The Little Blues Joints on the Prairies

By Richard White, April 3, 2013

NOTE: MEMPHIS BLUES FUNDRAISER: Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014, The Blues Can, noon till 5pm

TICKETS: $10 in advance at or $15 at the door

Double Header with TIM WILLIAMS and the MIKE CLARK BAND

CBMA congratulates Tim Williams and the Mike Clark Band, the top acts selected in the Solo/Duo and Band categories respectively, who will represent Southern Alberta at the International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis, Tennessee, Jan. 21 - 25, 2014.

YYC: Music City?

Quietly Calgary has been fostering the development of a diverse music scene from Saturday afternoon blues jams to international piano competitions.  It may not be the biggest or the best, but it is evolving into a very vibrant community.  So if you are looking for a music city to visit - Calgary is singing and playing! 

Perhaps it started way back in 1917 with the what is now the Kiwanis Music Festival, one of the largest amateur competitive classical music festivals in North America - 9.500 musicians ages 5 to 25 compete in 16 categories. This festival is held in March each year. 

Maybe the genesis was the 102 year old Mount Royal Conservatory which has evolved into one of the most respected music schools in Canada and internationally.  It will soon be home to the new Bella Concert Hall on the campus of Mt. Royal University.  

Piano Competition

The Honen's International Piano Competition has placed Calgary on the map for young emerging concert pianists from around the world wanting to launch their career.

But for me, it is the indie music venues and festivals that make living in Calgary a fun place to live and visit. Best bets this summer are Sled Island, June 19 to 22, 2013 and Calgary Folk Festival July 25 to 28, 2013.  

However, you can visit Calgary anytime as there is indie music happening in various venues everyday of the week. Read on to learn more.




It all started with the King Eddy an old hotel on the east end of the Downtown where blues singers travelling the circuit would stay and play.  It soon became the home of the blues in Calgary.  More recently it has fallen on hard times, but it will be rescued as part of the creation of the new National Music Centre. 

This is a rendering of the new National Music Centre currently under construction. It will be home to a renovated King Eddy as a performance venue, a museum that will house the second largest collection of keyboard instruments in the world, including Elton John's first piano. Recently, Gotye was artist in residence at the existing space experimenting with the different instruments. 

Calgary is home to several saturday afternoon jams - Blues Can, Ironwood and Mikey's Juke Joint are along the railway tracks in the City Centre. ote the jammers in this scene are two teenagers, brother and sister.  Calgary's music scene includes people of all ages and backgrounds which argues for a healthy future. 

One of Calgary's iconic music venues is the Ship & Anchor on the Red Mile on the southern edge of the City Centre.  It is home to a variety of genres of music. Recently it hosted a Stompin' Tom Connors tribute jam hosted by Tim Hus. 

olita's is an intimate room that has emerging singer songwriters every Sunday night.  Here Amy Thiessen plays with Russell Broom. It is also home to a very popular show Carly's Angels drag show. 

Sled Island is Calgary's answer to SXSW with over 250 bands at 30 venues, with comedy, film and art shows added to the mix.  Here is Calgary mayor Nenshi ( huge cultural champion) on the right introducing one of the acts.  Sled Island was started by Zak Pashak, then owner of music venue Broken City. One of his goals was to create an urban festival using multiple venues that would showcase Calgary's growing cultural programming. 

Tim Williams (background) has a regular Tuesday Blues gig at Mikey's Juke Joint.  He is a great storyteller as well as bluesman.  Here he is playing with Big  Dave Maclean who is in town from Winnipeg.  

Perhaps Calgary should brand itself as the "Little Blues Joint on the Prairies." 

venue, Calgary's leading lifestyle magazine recently identified Calgary's top 8 music venues as - Wine-Ohs, Broken City, Dicken's Pub, HiFi Club, Ironwood Stage & Grill, Mikey's Juke Joint & Eatery, The Palomino and The RePublik. 

Perhaps, I should let Tim have the last word on why Calgary is emerging as a new urban playground for musicians in North America.  Recently in an interview by Mike Bell, Calgary Herald music writer about his new CD launch and the Calgary music scene Tim said:

"despite the ebbs and flows over the years, the city is one that now has a pretty great infrastructure - including studios, venues and even's a pretty great place for even the blues to make a home."  

If you like this blog you might like these blogs:

Calgary: North America's newest music city


Tim Williams: Calgary's Adopted Bluesman

Beltline: North American's best hipster/GABEster Community

inks to websites listed in this blog:

Blues Can / Ironwood / Mikey's Juke Joint / WineOh's / Ship & Anchor