Memorable Manitobans: Robert William “Robbie” Brass (1951-2005)
Born at Birch River on 8 March 1951, he began his singing career when he was 24 years old. He was a truck driver throughout his early years and through the beginning of his life as a musician. In 1974, country musicians Norman Genaille and Ray LeClaire asked him to fill in for the weekend performing at the Merchants Hotel on Selkirk Avenue in Winnipeg. Accepting the offer, he discovered an outlet for his musical passion and went on to play with the group often.
In 1975, Stephen Bandura agreed to produce the band’s music and, joined by musician Billy Valentine, the group, now called Red Wine, released a 45-rpm record with the songs “Mama’s Waiting” and “Teach Me to Forget.” In 1977, Red Wine came up with their first full album, I Love Red Wine and Country Music. The group at that time consisted of Brass, Genaille, Vic Monkman, and Wayne Link.
They began touring Canada and the northern communities of Manitoba and surrounding provinces. A second album called Come & Go was created in 1979. The band became known as “Robbie Brass and Red Wine” and continued to tour Canada, jamming with many well-known musicians, such as Tommy Hunter, Carol Baker, George Straight, Burton Cummings, and Randy Bachman. The band was particularly popular in the live-music bar scene in Winnipeg. It also performed at festivals, socials, and charitable events, and at venues such as Rainbow Stage, Manitoba Centennial Concert Hall, and Winnipeg Convention Centre. Brass won a number of awards during his career including “The Golden Award” from the Manitoba Country Music Association.
In 1992, Brass released a solo album entitled Taking It Easy, Making It Right. Several songs from the album, as well as the earlier albums, climbed the charts to Number One. With the help of newspapers, television, radio, and loyal fans, he became a household name.
He died on 26 September 2005, shortly after being inducted into the Manitoba Aboriginal Hall of Fame. He had seven children.
Robbie Brass, Sunshine Records.
“Robinson acknowledges musical legacy of the late Robbie Brass,” News Release, Government of Manitoba, 27 September 2005.
This page was prepared by Lois Braun.
Page revised: 29 August 2021