The Ruckus was a lot fun, especially the series I did about the Ottawa music scene. I invited CBC personality Alan Neal to tell me about what he liked most about the scene, so we went to The Manx and talked about music. Good times.
Two former Sarnia residents found their groove at garage sales about three years ago and, depending on your point of view, either haven’t looked back or spend their free time doing nothing but.
Northern Collegiate graduates Kevin McGowan and Beau Levitt may live in different parts of Ontario, but it hasn’t stopped them from compiling what they hope will become a comprehensive web site of long-lost and usually forgotten Canadian recordings.
McGowan lives in Ottawa, while Levitt calls Toronto home. Between them they’re carving a niche for audiophiles and letting them know “It Came From Canada”.
“I was out with my wife at a garage sale and ran across a promotional 45 for the City of Montreal,” Levitt said. “I’d been a record collector before then and I always noticed Canadian records from people I’d never heard of. I thought about collecting these and putting them on the web. No one else seemed to be doing it.”
They both had their own music blogs, but it wasn’t until McGowan found his former classmate on Facebook that things started to take off in a new direction.
The pair launched the new web site and started posting music with a vinyl feel, meaning there are, occasionally, a few snaps and crackles that make the leap to digital.
“It’s older music,” said McGowan. “It isn’t supposed to sound pristine. Some of it is pretty hard to clean up. I know we’ve looked at a few records and wondered who ate dinner off them.”
So far, about 400 albums uncovered at garage sales, thrift stores and other low-budget venues have found their way onto the Internet. Because of copyright laws, they’ve tried to stay away from major label recordings.
Most of the musicians and their families are thrilled to find out they’ve got a spot on the site, the duo said.
One family in particular comes to mind, Levitt said.
Originally he planned to send a CD copy of The Rhythm Pals to the family after they got in touch. When he found out it was a family member who’d recently died, he sent them the original.
While they may never make anyone’s desert island list of must-have recordings, there have been some real gems uncovered in the last couple of years – a lot of it on the bizarre side, McGowan said.
One example was a recording done by the Borden Family somewhere in Ontario.
It’s the only organ and wah-wah guitar version he said he’s ever heard of the Star Wars theme. Another is the growing collection of high school concert band renditions of the theme from Shaft.
At one point every high school had it on their repertoire, he said.
There aren’t any immediate plans to expand the site, but they do have a few ideas to take it in new directions, Levitt said.
They’re trying to talk the CBC into running radio spots and have another idea they’re working on that mixes old movies and some of the songs they’ve uncovered.