Did you know The Guess Who’s hit ‘American Woman’ evolved from of an impromptu jam at a Kitchener concert? (Fact)
Did you know that Bachman Turner Overdrive’s hit ‘Takin’ Care of Business’ was written based on the excellent work I do here at Canada’s Technology Triangle? (Unconfirmed)
But back to the American Woman folklore, a tale I’ve heard many times since moving to the Waterloo Region. Confirmation of the legend comes from a 2005 interview with Words & Music magazine where The Guess Who founder Randy Bachman explained the origins of this song. According to Bachman, “We were playing in a curling rink in Kitchener, Ontario (Canada), and I broke a string. I was up there alone, tuning up my E and B strings on an old Les Paul. I started playing that riff and in the audience, heads started turning. The band got up, and I said, ‘Keep playing this, I don’t want to forget it.’ When Burton had run out of solos, I yelled out, ‘Sing something!’ So out of the blue Burton just screamed, ‘American Woman, stay away from me!’ That was the song, the riff and Burton yelling that line over and over. Later, he added other lines like ‘I don’t need your war machine, your ghetto scenes.’ Before America knew it, it was a #1 record…” Hear the whole account from a Globe and Mail interview here.
The curling club that Bachman referenced was the Glenbriar Curling Club (I’m hoping that there was a clever “rock” double-entendre in the event posters, opportunity lost if not…), which opened in 1962 until it became Home Hardware in 1977. As if the ‘American Woman’ claim to fame wasn’t enough, the curling club is also said to have been the venue where Canadian institution Gordon Lightfoot debuted ‘Black Day in July.’
In 1970 Bachman left The Guess Who and formed what would become Bachman-Turner Overdrive (the name stemming from a trucking magazine found at a Windsor truckstop). The hit single, ‘Takin’ Care of Business’ was released in 1973.
Music and culture are a vital component of the Region of Waterloo. Though best known for the Kitchener Blues Festival, the range of musical genres and styles in this Region is impressive, there’s a little something for everyone. As I dug deeper into what musical options are available in the area, I was surprised and impressed at the breadth.
As mentioned, the Kitchener Blues Festival is one of the major events in this Region and was once a venue for legend Mel Brown. The Uptown Waterloo Jazz Festival will provide ample opportunity to try out your jazz hands dance moves. If you a fan of the Classical genre, then put on your top hat and monocle and head downtown, where you can find the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, making sweet music here since 1945. The Cambridge Concert Band has been in the swing of things since the 1800s and can be found volunteering at venues across the Region. If you Polka pokes your fancy, hike up your lederhosen and find out which KW Oktoberfest festenhall is hosting the multi-Grammy award winning musician: Canada’s Polka King, Walter Ostanek. If you prefer more popular music, check CBC Radio 3 for Kitchener’s singer songwriter Danny Michel, Waterloo’s Juno nominated Craig Cardiff or Cambridge’s Mandippal. You can also attend (or perform at) the Rock the Mill festival. Building off that folksy spirit of Lightfoot, Cambridge has the Mill Race Festival, which is in its second decade of providing the Region with tradition folk music and is a founding member of The Grand River Folk Community. Street Hop (100.3 FM) is your local source for hip hop, as are DJ Carmello, Fraction, MisterE and Shua James. All you cowboys and cowgirls should mark June 16th, 2012 on your calendars so you can have your chaps drycleaned in time for the UpTown Country festival – a free concert entering its 10th year.
If you would prefer to catch a show under a roof rather than at an outdoor festival, there are music venues of all shapes and sizes from Maxwell’s to The Aud to Starlight to Elements and many others across the Region.
Of course, Wilfrid Laurier University’s Faculty of Music is essential to this musical culture. So too is Conrad Grebel University College, where Carol Ann Weaver studied the traditions of music – including that of Mennonite communities around the world. And if you are a student of music, Blue Rodeo’s Bob Egan will keep your guitar serviced at his new shop.
Waterloo Region is home to diverse and excellent music through local and adopted musicians, a rich history of musical influence and excellent festivals. This cultural vibrancy defines a community and helps attract new talent and investment to the Region. And if you are a foreign business looking to expand into this market – CTT is here ‘Takin’ Care of Business.’
Special thanks to Paul Maxwell of Maxwell’s Music House for sharing some of his insight.