Sunday, April 11, 2010
It was the summer of 1978 and groups like BTO, Chilliwack, Doucette and April Wine ruled Canadian rock radio. Songs like; Mama Let Him Play, Arms of Mary, Crazy Talk, Takin' Care of Business, and You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet, were summer staples that year. These tunes were music to our hungry ears as they blasted forth from CKXL in Calgary. All of those groups were Canadian and as such, many would say that they had a "distinctly Canadian sound." That may have been true, because other than BTO, none of these groups ever busted wide open on a world stage. Years later, I played some of my Canadian tunes for music friends in Nashville and LA. Very few seemed to understand my enthusiasm. Never mind! I have always been a sucker for songs with big hooks and guitar riffs. I loved songs that were strong on melody and you could sing along with and that would stick in your head. In my opinion these groups had that. With hooky riffs in songs like, Tonight is A Wonderful Time, we were in for a great summer.
If we wanted to really live on the edge as far as radio was concerned we would try and tune in a station in Vancouver called 14 CFUN or SEAFUN as it was known. At night the signal would bounce up onto the clouds and travel 600 miles over the mountains all the way to our little prairie town. The jocks were a little more edgy and the music just a few weeks newer and you just might hear a song or two before your friends.
My friend Greg Klosse let me know that one of my favorite bands would be coming to the Calgary Stampede that summer and would be playing the Stampede Corral. April Wine began in late 1969 in Waverley, Nova Scotia. By 1977 they had released close to sixteen singles in Canada and had garnered a considerable following. The opening act for the show was to be Gary Doucette. I was in! The day arrived and off to the Corral we went to my very first real rock concert. Well, technically that was probably true, but there had been a concert before . . . when I was much younger . . .
Lowell Lundstrom was an evangelist based out of Sisseton, SD. He and his family traveled all over performing gospel concerts and preaching. Some may recognize the name Greg Long of Avalon fame. Greg cut his teeth as a bass player and vocalist for the Lundstrom's. For some reason our little town of Three Hills was on their itinerary for that spring tour. Notices went into church bulletins, ads were placed in the paper and posters hung up all over town. A buzz was in the air. This kind of thing didn't happen very often in our little town and when it did, every one knew about it. If I recall correctly I was about 13 at the time. I convinced my Grandma Norbo that there was to be some fine evangelism at this event. I told her that it would be a good thing if she would take myself, my brother Dave and my cousin Timothy to the Sunday afternoon rally. I am sure I didn't talk much about the music, but assured her that the preaching would be great!
We arrived at the local Community centre to see a real bonafide tour bus parked at the back along with a large equipment truck. The Lundstrom name was proudly displayed on the side of the bus with a sharp paint job. Entering the hall, to my utter amazement, there on the stage was a full complement of instruments. Instruments I had never seen. Keyboards, bass, electric and acoustic guitars and a full set of drums all sparkling and gleaming. A large PA system and stage lighting were set up on either side of the stage. For a techie kid, this was as close to heaven as I could imagine. The usher sat us about half way down the auditorium. We took our seats and waited for the show to begin.
At the appointed time the whole family came out and took their places and they were off and running. In what turned out to be a unique blend of gospel, country and rock the Lundstroms gave it everything they had. To my Grandmother, who was concerned if the piano and organ were too loud in church, this was a major culture shock. I looked over at Grandma and she was sitting there with her hands folded on her Bible, head bowed. I wasn't sure if she was praying for the band's salvation or for our protection. I thought that at any minute, Grandma would stand, round us up and leave. For some strange reason she didn't.
The crowning moment ( at least for me ) was when Lowell's daughter, Londa, was featured in a solo performance. Here was this beautiful, dark haired girl with a voice like an angel and a beautiful set of teeth. I was in love . . . ok, maybe it was something else? Londa sang a cover of a tune that Anne Murray had made famous called I'm On The Top of The World. She was definitely on the top of my world that afternoon! The whole experience, the music, the lights and the girl, had me hooked. After about forty five minutes of music, with Grandma still bowing her head, Lowell Lundstrom got up to preach. All of a sudden Grandma came back to life. She sat up, opened her Bible and began to listen. She would respond every now and then with a loud "Amen" if she felt that Lowell had made a particualrly good point. Lowell preached a fire and brimstone message and delivered it with all the vigor of a southern preacher. With an invitation and a closing hymn the afternoon concert was over. I knew that this music thing was something I had to find a way to be involved in. We all headed back to Grandma's for a debriefing. I think when we arrived we focused largely on the sermon.
Back at the Stampede Corral, we took our seats in the nosebleed section at the top of the arena. These were the cheaper tickets and I learned quickly that the smoke from all the fans smoking both cigarettes and weed would make it's way to the top. We got more than we paid for. I didn't smoke, but I sure inhaled! Gary Doucette and his band came out and ripped through a strong set of hits. Then it was time for the headliner to take the stage. April Wine had just released their First Glance album and were on a cross Canada tour promoting the new release. The tour also featured one of the first lasers ever used in a rock concert. A rather rudimentary contraption, it basically shone a purple light from one side of the stage to the other. Looking back, it was all very basic compared to what we have today, but I was enthralled. April Wine took their places and as the lights came up cheers filled the Corral. The drummer had mounted a large red fire bell on a stand behind his drums and started the song with a ding, ding, ding, ding on the bell. The familiar guitar riff joined in; da, da, da, da, da, daaa, as the first chords of Oowatanite blasted out of the large PA the crowd roared their approval. Hit after hit and the band played on; Tonight Is A Wonderful Time, The Whole World's Goin' Crazy, Like a Lover, Like a Song, Could Have Been a Lady, . . . the songs just kept rolling. I was mesmerized. It was abundantly clear that the audience paid their hard earned money to hear songs and if a band could deliver hit after hit with little chatter and goofing off, they stood a good chance of having a lasting career in the music business. Having had myself a "Wonderful Time" I wanted to know when and where the next concert was, and could I get a ticket?
© 2010 Stephen J. Rendall - All rights reserved.