Monte Nordstrom was born March 4th, 1954 in Chilliwack, BC. He was raised in British Columbia in the towns of Hope, Prince George & Duncan. As a child he spent many summers in Saskatchewan, where his parents were born. He has also lived in Vancouver (during the '70s) and in Edmonton & Banff, Alberta during the '80s.
He returned to Vancouver Island with his wife & daughter in 1986, residing one hour north of Victoria in the seaside village of Crofton.
Monte's early memories are of the late '50s are of the radio & music played on the household Grundig HiFi. "My father liked to play classical records & my two brothers who are 8 & 9 years older than me, listened to the new music called Rock & Roll that was being broadcast up the Fraser Valley out of Vancouver on CFUN. My mom liked the Pop music of the day, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, etc, so there was alot going on.
The top ten was dominated by Elvis, Buddy Holly, the Everly Brothers & Chuck Berry's latest hits, but I also liked singing along to Dean Martin & plunked along on a little mandolin that was the first stringed instrument I laid my hands on. My mom told me when I was about 5 that if I "kept on singing like that I'd be a good singer one day". Little did she know how her comment would stay with me.
My brother Gary played trumpet in his High School band & had records of big band music & a collection of Al Hirt which was my first introduction to New Orleans music. I tried playing trumpet at that time but didn't get very far with it. I started singing more seriously when the family started going to the local Baptist church so I learned all those old hymns at an early age. That was my first experience with harmony & very influential.
In 1963 we moved to Prince George & that Christmas my brother Vic got a little Sears guitar, which I got to fool around with when he wasn't using it, which was most of the time. The Beatles took over the world at that point & the Ed Sullivan Show introduced us all to the new music that was happening, as well as the vaudeville / variety entertainment that was still popular. We never missed Ed Sullivan or Bonanza on Sunday night. I remember all the kids in elementary school were forming "airbands", miming the Beatles, Dave Clark 5 & other Merseybeat bands of the day. It truly was a mania & we all wanted to be in a band somehow or other.
In the Interior of BC, radio hadn't really caught up to the Top Ten format so I also got exposed to the Country & Western music of Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Johnny Horton, Ferlin Husky & all the big stars of the day. A young folk singer named Gordon Lightfoot was getting airplay, & his music struck a resonant chord for me as an early Canadian singer/songwriter. His 12-string guitar held a fascination for me too & I knew early on that writing my own songs was something I wanted to do.
The next year we moved to Vancouver Island & my uncle Ivor let me have one of his guitars. It was a nylon string with action half an inch high, but I loved it. He taught me chords in the key of C, & how to strum using my thumb & forefinger. That was it for me.
I also got into soul music around this time when I first heard James Brown on a jukebox in Vancouver. I was soon cruising the AM radio dial searching for more & finding Ray Charles & all of the Stax/Volt music on the US stations that came in strong, late at night. That was my background with that kind of singing along with the Gospel music that was also popular with the Southern Baptist stations at the left end of the dial.
I got a few guitar books & took lessons for about 6 months at Carter's Music Store in Duncan. I remember riding my bike 3 miles into town with my guitar on my back every Saturday afternoon, eventually getting lessons from Richard Mayer (who ended recording bass tracks for my first album). I guess I didn't care for riding in the rain too much & dropped out of lessons as soon as I figured out that I wanted to do my own thing.
I discovered Bob Dylan at this time & got a harmonica & rack. The San Francisco bands were big on the scene & psychedelia was taking hold.
Everyday after school I'd watch "Let's Go" & later "Music Hop" on TV to see the latest Canadian music. That was the first time I ever saw Lenny Breau & from then on I was hooked to pushing the envelope with the guitar, concentrating as much on my right hand style as with making up new chord shapes with the left.
When I saw Glen Campbell play on the Smothers Brothers show, I just had to get a 12-string. I pulled weeds in the family half-acre garden all summer to repay my dad for the $75 Espana 12-string that we found in Duncan. I still have that guitar which I started writing music on in 1968. My first efforts came as a result of poetry assignments from my grade 8 English class. I adapted them to my new music which I began recording on a little plastic cassette deck.
Next I convinced my Dad to buy me an electric guitar & was soon found plugged into the family Grundig HiFi which eventually gave up under protest. I wasn't allowed to plug into its replacement so the next step was to branch out, borrowing a little tube amp from Al Harris, a man at church. I started playing garage rock with schoolmates from junior high next & we thrashed away in the old pig barn. Shawn Mullins, Shannon Judge & a bunch of us scared alot of local livestock that summer. Feedback!
My first big performance was a one-song gig in front of about 200 people. I played my 12 string & sang harmony backing up a female singer at a church hootenany in Victoria. We did "Jesus Was a Soul Man".
School sock-hops were next & by the time I got to High School I had a repertoire of my own songs & a bit of experience playing with other musicians. By now the Rock thing was in full swing & eastern music was hip too.
A couple of the first LPs in my collection were: Van Morrison's 'Astral Weeks', John Coltrane's 'Cosmic Music' & Miles Davis' 'Sketches of Spain', as well as an album of Flamenco guitar by Tito Cardenas. These core albums provided me with a depth of influence that has stayed with me, affecting me on a variety of levels.
In high school I got asked to join a new band called 'ptarmigan". I brought Shawn Mullins into the band with me, which made the group a sextet. Michael Bieling had introduced James Lithgow & Glen Dias. They were joined by Dennis Lelonde & then Shawn & I. The acoustic band went on to establish a local following playing concerts, coffeehouses & happenings, many of which were promoted by Dave Pite at St. Peter's Church Hall.
The band came to the attention of Paul Horn at the 1971 'BC Centennial Search For Talent' contest. After the band split up, Glen & I kept the band name & travelled across Canada performing on the coffeehouse circuit. We played a lot of the major clubs from Victoria to Toronto. Eventually we played at 'le Hibou' in Ottawa for 2 weeks, opening for Lenny Breau. That was incredible! I turned 18 in the middle of the gig. Lenny bought me a carton of Export A.
Ptarmigan opened for Lenny two-shows-a-night for two weeks. There was lots of socializing and one-on-one guitar work with Lenny in the tuning room & after hours. It was a mind-opening experience & hanging with Lenny Breau is a highlight of my life.
When Glen & I came back to the coast we had a demo which we played for Paul Horn. Paul had relocated to Victoria from Los Angeles. He eventually took us into Can-Base Studio (Mushroom) in Vancouver where he produced the Ptarmigan album in late 1972 & early 1973. Rick Mayer & Peter Wheeler came in with the band from Vancouver Island & Paul's drummer, Kat Hendrickse & bassist, Dave Field completed the rhythm tracks. The album was eventually sold to Columbia of Canada & released as ES90257 in 1974. It was not available for long & without proper management, the band soon broke up. Pristine vinyl copies of the LP now fetch up to $100 (US) on the Progressive collectors market!
After Ptarmigan, I worked on the railroad in the Fraser Canyon, trained as a welder in Vancouver & found work in the forestry industry in various mills. I then planted trees for 4 years & used a chainsaw as a spacer. I kept on writing & wondered if I'd ever get another shot at the "brass ring". I got a repertoire of cover material together & played a few local bars.
I started working on my first solo project at that point. I had enough material but no finances or backing. I eventually found a small 4-track studio in Duncan which was run by Ed & Willi de Bree. They were very kind & supportive. Ed wanted to engineer a complete project & kindly donated his time & experience. I brought in a crew of local musicians who volunteered to fill out my off-the-floor arrangements. We recorded sporadically for several months. By 1978 the album was mixed. With no budget for manufacturing the project it remained unreleased, until now. (see 'Stages')
I knew I had to move to a bigger centre. In 1979 I met my wife MaryAnn in Parksville & we soon moved to Edmonton. I spent the next few years earning my living playing music on the lounge/bar circuit, working for 'Banks Music'. Over the next 4 years, I played 30 different lounges in Edmonton & performed in 45 towns, mostly in Northern Alberta.
I intended to get a strong act together & then hit Vancouver when I was ready to make a splash. I bought more professional gear & developed a large collection of cover tunes (1000 at last estimate), while writing my own material in a variety of styles. I'd slip my own tunes in, wherever possible.
I formed 'Northstream Music' to be my SOCAN-affiliated publishing company in Edmonton. I recorded a couple albums worth of my new songs for CKRA-FM in 1980 & 1983. I bought the master tapes from the producer, Pat Stradeski & have recently released them as "Voodoo Rage" on Groovedigger Records. (see 'RA - Live Sessions')
Eventually I was playing in Banff more often than Edmonton, so we relocated with our new daughter Vanessa, to the mountains. I booked myself into all the resorts I could find. I wrote alot of Canadiana in this enviroment & envisoned recording what eventually became 'Northstream' in 1996.
By 1986 we were missing the coast & wanted to have more contact with our families. We moved back to Vancouver Island after a visit to Expo 86 (which we attended because of a Van Morrison concert). It was good to be back on the Island, but I had missed the step of moving my "act" to Vancouver.
By 1987 I had formed what became 'Monte & the Beaumonts' with my old friends, Bill Winter, Wes Kane & Michael Harney & many others. We established a long-running Sunday night open stage event at a local pub in Maple Bay, where I had first started my solo bar career many years before.
Over the next ten years, I recorded 3 albums of original material with 'The Beaumonts'. We've played in different configurations all over the coast & as far north as Whitehorse. I've also made numerous trips to the states & to various Music conventions promoting my music & networking. I've shared a lot of the information I've gathered by writing a column for 'Cosmic Debris Musicians Magazine'. (see Articles).
There's been a string of over 30 different musicians come through 'The Beaumonts' which I disbanded in 1998. Much of our artwork was provided by surrealist painter, Toby Nilsson. (see Links)
In 1996, with the assistance of my talented nephew Kelly Nordstrom, I finally recorded my long-planned album of Canadiana, 'Northstream' subtitled 'Songs & Stories of People & Places'. (see Northstream CD). We toured western Canada in January of 1997 supporting that CD. (see 'Touring the Prairies for Fun & Profit')
In 1998 I recorded a solo CD 'Live at the James Bay Inn' & have since been working closely with Barry Newman (publisher, Cosmic Debris Musicians Magazine), in designing this website. Barry also played bass at many of my shows during '02 & '03, with drummer Nick Jarvie.
In 2004, I completed recording and manufacture of 'After All...' . This was produced with Jeremy Sagar & features drumming by Pat Steward, bassist Keizo Endo (in Japan) and guitarist Peter Gustavsson (in Sweden). (see After All...)
Contact Monte Nordstrom: Box 196 Crofton, BC, Canada, V0R 1R0
www.montenordstrom.com . . . or email direct: firstname.lastname@example.org
1974 LP on CD
Articles by Monte