Born in Brandon in 1924, Ted Good was a driving musical force in southwestern Manitoba for decades — with an emphasis on driving! Before music was taught in the schools, Good and a dedicated group of local musicians, most of whom he’d taught, would hit the road on a daily basis, taking their enthusiasm and skills to hundreds of youngsters eager to take music lessons in surrounding communities. Many players from Westman credit Good with starting them on the path to lives filled with the sweet sounds of music. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
You’ve had such a long and storied career, I scarcely know where to begin. Where did your passion for music come from in the first place?
The Salvation Army. Started playing in the band when I was eight years old. My first bandmaster was Walter Dinsdale, for six years.
And you played trumpet?
Yes. And if you can play trumpet, you can play quite a few of the band instruments, especially the brass. I’ve played the baritone and tuba and stuff like that over the years.
In those days, of course, there wasn’t any TV. So therefore, we had a 38-piece band, and we had a junior band of about 30.
Did you play for a long time with the Salvation Army band?
I played there ’til I was 18. Then I joined the Navy for three years, in the band. And I was in Toronto, Halifax and Winnipeg.
When you were young, was it your parents who insisted you join the band? Or were you interested to start with?
I couldn’t get into the band quick enough! You had to be eight years old, though.
From those years of the Salvation Army band and in the band of the Royal Canadian Navy, you were really fuelled by a passion to take instrumental music further, right?
Well, we had a lot of courses in the Navy band. And I was in there for three years. I came back to Brandon after the Navy. And I started playing in ’47 with Albert Johnson at the Palladium. Saturday night was the modern night. And I got playing on the bass fiddle, and I played that on the old-time night, which was Friday night.
So when you came back here after your stint in the Navy, did you try and make a living as a musician?
Not until later on. I worked for the CPR for 19 years. But I still played in dance bands — with Albert Johnson for about eight years, and then I played with The Syncopators. I quit in ’61, because at that time, Bill Fraser, he had a small band in the school system here, and he asked me to give lessons to his students. So that’s when I started going into the student business. Bill left in ’59, I think it was, and went to Neepawa.
So then there was nothing in the schools here in Brandon?
No. So that’s when I started giving lessons. And I was asked to direct a bugle and drum band. So I got quite a few brass instruments and I had the drum section there, and I added to it. And we took a 60-piece band to Expo ’67 in Montreal.
By that time, I also conducted a band of about 50 in Virden. They were down at Expo for one week — I went down with them with a bunch of carloads, because all the parents wanted to go from Virden. And I stayed down because then my Sea Cadet band came down, and I played down there for a week with them!
That must have been exciting! And I understand you had another really memorable moment thanks to your band involvement.
That's right! In 1970, the Queen came over for Manitoba’s 100th birthday. And I played for her while she was having dinner. We were on the superintendent’s lawn — we were away down and I couldn’t see her, even — and we played music for an hour for the Queen. That was with the Lions Club Band of Neepawa.
And they sent a courier down who said, ‘The Queen wants to shake your hand.’ And I said, ‘OK! I’ll be right there.’ They took me up to the line-up and I met the Queen — no fuss or muss — it was all spontaneous — she stuck her hand out, and boom! Out came mine!
That's so exciting! Now getting back to your teaching, did you work in the Brandon School Division?
No, I didn’t work in the School Division — they couldn’t hire me. I didn’t have my degrees. But I could go out in the country, and they welcomed me. Hamiota — it was Frank McKinnon that got me out there. And Les Milne.
What year did you open Ted Good Music?
Around 1965. I had a spot downtown in the Hobbycraft Centre, and I used to have my instruments there. And then my grandmother’s house was coming up for sale. I bought it — 74710th St. I sold the business to Bill Robinson in 1973, and it’s still there.
I was starting bands in these towns, so I figured I might as well get into the music sales business, too. That’s why I opened the store. And Billy looked after all that at the start — the instruments, when they’d come in there. I’d just take them out to Virden and Hamiota and Carberry and Glenboro. I’d work in the store on the weekends, and until about 3 o’clock each day. Then I’d go out to the towns, because you see, music was not during school time in those days. I had about four or five musicians working for me, and we had to start teaching at four o’clock when the kids came out of school. And then we had our rehearsals with the whole band in the evenings.
Long days, I would expect. And what made you so dedicated, to be willing to put in all those hours?
Well, I loved my music. And I didn’t like working at the Express, to tell you the truth. I was there for 19 years and I was 38 when I left and went teaching on my own.
A brave move in those days, I'm betting.
Ohhh. Nineteen years with the CPR — it was a good solid income. But I made more when I got out to the bands and all of my students. I had around 400 students — maybe more. I had a staff of pretty near 14 or 15 at one time — most of them were teachers. And there were four or five of them on the road in my car with me every day.
But eventually, they incorporated it in the schools. So then we went out in the mornings, and we were back in Brandon by suppertime. But in the early days, the big day was Saturday. We’d leave at about 7:30 in the morning and we would go out — we’d hit Rivers at 9 o’clock, Kenton at 10:30, Hamiota, Shoal Lake, Strathclair. That was the whole day. And then we’d get home at 10:30 at night, or 11.
Any claims to fame, other than the ones you’ve already mentioned, of people you taught who went on to do great things?
Several students did well — Kent McConnell. Sally Robinson, she went down east. Chris McConnell, and his wife, Glenda — they went through the system. Anne Hamilton — I think she started with us on clarinet and then she got the Glenboro band. Don and Doug Sullivan in the Sea Cadet band. Brent Mills.
I’d take them, and I’d tell them, in Grade 12, ‘You go to the university (the School of Music at BU),’ because it was open then. But when I first started, I was the only brass and reed (teacher) in the ’50s. And then in the ’60s, it started changing. By the time the ’70s came along, it was really into the schools. I sold my business to Billy in ’73 and I can’t take any credit for the store whatsoever, because I was away with my teaching all around the district. And look at the progress he’s made!
Is it gratifying to you to see that music has really taken hold and they’ve made it valuable in the school system now?
Oh yes! It’s so much easier for a kid to get a musical background now. We’re catching up to the States, but we’re not there yet. They really spend money on music down there. There might be a town of maybe 1,500, but they’ve sure got a big band! And every kid’s got a uniform that’s worth maybe $250. We used to have a pair of red pants and a white top and that was it.
Highlights over the length of your career? Meeting the Queen would likely have been one of them …
That would be for sure! And then I played for Vincent Massey and another old soldier with one leg — Vanier? The schools would come down to the Wheat City Arena, and this was in the ’60s because I had my Sea Cadet band there playing for these guys who came through. And I remember they put the band over in the corner so we wouldn’t be too loud, I guess, and there was a lot of sawdust between us and the podium. But after the thing was over, Vanier, with his bum leg, came down the ramp, over the sawdust, shook my hand, talked to the boys, and he said, ‘This is what we need! It’s very good for youth.’ And in those days, there were no school bands. So that was a highlight.
I semi-retired in ’73 when I sold the store, then I taught ’til ’78 in Neepawa. And then I quit. My nerves were going — it was time to pack it in.
Do you spend a lot of time listening to music?
I listen to music all the time. I love music. It was good to me.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 25, 2012