Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Flin Flon's Rock Bands
Flin Flon’s Rock Bands
By Norm Richards
Previously published in North Roots Magazine
Photo provided by Richard Lyons
By 1963, a small number of guys with talent, influenced by American artists, began picking up instruments. Forty-five RPM records of Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley and Little Richard began cropping up at music shops across the country. In Flin Flon there was Photo Music and the Record Bar; in The Pas we had the Dial. Instruments were ordered in by catalogue. I bought drums through Wagner’s Jewellers in The Pas. Early on, I had travelled to my cousin’s wedding in Flin Flon. Kenny married into a family of musicians.
Three sisters sang and their father played accordion and strings. Mom joined them on piano. This celebration and spontaneous jam struck my imagination. I knew there was something going on in Flin Flon and I wanted to be part of it.
Big bands, jazz or country combos were common around town. Even before the 1964, appearance of The Beatles on Ed Sullivan, music had roots in Flin Flon. Swing dancing and waltzes gave way to the jive and the slow waltz hit teens with gripping energy as rock and roll took hold. The style of dress completed the package. Record covers, magazines and movies showed us costumes the performers wore. Groups like The Shadows and The Ventures showed what good guitars could do. Overnight it became a goal to own Fender and Gibson instruments. The talent of ’63 found ways to buy these instruments. Rock groups took shape. The first rock groups in Flin Flon were The Starfires, The Blue Shannons and The Tensions. Then came Les Tempests or The Tempests. As members came and went, some seemed to come from out of the blue. Two in the morning food feasts at the Northern Café after playing and thinking up names inspired poetry. This phrase; ‘out of the blue ’ became a name.
Out of the Blue turned into the most popular band of the mid 60`s not only in Flin Flon but throughout northern Manitoba. The first members of this group were Ed (Edric) Mason, Bill Black, Richard (Dick) Lyons, Bret Davie and Del Ward. Bill Black also played with The Starfires from Snow Lake. Bill Putko became the drummer. Lyons neighbour from Willowvale, Paul Bergman became a member and joined their uptown buddies in the band.
The Starfires had a great drummer. John Klonteg, a resident of Lakeside. Many people heard him practice blocks away from his Queen Street home. On a live stage he partnered with Ed (Buzz) Carate and others. The two played in a group called The Blue Shannons with Don Hood, Glen Petersen and Murray Trondson. Buzz went on to play in a popular group in Vancouver and was eventually seen on television.
Murray Trondson went on to sing for Out of the Blue after Lyons left. Lyons moved on to a career in broadcasting after graduating from Hapnot High School, joining CFAR Radio. The next year he moved up to CKXL Radio in Calgary.
Fair-haired boys Out of the Blue meanwhile, were good enough to turn professional. Performing at EXPO 67, in Montreal is a proud moment although it was tempered by the absence of Lyons. The band was making money. They found themselves adored across the north. They played every kind of dance. The band bought six of everything as they progressed. Elli Ross of Ross`s Style Shop helped outfit them in cool blue suits. They even ordered six red motorcycles to run around town on. They always had a reserved spot in local restaurants as a sign of respect by the owners.
Lyons was a practical minded guy. When career outside of singing offered new possibility, he took it. He became an announcer, producer and agreed to take on sales in a busy radio business. While in Calgary; Richard joined a group called Society’s Children, yet he remained at CKXL Radio. Living in a city and singing again brought him close to touring acts; the professionals. He said it was frightening to see extreme long hair, grey skin and green teeth on these acts his group performed on the same bill with. Out of the Blue had contemplated turning pro. Now Richard saw how extensive touring to promote records affected groups and he felt some redemption by not becoming professional.
Summers in Flin Flon are always glorious. Beautiful lakes, fishing and water sports of every kind just makes it easy. Hockey out of mind for a couple months and the start of the annual Trout Festival gives reason for city residents to party and welcome visitors to town. This gave reason for summer bands to take shape with players available to do dances. I remember seeing groups like Sir Orville Sextet, Blue Monday and three guys who chose to use their ethnic background to shape the bands name. Yuki-Joo & The Iceman, their sound was hard, louder too. They played Jimi Hendrix songs surprisingly well. John Ginsburg was the drummer. He played in several previous groups I knew well. Paul Bergman played bass and sang lead. I admired Jim Woronuik ( pronounced Wornik ) For his style and finesse on guitar. I first saw Jim play in The Pas with The Tensions. Tom Rusinak played saxophone in that band. On another summer visit I made to Flin Flon, I saw Jim once again in Sir Orville Sextet. For more than a decade, Blue Monday with Dennis ( Rugged ) Hyndman, Wayne Deans, Doug Eidt, Allan ( Krazz ) Krassilowsky and Curtis Borley were together for hot summer crowds in the Community Hall. Curtis played longest with Ron Billy, Joe Lambert and John Ginsburg than he did with this band. I remembered a groups Joe called Children of Stone but there seems to be some difference on that name. Anyhow, they played dances in The Pas since other bands had the dates and main halls booked in Flin Flon.
Each of these groups were led by the best singers to be heard anywhere. Richard Lyons, Murray Trondson, Bob Simpson, Joe Lambert and Al Krassilowsky gave their rock groups a marquee quality second to none. They could be joined by Susan and Jennifer Hanson who each did stints in various recording acts down south and went on to exciting careers of their own. Jennifer continues to sing with Jazz bands and has her own CD available on the market today. I have great respect for Flin Flon musicians since I sat in at my cousins wedding party at age 10. Years later, I got to play the Community Hall with my band Symbols of Sound. At the end of our dance some kids assembled at the base of our stage. I was asked for my autograph. I had to look twice to be sure the request was sincere or they were just being smart. I was pleased to be praised and grateful to have played on the stage so many other great groups had performed on.