What role does authenticity have in guiding our choices today? I remember my first visit to the King Eddy when I was still an undergraduate summering for wages (1989-1994) in Jasper, Alberta from Concordia University in Montréal. I had shuttled some out of town travelers from Jasper to Calgary—I was a bellhop (fun job!) at Jasper Park Lodge for the summer and had a night off to spend in Calgary before having to return to Jasper the next day. Being a bona fide music tourist for the better part of my life, it was suggested to me that I check out the King Eddy, Calgary’s infamous “Home of the Blues.”
When I arrived at the Eddy—the dark, well-worn Eddy—it resonated with a special “je ne sais quoi.” Despite its appearance, there seemed to be nothing un-real about the Eddy at first glance. On the bill that night was a Chicago blues legend, a saxophone playing/singer that I (being fairly new to the blues at the time) had never heard of, named A.C. Reed.
I was immediately captivated by the presence of this performer; his stage dress, his lyrical horn lines and tone, the topics that he sang about and the way that he sang them. I had never experienced anything like it before. The overall impression that evening never left me. There was something so honest about it, so moving. It felt as if the expression of the music channeled a reflection of the past into the present, igniting the audience to another place.
While the business of the bar and selling drinks surrounded the atmosphere of the evening, the music was pure, seemingly undistorted by external commercial and market forces of the time. It was, in short, like family—non-judgmental, pure love.
The Kind Eddy building before being dismantled.
As the physical structure that created these vivid memories at the King Eddy begins to enter a new phase of the building’s already hundred year old life (originally constructed in 1905 and 1907), and becomes integrated into the broader National Music Centre’s architectural masterpiece and narrative of music in Canada, the elements of its structural and decorative authenticity will remain in order. Future live-music presentations of all kinds will once again resonate inside the hallowed bricks, which wrap with building’s envelope.
In the coming months, as construction moves forward, the King Eddy will be completely dismantled brick by brick. Guided by heritage conservation specialists, the same who have guided the restoration of many of Canada’s treasured buildings, these pieces will be stored and re-assembled onto the Eddy’s new skeleton, in time for an early 2016 opening.
Not only will original bricks be re-used to re-skin the building’s envelope, but original sandstone window sills, cornices and the signature neon sword sign will also be re-used. This will “set the stage” once again for the King Eddy’s re-birth as a beloved landmark located at the crossroads of 4 St and 9 Ave SE in Calgary, a treasure for all of Canada to enjoy.
These decorative elements are essential to referencing the Eddy’s historical past in a meaningful and authentic manner. Coupled with the added re-construction of the building’s foundation and overall structure, this will ensure that the Eddy supports the opportunity for new memories and stories to be created for generations to come.
Artistic rendering of what the King Eddy will look like after restoration. Credit: Allied Works Architecture.
Great music is often a sign and reflection of the times from which it was created. Authenticity distinguishes the art form from less meaningful presentations, giving rise to legacies and audiences who remember, care and engage again and again.
As NMC moves to the next phase of construction and organizational development, authenticity powered by music will continue to guide important decisions as we build a National Music Centre for Canada and all Canadians.
– Andrew Mosker, President & CEO of the National Music Centre