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Live Music for Charity

A conversation with Gord Steinke

Play It Forward – Live Music For Charity

A Conversation with Gord Steinke . . .
Anchor man, Musician and giving back to the community
by Greg Donnelly

Gord Steinke
                                                                                                                                 Photo credit: Macri Photography



On September 30th, the 3rd annual Live Music for Charity event will take the stage at Festival Place. Play It Forward features three bands raising money for children and youth programs in Strathcona County. The Tsunami Brothers, Great Slave and Train Wreck featuring Global news anchor Gord Steinke will be entertaining music fans. We chatted with Gord about his music career, how his journalism career is similar to music and what fans can expect when he hits the stage in September.


Q: Everyone knows you delivering the news on TV but you are also an author and you have a long history with Gord Steinke - Global News music? When did you start making music, at one point you were thinking music as your career right?

Gord Steinke: Music was my career. From when I graduated from high school in 1977 until 1984 all I did was sing and play in bands. That was all I did. That was my career. That’s a big chunk of time when you’re that young. That’s what I thought I’d do. I never thought I’d do anything different. Once you get going you think this is all I know what to do and this is all I’m doing. That’s all I ever did from, actually, 1975 to 1984.

Q: So what changed in 1984. That’s a gruelling 7 years I’m guessing?

GS: Yeah. We were road pigs is what they call us. We did an album with CBS records. We recorded in Hamilton. The band was called Inner City and the album was called Larger than Life. We recorded that in 1982 and we went right across Canada touring. That was just at the start of video and we made a couple of videos for MuchMusic. The trouble was once we made the record I was making less money than I did when I was just playing in a bar band. But we got to backup bands like Black Sabbath, Kim Mitchell, Max Webster, and David Wilcox. It was a ton of fun but by 84 I was just burned out. I thought I like writing so I decided to go into journalism and just continue writing. It seemed like the next best phase to go from song writing into just writing.

Q: Storytelling right?

G: Yeah storytelling. So I’m still doing the same thing I did when I was 17 years old. I’ve never really changed. Telling news stories is just like singing songs to me.

Q: Tell us how you got involved in the Play it Forward event and about Train Wreck, the band you’ll be playing with.

When (Play It Forward organizer) Rollie LaMarche asked me if I would play I said I would love to but I don’t have a band, though, that’s the problem because I’m not really playing full time now. I got in with this band. Steve Hartley, is his name. His band is Train Wreck. I got up and jammed with him a Train Wreck - Edmonton Bandcouple of times and it just clicked with these guys. They are so good. He’s such a good singer and such a good bandleader.

Q: But you know lots of top musicians around?

G: Yeah, tons of them. But it’s really difficult to put a band together yourself. I don’t want to do it ever, ever again.

Q: There is a lot that goes into it, eh?

G: It’s crazy, but instead you find this tailor made band that he’s the leader of. I‘ve played a number of gigs with these guys and they’re brilliant musicians. And they’re old school guys. It’s really tough to put something like that together. It’s tailor made for me. Steve is a sweetheart and said if I ever need a band anytime let’s do it with Train Wreck. They play everything and they love my original work so I’m going to play 4 or 5 originals off the CD. By the way, that CD won four awards. It’s crazy. It won Rock Heavy Metal album of the year, it won new recording artist of the year, it won best Rock Heavy Metal artist of the year. And City of Mayhem, I’m probably not playing that one, but anyway, it won single of the year for international song writing competition. That’s from the Alberta Recording Industry Association.  So I’m going to play about 4 tunes off that and the rest of them we’ll be kicking it with some Rhythm and Blues.

Q: When did you release the CD?

G: Well my sister was killed in 1996, so I got the idea to get back into music in 97. So the CD was released in about 98. I wrote all the songs and every single song is in memory of her.

Q: You mentioned 96 was the tragedy with your sister being killed by a drunk driver. That got you back into music. But you had still been playing here and there?

G: I still play in every town I’ve been in. Whether it is Minneapolis, or Regina, or Toronto, or Edmonton, I always had a bar band. I always like to play. But when Janet was killed, my mom and I and my wife Deb, sat around and I was thinking how can I turn a negative into a positive? We decided I should write some songs and put it out on a CD and really have fun. All the proceeds from that CD, called Something Wrong, went to what’s called the P.A.R.T.Y program. That was to educate. I used to do keynote speeches to graduation programs and tell kids that drinking and driving just isn’t cool. I used the music as a catalyst. That got me back into doing originals. We ended up opening up for Rick Derringer, Deep Purple, Alice Cooper, Pat Benatar. We were on the road. I was a news anchor but I would be on the road with this album when it won all these awards. It was funny because I would take all my holidays and be playing festivals in B.C., Alberta, and Saskatchewan. Nobody back in the newsroom knew what I was doing. But it was fun because that album did better than the one I did in the 80s.

Once you get it in your bones you can’t give it up too easy I guess?

GS: I can’t get out of music if I wanted to. It’s part of my DNA.

Q: Did it feel good to get back on the road, did you feel you missed it or did you go oh yeah that’s why I got out of it?

G: Well to this day the people I usually hang out with and the people who are my best friends are musicians and bikers. They seem to be the most real people going. They have such a generous heart and they always give back to the community. Musicians are amazing people. That’s what this festival is all about. They’re giving back. I don’t know why that is. I don’t remember that back in the 70s so much but through the 80s, 90s and now it’s amazing what musicians and the motorcycle community does. So my music came together with the bikers. The bikers love it. My music is like ZZ Top meets Lynard Skynard, meets Tragically Hip. They love it.

Q: Why do you do charity? You do lots of MC work and give to charity all the time. Why do you feel that’s important?

G: Our audience gives us so much back in feedback. I think it’s nice to connect with our audience in a different way. And if you can do it through music and I love to sing and play rock n roll then it’s great. People get a kick at seeing a news guy, all they see every day is wearing a suit and tie, they get a kick out of seeing you come out and just digging in and sweating and playing rock n roll, you know? It’s a nice way to give back to the community and raise awareness about whatever cause, whether it’s cancer, or prostate cancer, or drinking and driving, whatever. It’s a nice way to give back.

Q: So you touched on it a bit but what should people expect come September when you take the stage?

G: Well, I’m not going to give away any secrets. There’s going to be a few surprises. I know the audience is all about music, that’s why they’re coming. They are very charity minded too. The reason I’m doing this is because I’m going to tell a few road stories. I just want to let people know, that in this internet day and age, it’s nice to bring back memories from when you were in high school and a band came through town and live music was everything. You just couldn’t get it all on YouTube. I’m going to bring back a few memories for people I think because I’m going to play some cover tunes that when I travelled with a band those were the staples I always put in our set list. Rhythm and Blues, and I think people are going to be surprised to hear me play some Ray Charles, and some James Cotton and some originals. That’s going to be fun.

People appreciate those old classics don’t they?

There is something about playing the old songs that we played back in my high school days. There’s something about keeping that music alive from there that’s really special. Music is memories. It’s a blast to keep that going. Because the songs that I play, when I get up there and play something by the Rolling Stones, I’m not thinking about the Rolling Stones, I’m thinking about when I played in Vegreville in 1978 when I played to a packed house at the hotel.  It takes you back in time as a musician. I think it takes the audience back in time too. That’s why music is so cool.


Q: It sounds like it’s going to be fun and it sounds like you’re going to have fun doing it?

G: Oh my god! I’m the luckiest guy in the world. I love playing at high volume. And this is going to be super high volume. That’s the thing is you’re not just getting up here and ticky-tacking away. This is Rock n Roll. This is old school Rock n Roll and these guys that I’m playing with are old school Rock n Rollers so we’re going to crank it up so sit back in your chair and enjoy it

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