A fascinating exhibit exploring Central Alberta’s own rock music history is in the works, with an extensive ‘teaser’ coming up in November.
Organizers have been working hard on the ‘Central Alberta Rocks’ project for about nine months, poring over details of the years from 1960 to 1975 in terms of what local bands were up to at the time. It will be showcased at the Red Deer Museum + Art Gallery.
Phil Hallet initially came up with the idea. He’s got all kinds of posters advertising local gigs from those years, plus loads of photos and other memorabilia. It wasn’t long before several others enthusiastically joined in on the project including Harley Hay, Gary Thompson, Lorne Hallet, Richard Hayhoe and Valerie Miller, who works as the Museum’s collections coordinator.
“It was the bands I went to see in Red Deer that exposed me to bands that weren’t necessarily on the play lists of local stations,” explains Phil, adding he’d go down to Crescendo Music formerly located in the downtown core to pick up posters of local shows. “Red Deer, as small as it was then, was a happening place. We did have our own little culture. Even at just 10,000 or 13,000 people, we had things going on.”
Phil eventually approached Miller about doing something on a grander scale with his personal collection of material reflecting those years. And as mentioned, a major, much more extensive showcase will be presented likely in 2013 which will tie in nicely with the City’s centennial.
Meanwhile, the committee is excited to see the threads of the project come together. “We need to collect more information and more things for a bigger show later on,” explains Miller, adding that the teaser exhibit will include photos of some of venues local bands used to perform in, histories of the bands and a up-close look at the musical spirit of the times.
Thompson has so far come up with 46 bands who played in Red Deer and the nearby regions from 1960 to 1975. Committee members were also all active in the music scene and they remember it as a lively, creatively-rich time when there was plenty of support amongst local musicians as well.
Hayhoe played with The Ninth Wave, The Coal Company, Gibraltar and Easy Street. Thompson was also part of The Ninth Wave and Gibraltar with Hayhoe, and later performed with Hay in J + Jazz, The Brass Theme, The Network and later the Gaetz Avenue Dance Band. Lorne continues to perform with Bedford Page.
“For Central Alberta Rocks, we’ll also have some of the ‘elderly’ musicians play,” adds Hay with a laugh. An accomplished photographer, Hay has been busy gathering shots of former musical hotspots, but there aren’t a whole lot remaining.
“I got a shot of the Catholic Services building before it was demolished a couple of weeks ago. They used to have a club there called The Happening. Before that, it was The Strobe Light.” Another, called Chat Noir, was first located where the German-Canadian Club is situated today.
“But the ‘Buckingham Palace’ of them all, for me, was Varsity Hall out at Sylvan Lake. That’s where you would aspire to play.”
The Memorial Centre was another popular place for dances, with local high schools located nearby. “In those days, schools have live dances instead of DJs, so there were lots of opportunities to play in lots of schools.”
In the meantime, the committee is looking for anyone with photos, posters, memorabilia or their own set of band experiences from the time that they’d like to share.
Central Alberta Rocks will run from Nov. 19 to Jan. 1.
To submit a story or for more information, email Valerie Miller at Valerie.firstname.lastname@example.org or call 403-309-8451.