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Post Info TOPIC: Music and mining are linked in our community's rich history


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Music and mining are linked in our community's rich history


This year it's the 100th anniversary of mining in our area.

For me mining and music have gone together for a very long time. Believe it or not, Nustone, one of my first bands, rehearsed in a mine manager's house.

My dad put in more than 40 years at the Big Dome and I worked there every summer in high school.

Later I worked full-time underground at various mines.

When I look back, my first musical experiences were all on mining properties.

We used to jam on the Hallnor mine property near the offices, where I first learned how to play bass guitar.

If that was not cool enough, Harry Pyke was the mine manager for Dome Mines and his son Mike was our band leader -- and a heck of a cool guitarist.

They had a huge house, and we crafted our first songs in the basement.

In those days John Curley who is now city councillor was a good friend of the band and was always there to lend support or carry an amplifier or two.

Growing up in this area, headframes dotted the landscape.

Is it any wonder our band logo is a guitar through a headframe.

It was great growing up in South Porcupine. Everyone knew each other and it was a great place to start a band.

Long before Shania Twain was a big star and the Sons of Maxwell had even began to play some gigs some musicians were writing songs.

It was around 1971. Some of the songs were about South Porcupine, people we knew, where we went to school (RMSS) ... just crazy stuff.

Mike Pyke, Hugh Dysart and yours truly were hammering away.

The Airport Hotel was the venue and if you happened to be guzzling down some of Bill Moskal's draught beer you could hear us tossing in as many as three or four original songs in a 12-song set.

Mike, Hugh and I were trying to instill some kind of pride and spirit in our band.

Every time we could write and perform our own songs and people enjoyed them, it sure felt good.

I got the bug when I heard the local pop heroes The Fallen Leaves and their original 45 r. p. m. single titled "Little Liar." The Guess Who then took it to a national level with "These Eyes."

That got me thinking.

I started to go to every dance or event where a band was playing. My mom was nervous because some of these events were in Timmins, not South Porcupine.

A bit later, around 1967 or 1968, CKGB radio started playing Stompin' Tom Connors music, which he had written.

I know because my transistor radio was blasting it out along with all other types of music.

I was under age, but later Stompin' Tom started to hold court at the Maple Leaf Hotel and hammer down that left boot of his.

Connors played a lot of his own songs.

Legend has it when someone would yell out "hey Tom play some Johnny Cash," Connors would answer "I'll play Johnny Cash when Johnny Cash plays Stompin' Tom!"

I had no idea how to write a song, but the hook was in deep my friends.

A few years later I wrote a song called "Thoughts" and after that a song about South Porcupine called "This Town."

With that in mind, let's fast forward.

In The Rock Report I have always talked about writing and recording your own material.

If it's about the North even better.

At the same time if I can enhance or help out any artist, a venue or band's stature from our area I will always make time for it.

As I mentioned, the 100th anniversary of mining in our area is a big thing.

It's even bigger if your band is called The Shaftmen and from Day 1 you have dedicated some of your original music, website, artwork and themes to illustrate mining and its heritage and culture to the rest of the world.

Any visitor to www.theshaftmen.comimmediately gets the sense where our band is from and how proud we are to be from a mining town.

That's not all.

Pages on the Internet come up from Japan, Germany, Italy, U. S. A., Scotland, England etc.

Actual sites where you can't read the foreign language text save for the disc title, our band's name and sometimes the cover of our disc.

We knew when we had a disc cover showing miners eating lunch underground, in a Timmins gold mine that dates from 1931, that it was super cool and had cultural value.

Maybe some person from Japan or Germany is looking and thinking, are they miners making music?

Well, yes!

Our plan is to do another disc.

With the 100th anniversary, our band name and our theme we wanted to include a little more history, maybe a video or whatever on the disc or booklet.

Every photo I have asked Karen Bachmann and Timmins Museum: National Exhibition Centre to provide they have made available.

With this background, we made an application to the Ontario Arts Council with great help from the Timmins Economic Development Corporation and Cathy Elliot.

It was very detailed.

We waited six long months and a few weeks ago it was with dismay we received our answer -- "denied."

The ending line to a short letter read: "We wish you well in your artistic endeavours."

We had asked the OAC for a nominal amount of money to help us pay for incurred production expenses and promotional functions for our new disc titled Northern Heritage Blues.

Again, besides promoting our music the disc would also promote our heritage and culture in the 100th anniversary of mining in our area.

Rejection is tough.

However it's harder when the results posted in my letter showed that of the 50 grants awarded "none were given to groups in Northeastern Ontario."


There were two awarded to Thunder Bay, where one of the jurors was from.

More than 40 others were doled out to Toronto, Waterloo and the Ottawa areas.

That's where the rest of the jurors are located.

Not fair?

You be the judge.

How many other applicants awarded were trying to celebrate 100 years of history?

I don't know, but I have a good guess.

Today our band is performing a set at the Nova Awards over at the McIntyre Arena.

John Emms is a local musician, songwriter and performer.

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