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 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?

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

Another Perfect Day

Luke Gibson was lead singer of Luke and the Apostles (single:  'Been Burnt'), then joined Kensington Market (for 2 albums), then briefly revived Luke and the Apostles ('You Make Me High'), and then put out a country album in 1971, which was quite a departure from stuff he'd done up to then. It's an early True North records release - here is the track 'Full Moon Rider' from Another Perfect Day:

The Ernie Game

The band Kensington Market provided music for the 1967 movie The Ernie Game, produced by National Film Board. The clip below has Judith Gault and Alexis Kanner (who was later in the tv show The Prisoner):