition keep him ever striving for fulfillment, but remaining always cool and tactful in the process.

The kit also contained a manifesto about the band as a whole, and made it clear they were serious about their music.

Wascana is a name that means many things to many people. But what does it mean when it represents the combination of energy, vital source, power, direction, purpose and life? These characteristics are being manifested fully and consistently by six young men who express themselves through the art of music. Wherever they have played, they have brought a change into people’s lives: in some people a minor one; in others a major change. Let us remember though, that all change is beneficial, for it is synonymous with one of the most fundamental universal principles – evolution. If you have seen this group more than once, you have already noted that they have been different each time you have seen them. Why? The answer is evolution.

It continues:

Stated scientifically, Wascana is truly an active, positive force acting on a passive, perhaps, not-so-receptive audience through music. The result: a receptive, active audience overcome by the almost perpetual energy and excitement which is Wascana…. If you have not yet heard of Wascana – you will.

This was not fodder for juvenile fan magazines or shallow entertainment reporters. It showed they were literate, it proclaimed the bands “seriousness” – that they were not “playing” at music, and that their musical journey was not an air-headed whim but rather a full-on exploration of all possibilities. Above all they wanted people to understand their dedication to progress and evolution in music.

Wascana may have made its biggest impact in, of all places, Vancouver. In the summer of 1971, their promoter Don Edwards connected with west coast booking agent Bruce Allen. Responding to Edward’s hype, Allen sent one of his colleagues, Shelley Siegel, to Regina to see Wascana perform at the King’s Hotel. He reported back to Vancouver in glowing terms, and Allen booked the group for their biggest and most prestigious gig to date – that of opening The Body Shop for the week of 16-20 August 1971. The Body Shop, located at 849 Hornby Street, was owned by Nick Milos and managed by Jimmy Christopher. It would quickly gain a reputation for showcasing top national and international acts.

Hotel, Regina – site of numerous Wascana gigs
postcard 
[1967] 
author’s collection

Its decor was innovative but undeniably authentic, especially when one knows that it was until recently – the Pacific Chrysler Plymouth Body Shop. According to reporterJeani Read’s opening night description:

A pink and yellow 1937 Plymouth is hanging upside down over the stage. Strategically placed chrome bouquets of hubcaps, grills and bumpers ogle and grin from the corners. The room is obviously proud of its shiny new suit, the stop signs and the signs for Castrol and Veedol Motor Oil, the traffic lights and the pieces of automobile anatomy. A smattering of hightables, barstools, the steering-wheel door handles and the checkered flag of good-sized dance floor, the pop art-style accidents, shout Karang!…

Read was equally enthusiastic about the entertainment:

Music at the Body Shop is being provided this week by a group out of Regina called Wascana, and besides being a perfect musical match for the room, they are also one of the best prairie province club bands to set foot in Vancouver.

She went on to describe their material:

Wascana delivers a tightly organized set of very danceable tunes, excellent and impeccably commercial replicas of Chicago, Redbone, Three Dog Night… tightened and brightened versions of Ray Charles, Sticks and Stones, and a respectable amount of original work that is completely within that same, Top-30 sounding groove. They are a six-piece group gifted with three horn players as well as organ, bass, guitar and drums, who are able to make a convincing job of almost everything they attempt.

Wascana followed this up by participating in the three-day Cloverdale Fair Rock Festival in Surrey. Put on by Frodo Productions in association with SOS Promotions and Bruce Allen Talent, it ran from August 12-15, 1971. Included amongst the talent were two Colorado-based American bands Sugarloaf (best known for its recent hit “Green-Eyed Lady”) and the retro unit Flash Cadillac, the Toronto group Steel River, and local bands Uproar, Uncle Slug, Tom Northcott and Crosstown Bus. Wascana, still riding on the buzz generated from the Body Shop appearance, closed the festival on its last night.

poster for Cloverdale Fair Rock Concerts, Surrey, BC
12-15 August 1971
author’s collection

In the interim Siegel had been hired as promotions manager of Can-Base Industries. He was extremely impressed with Wascana’s live act and felt they had to be recorded. In the last half of August he took them into Can-Base Studios to record a set of demo tracks – enough to plan for an album. To record there was to record in the equivalent of a historic site (in musical terms). It had originally been constructed in 1965 at 1234 West 6th Avenue by Al Reusch, the founder of Aragon Records, as a high quality recording room for CBC Vancouver orchestral sessions. It had room for at least 75 people, measured 50 x 30 ft. and 20 feet in height, and was already equipped with a 16 track tape machine. However, the clientele who kept the doors open were the rock and pop bands. According to one historian “…among the very first clients to use the studio were renowned Motown artists Diana Ross and the Supremes. Legend has it that they cut their tracks here, in the dead of winter, even before heating had been installed in the building.”

In 1970 Reusch sold the studio to Jack Herschorn, who immediately hired Mike Flicker as chief engineer, and brought in the acclaimed Paul Horn as a producer. When informed what technical upgrades were necessary to compete in the world market, Herschorn sought additional funds to be able to afford them. He thus sold his Herschorn Productions Ltd. to and entered into an arrangement with Can-Base Industries, a copper mining company operating in northern BC. He became the president of the unit, but as this legally put the studio within the corporate structure, it took its name from the parent company.

The following year Herschorn established the subsidiary Can-Base Records, and opened an additional office in Los Angeles to look for talent. He also purchased the mixing console, amplifiers, equalizers and filters of the United Recorders studio on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles and shipped it back to Vancouver. Wascana then – without knowing – recorded with the same equipment used for albums by Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, Les Paul, Duke Ellington and John Coltrane. This studio was shortly to be renamed Mushroom Studio. Jim Vallance gives some details:

Mushroom had an old tube console with rotary faders … 16 channels, if I recall. The multi-track tape machine was an Ampex MM-1000, a real clunker, the size of two washing machines, but with amazing analog sound. There was a cavernous recording room with a 25 or 30 foot ceiling, with lots of padding on the walls, so it wasn’t a particularly”live” sounding room. The acoustic echo chamber consisted, literally, of two purpose-built “chimneys”, with microphones on pulleys. Heart recorded their debut album there, Chilliwack did one or two albums there. Jerry Doucette…possibly Trooper. Rolf Henneman was an engineer at Can-Base/
Mushroom, also Keith Stein.

Both Wascana and Siegel expected some kind of imminent breakthrough, and wanted to put a selection of their most exciting repertoire to tape. Gutheil recalls:

The original Wascana got to know Shelly Siegel during…our first trip to Vancouver when we were hired for a two week engagement to open a new downtown club, the Body Shop. Shelly had previously worked with Bruce Allen but I think they had some kind of falling out.

We hit it off with Shelly immediately… a very likeable and funny guy. He was trying to get re-established and we actually talked about him becoming our manager. We went back to Regina and that idea kind of fell by the wayside, but while we were in Vancouver, Shelly lined up and I think paid for a demo session for us.

Shelly had a friend – Steve Grossman – who ran the studio where we recorded a bunch of our originals live/no overdubs. Don’t know what became of the tapes but I think the idea was for Shelly to shop them around.

Ten or twelve songs were knocked off, all original material including “Twenty Nine One Nighters” and “Jonah Give Your Mind Up.” According to Gutheil, it was “…live off the floor, and at no cost to the band.”

When Can-Base decided to divest itself of its music activities Siegel – with business associate Wink Vogel – took over the ownership of the studio and their label Mushroom Records, which would blossom into one of Canada’s most successful independents in the late 1970’s. He would prove to have an undeniable eye for talent and, before his unexpected death in 1979 at the age of 32, he would sign and guide the careers of Heart, Doucette, Chilliwack, and Ian Matthews. Unfortunately for both Seigel and Wascana, contact fell off as each became involved in other projects, and Wascana again deftly avoided issuing an album. Wascana was to play Vancouver two more times – later in 1971 at the Body Shop again, and in 1972 at Dante’s Inferno.

Wascana – promo photo to accompany press kit (l. to r. Bob Deutscher, Drew Lawrence, George Martin, Don Gutheil, Daryl Gutheil, Norm Allard)
1972
courtesy Drew Lawrence

The band returned to Saskatchewan and, on August 27, played a multi-band festival in Yorkton. As reported by the Leader Post:

The St. Gerard’s youth group, working with the Yorkton Homecoming committee, is sponsoring a homecoming pop concert at the exhibition grounds Thursday. The music groups which are being brought in are: Canada, a Vancouver group; Trina and Junior and Dudley Dean from Saskatoon and Wascana from Regina. Dale Winnitowy [sic.], spokesman for the sponsoring club, said the club had been given a grant by the Yorkton Homecoming committee…

CENTURY 21 AND THE HOUSE OF RANDOM

Wascana’s evolving repertoire can be partially reconstructed by knowledge of another demo session they undertook in September 1971 at CKCK Studios in Regina. It was produced by the radio station’s music director Ken Singer (who had also produced an Andantes demo session), and included both covers (Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness”, Seatrain’s “Thirteen Questions”, Ballin’ Jack’s “Super Highway”, Chicago’s “Does Anybody Really Know What Time it It?”) as well as some originals; Deutscher’s “Party in the Country”, and Mick Grainger’s “Tables Turning” and “Hello Stranger.”)

Through Don Edwards, Wascana did a tour of the American midwest at Thanksgiving 1971. Two of the stops were Oshkosh and Milwaukee where they played dates with the Siegal-Schwall Band. They then proceeded to Chicago where they played for a week at the Rush-Up Club. This was an exceptionally popular club located at 907 North Rush Street co-owned by Don Lally and Richard Lidstrum. Opened in July 1966 it was the largest of a family of nightclubs which included the Rush Over (across the street at 900 North Rush Street) and the short-lived Rush North (not on Rush Street, but a few blocks away on 1653 North Wells Street – opened in January 1969, closed in May). According to a newspaper article from that year “soul music is the fare in all three.” Even so, numerous rock acts appeared at the Rush-Up including Frank Zappa, Todd Rundgren, The Kinks, Uriah Heep, and Chicago Transit Authority.

“Greetings from RUSH STREET, Chicago, Ill”
postcard [1969]
author’s collection

The Rush Up – so called because one had to climb stairs to reach the entrance – had several rooms. The main room contained the bar and the stage for the louder acts, a back room called the “Rush Back” was quieter with a fireplace and a corner for the quieter acts, and upstairs was a game room with pool tables, and – well ahead of its time – a video lounge. Men had to pay a cover charge, women were admitted free. One could drink all the beer they desired for $2 a night, and there was a cheap “Harvey Wall Banger Hour” on Friday evenings. And again to attract a large (and preferably unattached) female clientele, there was a “Most Fashionable Girl” contest on Saturdays, free champagne for women on Sundays, and every second drink every night was complementary for stewardesses.

It sounds innocent enough, but the atmosphere was noticeably ‘heavy’, with an undeniable touch of free-floating fear in the air. That may have developed from some of its clientele. The Rush clubs were hangouts for several Chicago mafia families. The brave reporter Robert Wiedrich observed in his Chicago Tribune gossip column in December 1968:

A strange melding of criminal skills takes place every midnight in one of Rush Street’s leading spas. Small time professional burglars are hanging out at the same bar with mob bosses like Frank Buccieri, Jackie Cerone, Ross Prio, and Rocco [the Parrot] Potenza. There’s also a Hollywood star of some fame who’s adopted the place as his watering hole when he’s in town. He’s a fellow who once palled around with such people as Salvatore [Momo] Giancana on the golf links…

Simultaneously the three Rush clubs, and for that matter the entire nightclub district, had also been the target of extortion by members of Chicago’s finest since 1966. A federal investigation of police payoffs was initiated in 1972, and it found that 53 taverns in the area had been harassed by 33 different officers, and in order to prevent it, had made monthly payments to collector Salvatore Mascolino. The published testimony could easily have come out of a Coppola movie:

Richard Lidstrum, one of the owners of the Rush Up, said he often made the cash payments to Mascolino by concealing the money in his hand and then passing it to the policeman while shaking hands. Donald Marion, another partner in the Rush Up, said the owners decided to go along with the shakedown payments to stop being harassed by vice policemen who would enter the tavern several times a night to check identification cards of the patrons.

The threat of violence and intimidation was genuine – not for show. And it was needless to say an eye-opener for those band members who had never been in the United States. Martin chuckles:

This was big-city stuff! It was the first time I had seen bouncers with guns. The one tree outside the front door was literally burned black by the pollution. We had to play from nine o’clock to four in the morning. It was an awful place, but had a good reputation, somewhat like the El Mocambo.

Daryl Gutheil agrees: “It was exciting to be performing in the Rush Up, a popular big city club. The club and stage were quite small, but it seemed to be one of the places to be.” Lawrence also recalls:

Yes, it was great playing there…. Loved it! I recall James Pankow, trombonist and arranger from the group ‘Chicago” coming to the club one night and listening to us. Also, another band appeared at the Rush Up while we were there called Shanti from San Francisco. It was Indian and American musicians playing a rock/Indian fusion type of music — one of the first of its kind. I was blown away. We became fast friends with the drummer, Frank, and we all went out to dinner with him one evening. Little did I know at that time that I would meet up with and befriend three other members of the Shanti group several years later. Three of these Indian musicians all came from a famous lineage of Indian classical musicians. Pranesh Khan and Ashish Khan were the sons of the famous sarod player, Ali Akhbar Khan. And Zakir Hussein, the tabla player, was the son of the famous Alla Rakha, tabla player for the renown sitarist, Ravi Shankar. They played and recorded with the Beatles.

Even so, Wascana were all too happy to play out their contract and leave town.

The local Saskatchewan press were even more supportive of the band after their return. In the Fall of 1971, Dale Winnotoy mentioned them in his music column for The Saskatonian newspaper:

Regina offers Wascana. Formerly the Andantes, they are the most successful financial groups about these parts. Playing a brand of thoroughly enjoyable commercial music, their fine horn work and vocal harmonies win them much popularity. They have toured with Three Dog Night and jammed with Chicago lately: getting accepted in those circles is some kind of major feat that deserves a pat on the back.

A Saskatoon entertainment magazine What’s Up also raved about them. In March of 1972 one of their writers penned:

Wascana, if you don’t recognize the name, are one of the tightest groups in the Saskatchewan rock scene. If anybody can make you dance, they can. Superb horn arrangements blare out of the continuously well-chosen contemporary rock material – no commercial shtick from these 6 guys. For those of you screaming for comparisons, Chicago are the closest you’ll get.

Yet another called them “the epitome of tight, ultra proficient Saskatchewan rock.” And by the Spring of 1972 they were receiving national attention. David Warren, a disc jockey and stringer for Rainbow magazine wrote in his “Report from Regina” that:

Wascana have toured with Siegel-Schwall Blues Band and have had the distinction of having Chicago drop in on one of their gigs in the States… a tight, hard hitting group, they do original material mixed with cover versions of some of today’s toughest rock music, using a variety of instrumental arrangements. All this group really needs is a good producer to pick them up and get them going in a record way.

Again they seemed on the brink of some kind of success, but they were not ready to follow that path yet. Daryl Gutheil “ the attitude then was not “let’s make it” – rather it was “let’s develop as musicians, have a good time, and make a living.” It wasn’t as ambitious as it could be.”

In the Autumn of 1972, Tommy Banks entered into negotiations with various major record companies for distribution of his newly-formed Century II record label. His choice for the premiere 45 rpm release were the two Wascana songs. On September 23 he wrote to Mick Grainger’s publisher Bernie Grinstead of Bette Graham Productions:

We are currently and seriously contemplating the possibility of entering into a record label deal and we are very interested in determining the present disposition of the group Wascana. We have two good masters in the can now of tunes which you have published, and we would anticipate these as immediately released on our new label.

He was directed to group spokesman Deutscher and indicated his renewed interest in the recordings. Much had happened since Wascana had last seen Banks including several additional recording sessions, and the band felt they had advanced substantially. Deutscher thus wrote back:

In reference to the material we recorded with you we are not interested in having it released the way it is… Our group has developed considerably since we were last in Edmonton particularly in improvising. Our musical tastes have changed a lot. We are drifting away from the “rock band recording star” space which at one time we thought was our goal. As a matter of fact we are working on something quite different right now.

By staying true to their progression Wascana, for better or worse, sidestepped their next opportunity to secure a recording deal.

Their 1972 date at Vancouver’s Dante’s Inferno was an important step in pushing them in “a record way.” Following the appearance, Wascana was asked to appear for the first time on the CBC radio program Great Canadian Gold Rush. Hosted by Terry David Mulligan, and assembled and broadcast from the Vancouver studio, it became a Monday evening institution for those listeners who wanted to know what was happening in Canadian popular music. With producer Claire Lawrence (founding member of The Collectors and Chilliwack) at the controls, Wascana recorded four songs at Century 21 Studios in Winnipeg. They were all original tunes – “Who Can They Be” by Daryl Gutheil and Drew Lawrence, “I Met You On A Rainbow” and “Mother Goose” by Mick Grainger, and “Patience” by Bob Deutscher.

Wascana transcription EP (CBC Radio Canada LM 203) – B side
1972
courtesy Robert Williston, Museum of Canadian Music

“Rainbow” was a veiled warning against thought leadership. Grainger elaborates: “at the time people seemed to be chasing gurus – spiritual, ideological, political – to lead them to nirvana/the promised land/the perfect commune, etc. and I was reacting to some of that. It was also a sideways reference to some Wascana members doing the Hare Krishna thing as well, I must confess. Ironic that they ended up doing the song!”

“Mother Goose” on the other hand is pure tongue in cheek and questions the need for celebrities to comment on topics they are not qualified to speak on. Again Grainger explains that it: “… was a put-on because all kinds of folks were being asked to take stands on various issues, so I took one of the most benign figures I could contemplate and demanded that she declare where she was going and that she take a leadership role. I thought it was a hoot, but I doubt anyone else did.”

“Who Can They Be?” was one of the band’s few co-writes. Lawrence would later comment: “I wrote the lyrics and Daryl Gutheil wrote some really good music for it. He is an amazing musician. In hindsight, the lyric is actually a premonition of what was to come in my life a couple of years down the line!”

The tapes created a buzz at the CBC head office in Toronto. The session was broadcast, then pressed onto a 45 rpm EP transcription disc and made available for sale. It is now a rare collector’s item. In particular the tapes intrigued Ian Thomas, a staff producer for the CBC radio show National Rock Works. (Thomas, formerly of the band Tranquility Base, would be catapulted to solo stardom with the release of “Painted Ladies” the following year.) He asked to hear more from them. Between the 26th and 29th of February 1973, Wascana recorded five more original songs in the Regina CBC studio – “Twenty Nine One Nighters”, “In The Need of Company”, and “It All Depends on You” by Deutscher, an improvisational jam entitled “Master Key” also by Deutscher, and a medley of two songs “Midnight” by Daryl Gutheil and “Time For Now” by Deutscher. This was a much more professional product.

Thomas was even more impressed and, later that spring, Wascana found themselves in Winnipeg’s Century 21 Studio, this time with Thomas and engineer Allan Thorne on the board. Thorne, originally from Australia, had come to the CBC in 1972 after a stint at Trident Studio in London U.K. There he had engineered sessions with Harry Nillson, Cass Elliott and David Bowie. In Canada he had mixed the sound for Anne Murray and David Clayton Thomas television specials.

They oversaw the completion of seven more original tunes. Three of these – “Midnight”, “Clear The Way” and “Back To The Future” were written by Gutheil. Chuckles Gutheil “this was obviously before the movie! It was my song, my title – I take credit for the title. Nobody knows or cares, but in my mind, it’s my title!” The others were “Time For Now”, “Song For Joy”, “Nature Nature” and “Release” all by Deutscher.

Regrettably it was not what either Thomas nor the band wanted. Lawrence writes: “I understand what he {Thomas] was trying to achieve but I did not understand what he was going for in terms of a slick produced sound at the time. I was too young and inexperienced.” Unfortunately none of these tunes made it to air, and although there was talk of releasing them as an album, it came to naught when the few companies they approached showed no interest.

Even if the Wascana recordings did not awe the record labels, the group’s musical abilities clearly impressed the staff at Century 21 Studio. The Century 21 story originates with The Eternals. They were formed in 1961 by Ron Paley from Rosa, MB, and Bobby Everett from Gardenton MB. The duo then added a bit more depth – on a trip to Steinbach says Paley: “we heard about John Hildebrand – that he was a pretty good guitarist. So we met Johnny and he joined our band.” They played polkas, rockabilly and even started to feature rock which caused concern amongst their rural Mennonite followers.

Shortly after, Hildebrand’s brother Harry joined on bass, Paley’s brother Ted came on board with his drums, and Everett dropped out. Chuckles Ted Paley at the final lineup ”… two Ukrainians and two Mennonites – go figure…!” Ron Paley started playing tenor sax and keyboards and the group started to master the beginnings of the British invasion songs. The Eternals toured frequently and established a solid reputation in both Ontario and Quebec, and like their contemporaries, The Guess Who, were signed to Quality Records.

The Eternals recorded most of their seven singles in Toronto’s RCA Studio, and one at Kay Bank Studio in Minneapolis. Being good prairie boys, they always wondered why they had to travel out of the country or to the hated Ontario capital to engage in this most basic of musical activities. Strangely for a city so caught up in the world of popular music, there had been no truly professional recording studio in Winnipeg throughout the 1960s. Chad Allen actually voiced his concern in an article he wrote for Music Scene magazine in the summer of 1968:

It is difficult enough to come up with a good, original composition, but now here else I know is it more difficult to get one’s songs listened to and recognized than in these prairie regions. Not only are there no professional recording studios in Winnipeg, but few radio stations will play rock music. Despite these barriers many local groups do manage to record their own material, but they are forced to travel to such places as Minneapolis, Toronto, Edmonton or anywhere else that can assure them of a good, clean sound. Those who cannot afford the expense of recording away from home have the doubtful alternative of trying their luck in local makeshift studios.

For The Eternals life on the road was starting to lose its appeal. All four band members were smart, ambitious and entrepreneurial. They guessed that they could not sustain a career made up of constant touring broken by the recording of intermittent singles. They wanted to go beyond this, make a steady and comfortable living while remaining in the field they loved – music. According to one account, the two Paleys and the two Hildebrands: “returned to Winnipeg after producing a radio commercial for a take-out chicken centre in Eastern Canada, and were given another commercial to do. A local ad agency persuaded them to set up their own studio to handle commercial work from the city…” They completed a number of Winnipeg Transit commercials at Kaybank both for radio and television and:

Metro Transit had heard the Dixie Lee commercial, and did a whole campaign with us trying to encourage teens to take the bus! They shot us hauling our instruments to the bus… standing on top of the bus, playing on the bus…So we thought – maybe there’s a career here! And maybe we better build our own studio and start doing this…

In September of 1968 the Eternals proceeded to establish the first multitrack recording facility in the Manitoba capital. They named it Century 21 – a snappy, hip name which coincidentally was nicked from a Century 21 real estate sign they had seen in Minnesota (the real estate company had not yet established itself in Canada). John Hildebrand took on the role of recording engineer while Ron Paley designed, installed and supervised the technical operations of the recording equipment. Harry Hildebrand was a natural for the creative writing of commercials and jingles, while Ted Paley was his co-writer. He also was the salesman for their works, presenting them to broadcasters and businesses throughout Canada and the northern USA.

Gary Hart of the Winnipeg Free Press introduced the new facility in his column “Spins n’ Needles” in August 1969:

At one time, if a group from Winnipeg wanted to cut a record in a large fully-equipped recording studio, they had to travel to Toronto or the United States. Now things are a little different. A team of four brothers, the Paleys and Hildebrands, own and operate a four track recording studio right here in Winnipeg. The studio, Century 21, is located at 654 King Edward.

Hart boasted of its activity:

Some of the groups who have recorded at Studio 21 are The Sugar and Spice, the Gettysburg Address, the Living Soul Device and The Mongrels – all from Winnipeg. So far the only American artist to record at Century 21 is Melvin D. Burlap…The Mongrels used several sidemen from the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra for their last recording on Wednesday. Ron Paley said it was a hit for sure.

Century 21 was quick to catch on to the prospect of producing audio commercials as he notes:

Besides recording groups, the guys at Century 21 have been recording some very good jingles and commercials. Their commercial for Transit Tom is used on radio and TV. A pizza jingle was also done by the brothers at Century 21. Their latest in this field was done for the Manitoba Department of Tourism.

Very quickly they made connections with a number of the major advertising agencies. In particular they started producing work for McConnell Advertising, Baker Lovick Ltd., McKim Advertising and Harry Foster Advertising Ltd. The repeat business from these agencies was frequent and dependable, and the studio became so busy that by 1970, all of the original Eternals had to quit performing to keep up with the amount of production work at Century 21. In the space of four years their profits allowed them and their technical capabilities to progress from a lone 4-track recorder to 8-track in 1971 to 16-track and finally to 24-track by 1972.

A steady and profitable client from the beginning was the K-Tel Corporation headquartered in the Manitoba capital. Century 21 did the audio design for all of K-Tel’s television marketing – of their various compilation albums. There were five ongoing series – “Original Hits”, “Dynamic Hits”, ”Power Hits”, “Super Hits” and finally “Number One Hits.” The studio seamlessly spliced together short excerpts from the songs included on the albums, all overlaid with the insistent – occasionally bombastic – voice of radio station CKRC’s Bob Washington. The studio became so busy that by 1974 the four man payroll had expanded to twenty five people.

For several years in the early 1970s the studio recorded and assembled their own series of albums of cover versions of popular songs under the name of The House of Random. The House of Random was a collective of deliberately obscure, but capable – even accomplished members of the prairie musical community. The idea was pitched to Century 21 by Ray Losey, manager of the Winnipeg-based National Records Distributing. Losey had seen good sales of “soundalike” albums of Top 40 hits, and wondered if it was feasible in western Canada. Recalls Ted Paley: “he left it up to us to actually produce the whole album, but he would tell us which songs were popular, which ones were “moving”… he was a rack jobber and was on top of things.”

On the first album, the idea behind the series of recordings was explained:

WHO IS THE HOUSE OF RANDOM?

To our many friends in Canada, the United States, England and Japan who have since the inception of the House of Random …deluged us with mail, thanking us for “the great vibrations” and repeatedly asking “who is The House of Random?”

House of Random is a composite group of over 25 very talented Canadian musicians, arrangers, producers and engineers who have banded together to produce the sounds of today in their own inimitable fashion. Working in an atmosphere that has spawned more than its share of the world’s most renown names in rock music such as the Guess Who, Brave Belt, Rick Neufeld, Joey Gregorash, Chad Allan, Randy Bachman and Neil Young. The sounds you here on this, their third album are readily discernible as those of the western part of Canada. The traditions, the desires and aspirations, are all part of the sound. The sounds of The House of Random. We enjoy our work, we sincerely hope you do too.

In other words they churned out albums of generic current hits using whatever musicians were available at the moment. At first the Eternal themselves acted as session musicians. Then as Ted Paley recalls “…as we got too busy we started hiring musicians for sessions. We tried the big band musicians for basic rhythm tracks, but they just could not provide that rock feel. They were great when we needed the big band sound.”

Even though the Winnipeg scene offered the possibility of hundreds of quality rock musicians, it did not quite work out that way. Continues Paley:

… local rock musicians weren’t interested in jingles – some felt it compromised their creativity. Others we would not hire due to substance abuse or lack of personality and dependability. It wasn’t until Wascana came on the scene that we had a good solid group to work with musically and personally.

He elaborates:

We were trying to find a band that had a good solid backbone sound. And Wascana came to our studio to demo some of their material – then we used them for jingles. It was an accident – and Wow! Listen to these guys! They did a bunch of Bay commercials for us… with the brass. They were just great. Tight as hell. The thing is… with pickup musicians you get an okay sound, but you don’t get that tight sound these guys had.

The studio then offered the job of 15 Big Hits to Wascana. Seeking further knowledge of recording techniques and possibilities, as well as needing the money, Wascana agreed to do two complete LP’s of popular songs and numerous commercial jingles over the winter of 1973. Every couple of weeks for these six months, they would troup into Winnipeg and try to copy note for note, a combination of good material and commercial schlock.

Cover of 15 Big Hits album (CSP 7) by House of Random
1973
author’s collection

Daryl Gutheil laughs at what they were expected to do:

My brother Don had to first sing like Larry Evoy of Edward Bear. When he did “The Last Song” he would grab his adam’s apple and vibrate it. Then he would turn around and do “We’re An American Band” by Grand Funk Railroad. Then we did Simon and Garfunkel – Don was Paul Simon and I had to be Art Garfunkel!

The band was augmented on several occasions by other singers and musicians such as Elyse Paley, Yvette Shaw, Ray St. Germain and Tony Francis. And on some songs, a string section arranged by Dave Shaw sweetened the basic tracks. On the first album the members of Wascana were not credited personally. Only on the second album did their individual names appear.

This was a thoroughly professional but unrecognizable Wascana. The songs they were assigned covered the gamut: on the first album there were several respectable tunes such as Rick Nelson’s “Garden Party” and Loggins& Messina’s “Danny’s Song”, mixed in with obvious stinkers like Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly With His Song, and Vicki Lawrence’s “The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia”. The old Tony Orlando classic “Tie A Yellow Ribbon” and Mac Davis’ “Baby Don’t Get Hooked On Me” exhibit no redeeming social value whatsoever, and finishing the album is probably the most absurd song of all for an ultra-sophisticated jazz-rock group – “Duelling Banjos”. The only hint of the real Wascana on that album was a spacey version of “Also Sprach Zarathustra” – the theme from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, and which for a while, was used to open real Wascana concerts.

Cover of 15 Big Country Hits album (CSP 9229-6) by House of Random
1973
author’s collection

The second album contained interesting versions of George Harrison’s “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)”, the Rolling Stones “Angie”, and the Allman Brothers Band “Ramblin’ Man”, some middle-of-the-road swill such as Helen Reddy’s “Delta Dawn”, Cher’s “Half Breed”, and Elizabeth McGovern’s “The Morning After”, and a few totally unforgivable lapses like “Say Has Anybody Seen My Sweet Gypsy Rose” or “Jimmy Loves Mary-Ann”. It would also appear that some of these songs were used on other House of Random LPs such as the two different 15 Country Hits. It is ironic that the only Wascana recordings commercially released were not the music they wanted to see issued, and they were not issued under the band’s name. Even so, their House of Random recordings received considerable MOR radio airplay.

During this period the group also completed approximately fifty commercial jingles for customers that ranged from Husky Oil to Safeway to “Bay Day” to the Assiniboia Credit Union. It did not take long for the work to become alternatively irritating and boring. There was no room for spontaneity or improvisation and interpretation. The songs were just too simplistic and constraining for such experimental players. They did however receive good pay, a thorough grounding in studio recording, and learned more than they ever wanted to about the commercial side of the music business.

The band also made an impressive television debut on March 20, 1973 when they appeared on the CBC summer replacement variety program The Doug Crosley Show. Recorded in Winnipeg and produced by Larry Brown, the half hour program aired nationally on Saturday evenings at 7 p.m. They performed two songs: “Who Can they Be?” and “Mother Goose.” Crosley liked them so much he invited them back for further performances on March 27, June 16, and July 14th.

Wascana probably reached its performance peak in mid-1973 and were wowing audiences everywhere they played. The secret of their success was probably their self-contained and self-stimulating approach. Martin explains:

We were geared to getting as high as we could possibly get and I don’t mean drug high, but musically high. We wanted to get off – it didn’t matter if people were screaming and howling out there, and it didn’t matter if nobody cared. It only mattered if the band got off because when we got off, it was there for whoever was open to it.

Lawrence agrees: “there were multiple highlight gigs, probably every one of them (for me) since the music and musicianship had reached a pretty advanced level. We would get very high playing together, meaning our music would reach the “zone” every time we played. I thought so anyway.” Martin is at pains to explain that the audience was not completely irrelevant though:

Sure the reaction inspired us. But if we were playing right and the audience didn’t pick up on it, we didn’t really feel it was our fault. If you were in touch with yourself and with the group, then as a whole we could steam roll over anything! For a while the intensity of that music was phenomenal!

That is not to say it was clear sailing. Many times they were brought back to earth by regrettable audience behavior. Daryl recalls one gig at the Marigold on Hamilton Street in Regina, run by Rennie and Claire Bitner:

We were playing one Saturday night. Although it was a pretty big club, it was packed. We heard a skirmish at the door during one of our sets and some guy was escorted out. It was kind of wild down there at times. During our break we were just sitting around having a few drinks. All of a sudden we hear “boom, boom” – the guy had come back and started shooting down the stairs of the club. It went through some glass and missed another guy – a member of the Saskatchewan Roughriders by inches. The whole place—just under the tables! So we thought… gee, do we have any more bookings here? Maybe we should try out of town for a few weeks!

KRISHNA

It was during a casual evening stroll down Saskatoon’s Spadina Crescent in the summer of 1972 that the seeds of Wascana’s demise were sewn. Lawrence and Allard, on a whim, stopped to chat with a group of wandering Krishna adherents. The chant turned into a philosophical discussion and carried on for several hours. The two band members were extremely impressed. Insisted Lawrence to the others back at the hotel, “We have the questions and they had the answers.”

Formally known as The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (or ISKCON), it arrived in North America from India in 1965 courtesy of A. C. Bhaktivedanta (a.k.a. Swami Prabhupada). In many ways, it was the antithesis of North American life, and it received much attention, especially from disaffected youth, for that exact reason. Many were questioning the capitalistic, selfish, competitive world that had developed in the post-war period. Intelligent and simple people alike, from all religions found a refreshing new perspective. The movement blossomed on the West Coast – Los Angeles, San Francisco and up to Vancouver.

In its most basic form ISKCON was a devotional group whose overriding thrust was a spiritual pursuit of the truth, knowledge and happiness that results from contacting one’s at man (or soul in Christian terms) which is eternal. This was best accomplished by ignoring, circumventing and ultimately destroying the ego – that part of human thinking which keeps one aware of earthly surroundings and bodily sensations such as sex or pain. Man is not strong enough to do this by himself. He needs to constantly depend on Krishna, a 5th century divine teenage cow-herder with blue skin, who was considered to be an incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, to assist him. One must do everything for and in the name of Krishna.

Devotees were to submit to a disciplined regimen. They had to renounce the material world – they were to give up their possessions, rejoice in their poverty, and turn over all their earnings to ISKCON. In many cases, they had to terminate their worldly family or personal relationships which were considered a serious distraction. They had to give up all stimulants – cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, tea, coffee, spices, even onions. They had to be vegetarians and could not mix extensively with non-devotees, nor waste time in frivolous activities such as gambling or sports. Personal pride or even individuality became a non-issue as they shaved their heads, donned saffron robes, and adopted Hindu names. Naturally, accusations of brain washing and kidnapping were immediately levelled at ISKCON. And subsequent investigation has borne out that there were a number of dishonest and criminal individuals in the hierarchy of the organization who exploited the blind obedience of the devotees for their own personal gain.

At the time, it was a new and untried approach and there were many who were curious. Deutscher attributes the band’s initial attraction to Krishna to Lawrence whom he considered their spiritual leader:

Drew was an intellectual – or should I say very intelligent. He was never satisfied with the way things were – he was always searching for something better, exploring different ideas, philosophies. He was into yoga and had read Gurdjieff and Lobsang Rampa – pretty heavy stuff. He was always investigating especially in the spiritual realm. When he came across the Krishna Consciousness, he obviously found answers…

Lawrence confirms his ongoing “search” in a 1996 interview when he related “I started studying Western Astrology 25 years ago. At that time, I lived in a small city in Canada and there wasn’t anybody around that I knew of who could teach me, so I picked it up myself…” Most of the Wascana members originally dismissed the devotees as yet another bunch of West Coast Crazies. Recalls Gutheil:

I remember Drew saying, “The first time I saw these guys with their shaved heads and robes, I purposely crossed the street to avoid having to confront them.” It scared the hell out of him which is somewhat ironic considering his later involvement!

The conversion started to take hold when a group of Krishnas moved to Regina and started a local temple there. Most deeply affected were Lawrence, Allard and Don Gutheil. Deutscher and Martin were interested but not committed, whereas Daryl Gutheil was somewhat skeptical. Most members of the group continued to discuss the movement, started to read the Bhagavad-Gita, attended the Sunday “prasadam” feasts at the temple on Cornwall Street, turned to vegetarianism, and participated in the chanting.

Lawrence felt the strongest – as he recalls;

I believe I was the catalyst for this direction for some of the band members but Norm Allard was also in the same head space. I had gone through powerful internal spiritual shifts from the age of 19. This was all part of the psychedelic 60s and drugs served as awakeners and amplifiers for the spiritual experience that happened for many young people throughout the Western world at that time. I have found this has been true for me in various ways throughout my life. I am often the person who is able to lead others through their growth and personal evolution.

Music was certainly not forbidden by the followers of Krishna. Indeed the boy god himself had played the flute and sang. It was the meaning or the message of music which determined whether it was acceptable or not. Rock and roll and jazz dealt with earthly concerns, especially gratification of physical desires and rebellion against conformity and authority. It was also inevitably connected with substances such as drugs and alcohol which, in the minds of devotees, was “maya”. Energy was being needlessly wasted on rock music – instead that energy should be used to produce music in praise of Krishna. They originally countered with their own music – droning hypnotic vedic chants with accompanying finger cymbals and hand held drums. It turned heads, but more in irritation than in attraction.

ISKCON soon realized that its message could be carried to more youth if it was connected with the one type of music that all youth listened to – rock. Once this new connection was made, they could work on disengaging rock from its evil roots. In early 1967, the Krishna swami in San Francisco, Mukunda, organized a “Mantra Rock Dance” at the Avalon Ballroom. Appearing were the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape, and Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis Joplin. The head of the movement, Swami Prabhupada, even did a chant from the stage with backing musicians. This early attempt of ISKCON to co-exist with popular music did more to attract attention than all the face-to-face street conversations.

Appetites whetted, ISKCON decided to go after more prestigious connections. In 1969 they hooked up with the biggest prize of all – two Beatles, John Lennon and George Harrison. Lennon’s interest was fleeting, but Harrison wasted no time in signing the Radha Krishna Temple to Apple Records, and even produced their first single. Harrison’s whole-hearted acceptance of the Krishna philosophy became obvious in his first two solo albums “All Things Must Pass” (1970) and “Living In the Material World” (1973). The biggest hit of his career “My Sweet Lord” incorporates the unmistakable phrase “Hare Krishna” as its chorus.

For some time, their interest in Krishna did not change the activities and outlook of Wascana. All members were still dedicated to the band. Martin remembers that it was “a good, positive thing.” For one thing, drug use diminished. When asked if the Krishna philosophy affected Wascana’s music, Deutscher nods:

Definitely, and in a very positive manner. In the last few months of that band’s existence, we’d come off the stage for every single gig and wonder, “Whew, can it get any better than this?” It was multi-kick-ass! Amazing! There was such focussed communication – it was extremely intense. It was the consciousness of the individuals collectively filtering out through the playing. It’s hard to explain, but each concert felt like an event.

But by the beginning of 1973 there was a noticeable shift of attention, especially from Lawrence and Allard, away from the music to ISKCON activities and outlook. There was no hint of brainwashing or kidnapping – it was simply a matter of priorities. Explains Daryl Gutheil “ I guess they figured they couldn’t do both. It was a pretty hard core religion – it was like being a monk. They moved into the big house – the temple. They would live communally – go into the streets to collect money. It was 24 hours a day…”

As well, they were starting to feel philosophically uncomfortable playing the Wascana repertoire. Although the group had always chosen (and written) music that was considerably more cerebral than the typical down and dirty rock band, it was inevitable that lyrics would pop up that Krishna followers could not approve of. And to top it off, Wascana generally played clubs which served alcohol and played concerts where drugs were taken. Although the band had no control over this, some members started to feel like fish out of water. As Lawrence puts it succinctly: “playing regularly in nightclubs lost its relevance over time.”

The final straw came in September 1973. Wascana were participants at the third Woodtick Festival which occurred on the 9th at the University of Saskatchewan’s Griffith’s Stadium in Saskatoon. This was promoted as the biggest and best Woodtick to date. Organizer Bruce Hill brought in a huge sound system from Calgary (Festival of Sound), a complex light show from Edmonton (Professional Lighting by Monty), and top-flight talent. The original lineup included Edmonton’s Privilege, Calgary’s Feeling, Hamilton’s King Biscuit Boy, and Toronto’s Mainline, and a band called Brick Ship House.

One day before the event both King Biscuit Boy and Mainline pulled out, even with threats of a law suit. Hill quickly found replacements – The Unholy Rollers (an American group doing 1950s material), Tamarach, The Great Canadian River Race, Cloud, and Saskatoon bands Rik & the Ravens, and Sunband. Drug use was widespread – to the point where various band members found the crowd “much too quiet” putting it down to their being “too stoned.” Toilet facilities were underestimated (the less said the better), and upon clearing the stadium after the show, the field was completely covered with broken glass. As well, a local watering hole – the seedy Baldwin Hotel – threw 6,000 ping pong balls onto the grounds, each one stamped with a discount on beer if it was returned to the Baldwin.

Even though the headlines reported it as a success, it was a barely break-even event, with obvious signs of musician ego and booking agent greed, and typical drunk and stoned youth behavior. There may have been some good music shared that day, but the event seemed to be a confirmation of sorts to most of the members of Wascana that nobody seemed to want to be on the higher plane they were aiming for.

An interesting review of one of the last gigs of the original band at the Marigold (where they had previously experienced the gunfire) on September 28, 1973 was published in the Leader Post. It made it clear they were becoming distanced from their audience:

A Regina group – Wascana – is on stage at The Marigold and it’s definitely a 25-and-under crowd, although the music is good for anyone who likes rock. Wascana is loud and piercing and for what they do, that’s good. The group plays fast and moves comfortably from one instrument to the next giving the saxophone player ample opportunity to show his talent. The group’s sound system gives them a little trouble and they make no effort to project between numbers, preferring in-jokes to giving some thought to the audience. But when they are playing, they are good. The sets are short but the rock is quality stuff and Wascana is well worth looking in on if your taste runs to the heavy side.

Lawrence recalls a renewed interest in the band by Tommy Banks and the Century II label that fall. They had certainly accumulated a large number of high quality studio recordings from sessions in Vancouver, Regina and Winnipeg, and Banks was offering his Century II Studios in Edmonton to record their latest compositions. There was even a multitrack tape of a live performance at The Manhattan Ballroom in Saskatoon in April 1973 recorded by Gord MacAuley. A half studio-half live LP would certainly have been a head-turner, and finally demonstrate both their musicality and energy. However it was just too late.

In October 1973 then the Krishna philosophy finally overtook Lawrence and Allard, who felt they had to leave the band in order to devote all their time to the movement. For Lawrence it was a bad case of mixed emotions:

Leaving the band was a difficult decision because of the offer on the table to record our first record with Century II in Edmonton and because I was one of the founding members of Wascana. However, the decision to pick up and leave everything behind, my entire life up to that point, move to Toronto and join a yoga ashram and become a monk and dedicate my life to God and yoga practice was far more difficult than you can imagine.

Recalls Gutheil:

No one said “Hey, what the hell are you doing!” We knew the guys well and respected whatever they did. I know we all enjoyed what we were doing. But they just decided they couldn’t fully devote themselves to what Krishna demanded of them and still play in a rock band.

He elaborates:

It’s like someone who decides to get married. They’ve been hanging out with the guys – it’s not that they no longer like the guys – but they have a wife or family, and they can’t do both anymore. There were no hard feelings at all. It was like, “Hey – good luck!”

The original line-up played their last gig together at the Marigold in Reginaon October 6, 1973. Lawrence then took off first to Toronto, then Los Angeles and became a Sanskrit translator and vedic astrologer. Allard moved to Montreal to continue his work for ISKON. While it may have made sense to the other Wascana members, it mystified many associates in Regina’s musical community. Jeff Wyatt remembers:

… it was a bit of a musical tragedy. We shook our heads… tried to understand. And although we wished them well, most of us still thought it was a very odd thing to happen in our small prairie city. Shit like this happened in San Francisco…. not Regina. Although there was a genuine interest in eastern mysticism among the local population, most people didn’t really gravitate toward the Hare Krishna movement to satisfy that. We all just sort of tolerated the street dancing and the book and flower solicitation for donations… being the polite prairie people we are.

WASCANA II

The loss of Lawrence and Allard – the vision and the soul of the original Wascana – was a serious body blow, but oddly it was not fatal. The remaining members were determined to stay together and to continue on the fusion path they were following. Deutscher explains their thoughts at the time: “we decided we couldn’t replace Norm because he was too one-of-a-kind. Somebody else would be a sax player but it wouldn’t be Norm. His importance was as an individual, not just as a horn player.”Lawrence’s drumming and musical influence was also impossible to replace, but Wascana still had to have a timekeeper. Deutscher continues:

Our first choice for drums was Matt Frenette – we had talked to him – had seen him with the Great Canadian River Race at “Pubnite” at the University of Regina and were very impressed. We also wanted their vocalist Duncan Meiklejohn and thought if we could score both of them, we’d have an unbelievably strong band! But they were not going to break up their band, and so recommended we try Rich Petersen.

Petersen, fresh from a year-and-a-half term in the Edmonton group Butler, had jazz leanings and was definitely on the same fusion wavelength as Wascana. More importantly says Martin, “He had lots of energy and was all gung-ho!” He was recruited, moved to Regina and they started rehearsing immediately. New material was written, new cover songs incorporated (such as Billy Cobham’s “Stratos”, Stevie Wonder’s “Living For The City” and Cat Stevens’ “Foreigner Suite”) and new instrumentation experimented with. Martin in particular found more outlets for his energy and innovative urges, adding an electric pickup to his trumpet, and playing more percussion such as CBS electric bongos. It seemed to work well with the new material.

Just as they were reorganizing, the band reconsidered their view on management, and started a relationship with Gerry Stoll. Stoll was an independent concert promoter (Woodticks 1 & 2) who had recently returned to the rock arena after a year spent establishing the 25th Street Theatre Company in Saskatoon. He had been a big fan of the Gutheils since he met the members of Andante at the first Woodtick Festival. He next ran into them in Vancouver in the autumn of 1971 when, as Wascana, they were playing at The Body Shop. Recalls Stoll “I was really blown away – they were so jazzy, so funky – unlike what anybody else was doing.” He also tells of his equally strong memory of their non-musical activities “we went over to their hotel – you know, just Saskatchewan guys getting together in the big city – and smoked their hash with them. We were so blitzed we couldn’t find our way out of Gastown – just going in circles!”

In September 1973 he screwed up his courage and asked Wascana for a meeting: “I told them I thought I could be an honest manager, could get them out of Saskatchewan, and get them into a recording scenario, and maybe even get them to the States.” The band sounded favourable but recalls Stoll: “at that first meeting Drew and Norm told me they were leaving to join Krishna!” Nobody knew if they were even going to continue. However they had commitments to fulfil and Stoll was able to get them a number of additional quality gigs.

Wascana on stage (l. to r. Don Gutheil, George Martin, Rich Petersen, Daryl Gutheil, Bob Deutscher)
Emery Weal (University of Calgary), 20 September 1974

Wascana quickly started to respect Stoll’s acumen. Within six months, he gained their gratitude for a number of key gigs. The first one was their Regina debut on March 31, 1974. It took place in Darke Hall, the grand old recital and lecture hall – a 600 seater built in 1929 and named after a former mayor of the Queen City. Their hometown was behind them, and wanted the re-boot to succeed. The Leader Post published a group photo and profile on March 26th:

Wascana, a local rock group, will perform its first Regina concert in five months…at Darke Hall… the performance will mark the emergence of the band from a state of semi-retirement from the concert stage. The group has devoted the last few months to creating a new act with new material. The concert will be the first performance of this recently-created show, which includes songs by The Band, Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Chick Corea, Yes, and a dozen original songs written by members of Wascana…the group intends to take the new show on the road shortly after the Regina concert.

advertisement for Don Freed and Wascana concert, Education Auditorium, University of Saskatchewan/Regina Campus, Regina SK 
Carillon, 6 April 1973
courtesy University of Regina Archives & Special Collections

They were also given an enthusiastic lead-up in the University of Regina student newspaper The Carillon:

Wascana, one of Saskatchewan’s most popular rock bands has a premiere concert this Sunday at Darke Hall 8:00 pm. Bob Evans, a local folksinger will start off the show. This premiere should certainly be a thought provoking experience, the concert will consist totally of new material, half of it being original. This new Wascana has been performing since February 1, mainly in Saskatchewan although they played the U. of M. three weeks ago at a concert which got good reviews and a Pub-Night which sold out with 800 people.

It brought its readers up to date on the band’s activities:

Wascana also has been concentrating on recording: they have made jingles at Century 21 in Winnipeg (a sixteen track audio) for “Bay-Day”, Sears, Eatons, Saskatchewan Winter and Summer Games, Husky Oil North America, “This Week Has Seven Days” for CKCK Radio, etc. The band has also recorded two “15 Great Hits” albums for the studio. Also Wascana will be featured on “Sounds Good”, a CBC TV color production this Saturday evening at 10:30.

advertisement for “Regina Premiere of the New Wascana”, Darke Hall, Regina SK
Carillon, 29 
March 1974
courtesy University of Regina Archives & Special Collections

The post-concert reviews were mixed – as usual the reviewers admired the obvious talent, but sometimes regretted the choice of material and arrangements. Susan Brayford of the Leader Post under the title “A bevy of adjectives for Wascana’s sound”:

Powerful is one of the words that can describe the local rock group Wascana. Vibrant, energized and exciting are just a few others. A five-member band, performing in an almost perpetual state of frenzy, played in a near capacity crowd, Sunday night at Darke Hall. The band opened the concert with a fervor that the crowd had been anticipating all through the back-up show – Regina folk singer Bob Evans.

She then delves into the repertoire:

Bob Deutscher, guitarist, captured the gutsy vocal strength of Stevie Wonder, when the band did Wonder’s “Looking [sic.] for the City.’ The band built the song up in a crashing climax with the electronic synthesizer operated by organist Daryl Gutheil, which projected the eerie and hateful sounds of the city. Sprinkled throughout the band’s performance were some original numbers written by two of the band members. The song Clear the Way, written by Mr. Gutheil, had the demanding words necessary to project the commanding sound of the instruments. Yet, at times, the words appeared almost swallowed up by the sound of the drums and other instruments which blemished much of the song’s meaning and originality.

She continues:

Another song, Release, written by Mr. Deutscher, and sung in part by him, had the total power that again surrounds their songs but the words were hard to distinguish against the instruments. The song Nature Nature swung the band into a complete unit while Mr. Gutheil played the horn with one hand and the organ with the other. George Martin coupled Daryl’s frenzy with the trombone and hand instruments.

Brayford summed up her review:

The audience pounded the floor for an encore after the final song Lightning written by Billy Cobham…The performance shows some changes to a more sophisticated sound, unfamiliar to many Regaina rock fans. Yet the power is still there. The vibrance. The loudness. With just a hint of the unfamiliar and eerie quality that is all their own…Wascana, who intend to go on the road shortly, will be playing at the Marigold this week.

A writer for The Carillon proffered his observation:

…the “new” Wascana premiered upon this hallowed stage of Darke Hall, displaying their usual finely polished musicianship, especially on commercial tunes, as well as a new taste for electronic effects, but still a style that accentuates frenzied rhythms over pleasing melodies.

Another reviewer for the same paper – Sean Bishop –was clearly a fan, but also was puzzled with their direction:

Yesss, during their performances in times past some of the undergraduates have been inspired to call out FAR OUT! GO MAN!, RIGHT ON! And other pleasantries. I certainly hope those days are not over for the “new” Wascana, but judging from their performance of Sunday last, I think they have lost contact with the wants of their audiences. I’m always anxious to hear the new things that Wascana has in store for the people coming out to see them, and am almost invariably impressed and entertained. In this most recent attempt they sorely over-taxed the acoustical qualities of Darke Hall, each man seeming to carry the whole group as though he had no confidence in the others’ abilities and talents. And talent is in abundance in Wascana. If they were to limit what goes into each composition, perhaps simplifying the arrangements to make them a little easier to relate to as tunes. The group has been accused of being “commercial” on occasions, learning the new Beatles songs, then the new Three Dog Night songs, then the new Chicago tunes – and everyone “got-off.” They then started to do some excellent original things (Mick Grainger compositions and some good stuff of their own writing) that were well accepted. It’s too bad that the direction that they seemed to have started on several months ago, has been lost sight of.

advertisement for “Regina Premiere of the New Wascana”, Darke Hall, Regina
Carillon, 29 March 1974
courtesy University of Regina Archives & Special Collections

Their next big performance occurred a month and a half later. Stoll had a hand in not only convincing the Mahavishnu Orchestra to perform in Regina, but for also securing for Wascana the coveted opening act position. The concert took place on May 15, 1974 at The Centre of the Arts and was an electric night for all involved. This was the second incarnation of Mahavishnu with John McLaughlin on guitar, Jean-Luc Ponty, Steven Kindler and Carol Shive all on violins, Gayle Moran on keyboards, Ralphe Armstrong on bass, and Narada Michael Walden on drums, Marcia Westbrook on viola, Phil Hirschi on cello, and Steve Frankevich and Bob Knapp on brass. They had just released their fourth LP Apocalypse engineered by Geoff Emerick and produced by Beatles producer George Martin, and featured “Wings of Karma” and the lengthy “Hym to Him.”

advertisement for John McLaughlin and The Mahavishnu Orchestra concert, Centre of the Arts, Regina, SK – with Wascana
Regina Leader Post, 11 May 1974, p. 22

As Deutscher recalls the pre-show fraternization strangely did not involve the exchange of typical “war stories” of drugs and groupies. Instead it was a meeting of spiritualities and deciding if the vibes were right:

We were backstage chatting up John McLaughlin. Don and George were heavily into Krishna and the rest of us sort of…. and McLaughlin was into Sri Chinmoy. So he felt it was okay for us to play….

He describes the set:

We played a half hour set – all original stuff except for “Stratos” – we left that in because it was Billy Cobham’s and since he used to play with McLaughlin we thought that would get his attention. We did “Release”, “Clear the Way” and “Back To The Future”…It was such a rush to look over and in the wings was my idol John McLaughlin watching us play. Our “Stratos” was really intense, really hot. I took a solo and got an ovation from the crowd – the crowd who were there to see McLaughlin! That was another high point.

Local bassist Stan Dorsett recalls it well:

They were a great band playing very good covers of the bands of that time period. They were tight and melodic. Live they …played with great precision which we all liked…The venue I saw them in where they were at their best was the night we saw them back up the Mahavishnu Orchestra in the Regina Centre of the Arts. What a show that was!! They played their hearts out and did all of us proud in front of some major competition.

Mick Grainger was also in the audience that night. He remembers:

I was there and really pumped because Wascana had been pushing the limits musically and I knew they had been working on some extended treatments of that kind of material (Chick Corea, Santana, John McLaughlin). They had the audience they were seeking right in front of them in a perfect venue (listening not dancing). In my mind, I perhaps naively had visions of the Mahavishnu guys listening backstage, being blown away and helping to make things take off for Wascana. And the “blown away” part may have been the case, but the rocket ship didn’t really materialize. Nevertheless, Wascana were great and Mahavishnu bigger and even better, which is saying quite a bit in my book.

Even so Wascana continued to receive ambivalent reviews from the press. In the second week of March 1974, they played at the University of Manitoba. Writer Bob Harrison assessed them in his article in The Manitoban “Wascana: Loud but Lively”:

Wascana, a young band based in Regina, will be entertaining this Friday night at a social in the Multi-Purpose Room, University Centre. The group gave about 500 students a preview Tuesday afternoon in Campo, with a lively, though overly-loud set. Wascana relied mostly on tight instrumentation throughout the 45 minutes of music. Bass and drums were, at best, adequately solid as percussive foundations. But most of the emphasis (both good and not quite-so-good) lay with the piano, guitar, vocals, and trumpet.

He continues:

The piano/synthesizer effects added greatly to the almost perfect interpretations of Yes, Stevie Wonder, and Chick Corea material. The man knew what he was playing. The trumpeter doubled on several percussive instruments, lending a much more full, exciting rhythm to the tunes. His two basics styles were reminiscent of both Chase and the early Chicago. Nothing too challenging, but technically correct.

He singles out Don Gutheil’s vocal for praise:

The lead vocals were perhaps the most impressive instrument used by Wascana. Shining especially on Yes’ “Roundabout”, they came out clear, strong, and always on exactly the right note. (a monumental feat, considering the fact that most rock and roll bands neglect the use of the human voice as a musical instrument).

But for some reason, he was not digging Deutscher’s contribution:

The guitarist seems to have learned every Terry Kath (Chicago) riff imaginable. He’s a proficient guitarist, but suffered from a lack of imagination. His “cosmic doings” detracted from Wascana’s overall performance…

He comes across as a bit of a know-it-all:

The biggest problem remained in the amplification of Wascana’s instruments…. a good rule of thumb for playing in Campo is to watch your sound levels –balance your instruments rather quietly, and boom your P.A. system above the other levels. Wascana relied on a too-loud, fuzzy P.A. though, and poor mixing on bass and guitar.

But he finally ends on a more positive note:

They’ve got a lot more potential than most other bands playing around Winnipeg these days. They’re young and they’re very capable. Sure, they were too loud. But they were impressively tight. Their original material was good…they could, with a bit more maturity, take off. A good Canadian band…

Wascana on stage, Arthur Meighan High School, Portage la Prairie, MB (Craig Kaleal)
4 October 1974
photographed and courtesy of Garnet Bornn

There can be no doubt that Wascana had introduced and begun the normalization of jazz rock music in Saskatchewan. Jeff Wyatt muses:

Yes, Wascana was somewhat influential in spreading the local interest in jazz fusion. Another jazz/fusion band was The Flying Colors… There were other local bands that were influenced by the fusion scene…. but I can’t say it spread like wildfire. It was just another genre that we all became accustomed to… Other guitar, bass, keyboard and drum bands were influenced(certainly Eden was) by the fusion thing … but mostly we just used it as an excuse to play longer solos… Ha ha… but we really didn’t play fusion. Not many did that I remember.. I’m going to state a bold opinion here…. I don’t think many prairie musicians knew at the time what the fuck fusion was anyway…. and I will place myself in that category as well. The whole worldwide fusion thing became very watered down in a few short years to the point that people would gag if they heard the term…. because everybody and their dog was calling their music “fusion”. Unfortunately it was often a bastardized form and it quickly became a “fad”…. much like an afro hairstyle.

A mixing board tape in the possession of Bob Deutscher documents a live concert by Wascana in Winnipeg in July of 1974. All twelve tracks were composed by band members – Deutscher’s were “Blues No. 1 Mama”, “You Move Me”, “Give Yourself A Chance”, “Nature, Nature”, “Twenty Nine One Nighters” and “Patience.” Gutheil’s one tune was “Kids”, and, on a roll, George Martin offered “Here’s To the Love”, “The Weaver”, “Back in the Good Old Days”, “Chances” and “A Smile Is Magic.” Both the songwriting and performance chops are evident.

Wascana on stage, Arthur Meighan High School, Portage la Prairie, MB (Bob Deutscher, Ken Sinnaeve, Daryl Gutheil)
4 October 1974
photographed and courtesy of Garnet Bornn

In July 1974 founding member Don Gutheil decided he too had more important things to do within the Krishna movement. His last concert with Wascana was at the Old Gold in Regina, and Daryl Gutheil remembers it as a particularly emotional occasion. The loss of Don Gutheil – with his pleasing voice and affable smile – was an enormous loss. The future of the band was once again uncertain because at this point Richard Petersen also decided he wanted to return to Edmonton (writes Deutscher: “Rich had become despondent living in Regina”), which left the group both without a drummer or bass player. Gutheil, Deutscher and Martin were disheartened and were on the verge of shutting down Wascana. However there was a faint sparkle of hope that if suitable musicians could be found….

Wascana on stage, Arthur Meighan High School, Portage la Prairie, MB (George Martin, Bob Deutscher, Ken Sinnaeve)
4 October 1974
photographed and courtesy of Garnet Bornn

WASCANA III

And indeed they were found. The two replacements turned out to be drummer Craig Kaleal and up-and-coming bassist Ken “Spider” Sinnaeve. Sinnaeve was born in 1954, son of Arnold and Helen Sinnaeve. Ken started his musical career taking clarinet and saxophone lessons from Bill Freeman of the Arcade Music Centre. He explains:

I learned to play clarinet with my dad. We both started playing the instrument at the same time. His father was a musician…and he always wanted to be one, but he was too busy supporting a family, so he was unable to do it. We took lessons together at the Arcade Music Store, and we practiced together every night for half an hour. It was kind of a bonding thing – the two of us.

He joined the Regina Lions Club Band (and its smaller jazz ensemble) where he became acquainted with the Gutheil brothers. He also participated in his first arena public performances playing with the Lions band during the halftimes of two Grey Cups – one in Hamilton and one in Vancouver. He recalls with a smile:

I remember traveling in the train from Regina to Vancouver – “The Grey Cup Express” – as a young boy, and all these rowdy fans partying thewhole there and back… that was the first time I was “corrupted.”

By Grade 9 though, he decided he wanted to play rock and roll. Sinnaeve blames his sister for getting him interested:

My older sister had a vast collection of 45s. She had all the Beatles… all the Supremes stuff… pretty much every Top 10 hit. So I had this built-in entrance right there to all this great stuff, and I just gravitated towards the bass in all these songs for some reason…I don’t know why, but it drew me in…I just loved what the bass was doing.

He speaks of his early influences:

Paul McCartney and the Beatles – for obvious reasons…it is just brilliant, so melodic, so great… And the Supremes – I didn’t find out until much later who was playing bass – it was James Jamerson – so he was a huge influence although I didn’t know initially who it was.

His father wisely advised him that” … there are too many guitarists – if you play bass, you’ll always get a job in a band.” Ken needed no further encouragement and proceeded to teach himself bass. He had learned to read music, so it was a matter of buying Carol Kaye’s (of the Wrecking Crew) books How To Play the Electric Bass and Electric Bass Lines (Vols. 1-6) to fill out his knowledge. He remembers:

I wanted to play electric bass real bad. My dad couldn’t afford one. He finally broke down and said he’d buy me a hollow body bass like a Beatles Hofner style. He had the wisdom “Since I can’t afford to buy you an amp right now, you can at least hear it acoustically…you can practice and learn on that until later on when I get you an amp.” Then I got a Fender Bassman 410 amp, and all hell broke loose!

Sinnaeve’s first band – consisting of fellow students at Kitchener Public School – was called The Toronados (“although we changed the name almost weekly!”). They had a lead electric accordionist (Craig Myres), bass, drums and vocals. Says Sinnaeve “My amp had four inputs, so everybody plugged into my amp…probably the only reason I got the gig!” They covered tunes such as “Sky Pilot” (by the Animals) and “Don’t Let Me Down” (by the Beatles) which turned out to be Sinnaeve’s vocal debut.

The next band of note was called Standard Time. This group played mostly high schools and basement gigs, and their repertoire consisted largely of instrumentals as the guitar player loved the Ventures.

I remember we played the graduation in Grade 8 and we didn’t go over too well. I heard a lot of rumours and comments behind my back, and it was devastating. It was like my first bad review, and I was ready to quit at that point! But for some reason I persevered.

From Standard Time, he jumped into Sheffield Wednesday. This ensemble tackled what Sinnaeve terms the “cool British” music – Free, Kinks, early Fleetwood Mac (Kiln House era), and The Grease Band. By this time he was a student at Scott Collegiate.

Sinnaeve is careful to mention another major influence on his musical development – Peter Dykesman. Originally from the Netherlands, Dykesman emigrated to Regina at the age of 18. He got his start playing standup bass in the Alan Vanstone Band whose members included Vanstone himself, and Vern Bell(George Martin’s mentor). Dykesman moved to Vancouver in 1960 where he met P.J. Perry, who recruited Dykesman to play in his band in 1961 and 1962. The following year he formed the Vancouver Jazz Sextet with Don Thompson, Ray Sikora, Dale Hillary and Jerry Fuller. They toured Canada, and when it ended in Toronto, Dykesman secured a job playing on CTV’s half hour musical variety program Let’s Sing Out for two seasons. He finally joined Moe Koffman’s band which played for many years at Toronto’s premier jazz venue George’s Spaghetti House, and returned to Regina in 1967.

Dykesman became a household name with Regina’s musical community when, in March 1969, he became the manager of a hip new music store called The Music Box located at 1762 Scarth Street. It sold all the product lines coveted by young musicians: Traynor, Garnet and Ace tone amplifiers and speaker cabinets, Fender, Gibson, Martin and Framus guitars, Dual turntables, Panasonic cassette recorders, Toshiba car stereos, and a large assortment of LPs. The Music Box – thanks mostly to Dykesman’s knowledge and personality – became a magnet to Regina’s up and coming musicians.

Places to meet other musicians were limited in Regina. Stan Dorsett (himself a bass player) insists “I will tell you this – I knew Ken (Spider) when we started playing at the Drop In Centre in the late sixties. I knew then that he would become one of the best bass players in the land and he still is.” The Drop In Centre – known as The Joint Venture – was located in an old fire hall at the corner of Dewdney Avenue and Broad Street. Opening its doors in 1970, it was a place for teens to hang out and supposedly NOT get into trouble. Says Dorsett “it was very artsy… they had jams there…where I first heard and met Spider and he saw me for the first time. We both liked what each of us were doing playing-wise at that time…” Sinnaeve concurs: “It was hugely important… a place where everybody could go…and there was gear there! There was some counter-culture stuff going on there as well! It was great…it was the only place in town to congregate and jam with other musicians, or just watch other players too.”

Jeff Wyatt also thought it was a formative place for many Regina musicians:

The DROP IN CENTRE was for local bands that would play there and groups of musicians would jam there. It was a fun hippie hang out place. There were one or two pinball machines there in a separate room. I have no idea who ran it…The first time I was there a group of musicians were jamming. The only one I remember was guitarist Gerry Schlegel. I was immensely influenced by that night,… as he played these long extended blues solos…The DROP IN CENTRE was important to me ’cause that’s where Eden made its debut after many weeks of practicing at Jim Folk’s dad’s body shop (Pat’s Auto Body). We were scared shitless, but we went over very well, much to our surprise…

Sinnaeve’s first step into progressive rock came with an invitation to join local band Eden. Formed in 1971 the lineup originally consisted of Jim Folk (keyboards& vocals), Van Lautsch (drums and vocals), Jeff “Nob” Wyatt (guitar & vocals) and Stan Dorsett (bass and vocals). Mainly a cover band in the “British progressive” camp (i.e. Uriah Heep, King Crimson, Gentle Giant, Emerson, Lake & Palmer), they also liked to rock out with Led Zeppelin, Blodwyn Pig, Deep Purple and Alice Cooper songs. Wyatt and Folk wrote a few original tunes as well, and with their quickly developing musical ability, Eden reached the mid-level of popularity. They were booked by Don Hergott and Quicksilver Talent throughout Saskatchewan, and over each border into Alberta and Manitoba.

Guitarist Jeff Wyatt recalls:

Spider joined Eden in 1973. He was the good friend of a soundman/roadie who used to travel with us – Guy Seifert. Guy was a cool long haired guy who wore black leathers and rode a Harley. I always felt safe with him around. Anyway,… our original (and final)bassist, Stan Dorsett, had to depart for medical reasons. We went through a few bassists. Guy introduced us to Ken at one point… we jammed… and BINGO. He became our new bass player. Ken had a nice old Fender Precision with an Ampeg amp which was about the size of a medium sized refrigerator. Big and heavy mother it was!

Sinnaeve’s playing was more complex, more adventurous, more robust, and certainly more inventive than any bass player around. A major and obvious influence on Sinnaeve’s style was the unique “Slap and Pop” approach of rock/soul bassist Larry Graham. Graham was a founding member of Sly and the Family Stone and had devised a totally new way of playing the bass – slapping with his thumb and snapping the other strings aggressively. It was very driving, very percussive, and had everything to do with defining the new genre of funk. In his hands it became another lead instrument, and provided the bedrock for such Sly hits as “Dance to the Music” and “Thank You For Letting Me Be Myself.” Other notable bassists who would start using the style were Bootsy Collins and Stanley Clark, and it entered the world of jazz on the frenetic fingers of Jaco Pastorius. While Sinnaeve was first and foremost a rhythm player – a background member of the “team” (he had not yet started on his soon to be famous solos) – his stunning fingerwork started to be noticed by fans, reviewers and fellow musicians alike.

Wyatt comments:

… everybody knew he was specially gifted. The bass parts he was able to play were phenomenal at such a young age. In Eden we tackled a bit of Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer… and Ken had no trouble learning and playing those advanced bass lines, as well as throwing in some of his own “Spidey” riffs for good measure. The name Sinnaeve in Regina became synonymous with BASS… no shit.

He also managed to incorporate into Eden his talent on the saxophone. Again Wyatt remembers:

We did the Edgar Winter tune “A Different Game” – that was the song where Ken unleashed himself on his sax… tenor sax, I think (possibly alto). Ken would set his bass down when his sax solo approached and our keyboardist Jim Folk would take over the bass line on his on his ARP synthesizer. On the original Edgar Winter recording, there was a delay on the sax solo. At the start Edgar would play a short phrase, then the notes would echo and disappear. He’d play a few more notes and they would echo and disappear. It was so cool the way Ken handled this, because (since we didn’t have any delay unit) Ken would actually PLAY the disappearing delays… Our sound system DID have reverb. So… with a little bit of applied reverb and Ken mimicking the echos by actually playing them,… it sounded very similar to Edgar’s recording. Ken is a creative guy!

Sinnaeve’s Eden period also saw his first recording – a live performance. Wyatt possesses this piece of musical history which consists of seven songs including “Roundabout”, “All Good People” and “Closer to the Edge” by Yes, “Money” by Pink Floyd, the instrumental “Hoedown” by Emerson, Lake & Palmer, “A Different Game” from Edgar Winter’s debut album Entrance, and the obscure “Nothing But Today”, the composer of which no one remembers to this day. He introduces it:

We have one surviving very rough stage recording from the gymnasium at Miller High School in Regina from 1973. Ken was with us then. The recording isn’t very flattering and some of the performance is MUCH less than flattering,… it was not a good night. Eden was like the Saskatchewan Roughriders… when we were ON we were REALLY ON. But when we were off… YIKES! Fortunately for us we weren’t really “off” that often. But on that particular recorded night… !

Those few bad notes did not affect his stage development though. Wyatt remembers that Sinnaeve took to the spotlight easily. “He was always a natural performer when I knew him,… not shy at all. When he was nervous, it didn’t show. In fact he was a bit of a ham… but certainly a “tactful ham”… not arrogant at all.”

Eden developed into a more complex musical unit:

We also liked to jam… at rehearsals and at gigs. It was a great way to loosen up and get in touch with our creativity. We fed off each other so much when jamming…. During our later years of gigging we tended to tie songs together with short, loose improvisator threads (either rhythmic or non-rhythmic) that would be completely different every night. It was like we were sonic explorers reaching to new heights of “off the cuff” sonic discovery. These threads (which we called “continuums”) were very much influenced by avant-garde music of the early and mid 20th century which some of us had been listening to. Our good friend Keith Soehn…had been introducing us to the music of John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Erik Satie, Arnold Schoenberg, Iannis Xenakis, Edgar Varese and others…After listening to the music of these masters, it made so much of the rock music that we were hearing seem overtly tame by comparison.

There was one more building block in Sinnaeve’s musical education. That was filled when Sinnaeve joined the Souls of Inspyration. This was no local high school band – rather it was a group of seasoned professional musicians. Founded by talented guitarist Jan Maciejewski, drummer Marc Paradis and bassist Don Wilson, the band started out in 1966 in their home town of Red Lake, Ontario. After touring through much of Canada, they decided to make Sherbrooke QC their home in September 1968 where they added the keyboards of Raymond Cloutier. Their popularity was established there, and was helped by opening for such international acts as Vanilla Fudge and Tommy James & the Shondells.

In 1969 they became linked to Regina – they initiated a management relationship with Joe Vargo, and a booking relationship with The Nellis Booking Agency. For the last half of that year they relocated to the Saskatchewan capital and played the regular circuit that all Nellis bands played – Montmartre, Milden, Yorkton, Humboldt.

The Soulsentered a band competition at Man & His World in Montreal in 1970. They came out on top, and as a result had their expenses paid to play two weeks at the Canadian Pavilion at Expo 70 in Osaka. Their first single “Pursuit” b/w “Eyes of Nature” on Barry Records was released that summer. Others could see they were on an upward curve, and thus in the fall they were signed to a contract with Columbia Records. Their self-titled LP contained all original material by Maciejewski, Paradis and Cloutier by themselves and in various combinations. They returned to Sherbrooke, but started to become uncomfortable with the rise in separatist sentiment and the tension resulting from the FLQ kidnappings. No longer feeling welcome in Quebec, they returned to Red Lake.

Vargo convinced Maciejewski and Paradis to move to Regina where they re-invigorated the band with local musicians. Their first replacement player was Cal Bradley. Sinnaeve recalls:

I didn’t know him well. I was kind of intimidated by his talent… I had him up on a pedestal…He was kind of easing out and I was coming in. I remember one gig in particular after being asked to join the band where Cal was playing half the songs and I came up and played the other half.

Sinnaeve recalls:

We did a lot of Hendrix – Jan was a very accomplished guitar player and a very good singer. He had a Leslie amp with his guitar which I had never seen before…great sound. We did “Dolly Dagger”, “Scene for an Imaginary Western” (by Mountain), and some Deep Purple without keyboards. They were a very hip band at the time, and had a good following.

As much as he enjoyed his term with the Souls, when Wascana came calling Sinnaeve jumped ship. Sinnaeve had seen Wascana many, many times, and was impressed with them:

Their musicianship was so tight. They were all so talented – and their three and four part harmony!… They were doing Yes, “Slipping Into Darkness”by War, Billy Cobham instrumentals – all very ambitious, and then Three Dog Night – they had it all covered. They didn’t really have a front man and that appealed to me because it was a “band”, a true band. Everybody took turns singing lead. Donny was of course a great bassist as well as singer, and he could sing and play well at the same time which really pissed me off! They were amazing!

Sinnaeve recalls how Gutheil and Deutscher left it up to manager Gerry Stoll to do the recruiting:

I remember jamming at a house party during the day – it was the basement of this really fabulous house owned by the owner of the Old Gold – and I would not give up the bass chair. Different musicians were evolving in and out of the jam – horn players, guitar players, drummers…there were other bass players there but I was having too much fun. And Gerry Stoll kept coming up to me and bugging me about joining Wascana. He ended up giving me a week’s pay! I guess he thought if he paid me money it would make my decision easier. Well I had no money, and money can talk. So that’s how I was enticed to join Wascana!

New drummer Kaleal also needed convincing. He had established his enviable credentials in two bands. The first was the Saskatoon-based Witness Inc. Established in 1965, it featured the B3 organ of Les Bateman and vocal talents of Kenny Shields. They recorded five singles on Apex Records, toured with Roy Orbison, opened concerts for The Guess Who, Dave Clark Five, The Troggs, The Rascals, Cream, and Spirit, and became regulars at Toronto’s Rock Pile over the winter of 1968-1969.

After the original Witness had broken up Kaleal joined the ranks of Toronto band Leigh Ashford. A combination of heavy rock and country rock, they featured guitarist GordWaszek, bassist Joe Agnello, keyboardist Bruno Weckerle, and vocalist Buzz Shearman. Agnello recalls Kaleal made an impression immediately:

I will always remember our very first gig together. I think it was at Balaand Craig was playing so hard that by the end of the gig he had destroyed a snare batter head and a bass drum skin. I had never played with such a loud drummer!

His hitting started to moderate however:

Craig and I clicked from the very beginning and became close friends. We shared a house at one time and it was at this time that a transformation in Craig’s musical attitude started to take place. He discovered Buddy Rich (we went to see Buddy perform at the Royal York Hotel) and his drumming started to lighten up. He become very musical and technical in his approach – I loved it and we became a very tight rhythm section…

Leigh Ashford was determined to get a full album released somehow. After intense schmoozing, they became the third signing to Revolver Records, an independent Canadian label founded by Mort Ross (with his two partners Doug Riley and Terry Brown) of Toronto in March 1969.

The first song the new Leigh Ashford lineup wrote and recorded was the country-ish single “Dickens.” It was a lively new approach, and both they and their fans knew it was special. Leigh Ashford released this first single on Revolver, and against all odds, it became a huge hit in Canada. Jack Batten of the Globe and Mail picked up on it immediately.

On one side of their single is a song called Dickens, an epic tale about a man who catches his wife cheating on him, ties her to a railway track and is eventually led away by the authorities. That song caught on all across Canada in the last few months. And on the other side is a cheerful nonsense number called Lee Oopah Kum Pah Pah which has scored a hit last month in, of all places, South America. Both sides are about to come out in the United States on the RCA Victor label with great fanfare by the Victor people. And, shortly after, Leigh Ashford’s first album, already completed, will hit the market. Everybody – Leigh Ashford, Roland Paquin, Victor and the radio stations – expects that this will be the band’s shining hour at last.

“Dickens” would enter the R.P.M. chart on Dec. 26th and peak at #27 in March of 1971 after a respectable four weeks in the Top 40. Leigh Ashford recorded another album’s worth of totally original material in November and December of 1970 under Ross’ tutelage at RCA Studios in Toronto. Roland Paquin commented at the time that:” the guys really respect his judgement and as far as recording goes, he shows them where they are going wrong and makes suggestions relating to the sound. He has a fantastic ear….”

A 2015 reviewer was taken by Kaleal’s drumming:

This band has a killer drummer. He goes beyond timekeeping into the realm of artist, where his playing is an integral part of the song. A lesser drummer would have consigned these songs to oblivion. Unfortunately, it also pretty much prevents them from ever being covered, because without the great drum parts, what’s the point?

The album Kinfolk, was duly released in June 1971, and is probably one of the most under-rated pieces of Canadian rock music to emerge from this period. It was recorded at RCA Studios in Toronto over a period of three days. Produced by Mort Ross, it was engineered by George Semkiw and Mark Smith. According to Waszek “the sessions were extremely upbeat – we thought we were the best – and professional from everyone involved.” Ritchie Yorke wrote “artistic comment is unnecessary. You can dig it for yourself. Here’s one of the finest albums ever to come out of the North Country. It will stay on your mind for a long time and will probably bring Leigh Ashford the international acclaim it has long deserved.”

Andy Mellon of the Winnipeg Free Press sung its praises:

This is a fine album folks, chock full of boogie music made for getting it on. Leigh Ashford are a Canadian group who’ve been kicking around Ontario for a few years waiting for a break. Well, this is it. For comparison’s sake, their sound is similar to Crowbar. Lead singer [sic.] Gordon Waszek has an earthy bluesy vocal style, and the rest of the band complements him perfectly with a funky blues-rock backing. Lots of good harp and guitar too. Get your dancing shoes and get down….

The album went gold in Canada. One song “Lee Oompa Kum Pah Pah” would surface 28 years later as part of the soundtrack to the Alliance Atlantis feature film New Waterford Girl.

Kaleal was with the band for almost two years. He remembers they played at countless high school dances and numerous festivals such as the High Park Festival on May 16, 1971 where they traded sets with Edward Bear and Sweet Blindness. They also gave a number of memorable radio and television performances – most notably the New Years Eve Telethon on CFTO (1970-1971), an appearance on Canadian Bandstand on Kitchener’s CKCO, and a live set on CHAM radio (Hamilton) in June 1971. Recalls Waszek:

The “Craig” version of Leigh Ashford was a remarkable band. Each person was serious about his individual instrument and writing abilities. Everyone was exploring and pushing the envelope… the band was very musical and groove oriented. Craig was a meticulous drummer with incredible imagination, desire, and impeccable timing. His drum solos would bring down the house every night – no exaggeration! I haven’t worked with a drummer since Craig that had all of those qualities. I wish he would move back to Toronto. I’d snatch him up in a second, and so would Joe Agnello!

Unfortunately the album, although critically acclaimed, was going nowhere, and in mid-1972 Revolver Records was shut down due to lack of funds. The high expectations engendered by the album were not being met – the band was not breaking out of its regional status. To top it off founders Waszek and Agnello were having a personality conflict. The final straw for both Waszek and Kaleal hit in August 1972 when Leigh Ashford opened a concert at Varsity Stadium. It originally featured Wishbone Ash, Black Sabbath and Argent. Sabbath cancelled when drummer Bill Ward fell victim to an asthma attack the previous evening. Wishbone Ash pulled out assuming the event was cancelled if Sabbath did not show.

The promoter, Martin Onrot, called on Leigh Ashford at the last moment to rescue the evening, and opened the stadium gates to allow free access. The crowd however was testy by this point, and took out their frustration on the hometown favourites. Robert Martin of the Globe and Mail wrote the next day:

At first it appeared that this act of generosity and good public relations was wasted on the crowd. Leigh Ashford started out looking like lambs thrown to adolescent wolves who chanted “long live Black Sabbath” in between hurling insults and paper cups at the performers. This stupid attitude prevailed throughout most of the set until singer, Buzz Sherman, delivered a brief lecture on good manners during a boogie number… a few hard-core sore losers persisted in their attempts to tear down the snow fences at the front but were eventually silenced by the people behind them.

This was no existence for a band. The “famous” five broke up shortly afterward. Waszek eventually joined Fludd, and frontman Shearman tried to continue on with other musicians. He soon realized that he could not recapture the Leigh Ashford magic by himself though, and changed his new band’s name to Moxy.

Shortly after the breakup Waszek decided to record a solo album for Ross’ new label Hopi Records, formed in partnership with his new partner Mike Levine (later to gain fame as a member of the band Triumph). Hopi’s first single, by James Robert Ambrose “Brand New Sunny Day”, was well received in the U.S. The second project was a jazz album by sax player Artie Kaplan entitled Confessions of a Male Chauvinist Pig. As it did amazingly well in Europe, all were optimistic that a successful formula was in place. Using their affiliation with Vanguard Records in the U.S., Wazsek and project co-ordinator Levine decided to use a block of banked studio time at Vanguard Studios in New York City. He continues:

I grabbed my favourite drummer – Craig – and also asked Chuck Mangione’s bass player Alphonso “Slim” Johnson (later of Weather Report) to come to New York for three days which he did. While there we hired Paul Griffith (organ genius with Steely Dan) and proceeded to record. What a band!!! All I can say is to have my songs interpreted by these geniuses was a pure thrill. One single was actually cut “Lady Blue” and it enjoyed some airplay somewhere (I got royalties!). I must say that to have seen Craig in the studios in Manhattan with the likes of Alphonso Johnson and Paul Griffith, he was completely at ease and at home with these great players. They were equally impressed with him.

Co-producing were Waszek and Levine. Due to cost overruns, the album was stopped midway through. Of the four tunes recorded, only one complete song “Lady Blue” was issued. And that was not even under Waszek’s name – rather it was under the non-existent band name Burgundy.

In the spring of 1972 Kaleal returned west, joining up with the Edmonton band Redemption. Vocalist Ian McLean had toured for much of the previous year with a travelling road show entitled “Excerpts From Jesus Christ Superstar” whose lineup included Mel Degen and the band Privilege with various guest singers. When it ended he wanted to continue touring. Calling his new show “Redemption” (a term with vaguely religious connotations that he hoped would connect it with the JC production), he kept some of the vocalists and recruited new backing musicians. Included were Al Mix (guitar) and Miles Johnson (keyboards) both fresh from Barry Allen’s band Cheyenne Winter, Peter Elias (a superb bass player known as “Thunderthumbs”), Dean Riggins (trombone), Dennis Friesen and Jack Gordon (trumpets) and Ed Gilchrist (trombone). The vocalists included Margie Mitchell, Sharon McLean and Jane Porter.

As they were mostly jazz-oriented, McLean dropped the JC Superstar tunes one by one until they performed just one medley. This ensemble was Kaleal’s first introduction to the performing complexity and intricacies of jazz music, and he took to it like a duck to water. He particularly recalls performing songs by Blood, Sweat and Tears, Chase, Chicago, Billy Cobham, the Brecker Brothers, and the band Dreams. He also realized that he truly enjoyed performing in a band with horns. Although his first engagement was in Fort McMurray, Kaleal remembers that Redemption did not do much travelling beyond the city limits of Edmonton.

They did however make it to the Okanagan Valley and Prince George in BC, and also to Saskatchewan where they played for a week at Regina’s Old Gold and another at Saskatoon’s Red Lion. The publication What’s Up gave notice in its June 1972 issue:

Next week until the 24th, a 10-piece Edmonton group REDEMPTION, will fill the Lion’s stage. They were previously known as Family Portrait and were part of the Privilege’s all-Canadian Jesus Christ Superstar show that played here some time ago. Reports deem them outstanding, so drop in early in the week if you want to be in-sitting.

advertisement for engagement at Red Lion night club, Saskatoon SK
The Sheaf, 14 March 1972
courtesy University of Saskatchewan Archives and Special Collections

After eight months with Redemption, Kaleal returned to Toronto where he joined another band called Magic. Originally the backing band for Bob McBride (prior to his joining Lighthouse), the key players in this group included guitarist Stacy Heydon (who later went on to play with David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Lisa Dal Bello, Jayne County and produce both Teenage Head and Brian Plummer), bassist Ted Bettany (from Dee and the Yeomen), and on keyboards Terry Watkinson (also from Dee & The Yeomen) who would shortly quit to join Max Webster. Recalls Heydon: “I had just moved to Toronto from Windsor. I had known Ted there, and we started hanging out at his father’s home on Quebec Avenue in High Park. We just gelled. We loved to play, not to show off, but just because it truly was magic!”

Booked by The Agency, they played mostly high schools around the Toronto area (and several open-air gigs in High Park), as well as gigs in Ottawa, St. Thomas, Kitchener, and London. Their repertoire was well stocked with covers of Hendrix, Yes, and Deep Purple as well as sporting several original tunes. Heydon recalls: “It was a variety set. I was into Clapton and Hendrix, Craig and Ted were into a kind of fusion. We did do a lot of original material and a few covers…” As promising as this lineup was, it only lasted about six months. Recalls Watkinson “it was a very strong band, but we knew it was breaking up.” Heydon stresses it was a totally amicable split “It was partly due to a lack of gigs, as well as other opportunities opening up for some of us.” Heydon remembers enthusiastically “Craig was an outstanding drummer…a special musician and a special guy. He was so intricate, so exacting….”

By mid-1974 Kaleal was in his top form. He was entirely comfortable with both rock and jazz, had developed his own aggressive style, had played on a seminal Canadian album, and for all these reasons had earned an enviable reputation within the musical community. Rod Salloum, who played with Kaleal recalled:

Craig is the most articulate and hard working drummer I’ve ever played with. I remember witnessing his practice regimen where he’d go for hours with headphones on and play to tapes to perfect his chops. Back then his style was kind of British – i.e. flams for fills rather than rolls and rudiments. His touch was dynamic and aggressive – he picked up on every nuance and played with you rather than just layed down a beat and expect you to follow him – essentially a very musical style. He is still spoken of in legendary terms.

Then living in Toronto, Kaleal recalls:

I was living in Etobicoke with Laurie Currie – on Brown’s Line down by Lakeshore – and I got a package in the mail from Gerry [Stoll] on behalf of Wascana saying their drummer and bass player were leaving. Would I be interested in joining? At that time, I couldn’t see myself coming back out west. I had heard of them, but had not heard them. So I said “Thank you, but no.”

Wascana did not give up though. He continues:

… then George Martin was down in the area and he came out to see me play with the band I was with at the time called Magic. He asked me to reconsider… that I would be perfect for the band. And again I said no. Then I went home to Saskatoon… my Dad was on his second cancer operation… I went back to help around the house. And I got a phone call from Regina “do you want to come down and just do a bit of playing… and see if things work?” I had nothing to go back to now in Toronto so I said OK. I went to Regina, Spider was there, and I ended up joining.

On paper at least, this new Wascana was the ideal band, truly the cream of Saskatchewan musicians with immense potential. Martin in particular was excited by the combination of Kaleal and Sinnaeve, “a rhythm section that really cooked.” Stoll recalls that “Spider gave the band more fire. And Craig had such finesse, more touch – such fantastic technique.” Gutheil was also very happy with the addition of Kaleal “Rich [Petersen] had a keen interest in jazz and loved to play/jam. Craig was more into rock and great songs. Craig had lots of experience at different levels, and was always striving for new playing approaches…”

Their new lineup was commented on by their friend and next door neighbor Kenny Shields:

Obviously, the new Wascana would change styles and so would the repertoire, but I loved the new band. It was tough yet smooth. Kaleal fit right in, he was a classy, sophisticated, jazzy like smooth player, who loved Mitch Mitchell, the drummer for Jimi Hendrix…. And I loved living right next door to them as they grew. I saw a lot of them, invited them over numerous times, to sit on the floor… and listen to my huge stereo on “11”! We had a lot of laughs and fun, as well as serious discussions about various groups and players. Some fabulous hours spent.

Deutscher started to emerge as the band’s focal point. He was not only more enthusiastic than the others about the music they were performing, he was much more emotionally attached to it. He took writing very seriously – it had gone beyond simple entertainment, and developed into a quest for spiritual growth. He had also developed into an amazingly versatile guitarist. Easily mastering every style of music he attempted, he had moved into his own individual manner of expression with smooth, effortless fluid lines.

Kenny Shields on stage, venue unknown
ca. 1973
courtesy Doug Rusu

Jeff Wyatt gives his opinion:

Bob had the kind of guitar style that suited a horn band (or even an R&B or blues band) because he wasn’t a “power chord” kind of player anyway. Besides, that would have sounded dorky with a heavy brass band. Bob could play very fast, intricate guitar parts… His guitar style could be likened to a combination of the guitarist from Chicago [Terry Kath]and Steve Howe from Yes. Bob played tastily and never overused distortion. In fact most times I heard him play, he used very minimal distortion. My own thinking was (and still is)… If you take a guitarist’s distortion away you can hear how good he is… or isn’t. And Bob was very good!

Dave Tkachuk, then head of Actron Agencies, summed him up: “Deutscher was a magnificent guitarist – always underrated. There was no song too difficult – nothing that he couldn’t do. He was a real leader – quiet, but a real leader.”

The first concert by this lineup took place at the summer exhibition in hometown Regina in the last week of July 1974. Don Flowers of the Leader Post urged their followers to see them:

Wascana, five-man Saskatchewan band, takes over the stage July 31 and August 2, to play to a home town crowd. Wascana has not cut any records yet but are headed that way. Since formed in 1971, the group has evolved to become one of the top drawing bands in Western Canada…. Wascana have packed houses where ever they have gone and always with a slightly different sound. Wascana has become a band to compare other bands too – a standard to be met.

The concert garnered a long review in the Leader Post that commented on the two main attributes that everyone seemed to attach to the band: great musicianship and seeming indifference to the audience:

Wascana’s audience was alternately thick and thin at the 45-minute concert Wednesday night in It’s A Young World – a new feature at this year’s Buffalo Days Exhibition. Although the band blasted some of the audience out of the close, warm and dusty Grain Show building, the front row groupies hung in there and people drifted through the building, to listen and wander on.

The unidentified writer first focussed on George Martin:

For those who stopped to watch, the entertainment was in the antics of George Martin, the trumpeter and percussionist who moved with his music. He jived between his trumpet and trombone to an assortment of percussion instruments which he appeared to choose and play at random. “All sound is music…you just have to find the place for it,” said George Martin between the two 45-minute concerts, one at 8:30 p.m. and the other at 10 p.m. The concerts will be repeated tonight.

He continued:

No doubt about it, Wascana is an accomplished band… but on occasion the music is heavy and seems to be over most people’s heads. Wednesday night it was over their heads, under their feet, and all through them… “I wish it was outside. It was much better last year in Confederation Park,” said Mr. Martin. Some booth keepers in It’s A Young World building were none too happy about the loud music. Rather than attracting people into the building, crowded when the concert began, the music interrupted the course of discussion and bartering at the booths… Maybe it’s a little bit too loud, but not too much,” said one young man in the audience…”They’re great,” said a girl sitting in the second last row of the bleachers across the building from Wascana’s stage.

Finally the reporter gets to the heart of his review:

Appearing to be concentrating on producing the music, the band had little if any audience rapport. Except for the enthusiasm of George Martin and the introduction of songs by lead guitar player Bob Deutscher, other members of the band looked almost bored. reflecting the faces of the audience which sat or stood on the floor and in the bleachers. Little enthusiasm, no smiles and rarely if ever looking at the audience, the band seemed interested only in creating their own happening. But the music was good, if loud, and it was the first-time performance with Wascana for drummer Craig Kaleal, and bass, Ken Sinnaeve, who even if they did not appear to be enjoying themselves, demonstrated a degree of accomplishment on their respective instruments.

The last word went to George Martin: “The audience did not hear any rock and roll tonight, but there was a lot of improvisation and spontaneity,“ said Mr. Martin. It was not an encouraging debut.

In addition, in the interests of developing a unique image, the new line-up bravely decided they would take the plunge and perform mostly original material from this point forward. Aside from the odd cover version that had the same feeling as their own songs, Wascana was determined never to “sell out” again and perform other people’s music. As a fan and as a manager, Stoll knew it was a mistake, that the band needed to be more accessible to their public. He remembers with some frustration:

I was always urging them to do more commercial material. I remember one high school dance in North Battleford. The kids kept asking all night long for “Smoke On The Water” – after all it was the early 70’s and Deep Purple were still big! At the break I was pleading with the band “they want it so bad – can’t you play it just once?” Well to them that was like playing with the Anti-Christ – I was saying something really evil to them! So we come to the last song of the night, and of course they didn’t play it. The place cleared out in 30 seconds – only the principal and I were left. [Then] they broke into “Smoke On The Water”. They’d never played it before and it was fucking perfect! It drove me nuts!

A second appearance on the Great Canadian Gold Rush was prepared that summer. Recorded in Vancouver, the studio session contains ten songs – nine original and one cover. Included are “Outside In”, “In and Out of Love”, “Patience”, “Clear the Way”, “Look Up To the Sky”, “Failing Vision”, “Nature Nature”, “Give Yourself A Chance”, “Man Alive” and “Lightning.” For reasons unknown, the CBC Archives indicates that it was not broadcast until January 1977. If true, that would be almost four years later when the band no longer existed.

Their connection to the Manitoba capital had became so strong that summer that they decided to relocate there in September. According to Deutscher “we had been doing so many jingle sessions in Winnipeg that we thought it would be a good idea to move there and we did so…Unfortunately the sessions soon dried up.” They rented a house on Henderson Highway where they both lived and rehearsed. Andy Mellon of the Free Press was delighted and announced in his column of October 23, 1974:

Wascana, a Saskatchewan-based group which is developing into one of Canada’s most exciting young bands, has begun an extended Winnipeg visit. The group is playing at the Village Inn pub tonight to Friday, and will supply the music for a social in the University of Manitoba’s multi-purpose room Saturday evening.

Work was steady for there was an appetite for rock music in the Manitoba capital. The venues they would find themselves booked into in the next eight months were earthy, funky “rock clubs” at night, but were borderline sleazy during the day. The clubs proudly boasted of their exotic dancers usually during the lunch hour and then again between 4 and 6 pm for the supper crowd. The St. Vital Hotel on St. Mary’s Road had “Robin Lee”, the Norlander Motor Hotel on Pembina Highway had “Shelley”, “Maggie,” and “Baby Jane”, the Windsorian had “Candice Lee”, and the Marion Hotel had “Black Magic.” The Airline Motor Hotel went one better – each day they had an “Afternoon Girls Parade Between 2 to 6”, and The Marion continually advertised “Girls, Girls, Girls – a Go-Go Jamboree.” As Kaleal succinctly explains:

As far as the rooms were concerned, they were just big taverns that had a certain clientele during the day that switched over at night for the “live entertainment,” which I do believe was the law at the time… dancers and bands shared a lot of rooms during those years…. I think that for certain rooms (size), the liquor laws required live entertainment be provided, so you might as well throw in some naked women as well!

After five years Century 21 Studios had come up against the limitations of their King Edward Street building and had finally outgrown their facilities. Their business had kept expanding, and they were about to jump into new technology that required additional space. In the summer of 1974 after a careful search, the Century 21 partners purchased an old building located at 1085 Salter Street at the corner of Leila Avenue. It was a one story structure with approximately 5,000 square feet of space to work with. They decided to build one studio immediately, and another a year down the road. And as they planned to go straight to 24 track recording, the partners knew they had to have the new studio designed.

With great audacity, they decided to hire Tom Hidley of Westwood Sound in Los Angeles, and indeed they could not have chosen a better designer. Hidley had begun his career as a technician for the JBL Loudspeaker Co. in 1956. In 1962 he was hired to build the MGM/Verve recording studio in New York. He had built an envious reputation by this time, and was lured away by the famed producer Phil Ramone to his well-regarded A&R Studios. During his tenure there Hidley got to work with other top level producers such as Quincy Jones and Tom Dowd.

However the west coast beckoned, and Hidley – along with friend and professional partner Ami Hadani – returned to Los Angeles in 1965. They immediately started up their own recording operation under the name TTG Studio (Two Terrible Guys), and would attract the attention of acts such as Eric Burdon, The Monkees, and Jimi Hendrix. TTG were responsible for a host of recording innovations such as drum booths, glassed vocal isolation booths, monitors with a greater range of frequencies, and 16 track recording.

The Record Plant in New York then hired Hidley to oversee all of their operations including the construction of a new studio in Los Angeles. It was during his time with this organization that Hidley developed the 24 track 2 inch recorder. He continued to work with all and any recording studios – designing studios and overseeing acoustic designs and renovations. Hidley would ultimately design over 200 recording studios in North America, Europe and Asi0a. All this to say Century 21 was state-of-the-art when it re-opened in 1975.

Because their reviewers were sometimes lost with their noticeably different approach to music, Wascana became the victim of an ambivalent press. For example Gary Deane of the Regina Leader-Post wrote an insightful essay on the Saskatchewan music scene in March of 1975 entitled “Dark clouds hover over Prairie groups.” His main argument was that the western Canadian milieu had not inspired any achievements in the field of rock music because rock and especially jazz are urban developments:

One of the problems is that – as competent or confident as any of these groups may have been – none possessed a really original spirit or even a specific sense of what it wanted to do…. Wascana for example bounced from pillar to post ending up… trying to play amidst the same kind of charged, astral jazz-rock fusions as Mahavishnu [Orchestra] with whom they shared a bill at the Centre of the Arts…. Wascana could hardly match Mahavishnu on a technical level but, most importantly, its songs lacked in content, in emotional input, in insight, in excitement.

He then gets to the core of his observations:

…the band can only be faulted to a point. It’s difficult, and it’s been difficult since the beginning, for a group from Saskatchewan to show or develop insight into a music based on ideas and expressions alien to its existence and experience.

It hardly matters what kind of rock it is. You don’t create outside of your experience and listening to records for hundreds of hours isn’t going to produce sudden wisdom or fresh inspiration… It comes down to a matter of close personal and cultural identity with your music and if there’s one thing for sure, it’s that Canadian rock music has no identity. If that’s true of rock music in this country as a whole, then what’s a poor band from Saskatchewan going to do?

With their new and very proficient members, Wascana became even more of an instrumental band. As none of the members were primarily vocalists, singing was kept to a minimum. One critic astutely considered them more of a concert band than a bar band, as their music now consisted of long improvisational movements and was not at all danceable. Kaleal agrees they were anything but a “pop” group “We did a lot of original material. We also did a few very unusual covers too: Chick Corea, Miles Davis, etc. Fusion was really big then, so we did some of that type of music.”

A mixing board tape confirms that they were playing mostly their own material. Recorded in July 1974 in Winnipeg by sound man Dave Lynes, it includes four tunes by George Martin (“Here’s To the Love”, “The Weaver”, “Back in the Good Old Days”, and “Chances”), one by Daryl Gutheil (“Kids”), and six compositions by Bob Deutscher (“Blues No. 1 Mama”, “You Move Me”, “Give Yourself a Chance”, “Nature, Nature”, “Twenty Nine One Nighters”, and “Patience”). All were tight well-performed numbers – almost none were radio-friendly – and the band members liked it that way.

Even so they continued to exude energy on the stage. Wascana made its first appearance at Saskatoon’s Red Lion club in the third week of October 1974. This extraordinary series of performances gave birth to a lengthy and thoughtful profile of the band in the weekly newspaper The Saskatonian. Writer Len Taylor attended several concerts, then interviewed Deutscher and Martin. He started by explaining the cover band conundrum:

Wascana played Saskatoon last week for the first time in about a year. Their performance in front of the dance crowd in a bar atmosphere was not unexpected. Since moving to Winnipeg they have made changes in instrumentation and arrangements which make the popular songs sound not unlike the popular songs but with a different flavour…

Taylor then discussed at length the difference between a listening (or concert) audience and a dancing audience, and found that “Wascana identifies more strongly with the concert audience than a dance audience.” He astutely picked up on one problem – Wascana had trouble keeping people’s interest with their improvisation:

Other concert influences that one can pick up while listening include the long instrumental movements added to the tunes. Usually dancing audiences become tired quickly and must sit down if a song is played too long, and posses [sic.] high energy and quickness of pace. However, last week, Wascana relied little on vocals, long on instrumentals, pleasing to a concert audience, but the high energy output they maintained kept the dancers from remaining on the dance floor for the entire length of their set.

Finally Taylor singled out Sinnaeve for praise:

Sitting back last week, one could sense their subtleties and the things that go with that. For example by paying close attention to the bass, one could sense that concert mobility. A dancing bass is an even bass, a bass that plays and keeps time with the drummer. Ken Sinnaeve is a concert bassist. His agile movements, rapid fingering and good sense of time provides for a heavy and mobile pattern. He’s often off on his own, a pleasure to listen to, but hard to dance to.

After their swing through Saskatchewan, the band returned again to Winnipeg. Though most of their ongoing gigs were in the pubs and bars of Winnipeg, they did find time to play a number of concerts as well. One of the few was a double bill with Scrubbaloe Caine at the Playhouse Theatre on November 29th. Scrubbaloe was a band about which there was always a great deal of buzz, but it was impossible to pigeonhole their music. They were partially hard rock, partially pop, and occasionally an electric violin would emerge from the mix. Formed in 1971 the band consisted of dual guitarists Jim Harmata and Paul Dean, drummer Billy McBeth, ex-Guess Who bassist Jim Kale, keyboardist Al Foreman, and singer/violinist Henry Small. They were based first in Calgary, then moved to Toronto. In 1973 they had put out a well-regarded album called Round One on RCA Records.

Advertisement for Scrubbaloe Caine and Wascana concert, Playhouse Theatre, Winnipeg, MB
Winnipeg Free Press, 29 November 1974

Recalls Spider:

I do remember that double bill…I don’t remember how we did, but I’m pretty sure it was probably one of the first real shows (not in a bar) that we had done. I had heard about Scrubbaloe: they were highly talked about at the time. Two guitars and Henry Small. …. I was putting my bass in my case right after we came off stage and Paul came over and noticed I had a mickey of vodka in there. I guess he was pretty nervous before they went on and he asked if he could have a shot. I was honoured! That was my first meeting with Paul Dean. I remember being affected by their enormous groove. We were doing this semi-fusion stuff, but I saw how effective a simpler driving pulse was in a bigger room. They were so cool onstage… The two guitar thing was great as well….

Kaleal also adds: “The crowd was good, and it goes without saying that the Playhouse was one of those grand venues from the old days…”

Andy Mellon commented on Wascana’s material:

In my haste to spread the good word last week of Scrubbaloe Caine’s fine performance in the Playhouse, I neglected to make any mention of Wascana – a talented young band which performed a set of its own music before both of Scrubbaloe Caine’s shows. The Saskatchewan-based group, which has been gigging around Winnipeg steadily the past couple of months, has put together a tight, energetic set of original songs.

A profile from that same period explained that:

As the group, and as individuals, Wascana plays to communicate; communicate not in the sense that they want to say something, but rather communicate in the sense that they want the audience to feel what they feel as they play.

It would appear that their audience did not necessarily feel what Wascana was feeling, and, their relocation did not seem to help. For the next few months, they drifted musically and emotionally.

Wascana once again started to record for the new Century 21 in Winnipeg – but again it was jingles and commercials. Within the first month of moving to Winnipeg, they estimated they had recorded sixty items including several for their home club, Regina’s Old Gold. This renewed recording activity appears to have made them intent on finally recording an album of their own music, and they completed several demos including Deutscher’s “Give Yourself a Chance,” Martin’s “Millions of People” and a third tune apparently called “Time Is Running Out.”

They received additional attention in a November 1974 article entitled “The progressive sounds: Winnipeg’s Wascana.” Author Brian Clancy attempted to describe their open-ended and spontaneous approach to making music:

Wascana is a progressive music after the styles of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Miles Davis and Chick Corea. But above all Wascana is music after the styles and perceptions of its members: George Martin, Bob Deutscher, Ken Sinnaeve, Daryl Gutheil and Craig Kaleal. In an interview with Martin and Deutscherthey said there is a constant interplay among the members of the band. Most bands, especially rock bands, play the music only as it is set down without improvisation. Wascana, however, allows the individual moods and feelings of the band’s members to decide the direction of a piece. This format was superbly exploited by Charles Mingus in the jazz workshops of the fifties in New York; popularizing it as a valid form of musical expression…. Martin said “We’re always listening to each other when we play. When I’m playing solos I often find myself playing duets with other members of the band. We play among ourselves but we still pay attention to what the others are doing.

Clancy describes the band’s restlessness:

The band came to Winnipeg from Regina just over a month ago and now considers itself a Winnipeg group. The move was the result of various forces. Not least among them was the lack of work in Regina and the fact that they had reached the top as far as Saskatchewan was concerned. In Regina the band could only play at two places, a club and the university, making it advantageous to move as well as providing an opportunity to popularize Wascana’s brand of music. They were also finding Regina to be a rut for the band musically and felt a change would do them good. In a year or so, they anticipate leaving Winnipeg for Toronto or the States.

Their chief money-making activities are proclaimed:

The band is currently doing jingles for commercials at Century 21. They estimate having made about 60 commercials so far at $250 a shot. They go into the studio in the morning and make 4 or 5 jingles in 6 hours of work.

He makes a few comments on the obstacles:

In Western Canada there do not exist the facilities (generally), the opportunities nor the audiences to make a band popular and get it into a recording studio to produce an album. Western audiences also tend to want to hear the hit parade rather than the music the band itself has composed. In centers like New York and Toronto the situation is different. They have the facilities and the people to get an album together as well as audiences interested in the band’s own music.

He makes the point that “almost a third to a half of the music in their gigs is their own… The band has an estimated 50 minutes of original material in their repertoire.”

You can feel the band’s frustration with audiences by their preferred booking strategy:

The band is purposely playing pubs without dance floors in order to expose their music to the people. They found in the past that people don’t really like to dance to their music because the tempo changes too frequently. “If you’re playing a gig with a dance floor you should play only dance music because the people aren’t there to listen to you, but to dance” said Martin.

Their reluctance to accommodate to popular tastes, which has already cost them several opportunities to do an album, is emphasized:

The band has attempted, with no success, to get a recording company to allow them to put together an album. “We’d rather accept our influences and build on them to progress in our direction, even at the expense of not being commercial” said Martin. The band isn’t into trends and can’t identify with the popular music of the day… they feel it is simply being packaged and sold as a mass product without any thought to the music or its value musically. Many musicians and bands with far more to offer than those currently in the studios are being left out.

He ends with their plea:

They strongly emphasized the hope that audiences listen to them with an open mind and with no preconceived notions of what they are going to hear. They felt the opposite approach limits people in their experience of music and causes them to ignore any influence the music may have over them.

Wascana, Regina SK – (top l. to r. Craig Kaleal, George Martin, Daryl Gutheil – bottom l. to r. Bob Deutscher, Ken Sinnaeve)
1975 
courtesy Daryl Gutheil

Wascana’s music once again slowly started to retreat from totally original songs and free form jazz improvisations and they made an effort to include finite, shaped songs. Once again the pendulum swung the other way, and they decided to include cover songs in their repertoire. A good idea of their stage show can be found on a mixing board tape from a February 1975 high school gig in Winnipeg. It also highlights the band’s strengths and weaknesses. The selection and sequencing of the tunes is smart – a combination of funky, jazzy covers and innovative originals. A goodly dose of Steely Dan (“Night by Night,” ”Bodhisattva” and “Dirty Work”) is interspersed with The Band (“King Harvest”, “Look Out Cleveland”, “The Shape I’m In” and “Jemima Surrender”). The inclusion of Stevie Wonder (“Livin’ For The City”), Bob Marley (“I Shot The Sheriff”), and Brian Auger (“Happiness Is Just Around The Bend”) also works well with their original songs (“Nature Nature”, “Give Yourself A Chance”, “Patience” and “Outside In.”) The instrumental performances are tight, professional and energetic. Yet they are tainted by the less than stellar vocals. Both Deutscher and Martin sound tired and strained, and the voices just do not harmonize.

A large portion of their audience thought they were being too clever, too obscure and strayed too far from the normal musical fare desired by most concert attendees. To many it seemed they were just playing with and for themselves – and the audience be damned. Their admirable but stubborn emphasis on originality ended up driving away audiences. Their well-executed, cerebral, and frequently high-speed aimlessness left no doubt as to their proficiency, but aside from a small hardcore group of fans they were simply not accessible to the public at large. There was no visual focus, and their lyrics needed much too much thinking about – a challenge when drinking beer. And the very lack of a vocalist and frontman after Don Gutheil’s departure limited their ability to connect with an audience. Martin summed up the problem several years later:

We needed something – we were floundering without a focus. We didn’t have a musical direction, we were all over the place. It was like a car on ice – you can go 1,000 miles an hour, and not get anywhere. It wasn’t really satisfying for anybody. We had all come from something where we had had direction and focus, but we just couldn’t get it here.

Bowing to the inevitable, Wascana made a conscious decision to be more palatable, to create music more in line with what the audience wanted or could understand. And they decided to add a front man, a lead singer, hoping this would re-focus their musical energies and recharge spirits.

WASCANA IV

Kenny Shields was a contemporary and long-time friend of the band, and a renowned (and frankly far more famous) Saskatchewan rock vocalist who happened to be without a band. He led the aforementioned Witness Inc.(with Craig Kaleal) for six years. Shields had been involved in a near-fatal automobile accident in April 1970. After several years of surgeries and physiotherapy, he attempted a comeback with A Group Called Mudd. Although they were musically impressive, he just did not have the stamina required of a prairie touring band, and dropped out after a year.

During this fallow period he met up with Gary Stratychuk. Daryl Gutheil describes how he arrived on the scene:

Strat was a bass player in a Regina bar band. As he would readily admit, he wasn’t a great musician, but he wanted to get into the music business. So he went to work at a music store and this is where Kenny met him. Kenny had just finished with Mudd and was stuck with a P.A. system –what the hell is he going to do with a P.A. system? As I said, he met Gary in this store and said “I’ve got this P.A. system – what do I do with it?” And Gary said “I’ll sell it for you.” So he did and got a good price for it and Kenny thought this guy was good!

The two struck up a tentative friendship as Gutheil goes on to explain:

So they started talking and Gary said “I’ve worked in a music store, I’ve been a musician – I think I know something about the business. I think I could manage you.” Now Strat was good at convincing people, and Kenny’s good at reading people, sussing it out, and he thought Strat could do it. He had a gift of the gab and was quite smart.

If he did nothing else, Stratychuk kept Shields’ mind on music:

Strat kept bugging me “who do you want to play with? Are you done playing?”I said “Jeez, I don’t know.” “Well you shouldn’t be done playing – you’re good at it. What we gotta do is figure out who you want to play with and start putting it together.” I guess I wasn’t totally convinced. I was reluctant to get involved again.

By Christmas of 1974 though, the movement to bring Wascana together with Kenny Shields gained momentum from both sides. Shields was getting restless to play, and Wascana was ready for a change of direction. Remembers Shields:

Come January, I got ants in my pants. Gary said to me, “If you want to play you’ve got to go and get it and not involve me. If Stoll is a good manager, he’ll do well for you. If he isn’t he’ll hang himself – it’s just a matter of time. Either way, you gotta get back at it.” So I drove to Winnipeg and, ironically, moved in with Gerry Stoll. By this time, things weren’t going as smoothly as they anticipated and I guess it was worth taking a shot with Shields.

Gutheil explains why they thought of Shields again:

Kenny was still available – he was ready to get back in the business again. We knew he had worked with Craig before. He knew I could play, that I was a good musician, and he really liked Spider because he had tried to form something with him before. Spider wanted to work with him because he thought Kenny was a legend. So we convinced him to join.

And – not to be sneered at – Shields had a huge and very dedicated following in all of the western provinces. And they were all eager to see Shields back on stage – wherever he might show up, and with whatever group of musicians he fronted. There were no ultimatums or negotiations this time. The conditions were simple and straightforward as Shields explains:

I said, “Let’s just try it. If you guys don’t like it or if it’s not successful, I’m out of here!” I think that was fair enough and they did too. “I want to play with you guys – whether you want to play with me or not is the question. So let’s try it.”

Wascana agreed to try it. Gutheil remembers that all-important first rehearsal:

We started singing together. I can sing harmony and Kenny’s a great lead singer so we had a good combination. It just clicked. I remember he came down to the basement of this big house that Bob, Spider and me had rented in Winnipeg – it was winter – and we had our first rehearsal. We had been doing “Bodhisattva” – Kenny and I sang it together and we looked at each other and thought “This is going to be hot!” We knew right away.

Shields’ hometown newspaper the Nokomis Times reported on February 19, 1975 “Kenny Shields left last week for Winnipeg where he will be employed as a musician with a group called ‘Wascanna’ [sic.] formerly of Regina.”

The new Wascana was ready to meet their public on 9 March 1975. Gutheil:

I remember Kenny’s first gig well. He came on and did a set with us at the Marlborough Inn. People knew Kenny from the old Witness days – they knew him even in Winnipeg. It was kind of exciting. We only knew six songs with him at this point. We were still called Wascana so we did about five Wascana songs and then brought Kenny on. People went nuts – it was hot – it was happening! He was wearing this white satin robe – it looked like peacocks on the back! I was kinda chuckling because he always knows what’s going to work. It looked like a bathrobe or something! But it was a good time to debut this stuff – it was fabulous!

Within the new lineup the differences in musical preferences became obvious and quickly. Deutscher, Martin and Kaleal wanted to develop the fusion approach, while Shields and Sinnaeve preferred straightforward rock. Gutheil felt at home with either. The old Wascana approach was earnest and elitist – almost deliberately over the heads of the audience – while Shields approach was to engage the audience, have fun and make the evening as enjoyable as possible. No one could ever accuse Shields of being distant from an audience. A compromise was arrived at which worked for a while. Explains Shields:

They’d do the first set with Daryl and Bob singing and then I would join them for the second. It was a good compromise. Everybody seemed happy with it except Deutscher because he thought I was destroying his band as he saw it. I saw it too – I knew he felt really troubled by it. But of the two sets, it became obvious that the crowd reaction was better when I was in it. So we started learning more and more songs that had my stamp on them.

Gutheil felt the shift, but was happy with it:

Kenny had a more commercial attitude to material than we did. He knew what he was comfortable with. And we wanted to move that way ourselves. Plus we knew that Kenny knew what he was doing – he had been around longer than we had in the business. As soon as he joined it started getting real good. It put us on a different level.

At this point, some hard-nosed business decisions were also called for, beginning with a reassessment of management. There were two candidates – one was the incumbent Gerry Stoll. The other was Shield’s choice – Gary Stratychuk. Stratychuk wheeled into Winnipeg in March 1975 and commenced playing hardball. Recalls Stoll:

Gary took me out for breakfast one day and said to me “I’m going to take the band away from you” which to me was not only shocking but unthinkable. I just didn’t think that after a year and a half working for them as an equal partner, helping them buy the van and fronting them money from my inheritance that they would ever slag me! But Stratychuk came to town talking big “I’m going to make you guys into rock stars – I’m going to make you all millionaires –you guys are going to be huge!”

Stoll was to quickly learn that friendships and loyalties are limited commodities in the music business:

I was especially surprised that George, Bobby and Daryl would buy this guy’s line. We had a meeting at Craig Kaleal’s apartment in Osborne Village… I went there and fought to stay with the band. I really argued my case like I’d never argued it before. I said “I may not be a big roller, a heavy-duty hot dog with a big car telling you you’re going to be stars. But I will never ever rip you off. I’ll never burn you – the money you make in this band will be yours. I’ll represent you honestly and fairly.” I guess that wasn’t enough.

Now that Shields was back in the music mainstream, he wanted to bring Stratychuk along for the ride, but it soon became obvious that he was not the only decision-maker in the group. Gutheil describes the democratic process that still reigned at that point:

Kenny started saying “We’ve got a lot of potential here, but we need a manager. I’ve got this guy who I think could do it.” We were all a bit doubtful, and we already had Gerry [Stoll] who was a personal friend. We didn’t want to dump him. Kenny listened, but kept saying “I really want Gary.” So we had a vote and decided to stay with Gerry. Kenny accepted, said “Okay, I’m outvoted.”

However, new financial matters needed attending to, and Stoll was having trouble keeping up. The interesting gigs became few and far between for the band. By May of 1975 the need for a more aggressive manager became obvious. Recalls Shields “In the meantime, Gerry was hanging himself. The guys were getting pissed off. I tried not to say anything because I was sort of on probation. I was the experiment, the new guy, and not really in on the decisions.”

Gutheil confirms this:

Gerry continued as manager for the next month or so, but things started to go haywire. He wasn’t taking care of business for whatever reason. All of a sudden it wasn’t working. So we had a big meeting and said to Gerry, “We have to let you go,” and Strat became our manager.

Wascana thus became the first act under the umbrella of Star Kommand Productions Ltd., promoters and managers. Stratychuk’s talent stable would later boast Streetheart, Cambridge (soon to become the Queen City Kids), Kick Axe, and George McCrae.

The Winnipeg scene had seemingly become less welcoming to rock music. Indeed, after a perusal of the newspapers for the latter part of 1974 and early 1975, it becomes readily apparent just how discouraging the Winnipeg club scene was for professional jazz and/or rock musicians. The major bars and lounges seemed to have booked easy listening, inoffensive or novelty acts exclusively. For example, in the month of March 1975, the International Inn featured Prince Liufau and his Fabulous Review (“the romance of Hawaii in song and dance”), and the Grant Inn boasted Wishbone, or Reesa & Herbie, or Three-Penny Opera, all of whom alternated with exotic dancer “Cheeky Munroe.” The Airport Motor Hotel was proud to bring back by popular demand Rubber Legs and the Las Vegas Review, Koko’s Cabaret featured The Ray’n Ray Trio, the Winnipeg Inn’s Stage Door booked Tapestry, the Brooklands Gordon Hotel boasted the Melo-d-aires, and the Town ‘n Country presented The Platters, followed by The Irish Newcomers, followed by Alan – “a duplicate of Elvis himself.” Only the somewhat seedy pubs where Wascana had been playing supported rock music hiring such acts as Steel, Mood Jga Jga and the Deluxe Chance Band.

Andy Mellen, the popular music critic for the Winnipeg Free Press became so discouraged by “the ridiculous lack of concerts in this city” that he helped to found the Winnipeg Rock Society at the beginning of 1975. Its mandate was to promote the appreciation of rock music in general and also the development of local rock talent by promoting dances and concerts. The society met every couple of weeks in the University Centre at the University of Manitoba to discuss rock music and rate new releases. The ratings arrived at were published as a chart, similar to those published by radio stations, but not connected in any way with the radio stations and their biases. The premiere concert sponsored by the society was the triple billing of 15 March which included Steel, Downchild Blues Band, and Laughing Boy. The second event was a dance on April 19 featuring Laughing Boy and Holy Hannah.

For five full months – October, November, December, January and February without Shields, and three months – March, April and May of 1975 with him, Wascana played back-to-back week-long bookings on the Winnipeg bar circuit. These werethe Westminster Hotel, Village Inn Pub, the Marlborough Hotel, the Airliner Motor Hotel (Black Knight Beverage Room), the Norlander Motor Hotel (Shield & Axe Beverage Room), the Pandora Inn, the Marion Hotel, and The Windsorian. It was grueling, but they became even more tighter and popular.

advertisement for Wascana engagement at Norlander Motor Inn, Winnipeg, MB
Winnipeg Free Press, 28 April 1975, p. 35

Wascana – and Shields in particular – always seemed to know when they were reaching the saturation point with an audience. They realized they had been seeing the same audiences night after night. They were ready for new audiences and, conversely, Winnipeggers needed a break from the band. Says Gutheil, “We were getting sick of the Winnipeg bar scene – there were just no opportunities.”

A logical new audience then (as well as one which was older and remembered Shields in particular) lay next door in Wascana’s home province of Saskatchewan. With the assertiveness that would later became his trademark when managing Streetheart, Stratychuk immediately took the helm. Recalls Gutheil:

His first idea was to take the band, move back to Saskatchewan and change the name to Witness. He figured we could make more money there. There were lots of bars in Saskatchewan and we were getting tired of Winnipeg. We thought, “Yeah, Strat knows what he’s doing. Let’s go with him.”

Adds Sinnaeve: “changing our name made sense as a business decision… and it was a really cool name!” So – on the advice of a new manager, and with concern for bar earnings taking priority probably for the first time in their existence, Wascana disappeared into the ether.

Oddly, just at that time, band founder Drew Lawrence, re-entered the world of music half a continent away. He recalls:

God or Krishna works in mysterious ways…When I relocated to the Krishna ashram in Los Angeles in the summer of 1975, many things unfolded for me very quickly. I played drums on an album called “A Change of Heart,” with Golden Avatar which became a gold record under my Sanskrit name, Duryodhana-guru dasa. I was playing with top LA studio musicians who recorded with and toured with the top acts in the world at that time. I learned Indian drums as mentioned. I played mridanga and recorded a track on Stevie Wonder’s “Songs in the Key of Life,” under my Sanskrit name. I also played various Indian drums on a track with the Beastie Boys on the album “Check Your Head,” a platinum record with a credit as Drew Lawrence.

Conclusions

In retrospect Wascana were the brave musical pioneers of the Canadian prairies. They broke new musical ground and went well beyond the generally accepted musical goal posts. They were voracious in their seeking out and digesting any and all diverse musical forms, and evolved at an unsettling pace. And unfortunately that may have been the very reason for their lack of traction. Such an experimental road could not be sustained – they gained and lost audiences (sometimes quickly and thoroughly), they had no end of trouble getting the attention of record companies…and when they finally did, they had pivoted, changed direction and did not want to put out recordings they had previously completed.

They were ever the subject of mixed reviews, both by professional writers and by their audiences. Each incarnation included clearly talented musicians, but – fair or unfair – they all gave the impression that their own musical enjoyment was more important than engaging their audiences.

They followed a perplexing pendulum pattern – from totally original compositions to cover tunes – from free-form improvised jazz fusion to tight accessible three-minute songs. And don’t forget the countless radio commercials and jingles. The fact they could do all of these with equal skill both in their recorded work and live in concert meant their identity or “brand” was elusive and continuously evolving. In other words, they were always in the process of becoming – they never actually “became.”Reviewers knew it, audiences knew it, and one suspects some of the band members also knew it. It would take more personnel changes, a switch to a more outward-looking philosophy, a simplification of musical style, and a change of name to first Witness then Streetheart before the core band reached their well-deserved level of success.

RECORDINGS BY WASCANA

1. demo
Recorded: 17 July 1971, CHED Studio, Edmonton
Produced by Tommy Banks
Personnel: Don Gutheil, Drew Lawrence, Norm Allard, George Martin, Bob Deutscher, Daryl Gutheil
Contains 2 tracks: “I Need A Rest From The Music” (M. Grainger) and “Tables Turning” (M. Grainger)

2. demo
Recorded: August 1971, Can-Base Studios, Vancouver
Produced by Shelly Siegel
Personnel: Don Gutheil, Drew Lawrence, Norm Allard, George Martin, Bob Deutscher, Daryl Gutheil
Contains approximately 12 tracks – all original material, titles unknown

3. demo
Recorded: September 1971, CKCK Studio, Regina
Produced by Ken Singer
Personnel: Don Gutheil, Bob Deutscher, Drew Lawrence, Norm Allard, George Martin, Daryl Gutheil
Contains 7 tracks
“Try A Little Tenderness” (O. Redding)
“Party In The Country” (B. Deutscher)
“Thirteen Questions” (J. Roberts-A. Kulberg)
“Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” (B. Lamm/P. Cetera)
“Super Highway” (L. Rabb)
“Tables Turning” (M. Grainger)
“Hello Stranger” (M. Grainger)

4. live performance
Recorded: October 1971, Body Shop, Vancouver
No Producer
Personnel: Don Gutheil, Bob Deutscher, Drew Lawrence, Norm Allard, George Martin, Daryl Gutheil
Number and titles of tracks unknown

5. live performance
Recorded: 4 February 1972, Marquis Hall – University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoonno
No Producer
Personnel: Don Gutheil, Bob Deutscher, Drew Lawrence, Norm Allard, George Martin, Daryl Gutheil
Contains 14 tracks
“Mr. Clean” (W. Irvine)
“No Amount of Love” (P. Butterfield)
“Black Magic Woman” (P. Green)”Valentine” (B. Deutscher)
“Tables Turning” (M. Grainger)
“Jonah Give Your Mind Up” (M. Grainger)
“Mother Goose” (M. Grainger)
“Who Can They Be” (D. Lawrence-D. Gutheil)
“Hello Stranger’ (M. Grainger)
“It All Depends On You” (B. Deutscher)
“Patience” (B. Deutscher)”The Boogie” – jam (Wascana)
“Straight Life” (F. Hubbard)
“New York” (J. Kent-D. Lubahn)

6. live performance
Recorded: 5 February 1972, Fort Qu’Appelle High School, Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan
No Producer
Personnel: Don Gutheil, Bob Deutscher, Drew Lawrence, Norm Allard, George Martin, Daryl Gutheil
Contains 24 tracks:
“Mr. Clean” (W. Irvine)
“Forget It, I Got It” (J. Miller-G. Wright)
“Make Me Smile” (B. Lamm/P. Cetera/T. Kath)
“Hello Stranger” (M. Grainger)
“Super Highway” (L. Rabb)
“Free” (T. Kath)
“Tables Turning” (M. Grainger)
“No Amount of Lovin” (P. Butterfield)
“Get It On” (B. Chase)
“Its For You/Superstar” (J. Lennon-P. McCartney/L. Russell-B. Bramlett)
“Try A Little Tenderness” (O. Redding)
“Valentine” (B. Deutscher)
“Black Magic Woman” (P. Green)
“Yours Is No Disgrace” (J. Anderson-C. Squire)
“Who Can They Be” (D. Lawrence -Daryl Gutheil)
“Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way” (B. Bramlett-B. Whitlock)
“Patience” (B. Deutscher)
“New York” (J. Kent-D. Lubahn)
“Evil Ways” (S. Henry)
“I Want To Take You Higher” (S. Stewart)”The Boogie” – jam (Wascana)
“Clown” (J. Goodman)
“A Certain Kind” (R. Wyatt)
“Mother Goose” (M. Grainger)

7. Live performance
Recorded: 7 April 1972, Manhattan Ballroom, Saskatoon
Soundman: Gord MacAuley
Personnel: Don Gutheil, Bob Deutscher, Drew Lawrence, Norm Allard, George Martin, Daryl Gutheil
Number and titles of tracks unknown

8. 45 r.p.m. EP transcription disc & radio performance (CBC Radio Canada LM 203)
Side A: “Where are You Going, Mother Goose” (M. Grainger)
“I Know You” (a.k.a. “I Met You On A Rainbow” (M. Grainger)
Side B: “Patience” (B. Deutscher)
“Who Can They Be?” (D. Gutheil-D. Lawrence)
Recorded: 1972, Century 21 Studio, Winnipeg Produced by Claire Lawrence
Released: 1972
Personnel: Don Gutheil, Bob Deutscher, Drew Lawrence, Norm Allard, George Martin, Daryl Gutheil
Note:broadcast: 1972, C.B.C. “Great Canadian Gold Rush” (host on broadcast was Terry David Mulligan)

9. audition for “Rockworks Co” radio program
Recorded: 26-29 February 1973, CBC Studio, Regina Produced by Stu Blanchard
Personnel: Don Gutheil, Bob Deutscher, Drew Lawrence, Norm Allard, George Martin, Daryl Gutheil
Contains 5 tracks:
“Twenty Nine One Nighters” (B. Deutscher)
“In The Need of Company” (B. Deutscher)
“It All Depends On You” (B. Deutscher)
“Master Key” – jam (B. Deutscher)
“Midnight/Time For Now” (D. Gutheil/B. Deutscher)

10. radio performance
Recorded: 1973, Century 21 Studios, Winnipeg Producer: Ian Thomas
Engineer: Allan Thorne broadcast: 1973, C.B.C. “Rockworks Co.”
Personnel: Don Gutheil, Bob Deutscher, Drew Lawrence, Norm Allard, George Martin, Daryl Gutheil
Contains 5 tracks:
“Midnight/Time For Now” (D. Gutheil/B. Deutscher)
“Back To The Future” (D. Gutheil)
“Song For Joy” (B. Deutscher)
“Clear The Way” (D. Gutheil)
“Nature, Nature” (B. Deutscher)
“Release” (B. Deutscher)

11. television performance
Recorded: July 1973, CBC Studios, Winnipeg
Producer: Larry Brown
Broadcast: July 1973, CBC Network “The Doug Crosley Show”
Personnel: Don Gutheil, Bob Deutscher, Drew Lawrence, Norm Allard, George Martin, Daryl Gutheil
Contains 2 tracks:
“Who Can They Be?” (D. Lawrence – D. Gutheil)
“Mother Goose” (M. Grainger)

12. House of Random – 15 BIG HITS LP (CSP Productions CSP 7)
Recorded: 1973, Century 21 Studios, Winnipeg
Engineered by John Hildebrand
Released: 1973
Personnel: uncredited (but including all of Wascana, augmented by other musicians)
Contains 15 tracks:
“Killing Me Softly With His Song” (R. Flack)”
Cherry Cherry” (N. Diamond)”Sing” (R. Carpenter)
“Tie A Yellow Ribbon” (I. Levine-L. Russell Brown)
“The Night The Lights Went Out in Georgia” (V. Lawrence)
“Garden Party” (R. Nelson)
“You’re So Vain” (C. Simon)
“Also Sprach Zarathustra – 2001” (R. Strauss)
“Danny’s Song” (K. Loggins)
“It Never Rains In Southern California” (A. Hammond)
“Peaceful” (K. Rankin)
“Don’t Expect Me To Be Your Friend” (K. LaVoie)
“Last Song” (L. Evoy)
“Baby Don’t Get Hooked On Me” (M. Davis)
“Duelling Banjos” (E. Weisberg)

13. Live performance
Recorded: 6 October 1973, The Marigold Restaurant, Regina, Saskatchewan.
Personnel: Don Gutheil, Bob Deutscher, Drew Lawrence, Norm Allard, George Martin, Daryl Gutheil
Contains 29 songs:
“Walk Tall”(J. Zawinul/E. Marrow/J. Rein)
“Time and a Word”(J. Anderson – Foster)
“Across The Great Divide” (R. Robertson)
“Do It Again” (W. Becker-D. Fagan)
“State of the Union” (B. Lamm)
“Don’t Cry My Lady”(Dreams)
“Maggie”(M. DiFranco/S. Moschetto/A. Zuppini))
“Also Sprach Zarathustra”(R. Strauss – arrangement by E. Deodato)
“Redemption”(D. Halligan/D. Clayton-Thomas/S. Katz)
“Slippin’ Into Darkness”(C. Miller/H. Brown/H. Scott/L. Oskar/L. Jordan/M. Dickerson/S. Allen)
“Don’t Do It”(W. Stevenson)
“On The Road Again”(G. LaCroix)
“It’s Just Got To Be That Way”(W. Henderson)
“You Got To Funkifize”(Tower Of Power)
“Chest Fever”(R. Robertson)
“No Amount Of Loving”(Butterfield Blues Band)
“I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know”(A. Kooper)
“WS Walcott Medicine Show”(R. Robertson)
“The Boxer”(Butterfield Blues Band)
“Will It Go Round In Circles”(B. Preston)
“Stage Fright”(R. Robertson)
“Rooftop”/”1982A”(Sons Of Champlin)
“Roundabout’ (J. Anderson-S. Howe)
“Keep The Customer Satisfied”(P. Simon)
“Superstition”(S. Wonder)
“Right On”(composer unknown)
“Cool Fool”(E. Winter)
“Who Can They Be”(D. Lawrence-D. Gutheil)
“I Can’t Turn You Loose”/”Directions”(Otis Redding/J. Zawinul)

14. House of Random – 15 BIG HITS Vol. 6 LP (CSP Productions CSP 9)
Recorded: 1974, Century 21 Studios, Winnipeg
Engineered by Harry Hildebrand
Released: 1974
Personnel: all of Wascana, augmented by Elyse Paley, Yvette Shaw, Ray St. Germain, Tony Francis, Ron Halldorson, Dave Jandrich, Tom Jested and a string section composed of Harold Vogt, Nick Gelmych, Wally Diduck, Ernest Kiss, Klama Belkin
Contains 15 tracks:
“We’re An American Band” (M. Farner)
“Give Me Love, Give Me Peace on Earth” (G. Harrison)
“All I Know” (J. Webb)
“Get Down” (L. Sayer)
“Say Has Anybody Seen My Sweet Gypsy Rose” (I. Levine-L. Russell Brown)
“Angie” (M. Jagger-K. Richards)
“Delta Dawn” (A. Harvey-L. Collins)
“Half Breed” (A. Capps-M. Dean)
“Loves Me Like A Rock” (P. Simon)
“The Morning After” (M. McGovern)
“Ramblin’ Man” (R. Betts)
“My Maria” (B. Stevenson)
“Yesterday Once More” (R. Carpenter-Betts)
“Jimmy Loves Mary-Ann” (E. Lurie)
“You’ve Never Been This Far Before” (C. Twitty)

15. live performance
Recorded: 15 February 1974, St. Paul’s High School, Winnipeg
No Producer
Personnel: Don Gutheil, George Martin, Richard Petersen, Bob Deutscher, Daryl Gutheil
Contains 22 tracks:
“I Shot The Sheriff” (B. Marley)
“King Harvest” (J.R. Robertson)
“Outside In” (B. Deutscher)
“Look Out Cleveland” (J. R. Robertson)
“In And Out of Love” (E. Holland/L. Dozier/B. Holland)
“Happiness Is Just Around The Bend” (B. Auger)
“Livin’ For The City” (S. Wonder)
“Be What You Are” (composer unknown)
“The Shape I’m In” (J.R. Robertson)
“Millions of People?” (G. Martin)“Jemima Surrender” (L. Helm – J.R. Robertson)
“Night By Night” (D. Fagan-W. Becker)
“Give Yourself A Chance” (G. Martin)
“Bodhisattva” (D. Fagan-W. Becker)
“Dirty Work” (D. Fagan-W. Becker)
“Night by Night” – version 2 (D. Fagan-W. Becker)
“Patience” (B. Deutscher)
“Got The Love” (R. Ball/R. McIntosh/H. Stuart)
“On a Corner” (M. Davis)
“Tiny Dancer” (E. John-B. Taupin)
“King Harvest” – version 2 (J.R. Robertson)
“Nature Nature” (B. Deutscher)

16. live performance
Recorded: 31 March 1974, Darke Hall, Regina
Personnel: Bob Deutscher, George Martin, Spider Sinnaeve, Richard Peterson, Don Gutheil, Daryl Gutheil
Contains 10 tracks:
“Midnight”(D. Gutheil)
“Time for Now” (B. Deutscher)
“Back To The Future” (D. Gutheil)
“Living For The City” (S. Wonder)
“Spain” (C. Corea)
“Who?/Heaven Only Knows” (B. Champlin)
“Clear The Way” (D. Gutheil)
“Stratus” (B. Cobham)“Release” (B. Deutscher)
“Nature Nature” (B. Deutscher)
“Space Circus – Part 2” (C. Corea)

17. live performance
Recorded: April 1974, Old Gold, Regina
Personnel: Bob Deutscher, George Martin, Daryl Gutheil, Spider Sinnaeve, Richard Peterson
Contains 3 tracks:
“Stratus” (B. Cobham)
“Tough Mama” (B. Dylan)
“Who” (B. Champlin)

18. radio performance
Recorded: 1974, CBC Studio, Vancouver
Producer ?
Broadcast: 1 January 1977?, C.B.C. “Great Canadian Gold Rush”
Host: Terry David Mulligan
Personnel: Bob Deutscher, George Martin, Spider Sinnaeve, Craig Kaleal, Daryl Gutheil
Contains 10 tracks:
“Outside In” (B. Deutscher)
“In and Out of Love”(composer unknown)
“Patience” (B. Deutscher)
“Clear The Way” (D. Gutheil)
“Look Up to The Sky” (composer unknown)
“Failing Vision” (composer unknown)
“Nature Nature” (B. Deutscher)
“Give Yourself A Chance” (B. Deutscher)
“Man Alive” (D. Gutheil)
“Lightning” (B. Cobham)
Location: CBC Archives, Toronto – Master Reel #996/7, CDA ARCVCR-AE1035

19. live performance
Recorded: July 1974, Winnipeg (taped off mixing board)
Soundman: Dave Lynes
Personnel: Bob Deutscher, George Martin, Spider Sinnaeve, Craig Kaleal, Daryl Gutheil
Contains 12 tracks
“Blues No. 1 Mama” (B. Deutscher)
“You Move Me” (B. Deutscher)
“Here’s To The Love” (G. Martin)
“Give Yourself a Chance” (B. Deutscher)
“The Weaver” (G. Martin)
“Kids” (D. Gutheil)
“Nature, Nature” (B. Deutscher)
“Back In The Good Old Days” (G. Martin)
“Twenty Nine One Nighters” (B. Deutscher)
“Chances” (G. Martin)
“Patience” (B. Deutscher)
“A Smile Is Magic” (G. Martin)

20. live performance
Recorded: 27 September 1974, Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, Calgary (taped off mixing board)
Soundman: Dave Lynes
Personnel: Bob Deutscher, George Martin, Spider Sinnaeve, Craig Kaleal, Daryl Gutheil
Number and titles of tracks unknown

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