I wrote about this before, but back in the 60s, Winnipeg had quite the music scene, with literally hundreds of bands playing at teen clubs and community centres in the region. A few of those artists made it big: The Guess Who, Bachman Turner Overdrive and the most legendary of them all: Neil Young.
I recall a few years ago when Burton Cummings played in Steinbach for Summer in the City and he was interviewed by Corny Rempel on Mix 96.7. Corny asked Burton whether he had played in Steinbach back in the 1960s. Burton said he had.
Last year, when we did the Musical Mystery Tour of Winnipeg, Andrew asked John Einarson the same question. While John didn’t know for certain, he said it was entirely plausible that The Guess Who and other Winnipeg bands had played Steinbach in those days. “They played everywhere,” he said.
The question remains, though. Steinbach in the 60s? Really? Because Steinbach was not like all the other small Manitoba towns. It frowned on rock n’ roll. And, although the Tourist Hotel on Main Street served alcohol during this period, it was primarily a dry town.
I don’t know much about the Tourist Hotel, but it doesn’t strike me as a music venue. So where would The Guess Who have played? And what about Neil Young?
Well, here’s a theory. When Winnipeggers leave the Perimeter they don’t always have a precise sense of rural Manitoba geography. I think it’s more likely these artists played “near Steinbach” than in Steinbach. One possible place? The Giroux Hall.
Check this out. This is a page from Ken Koblun’s journal. Who is Ken Koblun, you may ask? Well, he was the bass player for Neil Young’s Winnipeg band the Squires. (He also briefly played with Neil in Buffalo Springfield). Ken took meticulous records of the dozens of gigs The Squires played. River Heights Community Centre, West Kildonan Collegiate, and some place called the “Flamingo Club.” And there, on the list, near the bottom is Giroux, Manitoba, a tiny hamlet just a few miles from Steinbach. (As I wrote about before, the Giroux railway station was originally called the “Steinbach Station” as it was as close to Steinbach as the church leaders would permit.) It lists the date as February 13, 1965. It doesn’t specify the venue, but I imagine it had to be at the Giroux Hall. Is this the place that Winnipeg bands meant when they said they “played in Steinbach”?
Neil Young, by the way, reprinted a couple pages of this gig journal in his autobiography ‘Waging Heavy Peace.’
More info on the Squires can be found here at the Manitoba Music Museum.