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Arts, City, Music

The Wheel: A Montreal Institution

Posted by MP / August 21, 2007

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Last night I had the privilege of being taken to The Wheel Club's Hillbilly Night to experience some no-frills country music played by true lovers of the genre. After having heard it discussed for the past few years, the Wheel lived up to its reputation, providing solid entertainment, friendly company, and an exciting raffle. The only thing that damaged the night however, was the loud behaviour of some of the younger attendees.

I should explain: The Wheel is a private, members-only club 6 days of the week. On Mondays it opens its doors (and its mics) to everyone, resulting in a nice mix of, as the regulars describe it, "half college kids and half old-time fans." Some of the "college" kids seemed more interested in the kitsch value of having a beer at this landmark than actually listening to the music.

This is a true shame. Hillbilly night is the creation of Bob Fuller, a country music enthusiast who started the evening 41 years ago "to promote and preserve oldtime style country, bluegrass, cowboy and fiddle music and local artists." The weekly open-mic night enforces the rules that songs played must have first been recorded before 1965, and the only electric instrument allowed is the steel guitar.

Fuller opens up the Wheel to outsiders to spread the music. In an article by Craig Morrison, Fuller describes himself as a missionary, and that is truly what he is. His dedication to old-time country music is shown in the kindness of the Wheel's members.

Arriving early we were greeted and talked up by some of the members - they are genuinely glad that young people come to hear the music. The loudness of the people in the back belied a disinterest in hearing the talented musicians play. Even when asked by the singer to keep the talking down, the crowd continued.

The sad fact is that you can get a beer anywhere. You can go to a dirty bar in St. Henri if you feel the need to fake authenticity and get some hipster cred. Come on over to the Wheel on Mondays if you like to hear some honest music played by local talent.

Bob Fuller's Hillbilly Night at the Wheel Club, 3373 Cavendish (below Sherbrooke), in Montreal's Notre-Dame-de-Grass region (NDG). Free admission, begins at 9PM.

Thanks to Flickr user and Wheel regular Coreyu for the photo.

Discussion

26 Comments

Chris / August 22, 2007 at 10:24 am
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Don't forget the one dollar snacks! If you go up to the table near the stage with a Loony, you will return with a basket in hand filled with munchies like cheesies, pretzels, etc. The best part is the surprise at the bottom!

The wheel club truly is a great place. Good music, unique atmosphere, neat mix of people, and one time of the year, they give out free corn on a cob! If you're like me, and grew up in a small rural town, many memories of kitchen parties, church dinners, and hootenannies will be brought back.
Neil / August 22, 2007 at 10:50 am
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In the name of journalistic integrity, I am bound to mention that after a 20-year price freeze, the price of the snack baskets has recently been raised to 2 dollars.

Thanks for your comment, Chris.
al / August 22, 2007 at 06:40 pm
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Love the Wheel Club - it's impossible to spend an evening there and not leave in a great mood with a huge smile on my face. I think it's best to go with someone familiar with the place in order to get into the vibe :)
Sugar-Plum Croxen / June 8, 2013 at 03:38 pm
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I'm out in Vancouver right now, on the road, but, when I'm in town "Montreal" I go to the Wheel Club every Monday to play and I always have a good time there* June 8, 2013. S.P.Cx. email: sugarplumcroxen@gmail.com
Home: Nova Scotia. Ph. 1-902-446-0200.
leonard Croxen / June 11, 2013 at 08:27 pm
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email Sugar-Plum Croxen; for bookings!
sugarplumcroxen@gmail.com
sugar-Plum Croxen / June 11, 2013 at 08:33 pm
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For bookings: sugarplumcroxen@gmail.com
SUGAR-PLUM CROXEN SHOW> Coast to Coast in Canada*
sugar-plum croxen / June 20, 2013 at 01:32 pm
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To book> Sugar-Plum Croxen, email: sugarplumcroxen@gmail.com

Genre of music: Blues, Jazz, Light rock and a little cajun Country..........Music career: since 1986................
Musicians played and performed with on stage: Jeff Healey, Ernest Lee, Danny Marks, Jay Sawell, Carl Trembly, Steve Hill, Eddy Blake (Wheel Club), Dutch Mason, Matt Minglewood, Sam Moon, Tony :Wild-T" Springer, Jerome Godboo, Thee Buddy Guy (from Chicago), Carson Downey Band.
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