Issue 18, Volume 85
Oct. 31, 2012
Many Windsorites may overlook the fact that a large cohort of influential musicians and bands have ventured out of this city and into the national and international stage.
Stretching back well over 100 years, Windsor has consistently produced notable musicians and acts that have influenced the larger musical community. Music writer and member of The Unquiet Dead Jamie Greer attributes the success to Windsor’s unique music scene.
“We’re a town in a constant state of struggle,” said Greer. “We’re a very’ blue collar town, but one that is constantly having to re-invent itself.”
It’s ethic, and the fact that the city is situated so close to Detroit, which Greer said
has “made Windsor musicians more open to music as a whole rather than a pigeon hole of one genre.”
“I’ve lived in Toronto, Montreal, Halifax and Victoria, BC and I haven’t seen a better overall pool of talent musically than I have in Windsor.”
Detroit is a major influence on the Windsor sound, according to Greer, as Detroit was a major centre for music in all genres.
“Motown is Detroit, punk rock is Detroit,” said Greer referencing proto-punks the MC5, The Stooges. “Detroit is about change, it’s about revolution, it’s about freedom. That ethic has leaked across the water and is very much in the blood of
every musician in Windsor.”
Arguably one of the most well known bands to emerge from Windsor is The Tea Party. Comprised of Jeff Martin, Stuart Chatwood and Jeff Burrows, The Tea Party’s music began as blues and prog-rock, but as they progressed and travelled the
world, they incorporated Indian and Middle Eastern influences. Chatwood has also found a career in composing the eight soundtracks for Ubisoft Montreal’s video game the Prince of Persia series, which has sold in excess of 10 million copies worldwide.
Legendary’ roots rock/Americana group The Band’s Garth Hudson was born in Windsor. Hudson was the organist, keyboardist and saxophonist in The Band, which was once Bob Dylan’s official backup band. The Band was one of the most influential bands of the 60s and 70s. Their final performance was immortalized in Maltin Scorsese’s documentary The Last Waltz.
While the blues, rock and reggae band Big Sugar might have originated in Toronto, front-man Gordie Johnson was raised in Windsor alongside of the band’s sax and mouthorgan player Windsorite Kelly “Mr. Chill” Hoppe, who started performing in the early 80s.
When Hoppe was staffing his musical career in Windsor, live music nights happened six nights a week and Hoppe remembers “great musicians that
could mentor you in just about every genre: rock, jazz, blues, country, folk et cetera.”
“All these great bands and players set a vey high standard, which drove me to work hard at my craft,” explained Hoppe. “It was a ‘university of music’ this great nightclub scene combined with great musicians to learn from and be tutored by.”
If Windsor was a ‘university of music,’ it’s most tenured prof was Jack Scott. While Scott was hailed as the first white rock and roll to start to come out of Detroit, it would be remiss not to mention that he was a Windsorite first. Scott was inducted
into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2011, and has been called one of the greatest Canadian rock and roll singers of all time. Scott had more U.S. singles (19), in a shorter period of time (41 months), than any other recording artist — with the exception of The Beatles.
Windsorites have used more than guitars to make noise globally. Techno artist Richie Hawtin might have been born in Oxfordshire, England, but it was in Windsor that his father introduced him to electronic music via Kraftwerk. Hawtin, under the Plastiknam moniker, DJed clubs in Detroit at the age of 17, started the famed Minus record label and is credited as the creator of minimal techno and one of the fathers of Detroit techno. In 2011, Hawtin was named the second greatest DJ of all time by MixMag. Tiésto was voted number one, if you were curious.
Hawtin returns to his home to host an electronic and technology-based music education workshop at the University of Windsor on Nov. 7. Windsor’s first musical daughter, Dorothy Collins, became band leader Raymond Scott’s musical protégée at age 15, and later joined his famed Raymond Scott Orchestra. Collins made her career singing on radio stations in Windsor and Detroit. Later, she was trained by Scott to lead his sextet on the popular CBS Radio program Lucky Strike’s Your Hit Parade. She shot to nationwide fame as one of the show’s featured vocalists, singing and acting in costume in sketches dramatizing popular songs of the day. In 1955, her single “My Boy Flat Top” reached No. 16 on the Billboard charts.
Composer, producer and performer Daniel Victor of Neverending White Lights,
singer-songwriter Jody Raffoul, country music mega-star Shania Twain and 1990s Grammy-nominated Canadian R&B singer Tamia also all originate from Windsor.
The highly influential Alexander ‘Skip’ Spence— the original drummer in Jefferson Airplane and founder of Moby Grape was a Windsorite. Greer noted that Spence ended up forming Moby Grape and released a solo album, Oar, that was a major
influence for Tom Waits and Beck.
“There’s a lot of bands in Windsor that are more recognized elsewhere than here,” explained Greer, adding, “There’s a real lack of mainstream press recognition for the creative arts in Windsor it’s almost like they’d rather wait until the rest of the world says it’s okay to like them to report on them.”
Hoppe still finds the Windsor music scene today as “vibrant as ever, though the circumstances, I would offer, are tougher than when I was starting out. That’s
a testament to those [that] try to carve out their craft currently.”
Jon Liedtke was the Features and Opinions Editor, Advertising Manager and Deficit Consultant at the UWindsor Lance.