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Reflections: Jazz Regents were a Flin Flon phenomenon

We’ve all heard the expression, “Where did the time go?” Perhaps a few Flin Flonners can stretch their memories back 60 years (yikes!) to 1956.

We’ve all heard the expression, “Where did the time go?” Perhaps a few Flin Flonners can stretch their memories back 60 years (yikes!) to 1956.

It was in the spring of 1956 that a group of Flin Flon lads got together to form a musical aggregation, immodestly named themselves The Jazz Regents and began a three-year journey of playing for concerts and dances in Flin Flon as well as gigs “on the road” in Cranberry Portage, The Pas and Lynn Lake.

The origins of the Regents were rather a haphazard affair that came to fruition through the support of Bob Osborne, who was teaching at Hapnot Collegiate and directing the newly formed school orchestra.

He provided Dennis Rusinak with a number of dance band music books that he had used during his days as a dance band musician. From there it was a matter of gathering up a handful of “players” and, well, the rest is history.

The original grouping of teenage musicians was comprised of Dennis Rusinak (tenor sax and accordion), Brian Kenny (piano), George Young (trumpet), Stuart Bexton (clarinet), Joe Greenberg (alto sax) and Norman Crerar (drums). Crerar had to opt out due to his participation in the Trout Festival Canoe Derby, so Vince Dodds took over his drumming duties.

First gig

The Regents’ first official gig was during the Trout Festival when they played the free stage at The Rink (Whitney Forum). They went on to play for dances at the Jubilee Hall, the then-new Community Hall, the Lobstick Club and various church and school auditoriums throughout Flin Flon and area.

It serves recorded history well to note that The Jazz Regents were the first dance band to play the new Community Hall stage! The Regents were also the favoured live band for the Teen Canteen gigs at the Jubilee Hall, where they supplanted the usual recorded rock-and-roll music offerings of the day.

The Regents’ first paying gig was for a community dance at the Cranberry Portage Hall. Five musicians played for four hours for the sum of $20. Not $20 each, but in total! Do the math! That’s $4 per player. $1 per hour. But it was a gig and the band was well received. The Jazz Regents had “turned professional”!

The Regents soon added guitarist Ian (Bones) MacDougal. Dean MacDonald took over on trumpet when George Young left the band in its final year. And The Regents had a band vocalist in the charming presence of Natalia Dobrohorsky, who sang at some of the Jubilee Hall and school gigs.

The Jazz Regents were a Flin Flon phenomenon. They presented themselves as professionals much to the amazement of the parents of the day who suspected that all teenagers were hell-bound to be delinquents.

Sixty years! Wow, the sands of time have shifted on their way to the bottom of the hourglass. Yet the memories linger on. Memories of great times on the bandstand, great camaraderie – and most importantly, lasting friendships. 

As they say in the mines, it was a blast!

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