Saskatchewan·Junos 2020

BACKSTAGE PASS| Saskatoon's Buds on Broadway is part 'biker bar,' part music school

Buds on Broadway — a "biker bar" touts live music seven days a week — is the home of the blues in Saskatoon.

Buds has been fostering young artists for decades

Jordan Cook, who went on to tour internationally as Reignwolf, playing guitar and performing on stage at Buds at age six. (CBC)

The Juno Awards were supposed to take place on March 15, but the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered the in-person Saskatoon weekend of events. On June 29 at 7 p.m. ET, the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) and CBC will reveal the winners in a special, virtual celebration via CBC Music and CBC Gem.

Tune in for a special Juno Awards show on Saskatchewan Weekend with host Peter Mills and guest co-host Christy Climenhaga. Listen this Saturday and Sunday from 6 to 9 a.m. CST here.

Buds on Broadway — a "biker bar" that touts live music seven days a week — is the home of the blues in Saskatoon

Big Dave McLean, who is nominated for the Blues album of the year Juno for Pocket Full Of Nothin', has a special connection to Buds.The venue was slated to be a part of this year's Junofest before Juno events were cancelled over coronavirus concerns. The celebration was scheduled to be a roster of more than 50 musical acts, including local Saskatoon artists and Juno Award nominees.

The bar became the backdrop for his debut album, Muddy Waters for President, in the late '80s. 

McLean said things have changed at Buds, but back then it was a little rough around the edges. 

"In the beginning it was a rough place you know the bikers had their own section in the corner and you know they didn't wanna hang out with everybody else. There'd be confrontations once in a while, you know, somebody pulled a knife, or I saw somebody get their head cracked on a table or whatever," said McLean.

"I mean that was almost commonplace. They had to hire security from the karate school next door to come over and tame things down a little bit. They were the security but after a while you know it all smoothed out."

McLean said now it's a place to hear music in a bar setting.

"You know you're not gonna be telling everybody to be quiet or whisper. You play in a bar because you can hear them turn up."

Ewan Currie, Sheepdogs frontman has played shows at Buds on Broadway. (Matt Garand/CBC)

Many members of the local music scene have hit the stage at Buds. Ewan Currie, Sheepdogs frontman, remembers playing on that stage. 

"Yeah Buds is a classic biker bar," Currie said.

Young musicians thrive

Despite the rough-around-the-edges reputation, Buds has played a huge part in fostering young talent. 

"For a while Saskatoon was known for sort of its blues guitar prodigies," Currie said. "The kids would get up and jam when they were young. So, you know, any place that's got that going on it can't be all bad."

Big Dave McLean helped begin those afternoon jams. It was meant to be a space where young musicians could get experience on stage, sometimes alongside music greats. It was at one of those jams that McLean met Jordan Cook, a local artist who would later make a name for himself as Reignwolf.

Saskatchewan blues-rocker Jordan Cook (right), a.k.a. Reignwolf performing at a jam at Buds on Broadway. (CBC)

McLean said Cook was six years old the first time they met at an afternoon jam.

"There's so many amazing young players [at Buds] that should have been listening to Raffi and Sharon Lois and Bram but they're coming down to the jam and they're playing Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters ," McLean said.

This photo of Suzie Vinnick and Big Dave McLean was taken around 1987. (Jeff Vinnick)

Younger artists are still getting their start at Buds. 

"It feels like home," Myk Ulan said, sitting with him bandmates reminiscing about their time playing at Buds. 

Ulan, Tallus Scott and Jordan Welbourne make up the rock group W3APONS, a Saskatoon band now touring across Canada with Theory of a Deadman. 

"When we were getting our start, we did a couple gigs there. We still play there. We all feel very welcome there, it's always a good time," Scott said. "I think to be honest, the first time I ever played at Buds was on a weekend night."

W3APONS band members Tallus Scott (left), Jordan Welbourne (middle) and Myk Ulan (right). (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

Welbourne agreed. He even brings some of his guitar students to those jams.

"The Saturday jam is open to minors and that's really cool. For kids to have the experience to go up on stage and play with a little more-established artists, it just a great learning experience for anyone who has an ambition to perform live," Welbourne said. "The fact that they are one of the last venues probably in Western Canada that does live music seven days a week, I think that's pretty important to a music scene."

Shaun Verreault of Wide Mouth Mason performs at Buds on Broadway. (CBC)

Ulan said Buds jams are a little different than others.

"It's totally fostering." he said.

"You feel welcome. It's not cliquey. When you go to some open mic's, you can tell it's the host and their friends and they take over the show. And maybe someone who hasn't played before doesn't get an equal chance. But at Buds it's fair, every talks and hugs each other. Everyone there is my family".

In celebration of Saskatchewan music, CBC Saskatchewan is resharing our five-part series called Backstage Pass which explores music venues in Saskatoon. 

You can read the rest of the series here:

With files Peter Mills, Jennifer Quesnel