Ptarmigan was formed on Vancouver Island in 1970 when Michael Bieling introduced James Lithgow (guitar) to Glen Dias (vocals, recorder). They added members, including Monte Nordstrom (guitar, vocals) to get up to a sextet which played on the island and around Victoria.

In 1971 the lineup fragmented to just Dias and Nordstrum who set out on the road, making friends along the way. They played the Ting Tea Room in Winnipeg where they jammed with Lighthouse, Fiddler's Green in Toronto (with Leon Redbone and Downchild), and several weeks nearby in Hamilton before returning home. The duo road tripped again in 1972, hanging out in Stratford with the Perth County Conspiracy, playing at Le Hibou in Ottawa where they met Bruce Cockburn (he had just put out High Winds, White Skies) and then to Toronto to guest with Syrinx. They returned to Vancouver Island and met up with flautist Paul Horn who produced the first (and only) album. They recorded the tracks for the album in 1972, and it sat on the shelf until finally released in 1974. The track below is part of The Island suite - 6 1/2 minutes of lush west coast psych-folk-prog.

The re-issue of the LP is available here.

The Paupers

Photographed in 1967 upstairs at the Hawk's Nest in Toronto, the Paupers are (left to right): Skip Prokop (drums), Adam Mitchell (guitar), Chuck Beal (guitar) and Denny Gerrard (bass).

By 1967 The Paupers had gained a reputation as a live act - they opened for the Jefferson Airplane at Cafe Au Go-Go in March 1967 about which Village Voice reviewer Richard Goldstein said "... their music makes the average combo sound like a string quartet doing Wagner. The Paupers play electronic rock with a power and discipline I have never seen in live performance." From their first album here is the lead off track Magic People:

Everything was on the upswing until the Monterey Pop Festival where they played a disastrous set with equipment failures and poorly timed LSD on what was expected to be their big break. In 1968 Denny Gerrard departed and was replaced with Brad Campbell - they toured the US a second time, and opened for the Jimi Hendrix Experience & Soft Machine at the CNE, after which Skip Prokop left to form Lighthouse and Brad Campbell left for Janis Joplin's Kozmic Blues Band. The second album (Ellis Island) was released in 1968 as the group was breaking up - here's the closing track track White Song:

The Paupers would practice long hours in the Hawk's Nest - the shot below gives a good view of what the place looked like. After 1968 the Paupers re-formed (to pay debts) which brought Denny Gerrard back, but the band eventually folded in 1969.

One further Richard Goldstein quote: "And the rest of the act bristles with feedback, dissonance, and a pervasive beat pounded furiously on three sets of drums." You can see the three drum setup in the picture below:

Richard Goldstein's quotes from the Village Voice.
Images courtesy of York University.

The Mamas & The Papas

The Mamas and Papas at Maple Leaf Gardens, July 1st, 1967.

The Mutual Understanding

Ben McPeek was a composer and arranger for the CBC - in the 1960's he was the top jingle writer in Canada. He and fellow CBC music directors Jimmy Dale and Jerry Toth teamed up with Laurie Bower and singers (Tommy Ambrose, Vern Kennedy, Kathy Collier, Patty Van Evera, and Rhonda Silver) and some of the CBC session crew (Peter Appleyard, Guido Basso, Moe Koffman, Rob McConnell, and Jack Zaza) to record In Wonderland, calling themselves The Mutual Understanding. It was pressed in 1968 as a CBC internal record (250 copies) and then released in on Nimbus 9 records where it went nowhere.

Where do I stand, in Wonderland?

Suddenly One Summer


Jay Kaye was 15 years old when he wrote and recorded this album in 1968 - he was from Las Vegas and made the trip to Vancouver to record ths album with local session musicians (most notably members of Mother Tucker's Yellow Duck). The arranger (Robert Buckley) was also in his teens - the album hangs together really well and the production and recording quality is outstanding. The track linked below (Fly) is a fine slice of dreamy psychedelia - put on the headphones and ponder that Thom Yorke was born the year these crazy teenagers recorded this LP.

IBM 729 Tape Unit

The IBM 729 magnetic tape unit used 1/2 inch magnetic tape wound onto reels up to 2400 feet.

The tape had seven parallel tracks, six for data and one to maintain parity (BCD character data were recorded in even parity whereas binary used odd parity). The recording density was 200 characters per inch, and initially the tape speed was 75 inches/second, so the transfer rate was 120 kbits/second. Later models increaded the transfer rate to 480 kbits/second.

A single 2400 foot tape could store about 3 MByte. Each tape would replace about 50,000 punched cards.

It would take about 250 tapes to fill one CD.

Images courtesy of Toronto Public Library.

Jarvis Street Review

Mr. Oil Man is a heavy psychedelic album out of Thunder Bay, 1970 - the Jarvis Street Revue only put out this one album and it's a doozy. The LP's title track is a 12 minute fuzz-guitar monster and most of the album is spent railing against corporations, consumerism and environmental destruction. The original vinyl pressing is extremely rare but there is a CD re-issue which gathers up the entire Mr. Oil Man album plus all of their singles. The track linked below is the lead off track (Mr. Business Man) which gives a taste of this thing.

"Mr. Oil Man, you’re killing all the fish again, you ruin all that water again."

City Muffin Boys

The City Muffins Boys were a local Toronto band - the picture below is taken from 1967. There's little info or tracks available of the band, aside from a poor quality video shot by the CBC (linked below under picture). They opened for the Doors when they played in Toronto (1968-04-20) which the Toronto Star called "the greatest pop-rock non-event of the year" and they also played at the Syrinx Benefit concert at St. Lawrence Market.

City Muffin Boys filmed by the CBC.
Quotes from the Toronto Star 1968-04-22.

Lode Runner

From the Carleton U. residence newspaper 1983 - Lode Runner is playing on the tv sitting on a particle board cabinet containing a home brew Apple II clone that ran 24x7 for months supporting fractious Lode Runner tournaments. The poster I stole off an OC transpo bus.

L-R: Brian, Randall, Harley, Tobyn, Rob, Phil.

Cup Cake Cassidy

1961-02-17 Kelso Roberts introduces bill in the Ontario Legislature allowing Sunday movies and theatrical performances.
1961-03-24 Issue over Council approval for theatrical performances and acting as a censor board.
1961-04-19 "It is questionable whether the city has the moral right to tell Toronto citizens where they may go and see what they may see on Sundays" (Elliot Abells, owner of the Lux Theatre).
1961-04-19 City Council approves Sunday movies, but rejects amendment to permit theatre performances and concerts.
1961-04-24 By 11-5 vote, council instructs city solicitor to bring forward by-law permitting theatrical performances, concerts, movies and lectures on Sundays.
1961-05-08 Mayor Nathan Phillips and Controller William Allen attempt to re-open the issue at City Council.
1961-05-23 City Council approves Sunday movies. "We open with Cup Cake Cassidy this Sunday. We are flying her in specifically for the show, because her name was mentioned in City Council debate." (Elliot Abells)
1961-05-28 Alice (Cup Cake) Cassidy performs Sunday at the Lux.

Topless at the Mynah Bird

On December 19 1967, Marilyn Beker wrote an article in the Toronto Star ('Wearing her guitar, she sang bravely') about the debut of the singer Wyche at the Mynah Bird tavern in Yorkville; she was billed as the world's first topless folk singer.

The two men accompanying on guitar (they called themselves 'The Remnants') were university students who would not give their names as "the whole thing is just an experiment". Asked about why a topless singer: "We wrote the song first and then decided we needed a topless girl to make it really work". Wyche (she wouldn't provide her name either) was spotted by The Remnants and asked to join the act - she had never sang professionally before. She says: "I wouldn't do the act without the guitar because it would detract from the song."

My father (John Parkinson, lawyer, arguably retired) was a lawyer who had done some work for the Colonial Tavern "on how raunchy the entertainment could be without risking the wrath of the Liquor Licensing Board" - he was subsequently referred to Colin Kerr, the owner of the Mynah Bird for legal advice. "My opinion was that a guitar strategically placed complied with the City’s bylaw definition concerning female 'clothing' in such circumstances. It was a wild success and for a while there were lineups to get in to the club."

Colin Kerr was also the promoter of a band called the Mynah Birds with several incarnations - at one time both Neil Young and Rick James were members. Here's a youtube link to the Motown single It's My Time co-written by Young & James.

The pictures below are from 1971 at the Mynah Bird during a protest for wage parity. The coffee house was on the corner of Yorkville and Hazelton Ave and in subsequent photos you can see the Penny Farthing next door, and the El Patio across the street. The final picture is of Colin Kerr in 1980, showing off Rajah the mynah bird at Davenport public school.

The August 12, 1966 article on the first topless dance in Toronto:

From the Toronto Star (December 18, 1971):

Songs For The New Industrial State

"What is this album about? It's about the revolt of the 40 year olds."

Doug Randle was an in-house composer, lyricist and arranger for the CBC when he recorded his album of “bitter and twisted Simon & Garfunkel songs” with the absolute tops of Toronto session musicians (Laurie Bower and singers, Peter Appleyard, Rob McConnell, Moe Koffman, Guido Basso, Ed Bickert, Jack Zaza and others). The album was recorded in 1970 so it's now coming up on 50 years ago and the lyrics are timeless. Please click play below and enjoy 'Coloured Plastics', which was inspired by a piece of plastic breaking off a vacuum cleaner and taking 2 weeks to replace.

"What is this album about?..." from the original liner notes, Gene Lees

IBM 2770 Suite

The IBM 2770 Data Communication System was introduced in 1969 as an integrated suite of products. Click next and previous buttons on the image to peruse the manual.

  • 2772 Network maximum speed: 2400 bits/second.
  • 2213 Printer: 7x5 dot matrix, 132 cols at 2 seconds per line
  • 2502 Card Reader: 150 or 300 cards per minute
  • 2265 Monitor: 14" CRT - 15 row / 64 col or 12 row / 80 col
  • 545 Output Card Punch: up to 20 columns per second
  • 1017 Paper Tape Reader: paper and laminated polyester tape

United Empire Loyalists

Vancouver's Trips Festival in 1966 was a long weekend late July - on the bill was the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin and Big Brother & the Holding Company, poet Michael McClure and the Acid Test. The Dead were invited to play a show the following Friday night by promoter Jerry Kruz - he had a club called The Afterthought which was putting on shows at the Pender Auditorium in downtown Vancouver. Kruz needed an opening band, so he chose local band United Empire Loyalists (recently changed from 'The Molesters') who were all about 16 at the time. The UEL were Anton 'Tom' Kolstee on lead guitar, Jeff Ridley on rhythm guitar, Bruce Dowd on bass, Richard Cruickshank on drums, and Mike Trew singing and playing organ.

The Grateful Dead needed a place to practice between the Sunday and upcoming Pender show on Friday - turned out Richard Cruickshank's parents were away on vacation so practice was at his house - upper middle class West Vancouver. Jeff Ridley recalls: "So we all paraded into Dick's parents' place with The Grateful Dead and their hippie entourage and all the neighbours peering out from behind their curtains!".

By Friday, the UEL found themselves in the Dead's van driving around Vancouver - the Dead played an impromptu concert at the English Bay bandstand which was quickly shut down by police and then they parked a flatbed truck at Kitsilano beach where the UEL got through their opening set but before the Dead could play the cops shut it down. Promoter Jerry Kruz in 2016, recalling the concert that evening at Pender: "I could tell how much Garcia had already influenced UEL lead guitarist Tom Kolstee in his week of mentoring. Garcia’s playing style would influence Tom for the rest of his career."

The UEL fired Mike Trew and replaced Bruce Dowd with Rick Enns on bass (fresh from playing with Tom Northcott). UEL put out one single ("No No No" - a cover of "You Don't Love Me" which they learned from the Dead) backed with "Afraid of the Dark". They were a hugely popular band in the underground Vancouver scene, finally disbanding in 1970 (briefly reforming in 1990). The track below is taken from a live recording at Zorba's in Edmonton in 1968 - the 'Otis Redding' jam:

The 50th anniversary release of the first Grateful Dead album contains recordings from the Trips Festival shows.
The single "No No No" / "Afraid of the Dark" is up on youtube
Jeff Ridley quote is here
Jerry Kruz quote is here

IBM System/370 Model 168

The IBM System/370 Model 168 was announced on Aug. 2 1972. The memory was "four-way doubleword interleaved" and could be 1 up to 8 megabytes and offered "tightly coupled multiprocessing". The related IBM 3330 family of disk drives featuring removable disk packs with up to 200 megabyte capacity, the console printer could output 85 characters per second, and the system console included a light pen and a microfiche document viewer. The System/370 Model 168 was finally withdrawn on Sept. 15 1980.

Toronto Scene

In and around Toronto: the Penny Farthing in Yorkville was the first coffeehouse to host Joni Mitchell's original songs and featured a pool in the back. The band picture is of the Pleasure Seekers in 1968 at the Friars - from left: organist Arlene Quatro, lead singer Suzi Quatro (aka Leather Tuscadero), drummer Darline Arnone, bassist Pami Benford and lead guitarist Patti Quatro. The two men on stage are Bruce Cockburn and Eric Nagler at Mariposa Folk festival on Center Island in 1972; they collaborated on Bruce's second album High Winds White Sky. The Colonial Tavern on Yonge opened in 1947 (the second Toronto establishment to get a liquor license after the Silver Rail) and was finally demolished in 1987. The big crowd picture is from a free concert in High Park with lineup including Good Brothers and John Mills-Cockell. The Brown Derby tavern was open from 1949 to 1974, corner Yonge and Dundas.

Evangelical Coffee

The man pouring the (free) coffee at the Stepping Stone coffee house is George Leroy who owned and ran the shop on Avenue Road, just north of Yorkville Ave - it opened in 1969. Leroy was a Pentecostal minister who described himself and his volunteers as “pushers of Christ.” The Stepping Stone was an independent ministry, not affiliated with a church, and the primary purpose was evangelism. The coffee and baked goods were free.

The Stepping Stone was apparently the second evangelical coffee shop in Yorkville after The Fishnet which opened in 1966 below a fashion shop on Yorkville Ave. The Fishnet was a ministry of the nearby Avenue Road Church where Kenn Opperman was the senior pastor - he ran the Fishnet with volunteers from the College and Careers group at the church. The coffee and cookies were free.


Images courtesy of Toronto Public Library.

Christ and Counterculture: Churches, Clergy, and Hippies in Toronto’s Yorkville, 1965-1970


9 photos of the Canadian National Exhibition.

Images courtesy of Toronto Public Library.