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Checkers recognized for contribution to Lethbridge and Canadian music

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Back in the ’50s and early ’60s, the Checkers broke out of Lethbridge and became one of the first Lethbridge bands to tour in Canada.
 They have been recognized for their groundbreaking  career in music  by Mel Shaw, president of Canada's Recording Legacy (which predated the Juno Awards) which included tourinJerry Arnold,Dennis Goshinmon and Ron Sakamoto are excited  about the Checkers Canadian Recording Legacy Award. Photo by Richard Ameryg Canada even before bands like the Stampeders and the Guess Who.
 A few tears were shed as Mayor Chris Spearman and promoter Ron Sakamoto presented surviving original members Jerry Arnold and  Dennis Goshinmon with the certificate honouring their achievements, June 17 at the new recording studio at the University of Lethbridge.

The remaining two founding members, drummer Garry Fabbi and bassist Wes Kutcheron have passed away.

“ The first time I saw them, I booked them to play my club in Medicine Hat ‘The Honeycomb,’ ” Sakamoto recalled.

“ They were still in school and you had to be 18 to play clubs, but nobody cared about that back then. They were a good band. Whenever they played, they filled my club up,” he recalled.
“ I was quite sure they were going to be successful,” he continued.
He noted the music scene was more firmly defined in the ’50s and early ’60 rather than the more blurred lines now.

“You had rock, you had jazz, you had classical, now there is country hip hop music,” Sakamoto said.
 Mayor Chris Spearman was on had for the presentation. He never got the chance to hear the Checkers live.
“ I didn’t live here back then.” he said adding the success of  bands like the Checkers paved the way for other bands to tour and write original music.
“ You can see a lot of bands at events like the Dragon Boat Races,” Spearman said adding he is a big fan of many local bands including the Chevelles.

“ They were touring even before the Stampeders and the Guess Who,” Sakamoto  said.
“ They were a great rock and roll band and they were a lot of fun,” he summarized
“ We were just kids. We started off small and just became bigger. I don’t know how it happened,” said guitarist Jerry Arnold. Jerry Arnold and  Dennis Goshinmon receive their Recording Legacy Award from Ron Sakamoto. Photo by Richard Amery
 Arnold and  Dennis Goshinmon  have many fond memories of  the early years of the Checkers.

“ I remember I had just started high school,” Goshinmon said.

“And I was the oldest,” Arnold added recalling turning 21during a gig on the Quadra island.

“We drove about 120 miles an hour in an old yellow station wagon Thunderbird,” Arnold added.
“ But we had a lot of fun,” he said.
“ We did a lot of  touring. We were all good friends. If you don’t think of the future too much, you can do anything,” he said. The band toured all over Alberta and B.C, later going to Saskatchewan and all the way out to Port Arthur, now Thunder Bay and eventually made it to Toronto and Hamilton.
“ I think our last job was in Port Arthur,” Dennis Goshinmon said.

“ We played a lot of schools and community halls,” he continued.
“ When we came back from tour there were place where you could play six nights a week,” he enthused.
“It’s a lot different now, most places you can only play Fridays and Saturdays,” he observed.

They began their career playing covers, mostly instrumentals and then started writing their own music.
 They had a hit with “Chinook.”
 “Garry wrote that one, but we all wrote “Stormin'”  I wrote the jazzy chords,” Arnold added.
 They appreciate all the experiences they had and all of the support.

“I’m very grateful. I appreciate that the name lives on,” he said.

 A version of this story appears in the July 2, 2014 edition of the Lethbridge Sun Times
— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 02 July 2014 12:29 )  
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