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The Double J Jukebox: One Week in Music History

When our Digital Public History class was told we each had to do a podcast as a class assignment, and it could be about anything, in any format, as long as it was historical, I knew immediately what I wanted to do.

You may already know that I worked in radio for a couple of years last decade. I started as a reporter and then I became a newscaster, and for the most part it was pretty cool. (Terrible pay, but a cool experience.) But what I really wanted to be was a disc jockey.

I grew up surrounded by – no, immersed in – music. My mother was a semi-professional singer, and my sisters were talented singers too. My father and his brother played the guitar. Either a radio or a record player was always on at our house. And because my parents were into country music while my older siblings were ’60s and ’70s kids who loved Top 40, I received a very eclectic musical education at home. Nobody was surprised when I eventually started playing the guitar and singing too.

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Not really real: The trouble with popular history

I’ve been into music and sports for longer than I can remember. I used to dream about playing hockey for the Toronto Maple Leafs, but when that dream didn’t come true, I fantasized instead about being a rock and roll star. I learned how to skate and shoot a puck, and how to play the guitar and sing, but fame and fortune eluded me at every turn.

That didn’t put an end to my passions – it just redirected them. I became very proficient in sports and music trivia, which I recognize now as the start of my interest in history as a discipline. I absorbed facts about music and sports as fast as I could read them, along with the stories associated with those facts. But something has become clear to me as I have turned from journalism to professional history – a lot of the stuff that I read and thought I knew was not necessarily true.

Popular history has been populated by legends and myths that have been passed down through the generations, and rarely if ever being questioned. These may have been stories that were reported accurately at first, only to become exaggerated over time. Or maybe they were sensationalized from the very beginning. Either way, they were accepted as fact. And when that happens, they become extremely difficult to dislodge from the public consciousness.

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Accidentally on purpose: The unknowing public historian

Lawson Hall, the home of History at Western University

“Public practices of history are not new and many historians acknowledge today that they had been doing public history without knowing it.”

– Thomas Cauvin, “The Rise of Public History: An International Perspective,” Historia Critica, no. 68 (2018), p. 22.

I was in my fourth year of university and working on my History Capstone project when I realized that I had already worked as a historian, and in fact I had been working in public history for years.

Well, sort of.

My Capstone topic was “Public History and Commemoration in Owen Sound, Ontario,” which is my hometown. As I researched the local museums and parks that had been named in commemoration of Owen Sound citizens, one of my top resources was the archives of the local newspaper. Having worked at that paper as a reporter for 16 years, I knew before I even started that it would be a treasure trove of primary sources documents.

What I didn’t immediately realize was that my own work held a place of prominence in that collection.

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Fab Five: Who was the real Fifth Beatle?

I took a Beatles history course in the Winter 2018 term, something that would have been inconceivable for 18-year-old me in 1988 as I sang “I Saw Her Standing There” at my high school’s talent assembly. This term paper and that course are, by far, the highlights of my undergraduate career.

(That said, please excuse the MLA citations; I had not yet switched my major and learned that Chicago-style is the preferred format for History).

* * *

For the past five-and-a-half decades, we have lived with the notion of The Beatles as “The Fab Four.”

Of course, at the beginning there were five Beatles in the group. In fact, six men are considered to have been full-time members of the band.

But, also for the past five-and-a-half decades, as we embraced and accepted the idea of a Fab Four of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, there has been speculation as to who, if anyone, could or should be considered the so-called “Fifth Beatle” – a person who is or appears to be as much a part of the band as the Fab Four themselves.

This paper will examine a number of leading candidates for the title of Fifth Beatle. They are, in alphabetical order: Neil Aspinall, Pete Best, Brian Epstein, Mal Evans, Murray Kaufman, George Martin, Chas Newby, Jimmy Nicol, Billy Preston, Tony Sheridan, Derek Taylor, and Stuart Sutcliffe. Each of these people have compelling cases, but this paper will show that if any one person really deserves the title of Fifth Beatle, it was the group’s producer, George Martin.

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Beatles Midterm Essay

This was my first Beatles essay, at midterm in Winter 2018. I don’t know why, but I didn’t give it a title when I submitted it for grading. It’s not as good as what I came up with for my final term paper, but it’s still worth sharing here.

* * *


Do you want to know a secret?

Do you promise not to tell?

Actually, it really is no secret why The Beatles became the biggest rock band in the world by the mid-1960s.

There were many reasons why, after years of struggling in their hometown of Liverpool, they suddenly catapulted to fame in their native Britain before conquering America and the rest of the world in relatively short order. This paper will outline the main factors involved in their meteoric rise.

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Flashback: Chris Neil joins the Durham Thundercats

Flesherton native Chris Neil retired last week from the Ottawa Senators and the National Hockey League, a veteran of more than 1,000 regular season games. My Owen Sound Sun Times article, from January 10, 2005, recalls his short stint with the Durham Thundercats of the WOAA Senior Hockey League during the 2004-05 NHL lockout.

* * *

MILDMAY — Kevin Sutter grew up in Eugenia and knows the four Neil brothers from nearby Flesherton well, having played hockey alongside one or more of them for most of his life.

That’s why the Durham Thundercats captain was only too happy to welcome the youngest of the brothers, Ottawa Senators right-winger Chris Neil, as his newest teammate here on Sunday.

“The more Neil boys we can get in the dressing room, the better,” Sutter said prior to Durham’s 5-4 win over the Mildmay Monarchs in WOAA Senior Hockey League action.

“(Chris is) a good guy, and you’ve got to give him a chance if he wants to play.”

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Here’s an opportunity – how badly do you want it?

How does a hockey play reflect something that invariably happens in our personal and professional lives?

I write about varsity sports at the University of Guelph. For the past week-and-a-half, I’ve been thinking about something that I saw during a hockey game at the Gryphon Centre.

It was November 25, and I was covering the Guelph Gryphons as they played the visiting Nipissing Lakers. Midway through the second period, with the Gryphons already leading 1-0, Guelph forward Tryg Strand took a pass from teammate Marc Stevens just inside the Nipissing zone. Here’s a video of what happened next:

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Why am I doing this?

I’m a second-year university student. I’m also about to turn 47 years old.

There have been plenty of times over the past year-and-a-half when I’ve felt down, and asked myself why I’m doing what I’m doing. Why have I returned to school again? Why am I working toward a bachelor’s degree at my age, while trying to juggle work and family responsibilities? And it always comes back to not having been happy with my life, and realizing and accepting that I would need to make some tough choices and work hard if I wanted things to change for the better.

That means I need a lot of positive self-talk and self-motivation as I work toward a goal that is still far enough away that it remains a somewhat abstract concept. And I’ll be honest, it can be really difficult to get motivated to do all of the things that I’ve piled onto my plate. But I get them done, because that’s what I expect of myself, and that’s what my family expects of me as a provider and role model. There is a cost, though. I don’t have much of a life anymore outside of school and work. And I often feel very much alone, like when everyone else is sleeping and I’m working into the wee hours of the morning. That’s when the doubts start to creep in. That’s when I ask myself the big question – “Why am I doing this?”

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September 14

Twenty years ago today, I got married for the first time. It was 5 p.m. on September 14, 1996. I was 26 years old and had one child, a 2 ½-year-old boy. I was working at a dream career in my hometown of Owen Sound, Ontario. I don’t remember thinking anything specific about the future, but I know I felt very optimistic and positive despite the rain that poured down that day. How could I not?

Nine years ago today, I was recently separated and was the full-time single father of three boys, aged 13, 10, and 8. There was little to feel optimistic and positive about. My marriage had failed, and in fact had ended in spectacularly ugly fashion. My former dream career had turned into a nightmare. As it was the first anniversary without my wife, I spent this day feeling sorry for myself, feeling overwhelmed, and feeling very much alone and lost in the wilderness.

Five years ago today, I was lying on my living room couch with a broken vertebra in my back, a broken hand, bruised ribs, and a bruised knee – souvenirs from the car crash of the previous evening. I had been spreading myself too thin, working three jobs in order to make ends meet, and as a result I was neglecting some of my responsibilities as a sole-support parent. It all caught up with me late one night on a lonely back road between Meaford and Owen Sound. Five years ago today, I was beaten up, physically and emotionally. Being optimistic and positive was so far beyond me at that point. Again, I spent the day feeling overwhelmed and sorry for myself. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt lower than I did on this day.

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Great day for hay: Jared Keeso’s “Letterkenny” hits the small screen



The focus is on Jared Keeso.

And that makes him uncomfortable.

It’s an unusual attitude for someone who makes his living in the performing arts, but it’s Keeso’s reality. Tonight is one of those times when he has to face up to it.

The 31-year-old actor is sitting in a chair on a stage in a packed theatre at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto. Family members, friends and admirers have filled the 220 seats, and they’ve all just watched the world premiere of Keeso’s new CraveTV comedy series, “Letterkenny.” (Season 1 begins streaming on Super Bowl Sunday.)

They love what they’ve seen, and now they’re watching Keeso. He appreciates their appreciation. But he doesn’t particularly enjoy being the centre of attention in this environment. He sits hunched forward in his chair during the entirety of a question-and-answer session with the audience, unable to completely relax.

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