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Manitoba History: Review: John Einarson, Made in Manitoba: A Musical Legacy

by Vladimir Simosko
Music Librarian, University of Manitoba

Number 50, October 2005

This article was published originally in Manitoba History by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make this online version available as a free, public service. As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

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John Einarson, Made in Manitoba: A Musical Legacy Winnipeg: Great Plains Publications, 2005, ISBN: 1894283562, $29.95.

This 9 x 11 paperback has no index and no bibliography. The black and white illustrations, often 2-3 or more to a page varying in size from most of the page to very small, are not always very well reproduced. The table of contents lists 60 names or group-names of mostly pop or rock performers associated with Winnipeg over the previous 40 or so years. It almost seems a coffee-table type survey-book consisting of biographical sketches of pop and rock performers and celebrated pop or rock groups, but the biographical sketches do not always include birth dates (of people or groups) and not quite all musicians are pop or rock personalities. A “They Also Served” 2-page list of 73 names of groups or musicians at the end, seems to have a broader scope of styles represented, but offers almost no information: for example, the last entry consists entirely of stating “Jazz bass player extraordinaire Dave Young (Winnipeg)” while as far as I could determine the only jazz-oriented personality represented in the main entries was guitarist Lenny Breau. Otherwise the presence of a jazz scene is only briefly noted in the introduction. But one must examine the book closely to determine even this much about its contents.

True, the entries may represent the most famed and celebrated performers associated with Winnipeg on a pop level. As a musician based in Winnipeg for over 30 years, but not associated with the rock/pop scene as either a performer or appreciator, I have to agree with the sentiment expressed in various ways in the Introduction to the effect that Winnipeg supplies and nurtures a great deal of extraordinary musical talent. However, while these may be the significant names and groups for most pop-oriented Winnipeggers, what of the classical, jazz, and ethnic musicians all over the city who perform frequently and impressively despite relative obscurity due to the nature of the mass-public tastes? Many have gone on to successful careers elsewhere or maintain impressive local reputations, yet they are not even mentioned. Usually even their genres are not even mentioned. It is amusing to read this statement from the Introduction:

… the multicultural character of both the city and province encourage a diversity reflected in the arts community. “Another factor, I think, is the multicultural nature of the population, the diverse ethnic mix,” suggests Randy Bachman. “To this day each ethnic group retains a distinct identity within the city. There are Polish clubs, Ukrainian clubs, Italian clubs, and Belgian clubs where they hold weddings and socials …

I am familiar with the ethnic diversity of the city and welcome responses to anyone interested in the ethnicallyfocussed musical communities representing India, Africa, Japan, Spain, etc. as well, but this book indicates nothing of such activity. Judging by the “musical legacy” described, one wonders if the author or named performers have much awareness of this exceedingly rich musical environment.

Well, since Made in Manitoba: A Musical Legacy is clearly about the rock/pop scene, perhaps all this is justifiable, but given the title of the book as it stands, it would have been clearer if this was actually stated. Evidently in this case a person is supposed to judge a book by its cover (collagelike portraits of performers discussed within), not by its title alone.

Once one gets past the implication that Manitoba’s “musical legacy” consists almost exclusively of pop/rock stars, it is clear there is a large audience that might appreciate this book as a reference and souvenir of such pop-industry phenomena. However, as noted, data offered is inconsistent from entry to entry. Individuals and groups are not even sorted for easy discovery. All entries are alphabetical using the last name of the performer or the first word of the group name. Thus, The Guess Who are between Joey Gregorash and Harlequin, and so forth. Also as noted, even the photos are relatively poor for this type of book. Nevertheless, presumably there is a large audience for information of this type, even at this level. One would assume it will get much attention in public libraries and bookstores.

Page revised: 23 April 2011

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