DGN and the UNCHAINED
It all started in 1958, when Rick and Doug got together at Doug’s house – Rick on the piano and Doug playing the bongos. There was no guitar ¡n sight until Rick borrowed his sister’s boyfriend’s flat top some months later. Real instruments were finally purchased in 1961. Doug bought a “no-name” bass drum, small hi-hat and a Ludwig deep snare drum. Rick started with a Gibson Les Paul Junior. Phil joined as a new guitarist. He owned a classical guitar, which he was soon talked out of playing! He then bought a Harmony triple pick-up. Harmony amplifiers were the first used by the group. The duo became a trio, and “The Fairlanes” were born.
They practiced songs by The Ventures, The Fireballs and other old standards that had turned into rock songs. Their first gig (unpaid) at Windsor Community Club in November 1961 lit the spark for the friendships ahead. They played numerous parties and unpaid gigs, building a solid foundation for the group.
When it was time to add a new member in the summer of 1962, Ted asked to join. After a successful audition with his Harmony double pick-up, he was “in”. With three regular guitars, a change was required! After a quick coin toss, it was decided that Phil would switch to a bass guitar. He bought a Supro bass, a 10 watt amp and a couple of cabinets.
With the line-up set, The Fairlanes could now play any popular instrumental by ear. Musical tastes were changing, and experimentation was taking place within the group. The Beatles, The Shadows, Chuck Berry, Eddy Cochrane and Buddy Holly were now the music to play for teens. Given those changes, they decided to add a singer, and Dave joined the group as lead vocalist and piano player.
Equipment changes abounded. Phil bought a Fender Precision bass, built an EICO hi-fi amp kit and a monster cabinet to house his JBL 15” speaker. Rick bought a 1962 Fender Tremolux amp and Fender reverb unit. He then upgraded to a Gretsch Tennessean and Ted bought his Les Paul and a used Körting reel-to-reel tape recorder for echo effects. In 1963, Ted bought a Tremolux of his own, a new Körting tape machine and a Martin J55, while Rick acquired an Electrohome tape recorder and Doug upgraded his drums to the first Sonor set in the ‘Peg.
The group was now playing at The Riviera Silver Slipper, the Twi-Lite Zone, local Community Clubs, CYOs and high schools at $15 to $25 a pop, sometimes more! With thousands invested in gear and stage apparel, their practices and performances were clearly done for the pure love of rock and roll, the delight of their fans and the enjoyment of the dance crowds. Phil was writing original songs, and both he and Rick took some turns at lead singer. The line-up remained fixed for the next year, but the name was changed to DGN and The Unchained in late 1963.
In the early to mid 60’s, the City of Winnipeg was a hotbed of bands – on its way to becoming the rock and roll band centre of Canada. The group’s reputation spread through word of mouth and a stint at the Red River Exhibition Free Stage in June, 1964.
Tim came from The Sceptres and joined the group on keyboards in the fall of 1964 after jamming with them at Victoria Beach in August. He brought with him one of the world's largest and heaviest “portable” Hammond organs. He also built a "sweet sixteen” speaker cabinet for it, containing 16 4” speakers from plans in a Popular Electronics magazine. Tim was the final addition, and the band did not change for the rest of their playing days.
They recorded at the UMSU studio July 1963 and January 1964 with the help of Gerry Neufeld and at Arbuthnot’s professional sound studio November 1964 on Ampex tape at 15ips - top technology of the day! They also appeared in an 8mm movie project by UofM Arts student Martin Rabinovitch entitled “Doctor Death”. The song “The Doctor Death Dance” was filmed at The 5th Dimension coffee house and featured Danny Finkleman (of Finkleman's 45s fame on CBC) as the sinister dancer. The band also played graduation dances - one to remember was Steinbach Collegiate which, due to local concerns about rock and roll music, was secretly moved to nearby St-Pierre-Jolys! Out of town gigs included Pine Falls, Selkirk and Victoria Beach. The Unchained's last major performance was at the 1965 Red River Exhibition week long Teen Fair and another appearance on the Free Stage.
Rick's reverb, Ted's guitar and Körting tape recorder, and several great picture blow-ups were included in the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature's "Get Back! A Celebration of Winnipeg Rock" exhibit from November 26th 1995 to February 25th 1996.