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Tag: Canadian folk groups



Ian & Sylvia were on that night. She had a weird feeling that, since it was Kent who’d got her here in the first place, maybe she ought to talk to him. Jock retired and Juno took over. Kent spotted her right away. After Juno’d put a calming charm on him and hexed some tissues into her pocket to pass him so he could dry the beer off of his shirt that he’d spilled on seeing her, he said, ‘They really oughta make these bottles more grippable, don’t you reckon? Real slippery, they are! Anyway, you still at school, eh? Still in Hastings-Sunrise, eh? Me, I hardly see it now – got myself a real neat job! Yeah, truck-driving! Long-distance! West Coast, mostly – I go to Frisco a lot! Real neat city, not like here! Am thinking of moving there, actually. But y’know what’s even neater? I’m going all the way to LA next week! And guess what, I’ll be there to see The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl!’ Here he took a breath, not just to give Juno a chance to be impressed, but also because he needed to.

And whaddaya know – she was impressed. This time she didn’t even notice the weird ways of the air or the hair rising on the back of her neck. This time she was something like thunderstruck. Only, she knew it wasn’t thunder she’d been struck by. It was destiny.

It couldn’t be The Beatles. She’d already checked them out. They were more or less in the same category as Joni Anderson. This was something bigger than either they or Joni. But how could it be this Hollywood Bowl? As far as Juno knew it was just an open air theatre. Which left only one word in this phrase of Kent’s that had nearly floored her. At. The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl. The Beatles and the Hollywood Bowl combined. It was the only possibility.

Once again Juno had someplace new to go thanks to Kent.

She had already known that the good times around here were truly all gone, but somehow she could now tell that she was finally bound for moving on. She sang with Ian & Sylvia as the door of the Inquisition swung closed behind her and inside a speechless young man touched the burning lip marks on his cheek whilst paying renewed tribute to his ever-thirsty shirt.



Jock the art student became Juno’s main Depression persona. She found that here she actually liked fading into the background a little, and hearing people talk about music and politics and stuff that was going on, which gave her a chance to try and figure out what that feeling in the air might be all about. She even came to enjoy being talked to in a relaxed way, and talking to people that way too. Folks seemed to like Jock. In the afternoons she sometimes had him strolling ’round the Alberta College of Art and Design, so he’d be seen by the Depression regulars among the students. One of them turned out to be none other than Joni Anderson. Looking at all the silent paintings and drawings and sculptures while the leaves drifted past the windows actually made Juno feel kind of calm for a change. 

For a little while the plundering of her coffers slowed almost to a halt.

Jock only got occasional nights off, when Juno reckoned that Peter, John and Joni deserved a break from his face, and once when David Wiffen passed through and she went as herself. That night he was sober, though. He still managed to hold off furtively scratching his balls until after each final chord had rang out, but when Juno went up to talk to him as soon as he’d finished his third and last set, he looked like all the headlights in the world were bearing down on him, just like the rest of them.



Nevertheless The Depression became Juno’s regular hangout. You could drop in on any night and there’d always be something going on. The players on the circuit figured out pretty quick that there now was another port of call on the long trek from Toronto to Vancouver besides Winnipeg, Regina and Edmonton. The scene was so small yet exciting that a basement could be the centre of the world.

At The Depression Juno got that vaguely Magic vibe she’d felt in the air this past year or so more strongly than at any other coffee house, even when people were only playing chess or checkers. Comedy night soon started being a part of events, and folks seemed to come down with their guitars from all over the mountains for the auditions on Wednesday night. And obviously there was Joni Anderson. She and Peter Elbling were the house acts and would open for players passing through, and on the few weekends when there were no guests they’d feature themselves. Juno could feel Joni getting better every time, by the stinging on the back of her neck and the concentrated elasticity of the air. Joni sure seemed to like Judy Collins’s choices. Besides Maid Of Constant Sorrow she often did The Rising Of The Moon. In between she’d play some other traditional songs and some protest songs, and some traditional protest songs. When Johnny Comes Marching Home she sang a lot. But everyone got big into the anti-war vibe.  



To polite applause a real pretty eighteen- or nineteen-year-old girl with hair like a golden helmet strolled onto the stage. Juno thought she seemed mighty confident for someone new to this game, and not at all embarrassed by the fact that she only had a toy guitar. But the moment Joni started singing, Juno knew why that was.

The song was Maid Of Constant Sorrow as popularized by Judy Collins recently, which by that stage Juno’d heard a good few times. Not as it was meant to be heard, though, as it turned out. It wasn’t only Joni’s voice, and that was as pure as anything that came out of a jukebox back then. It was what powered that voice. Instantly the atmosphere in the whole hazy basement got fantastically condensed and endlessly expansive at once. Needles seemed to be growing out the back of Juno’s neck. There was no doubt that Joni had it in her to be better than everyone else who had ever sang that song.



August turned into September and term started. Juno’d gotten no closer over the summer to a better option than going back to school, nor to finding out what the real deal was with anything. But she had enjoyed herself occasionally. So she kept on visiting the coffee houses. Talk was of a new one shortly opening in Calgary, which had so far been without a permanent folk venue. The leaflets were out.

Thus on Friday, September 13, Juno went along to the opening night of The Depression, in the guise of an art school student with paint on his hands and a snazzy beret. The place was pretty aptly named. Visually it was one of the least appealing establishments on the circuit. A dreary staircase plunged down to a murky, low-ceilinged basement with bare walls and the usual mix-and-not-match furniture. It was packed, though. The main act that night was Peter Elbling, an Englishman Juno’d seen in Toronto before and who was pretty good, in the sense that she had to stare right at him to make him sing flat. But first John, the owner, a genial giant with a neat take on those chin beards that seemed to be springing up everywhere right now, welcomed everybody and told the story of how he’d come to Calgary from Toronto and missed a coffee house so much that he just had to open his own. He went on to plug his regular events, which included the usual poetry and audition nights, and so on. Obviously Sunday was hoot night. But of course all this was new to the excited local crowd. ‘And now I’d like to introduce a great new talent from right here in Calgary,’ John concluded. ‘Please give it up for… Joni Anderson!’



Those last days before rock ’n’ roll took off were a blessed moment for folk music in Canada. Bob Dylan and Joan Baez were in the ascent south of the border, and at home the circuit was small but super-vibrant. The Riverboat was where the biggest names tended to play. Juno saw Oscar Brand there, who had a show on TV and kind of ruled the roost at that time. The Ian of Ian & Sylvia turned out to be the very same guy who’d written Four Strong Winds. And she finally caught up with The Travellers back in Vancouver. There were five of them and four of them sang, which made their sound almost choirlike. Their topics weren’t choir boys’ stuff, though. Their big encore was a song called This Land Is Your Land. The sincere young man next to Juno that night told his weird clueless neighbour who kept on making bizarre movements with his hands like he was flinging back hair where there plainly was none that the words had been written to an old melody by a guy called Woody Guthrie and were originally about the States, but later adapted for Canada by The Travelers.

But Juno liked some of the lesser-known acts just the same or more. She fancied she could tell whether someone was any good, not because she knew the first thing about music, but by the hairs on the back of her neck and the strength of that feeling. And Juno wouldn’t be Juno if she hadn’t found an additional way of amusing herself besides just listening to the performers. For extra fun she would test them. She’d send little spells their way, for them to play a bum note or forget the lyrics or feel an overwhelming need to cough. She always started them off real weak, by closing her eyes and turning away and barely thinking the words, and gradually stepped it up. Only those who caused the most intense manifestation of the feeling in Juno were momentarily immune to her maximum-strength itch-in-the-groin spell. She usually treated them to an appearance by the real fake Juno after their set, to see them handle that. In Toronto there was a singer called David Wiffen who hit on her a whole hour one time in a totally non-steamrollered, casual way, like Juno’d seen him do with lots of other girls. It would’ve helped that he’d had a few drinks.

For once Juno actually genuinely enjoyed herself that night. Although she knew damn well that none of these musicians could do real Magic, and although she often felt jealous of the way they were free to display their talents so openly and be respected and admired for them, they were still the closest thing she had to Magic companions. Real Magic folk on the other hand didn’t seem to dig folk music at all.



‘Yeah, at the Yardbird Suite in Edmonton! It’s a jazz joint really, but it was hoot night! I could take you some real neat places ’round here if you wanna hook up sometime, like the Inquisition… What ’bout tonight?’

Juno wasn’t planning on seeming remotely interested, so she put another quick spell on Kent for him to tell her all about that club.

‘Yeah, it was hoot night! What that means is that different acts play short solo sets, and then everybody joins together for a couple songs. This was a great one! Bonnie Dobson was there, and the Travellers…’ Kent seemed exhausted by being that factual.

Juno undid the spell and said sweetly, ‘No, thanks. Gotta go. Bye.’

While pop called, ‘She’s ready, Kent!’ and a young man on his forecourt briefly puzzled over who that might be and who this Kent was anyway, Juno strode off wondering what it all meant. She had no idea what a solo set was or who these travellers were anyway. All she knew was that there’d been some involuntary reaction inside her, which didn’t usually happen. She needed to go with it. She needed to check out that folk club, whatever it was.


She did so there and then. It was in downtown Edmonton, on Jasper Avenue, up a steep stairway and above a hardware store. Nowhere near as romantic as the name had made Juno expect. Obviously nobody was there at this time of day, but outside the door hung a blackboard listing upcoming events. Sunday night was the next hootenanny, as a one-off instead of the regular jazz session. The board also mentioned something about membership. Juno wasn’t worried about that. It would hardly be a problem.

She returned the following night at nine. She didn’t know what the dress code was for a hoot night, so she’d put on a neat skirt and blouse. But she wasn’t worried about that, either. People rarely noticed her clothes.