E51 - Songs In The Key Of Weed

The fact marijuana heightens the musical experience is no secret. We know both listeners and players have enhanced their musical experiences through the use of this plant for over 100 years. This episode links cannabis to music through the stories told by acclaimed musicologist John Einarson. We follow a path of early jazz players influencing Canadian singer-song-writer Ian Tyson, who in turn influenced Bob Dylan, who in turn influenced The Beatles, to produce their iconic cannabis inspired album Rubber Soul. Einarson, author of 14 biographies of various musicians, tells stories with weed-inspired songs weaving through his deep narrative, as we learn how musicians created some of our most iconic songs under the influence of cannabis. Some very important pot smoking entertainers are discussed, such as Barbara Streisand sharing reefer with Peter Sellers and Neil Young testifying for his brother during a marijuana trial. Although cannabis is a very popular mind-altering substance used by musicians, Einarson believes it may actually pale compared to other psychedelic substances used in the industry. But that is another story for another episode. For now, this is a highly-entertaining episode produced, unlike any other from the ReeferMEDness team.

 
 

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Episode Transcript

Trevor: Kirk we're back,.

Kirk: I got my cold face,.

Trevor: Yes, for those of you who are watching the video, we can see all of Kirk's face, not much hair in front of it anymore. Kind of like the top of my head.

Kirk: Yeah, I'm getting I'm getting a bigger forehead. So I hand sanitizer, I borrowed my neighbor's water distiller and I managed to get the wash down to 90, 90 percent.

Trevor: That's amazing. So when we actually turn that into hand sanitizer, despite Health Canada's warnings we'll let people know.

Kirk: Well, we'll be doing it because we've got a pharmacist that knows how to do it, right.

Trevor: Yeah. Actually, I've been playing around with isopropyl alcohol. We managed to get some isopropyl alcohol. And so anyway, I think I think we'll make a good batch.

Kirk: I should have about 12 liters of 93% ethyl for you.

Trevor: That is lovely. Non Covid related while we were all social distancing another way, I was at work. You were at home, Rene was in the studio and John Einarson was in Winnipeg. You brought us John Einarson. How about tell us a little bit about Mr. Einarson.

Kirk: Well, let's talk about music and cannabis, first of all. Right. Essentially.

Trevor: I was I don't I don't think any guitarist has ever smoked a doobie and then played his guitar ever. So end of discussion, right?

Kirk: You're such you're such a pharmacist sometimes. No, there's a humanity side of this story as I'm socially isolating of course, I'm not necessarily getting out of bed at early hours in the morning. I was stretching, listening to our local radio station and Michelle and I were commenting how many times booze drinking is mentioned in country songs?

Trevor: Oh, country songs, blues songs. Most rock songs. Absolutely. We're drinking in all of them.

Kirk: So we were we were thinking about weed. And I said, well, jeez, we have never done a weed episode; weed and music, cannabis, and music. So we figured we need to get a music historian and we found Winnipeg's own John Einarsonand of course, Manitobans and a lot of Canadians will know John, he's I grew up with grew up with the Neil Young's of the World and the Burton Cummings of the world and Randy Bachman's of the world. He was part of that that sort of demographic in Winnipeg. He was a folk singer himself. He grew into a little bit of a journalist. He's written books on the Guess Who on Neil Young. He's interviewed David Crosby.

Trevor: I know. I know. I know another guy that you know across the screen from me who interviewed David Crosby.

Kirk: It's part of our library. Right. I like to remind people that we have an incredible library of information on cannabis, a nurse and a pharmacist dissecting and learning about cannabis while we post it into the Internet there, you know, and see what happens. Right. So cannabis and music, what do you know about Canada's music, you scientific nerd you?

Trevor: Not a whole lot like I said, growing up, musicians were always doing taboo things. And, you know, we heard that, you know, some them were smoking the reefer while they were doing their music thing and some of them were doing the heroin and some of them were doing the LSD. But other than that, not a whole bunch.

Kirk: You had guys doing heroin in your high school. That's hardcore.

Trevor: And no, I didn't. But, you know, we heard. But our musical idols were you know, we had the Iggy Pops and stuff of the world to who, you know, stayed so svelte due to their opioid addictions.

Kirk: Yeah, well, that's one of the biggest difficulties. Right. That's one of the reasons why a lot of people saw cannabis as an entry drug back in the day, because people, of course, started with cannabis and they moved on to harder stuff. But not everyone, not all of us.

Trevor: Well, and not to give too many things away. One of the things I really liked about your interview with Einarson is he talked about how The Beatles equated cannabis with really hard drugs, like they thought originally that cannabis was up there with heroin. You did it once. You're hooked for life. And, you know, this was just a horrible, horrible thing. And I got to say, as a teenager, I didn't know any difference between, you know, cocaine, cannabis, heroin. They're all terrible, awful things that no one should ever do.

Kirk: Well, I can't I can't necessarily say that I fell into that that category.  As a younger man, I tried anything that you could grow naturally. I went and tried it. So, I mean, if you grew mushrooms in the backfield field, my grandmother's backfield, we went and picked them. If someone grew cannabis on Saltspring Island, we went and smoked that. And someone brought up some peyote from the states. Well, we tried that once, too, so I wasn't much for the stuff done in labs. So I'm not a lab guy. I don't know about the LSD there. And you know that the studies they've done, they've actually they've actually done perceptional studies of musicians and people that do cannabis. And they talk about the time sensation happens in the brain that actually in the brain cannabis can slow your perception of time, which is one of the reasons why musicians tend to like to smoke pot. They play music when they're high because they're getting into the notes and the music. This has actually been studied, Trevor. This is these are legitimate studies that I did a scholarly look at. They've actually looked at EEGs of brains, of people who have used cannabis and how music is perceived and what they've discovered actually is it cannabis actually has an effect on the on the middle ear and actually how we perceive music. And there's an assumption from this study that cannabis might be helping people with hearing impairments.

Trevor: That that is interesting. I hadn't heard of any association between cannabinoids and hearing. That's what's new to me.

Kirk: Yeah, no, I did. I did. I was trying to do a scholarly search to bring John into this this academic program that we attempt to give people. But there is a science to this. Cannabis does affect the brain. We know that. And music affects the brain and people's perception of music changes with cannabis. So having said that, without going through all the studies, this is this is what's out there. Now, we talked to David Crosby. Gosh, it seems like another lifetime ago. And David Crosby, as we know, is was an influencer in the in the 60s and 70s with cannabis. But back before that, there is a jazz player, a man named Mezz Mezzrow.

Trevor: Mezz Mezzrow.

Kirk: Mezz Mezzrow. That was his stage name is his real name was Milton Mesirow. He was born November 9, 1899 and lived till 1972. But he was known, he was known in the day, the jazz day in New York City as being a pusher, a man that you could get weed from to the point that they called weed, they called weed after him. People like Louis Armstrong was buying weed from this guy to the point that his drug dealing, he was known more for his drug dealing in marijuana than he was from his own music and some of the some of the slang of the day was Mess or like marijuana was called Mess or Vipers or Mughals. I like that one. Mughals.

Trevor: Yeah, you've mentioned that. And I like this because it ties in nicely to your interview that we talk about Ian Tyson, who will mentioned a lot in the interview, seems to have run into cannabis with jazz musicians in Toronto.

Kirk: Yes. Yeah, well, that's where that's where a lot of well, that's where the old reefer madness came from right back in the thirties. They were saying that the black men were basically destroying the young white women of the day. Right. They were violating them with their, with their drug crazed marijuana, weed music. And so this is part of the reefer madness from the East Coast, whereas in the West Coast of America was more of the Hearst papers that were spreading the whole marriage Marihuana stuff. There's so much I mean, marijuana and cannabis, marijuana, cannabis and music. I mean, it touches everybody from, you know, modern day Ben Harper has cannabis stories. Barbara Streisand, there's a cannabis story on Barbra Streisand of all people.

Trevor: What was Babs doing? Which was she pro or against?

Kirk: Again, I'm looking for the quote. Babs was known for cannabis or cannabis use. Babs smoked with Peter Sellers, apparently.

Trevor: So the Pink Panther and Babs.

Kirk: I mean, you've got you've got Bessie Smith, you've got Buddy Rich, you've got Reanna, you've got Art Garfunkel. These are all people that have cannabis stories. Kris Kristofferson, of course, Neil Young, David Crosby. Melissa Etheridge. Bob Dylan. Willie Nelson. Alanis Morissette. Theopolis Monk, Bette Midler is on the list. This is a Web Page I'm looking at veryimportantpotheads.com.

Trevor: Well, before we get too far to what sounds like a very interesting Web Page, why don't we let John, you know, school is a little bit and we'll continue this at the end.

Kirk: Yeah, that's a good segue into the podcast Kirk Nyquist I'm the registered nurse.

Trevor: I'm Trevor Shewfelt I'm the pharmacist. But more importantly, coming up here is John Einarson.

John: Hi, it's John Anderson here in Winnipeg, I'm a writer of music history and broadcaster of music history and educator.

Kirk: Fantastic. So we're going to talk about cannabis and music. And, of course, people of my generation, I'm a late baby boomer. I'm assuming you're an early baby boomer. Of course, we think of rock and roll and cannabis, but I'd like to go deeper. John, what's your earliest reference to popular music and cannabis?

John: OK, cannabis and music, probably not until about 65 and the folk rock era, but being someone who always kind of delved into the background of music and the history of music, going back to discovering, you know, references to drugs, references to sex, references to booze in a lot of the R & B artists that never charted on the white charts, but charted on the rhythm and blues charts. You know, the juke joint music that talked about, you know, when you listen to the way You Ain't Nothing But a Hound Dog, not by Elvis, but listened to by Big Mama Thornton, it's a pretty raunchy song or Roll with Me Henry, which is about sex, even the word rock and roll. The term rock and roll is about, certainly the vernacular of African-Americans back in the 50s was the sex act itself.

John: You had that sort of connection to these marijuana and other drugs and things when you went back and looked into the 1950s, it wasn't music that I heard playing certainly in Winnipeg, but any kind of references to being aware of cannabis in music, popular music would have come by probably about 65 and into 66 with the Byrds and, you know, Eight Miles High Miles.

[00:12:59] Whether it's about marijuana or not, it certainly is a reference to being high and, you know, a brilliant, brilliant song, but got labeled as a drug song when radio was concerned about playing songs that might have a detrimental influence to young people, you know, and then years later, I mean, of course, I Want to Hold Your Hand by The Beatles in 1964, the song that launched The Beatles for everybody, certainly in North America, where The Beatles sing I can't hide and Bob Dylan hearing that in 64 and thinking they saying I get high.

John: and so when he met The Beatles in August of 64 in New York, Bob figured they were already tuned into marijuana like he was and he came with marijuana and certainly the four Beatles were no were no innocents in terms of some drugs, pep pills, you know, Prelundin which is an amphetamine or, you know, barbiturate drugs like Mandrax, they had grown up believing that marijuana was like, yeah, like heroin. I mean, you do smoked at once and you were hooked for life. You got a monkey on your back. And so they were afraid of marijuana when Dylan brought it and they plugged up all the doorways in the hotel and, you know, very, very nervously took, you know, a hit of a joint. And just that introduction to marijuana had a huge impact on The Beatles, especially John Lennon and his lyrics, where he began to be freer about the songs that he wrote about and began to be more introspective himself from smoking marijuana. And George Harrison has said that their 1965 album, Rubber Soul, was their marijuana album, the album, the most influenced by the use of marijuana. But it just going back to that, I Want to Hold Your Hand story. Bob Dylan has been introduced to marijuana by a Canadian, as a Canadian, as Ian Tyson.

John: Ian Tyson from Victoria, B.C, you know, the cowboy guy who comes to Toronto in 1958 got into the Yorkville music scene before even meeting Sylvia. Of course, they would become Ian and Sylvia folk duo, but he got introduced to marijuana really early through the jazz musicians in and around Yorkville. So he was already a marijuana smoker. When he went down, he and Sylvian, 62, went down to New York to sign a record label contract and befriended Bob Dylan and it was Ian introduced Dylan to marijuana. So if you want to talk about the whole 1960s drug culture, it starts with the Canadian guy, Ian Tyson, which I think is quite funny, and Ian certainly acknowledges that as well.

Kirk: Yeah, I think that's a great story. I've heard that story before and it's sort of like Canada has influenced America in so many ways, even in our comedy Canada influence America. But that's different "C" word, We're on to Cannabis. So, yeah, it started with Ian Tyson. One of the references I have when you talk about The Beatles is Paul McCartney was also very influenced. He talks about the song on Revolver Got to Get Into My Life. And that's not a love song to a woman. It's a love song towards cannabis.

John: That's right. And I teach courses on Beatle music and I teach classes at the University of Winnipeg, you know, The Beatles - Album by Album. And it's always a surprise, especially for people who are older, who grew up buying Revolver in 66 and listening to the songs who have always believed that song is about, you know, talking about a girl gotta get you into my life. When they discover that, oh, my goodness, it's about marijuana.

John:  You know, Paul's use of cannabis, marijuana and hashish continued on. I mean, for decades and quite possibly still does. And he was, you know, been busted at least once in Japan and once in the U.K. for growing or possessing cannabis, cannabis products.

Kirk: Yeah, no, I can remember that. I'm old enough to remember when he got busted in Japan and of course, Band On The Run, became a hit that year. I think he got an extra little bump in the charts with that song.

John: Well, yeah. He also had that song, a single called High. High, High.

Kirk: The other thing I find interesting about pop culture, Bob Dylan says that he's never written a song about drugs,.

John: But, you know, in thinking about this topic or before our phone conversation here, there's there are fewer songs that reference marijuana than there are that reference LSD or hallucinogenic drugs. But yet marijuana was very much a part of, as I said, the rhythm and blues community and the African-American community, the jazz community for sure. And as I said, Ian Tyson was introduced to it by jazzers in Toronto, but it didn't permeate into pop music. And until, you know, again, until later. But you don't have I mean, you don't have songs written about marijuana. But that's certainly not to say that Bob Dylan didn't wasn't inspired or influenced in his songwriting and lyrics by having smoked marijuana.

Kirk: Well, I would imagine he says he says that Rainy Day Women 12 and thirty five is actually about biblical stories.

John: Oh yeah, right. I don't buy that for a minute. But, you know, here's the thing. A Rainy Day Women No. 12 plus 35 was not banned on most radio stations. It was released in 1966 of this Blond on Blond album. Yet just a few months before the Byrds had released Eight Miles High. "When you touch down, you'll find that it's stranger than known." It's about their flight to from L.A. to London to do their first UK tour. The plane was eight miles high and Roger McGuinn has often said, well, we could have called it 13,741 feet high. And when we touched down, but Eight Miles High was banned because it implied the drug reference. "But everybody must get stoned" was allowed to be on the radio.

Kirk: There's a little trivia that 12x 35 = 420.

John: OK, that's the magic marijuana number.

Kirk: Yeah, exactly. So and of course, you know, in 1970, there was One Toke Over the Line by Brewer and Shipley.

John: And I'll tell you something, you've got to and certainly listeners should do this Google One Toke Over the Line Lawrence Welk because on The Lawrence Welk Show, they had two you know, fresh faced mom's apple pie singers singing the song without completely understanding what a toke was. They got hung up on the sweet Jesus and thought it was a religious song. And you know what? My feeling is that the backing musicians are Lawrence's show, Lawrence Welk Show. We're all studio musicians. I mean, you know, people came and went in his band. He hired studio musicians who most certainly would have known what a toke was. And I can imagine them just kind of killing themselves, laughing, playing this song with this really fresh faced young innocent couple are singing it like it's a song about Jesus.

Kirk: Again I might be old enough to remember that show. My parents were Lawrence Welk followers. I remember being a kid watching some of those old songs.

John: One of the songs that that made me, I guess, more aware of certainly marijuana and cannabis in comparison to harder drugs like LSD was, as I referenced before, the pusher by Steppenwolf, written by the song was written by Hoyt Axton, who was a long time folk guy, wrote some big songs for Joy to the World and Never Been to Spain for Three Dog Night, but a folkie and an actor for a long time. And in the early 60s, he wrote The Pusher and, you know, the lines in the pusher really referenced the difference between he says, I know I've smoked a lot of grass. I popped a lot of pills. I never touched nothing that my spirit could kill. And he talks about, you know, the dealer. And that's marijuana. The dealer, the man with the love grass in his hand. But the pusher is a monster. Good God, he's not a natural man. I mean, he goes on to say the dealer for a nickel will sell you a lot of sweet dreams. But the push of your body.

John: So it was it was kind of drawing that line between marijuana is OK, it's safe, it's fun, but harder drugs aren't and that, again, for me being, you know, in 1966, 67 being, you know, 14, 15 year old kid who was not aware of heroin in our community, that was certainly, you know, gave me pause to think about marijuana versus harder drugs.

Kirk: Mm hmm. I kind of I kind of you have 10 years on me, John, but I can remember I grew up in Victoria. So you use that as a reference. I'm a Victoria boy. And about nineteen seventy-six is when I started getting into music. And of course with music came cannabis. And I remember that to going into the head shop and going to the magazine. And you know, the emperor has no clothes and all the books and learning about cannabis and hemp and then starting to discover the songs about, about cannabis. And of course, that's about the year that Neil Young put out Roll Another Number on The Tonight’s the Night Album. Do you have much information about Tonight's the Night?

John: Well, I mean, I know that the album was recorded under stressful circumstances and sad circumstances. Bruce Berry had OD'd on drugs and he was a roadie for Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. And a few years before that, Danny Whitten, who is a guitar player in Crazy Horse, who was Neil's backing and also died from drugs. And Neil had written a song about Danny Whitten before he died called The Needle and the Damage Done but Roll Another Number came from that album Tonight's the Night and what Neil and his backing musicians were doing was they would go and get really, really drunk and stoned and then they go into the studio and record these songs that Neil had kind of written and some of them were put together in the studio.

John: In many ways, is it a tribute to these guys? Well, I guess in some way, but it was their way of kind of coming to terms with the grief of it.

Kirk: Bill Talbot referred to it as a drunken Irish wake.

John: Yeah, yeah. And certainly it was in many ways like that Roll Another Number, I mean, that was pretty common place. Neil Young told me that he wasn't introduced to marijuana until he was in L.A. He was into pep pills and amphetamine in Toronto, but it was in L.A. that that he was introduced to marijuana and hashish

Kirk: And that’s the song Hitchhiker, I guess, where he tells the history of his drug addictions. A lot of people called it this big drug album and I think may you know, I think it's more of a drunken stoners album than it is heroin or anything. He's not by any means out there praising, praising drugs. He's just putting out music and talking about it.

John: But, you know, when Neil's brother, Bob, his older brother by three years, was busted for marijuana possession in Toronto, I guess is back maybe in the 80s. And at the at the trial, Neil came up and testified and Neil said, I've smoked marijuana every day of my life since about 1966. Interesting admission there. And when I was at Neil's ranch in Christmas of nineteen ninety, he invited me down as I was doing a biography on him, you know, I mean at his ranch and it was the 2000 acre ranch in Northern California and it's very secluded, very isolated. Everybody, they're just commonplace, just smoking and a doobie around.  I didn't see Neil smoke it. Neil and I sat and had a few beers together, but it just seemed very commonplace. And I got the sense that the California lifestyle, marijuana was just vulgaire. It was just commonplace. Everybody smoked marijuana, you know, like no big deal. Just everybody smoked it.

Kirk: That was pretty much known, I mean, even on the west coast of Canada, you know, in my youth in the 70s, people walk down the street smoking cannabis. It wasn't it wasn't unheard of to be in the mall and you get an overwhelming smell of what people say someone let a skunk in. And now anybody who lives in Victoria, there's not a lot of skunks in Victoria. There's a lot of guys smoking doobies on the street.

John: But I wasn't quite that health in Winnipeg, but certainly in certain circles, when people got together, joints were passed around. It was just part of being young, being a hippie type in, you know, in the late 60s and early 70s for everybody, you know, boy, I mean, you know, sitting people sitting around listening to Neil Young's album, Everybody Knows This is Nowhere in our early, early summer of 1969 with long tracks, you know, nine eleven-minute songs like Cowgirl in the Sand and Down by the River. Together, sitting around on the carpet and, you know, passing joints around. That's just very common for me as I remember.

Kirk: I mean, you've got you've got Peter Tosh, you've got Bob Marley, you know, Rick James. You've got all sorts of references to cannabis happening in the 70s. How far back do we go in regards to popular music? So I guess jazz, blues, how far back we go with cannabis in popular music?

John: Well, there was a there was a song about the Reefer Man. I think that was by Cab Calloway. I think he recorded it in 1933. And there are other songs that that sort of have that reference to marijuana use. But in certain in my research, that was the first song that really kind of stated about marijuana, you know, known as reefer at the time.

Kirk: A lot of jazz musicians, blues guys were doing a lot of opium and cocaine in those days, too?

John: Well, it was it's always been assumed back then that drugs, whether it was cannabis or whether it was hallucinogenic drugs, opened up your mind and it freed your mind so that you could be more creative. And that certainly was the prevailing opinion through the 60s that it opened up your mind to be able to write better, to be able to see beyond any kind of musical boundaries or restrictions. And, you know, I referenced the Byrds before, certainly in finding out that they were not only the premier folk rock act of the United States and certainly coming out of California. The difference between the folk scene in Greenwich Village, which was, you know, the folk music mecca, the folk music bastion and the folk-rock scene that developed in 65 in L.A. at places like the Whiskey and The Trip was about on the east coast of Greenwich Village, it was a hard drugs scene it was guys like Fred Neil and Tim Hardin who were heroin addicts. We went out to the West Coast. It was marijuana and, you know, and by, you know, 65, 66, also getting into to LSD. So so for me, my kind of reference point for where music became influenced by musicians who were smoking marijuana is really kind of begins for me with the Byrds. Now, there were probably lots of other musical aggregations that didn't make it to the popularity of the Byrds that we may or may not know about. But certainly, for me, that's kind of the point where I sort of see it really kind of beginning. And those folk-rock musicians were the ones also to make the step, I won't say leap, but the step to from marijuana and hashish to psychedelic drugs to LSD and mescaline and others, because, again, it came from that sense of, I now David Crosby said this many times, it was the idea of freeing your mind and open up your mind and if marijuana could do that, imagine what LSD could do? And it just seems that, as I said on the outset there, there are certainly more songs related to the LSD experience and the hallucinogenic experience of those kinds of drugs than about marijuana. I mean, the first real opening kind of reference is, you know, in 1968, David Peel in the lower third did an album called Have a Marijuana. I mean, that was the title of the album. And they had a song called I Like Marijuana.

John: Or, you know, it's 59 coming into Los Angeles, Arlo Guthrie, which, you know, popularized in the Woodstock movie, and don't bogart that joint by the Fraternity of Men, which included guys who would later become Little Feet in the movie Easy Rider.

John: So those are kind of marijuana references. But I mean, we've got White Rabbit and Casey Jones and a Girl Named Sandoz, Needle of Death, all these songs that reference psychedelic drugs.

Kirk: Well, I was going to ask about that. I think, like the Grateful Dead, they were an early cannabis band. But like you say, they got more into the LSD. Thinking of David Crosby, If I Can Only Remember My Name, that album to me, that is a composite reefer album. You put that album and lay back and just go to sleep. It's such a soothing, wonderful, comfortable album. It just seems to go with cannabis.

John: Yeah, for sure. And, you know, David Crosby would certainly be well aware of cannabis going back to the early 60s, growing up in Southern California and being in a little bit of a privileged and artistic environment his father was an Academy Award winning cinematographer. And, you know, before he got kicked out of several schools, Crosby went to, you know, private schools where and hung out in folk circles where, you know, jazz and folk musicians intermingled and, of course, marijuana was part of part and parcel of all that as well.

John: You know, it's interesting that that album did not sell very well when it was released, David Crosby's debut solo album, and it was it was not well-received even by critics, but it certainly it's one of those albums that over the years and in retrospect has been, you know, come to be regarded as a real a real groundbreaking album.

Kirk: It's one of my 10 albums I would take to a desert island with me. I love that album. So it's almost like a family tree, isn't it? You got David Crosby, Neil Young, you've got the Grateful Dead. All these guys are sort of connected. I guess they just they on the circuit, they must have stepped outside for a cigarette and someone probably brought out a reefer and said what's that?

John: Well, and the connection to is that that despite Neil Young coming from a Canada, of course, but he's in L.A. he's in that kind of folk-rock singers and that community. So, you know, Crosby and, you know, Stills, Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, all these bands are certainly and all these musicians are hip to marijuana because as I said, that whole music scene was more about marijuana and then, you know, LSD than the folk scene in Greenwich Village and in New York. So, yeah, I mean, Neil Young was bound to, you know, to bump into people almost immediately who were tuned in to marijuana here. Neil, try this kind of thing,

Kirk: Now Ian Tyson introduce Bob Dylan in Greenwich Village that's where he introduced him to cannabis, right?

John: Exactly. Good. Ian Ian had come from Victoria to Toronto in 1958 to be actually to be a commercial artist. And he actually designed the Resdan, label and logo. But very early on, he got mixed up in the folk music scene and as a solo singer and then with Sylvia when he met Sylvia in 59. But because in Yorkville Village, which was at Canada's Greenwich Village in Toronto, jazz musicians and folk musicians intermingle. And so Ian was introduced to marijuana by, you know, jazz musicians and, you know, people kind of in the know and hip circles. So, I mean, it's kind of when you look at Ian Tyson, you know, years later, the guy with the cowboy hat and, you know, the raising horses in Alberta kind of guy. And you look at Bob Dylan and you wonder, what are these guys have in common? Well, they actually have a lot in common in terms of music and socialized. And, you know, Susie Rotolo, who was, you know, Bob Dylan's girlfriend, and she's on the cover of The Free Wheeling Bob Dylan walking down that Greenwich Village Street. I interviewed her shortly before she passed away, sadly for my Ian and Sylvia biography and she said Bob idolized Ian Tyson. So if Ian's bringing out marijuana and saying here, Bob, try this, I can see Bob saying, yeah, for sure Ian I will smoke this. As I say again, it's kind of odd to think about the whole drug culture of the 1960s begins with a guy from Victoria, B.C.

Kirk: You see  I forgot Ian was from Victoria. Another reason why I can call myself a Victorian. That's lovely a good reference.  John, I could talk to you all day. There's a couple of things I want to back up on here. You are a Beatle historian. So it is true, did The Beatles smoked cannabis in Buckingham Palace before they got their medals?

John: No, but they smoked cigarettes. I mean, it's just it's a good story, isn't it? I mean, they didn't do that. They did smoke cigarettes. And I can't remember which Beatle I read who who kind of debunked that myth, just like the myth that when the Guests Who played the White House in July 1970 that they shared a joint in the bathroom there. And I got it from a couple of guys, Kurt Winter and Greg Leskiw, "no, we didn't do that."

Kirk: But Willie Nelson did smoke on the roof with Jimmy Carter's son,.

John: I could see that Jimmy Carter kind of courted that kind of a crowd and he was his appeal was broad enough to appeal to young people and kind of hip people. And he hung out with, you know, like the Allman Brothers and people like that. So I'm sure that marijuana wasn't new to Jimmy Carter, although he may not have smoked it in public. But I could see that happening on the roof of the White House. But then consider Pierre Trudeau, Pierre Trudeau when he married Margaret, I mean, she smoked marijuana and she said that there was a room she would go into in Sussex Drive and close the door and lock it and the RCMP stood outside that door. And in that room she would smoke marijuana and with Pierre and Kelly Jay from Crowbar told me many years ago that when Pierre Trudeau came to see them performing, he showed a joint with them backstage.

Kirk: Well he was trying to legalize it at one point.

John: Yeah, yeah. And here we are.

Kirk: Here we are. So can you give us any cannabis and music stories from Winnipeg?

John: Oh, you know, I was certainly became aware when I became, I guess I'm a musician, I was playing in wider Winnipeg circles that marijuana was in use. But here's a story. There was a band in Winnipeg in around 1971. You see the drinking age lowered in September of 1970 in the bars, it lowered to 18 in Manitoba. So that changed the whole pub scene. OK, I was playing in the pubs before that and, you know, August and September and the pubs were just, you know, older people who came to drink and maybe some, you know, early 20s kind of people who came and drink. They were pretty comfortable places, nothing raucous, nothing. Well, then on September 15th, 1970, the drinking age lowered and all of a sudden, you know, literally the next day and I was playing a pub that week, the next day, it was just pandemonium. It was like the biggest frat party in every pub every night. So the pubs became the focus of the music scene instead of the community clubs in the neighborhoods throughout the city. But in 71, there was a band playing around Winnipeg called The Prodigal Sons. The Prodigal Sons, and they had a singer named Andy Taylor. And they play all the pubs are popular. Andy Taylor was a really good singer and I didn't see him because I was playing the pubs all the time. But he was well-respected and he could really had a very strong voice. He certainly did the Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck kind of stuff. Well well, Andy Taylor turned out to be an undercover RCMP officer named Andy Arsenal. He busted 63 people, including members of his own band for marijuana and hashish. And as it turned out, after gigs, pubs, parties, he would say, hey, can you score me some grass? Can you get me some hash? So he was kind of entrapping people and they would get a form and kind of take their name down. And when, you know, I guess at one point he decided, you know, he went to his he went to his bosses at the RCMP, said, OK, let’s bust these 63 people. And they did. And he and he ruined the careers of a number of musicians in Winnipeg, including some who were prevented from crossing into the United States to play because they had a marijuana conviction here. He was supposed to be his mandate because I found him 30 years later and interviewed him for a newspaper article. And he said I was just, you know, I was just doing my duty. He was supposed to find the dealers, the big guys, the pushers, the distributors. But he didn't do that and said he got his just got the guys who had a bag of marijuana who said he or Andy 10 bucks, that sort of thing. He ended up busting those people, including guys in his band. But it was a major story here about this undercover was undercover for like eight months or more playing in bands. And it actually made Time magazine in the States.  Time magazine called it a classic case of entrapment, but it was a big, big story of this guy undercover in the music scene in Winnipeg. And, you know, of course, we know the newspapers pick it up as the music scene is, you know, infiltrated by drug dealers, that sort of thing. But they can lay claim to that.

Kirk: Well, that was happening in Britain at the time, too, with what was his name, Pilcher. You know, he was a British bobby policeman that basically was battling Donovan, George Harrison, John Lennon going around busting all the music guys.

John: Yeah. He was determined to to, you know, raise his profile by busting music people. And, yeah, I think that in the end he got disgraced and got found out and all of that. But it was certainly a scary time. And that's that 67 for a lot of musicians and of course, you know, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were also busted for drugs. And I think that the only thing that came out of that was Keith Richard was charged with having a party in his house that that involved illicit drugs. And Mick Jagger was in possession of two pep pills, which were amphetamines, that's all. So it wasn't anything but, you know, certainly made the newspapers, but it underscored that sense of fear about drugs between, you know, the establishment, a.k.a. the older people and the younger generation, you know, the hippie generation, which didn't have the same didn't have the same stereotypes about drugs that the older generation did.

Kirk: Don't you think now John, here we are in 2020 cannabis has been legal for a couple of years in Canada. As a music expert, musicologist, what do you think? What has this been a good thing for the arts as can have you noticed a change in music? Have you?

John: No, I don't notice a change in music because I think a lot of musicians and artists were already smoking it, you know, albeit illegally. I think there was an inevitability to this. And I think Prime Minister Trudeau, Justin Trudeau recognized that we can't stop this, you know, the war on drugs in terms of cannabis just isn't working and there are far too many resources being wasted on it and there are bigger fish to fry, so there was a sense of inevitability to it. The United States is going to resist longer, but I'm sure there is a sense of inevitability too that it will happen there once a younger or younger leaders certainly come in. They look at so many states now have legalized it, but the federal government across the United States hasn't. And again, attitudes have certainly changed. And, you know, the guys like me who were hippies in the 1960s, you know, who were smoking grass, we're now we're now the older generation, you know. So it was an inevitability to accepting do I see a huge sea change in culture from it, changes in music and all that? No, but maybe it's too early yet to see that. I'm actually surprised at how smooth and how easily the transition has been in Canada from being an illegal substance to legal substance. It hasn't had the impact that some fear mongers thought would happen. But, you know, it has been smooth, it's been OK, and maybe, you know, and again, maybe other countries will pick up on that, too.

Kirk: Thank you very much, sir. Final words.

John: Well, I I guess, you know, certainly looking at... We're talking about the evolution of cannabis in popular music. And certainly you can trace that if you look back. And, you know, we talked about the rhythm and blues scene and jazz musicians being influenced by and singing about in some ways drugs and drug use and in particular marijuana all the way through to now. It's legal in Canada. And it's fascinating to kind of follow that whole story. And if you decide to do do a show on LSD, call me back.

Kirk: OK, I'll do that.

John: Not that I'm on it. But I know about the music.

Kirk: Well, what I liked about this interview, Trevor, is I like the stories that John told, this is what I was hoping that he would provide us. He gave us some good stories. I love the myth about The Beatles smoking, smoking cannabis in the bathroom. When they were getting their medals,.

Trevor: They were knighted, knighted.

Kirk: They were knighted. That's what they were. 1966, 67 I don't remember. I'm not a Beatles Beatles guy. I love Beatles, but I don't know their history.

Trevor: I loved how you brought it back local and asked about Winnipeg. And I'd never heard the story before about the singing cop who got like 60 plus musicians. That's A to find, I'm not sure if he was a cop first and could sing, but just the fact he was he was that good, that he was well accepted in the music community and then frankly, that bad "You know, I was just doing my job,' you know, but, you know, he screwed up a lot of lives.

Kirk: There's so many there's so many harsh stories.

Trevor: But before we before we end on that, John mentioned so much good music in this episode. Do you have anything in particular you want to end on?

Kirk: I think we should go with Steppenwolf. I think Pusher Man,.

Trevor: The Pusher. Yeah, no, I think that's an excellent choice. As much as I want to do the Lawrence Welk one, people can Google that one on their own. Anyway, I've been Trevor Shewfelt, The pharmacists. Who are you?

Kirk: I'm Kirk Nyquist. I'm the nurse. We're Reefer Medness - The Podcast.

Trevor: Stay safe everybody.

Kirk: All right, stay safe.

John: David Crosby, I interviewed him personally, he invited me down to I was doing a book on Gene Clark from The Byrds, and so I wanted to talk to David and we connected. And he invited me down to a concert that Crosby, Stills and Nash were doing in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. So, you know, backstage before the show, I got to sit with him for about an hour and a half and I made him cry. I made David Crosby cry, thinking about singing about Gene Clark and how mean David had been to him back in the days of The Byrds. Crosby was wonderful. I mean, he was such a nice guy, very friendly, very open.

Kirk: He was very gracious to us. He gave us a really good interview.

John: Yeah, well, that's amazing. You got to him that that really is something in itself.

 

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