It’s a little blurry exactly when I first knew I wanted to be in a band, or had the ability even to consider it, but one certain incident may have cemented my ultimate fate. Grade Eight…Luxton School…music class with Miss Milgrom. Edd Smith and I were just about best friends, hanging out together almost constantly. He already had a cheap electric guitar and amp. We had auditioned for the Amateur Show, a local Winnipeg television deal, dreaming of winning and being asked back to perform again the following week. Our audition had deemed that we spend a certain amount of time in preparation. During those early “rehearsals” we worked up duet versions of several numbers. Edd and I, having learned these several numbers anyway, privately approached Miss Milgrom, (our music teacher at Luxton, down in the basement in Room 3) one day and asked her if we could perform something in front of the whole room during our next music class. We ended up performing “This Time” by Troy Shondell and “What’d I Say” by Ray Charles. I played piano and sang, and Edd sort of “played along” on electric guitar. Members of the whole class, particularly the girls, were seemingly impressed…the die was cast for me right there that afternoon in Grade Eight at Luxton School. I knew what I WANTED to do, yet actually accomplishing ANY of it was seemingly an impossible dream…just a daydream, really.
Edd was constantly turning me on to “ all things rock and roll” that I otherwise might have missed. I must give Edd Smith a HUGE amount of credit and gratitude concerning what he did for me during the most malleable periods of my adolescence. I might never have heard “Silver City” by the Ventures were it not for Edd. I might never have been interested enough to send money orders to England for Shadows lp’s on vinyl during ‘62,’63, and ‘64 were it not for Edd. (Edd, found out about Keith Prowse Ltd. a huge record store in London England, and somehow tutored me on how to get things from them.) In the days of “ordinary” trans Atlantic mail, I sent my money order away to England, and waited about four or five weeks to receive my coveted prize…a beautiful British copy of “The Shadows’ Greatest Hits”…it blew me away so much, when I finally had it in my hands, I took it to school at St. John’s for about three days in a row…showed it to a pile of people during the classroom changes all day…
Once in Grade Nine (our last year at Luxton) Edd’s knowledge of and enthusiasm for the rock and roll world hit me square in the face.
Shortly after Winnipeg had first gotten Channel Twelve from Pembina, North Dakota, Edd and our mutual friend Tom Laszlo started talking about the coming D-Day…I had no idea what they meant, nor that they were referring to “DEE” Day…
they were talking about the imminent appearance of Joey Dee and the Starliters on American Bandstand to lip sync something on Channel Twelve at four thirty on a Friday afternoon. All week long at school, I looked forward to that few minutes of black and white television history. Since the single of Peppermint Twist peaked on the Billboarad chart in January of 1962, this “magic week” of anticipation leading up to DEE day must have occurred during the winter of 1961/1962. Edd Smith nurtured the seeds that radio had already planted in the head of a North End kid several years eariler.
Edd and I made another Amateur Show appearance several months after the first one. This time we had a drummer with us, a Luxton school friend named Francis Kostiuk. Francis lived on Atlantic Ave, between St. Cross and Scotia…He had a great set of drums and somehow we ended up on television, just the three of us, doing Dion Di Mucci’s “The Wanderer”. As memory serves me, we rocked pretty well this time. I was still delivering papers (the Winnipeg Tribune) six days a week at this point, and I remember some of the younger girls who lived with their parents on my paper route commenting and giggling about my singing. I was about twelve or thirteen at this time, and very shy of girls. I found out quickly what power lurked there in the ability to get up and sing a few tunes, even stuff you hadn’t written yourself. The Beatles hadn’t happened yet, but I was already sold hook, line and sinker on the idea of being a singer, for real…at least giving it a damn good try…
I admired Edd, always thought he was cool. He knew about stuff I didn’t. He knew all about the Shadows and Hank Marvin. He knew that Brian “Licorice” Locking was their new bass player in the movie and on the album of Summer Holiday. He turned me on to my all time favourite Shadows instrumental, “Round and Round”. The only places this cut appears are on the Summer Holiday soundtrack and in the eight disc box set from EMI Europe mentioned earlier. Edd had a tape recorder. Edd had a Silvertone electric guitar and some kind of compatible amp. Edd was the one who showed me how to hook a Di Armond violin pickup directly to the soundboard in the back of an upright piano so I could play any of the Community Club uprights through Derek’s Fender amp. I spent countless hours at his house on Cathedral near Scotia, several times seeing things on his family’s television set that are indelibly stamped into my memory. You see, the Smiths were receiving Channel Twelve and at my house we were not. Channel Twelve brought American Bandstand into Winnipeg and it was the only station broadcasting it. Many, many days right after four we’d rush to Edd’s house and tune in Bandstand at 4:30. I saw many soulful black singers on American Bandstand at Edd’s place…even though they were merely lip syncing their hits, it gave me a chance to associate some of these other worldly voices with the faces that harbored them. The lead singer of one of the hot black girl groups of the day (perhaps the Chiffons, perhaps the Marvelettes) told Dick Clark that Ray Charles had been a huge influence on her. Forever after that I paid more attention to Ray Charles. I was motivated to get some of his LP’s, most notably the What’d I Say album on Atlantic. I still love that picture on the cover where you see this beautiful old AK 47 reflected in Brother Ray’s glasses. I really got into that whole album as a fairly young kid. What a great crash course it is for soul and blues.
I still regularly play Rockhouse, Roll With My Baby, That’s Enough, which I later recorded myself with one of the Raelets singing on it, My Bonnie, and the long version of What’d I Say. The title cut is truly a masterpiece. When it all breaks down between Part One and Part Two and the girls start answering Ray with just drums and handclaps going behind them, it’s truly invigorating… Hallmark moment.
So indirectly, even my affinity toward Ray Charles is traceable back to Edd Smith. When I left the Deverons to join the GW, the guy I really missed most was Edd, because I had known him far earlier in life than I’d known the other three.
Edd, I thank you again. Those were days of learning and dreaming for me, and you showed me a million things that helped me along…I actually can recall you and me singing “Hey Paula” in your small bedroom on Cathedral Ave. right near Scotia…You were doing the Paul parts, playing guitar chords and starting the vocal lines, and I was trying to answer as Paula, but I have never had a falsetto, so my Paula parts were embarrassing and totally unnecessary in the vast spaces of the Universe.

Blast ahead to 1965, old Winnipeg Arena, Gerry and the Pacemakers are playing…it’s absolute pandemonium, they’ve even got guard ropes up about two inches thick. I’m not exaggerating. Remember, this is 1965, Winnipeg, in the height of the Beatlemania Craze of the Sixties. The British Groups are bigger than life in 1965…so here we are at the old Winnipeg Arena…the Deverons were lucky enough to get the opening slot that night…Deverons first, then the Guess Who (at that time, Randy Bachman, Chad Allan, Jim Kale, Garry Peterson, Bob Ashley) and then Gerry and the Pacemakers. The Liverpool boys put on a hell of a show that night…trouble was, the entire crowd hardly heard a note. The screaming was all part of the British Invasion and the frenzy that the Beatles had first instigated. Gerry and the Pacemakers may have had “How Do You Do It” initially before the Beatles onslaught, but it was an isolated incident. It really was the Beatles that created that mythical “British Scene” about which we all wondered and fantasized. The competition (actually PERCEIVED competition…this “Who will beat the Beatles next?” stuff was largely invented and fueled by the media) factor was played to the hilt between the British bands, but none of this grading them against each other seemed to occur until the Beatles had first laid down their incredible yardstick, by which all subsequent groups would soon be judged. You have to go pretty far to beat something like “A Hard Day’s Night”, “Can’t Buy Me Love”, or “Day Tripper”…

About Burton Cummings

Recipient, Order of Canada & Order of Manitoba. Voice & Songwriter: American Woman (6m+ plays), These Eyes, (5m+ plays) & Stand Tall.


  1. Anne Wood says

    Edd sounds like the kind of friend a person should hold on to. Are you still in touch?

  2. Christine Campbell says

    I shall be forever grateful that Edd became your friend. Because if not for him you might not have embarked on a career in music and the world might never have been blessed with your talent. Thank you Edd!