Growing up in Flint, Mich., Shaun Antler remembers listening to Motown and rock 45 rpm records on the record player in her room.
Coming from a region so rich in music, it was destined that a teenaged Antler gravitated towards the many popular Detroit musicians like Ted Nugent, Bob Seger and Flint's own Grand Funk Railroad. At one time, Antler’s mother babysat Grand Funk’s then lead singer and guitar player Mark Farner.
“I am a huge music fan, all genres” she says. "I took piano lessons and played for my high school choir and church. I eventually taught piano lessons and played many classical compositions.”
Early on, Antler won a songwriting competition and played her composition at Interlochen Centre of the Arts in Upper Michigan.
“I would attend the symphony and attend every musical theatre performance I could. I also went to many rock concerts as I got older.”
She eventually moved to Sault, Mich. to attend Lake Superior State University (then known as Lake Superior State College). It was there, a roommate introduced her to heavier rock acts like Rush, AC/DC and KISS.
“When I moved to Canada in 1984, I became a fan of Canadian content and bands like April Wine, Prism, Lighthouse and in more recent years The Tragically Hip … I consider myself a pretty well-rounded music aficionado,” laughs Antler.
When Antler had her daughter KT, she naturally introduced her to music. KT showed early interest in singing.
“I jumped in to give her whatever opportunities I could, starting with lessons at the Algoma Conservatory of Music as a four year old.”
KT eventually became a musician and performer herself.
In addition to loving music, Shaun Antler became a active part of the local music scene, often working behind the scenes at events like the Rotaryfest Main Stage.
“I became familiar with the different bands and musicians, so I could do a good job. I made many friends in the scene,” says Antler. “Following KT and my son-in-law Kyle McKey around got me out enjoying watching bands and meeting musicians.”
Antler kept expanding her knowledge of the local scene.
“I still enjoy listening to bands at my favourite watering holes,” she laughs.
Two years ago, when Antler was researching for the Rotaryfest Rewind Theme, that she developed to celebrate the Rotary Club’s 100th anniversary, she started gathering the names of local bands from years gone by.
“I thought it was interesting and I love history and music, so decided to do it as a hobby or a pet project,” she says. “Then I thought what am I going to do with it? It had to have a purpose.”
Antler contacted Ric Datson, local musician and assistant curator and museum services at the Sault Ste. Marie Museum to see if he wanted the information to be featured in the music exhibit there.
“I’m not doing it on behalf of the museum, but it will have a home at the museum’s music exhibit when I'm finished,” says Antler.
“I’ve also been asked to share this research with other organizations which will get the information out even more.”
What started as a project to simply collecting band names began to grow into something else.
“People began submitting additional information, so I then began listing the members of the bands,” she says. “Now, I’m trying to add genres, years performed and significant contributions like recordings, awards, and hit singles … like I said this little pet project has grown.”
“The response has been phenomenal. I started with a few bands that I collected from word of mouth and contacted a few collaborators who sent me quite a lot of information,” she says.
“I tried to reach out to friends from different eras and they in turn reached out to their friends. Like I said, this project began two years ago and I just picked it up again when the isolation from the pandemic started. It gave me something to do and others time to respond.”
Antler spent hours scouring the Internet using local band and musician names and started to reach out to any of them she could find on Facebook.
“I sent hundreds of messages and emails and started getting responses from all over Canada and the U.S. from former and present Sault musicians … to date there are 1150 entries and counting with my list dating back to 1925,” she says.
“My favourite information gathering sessions are from the older musicians who I have actually have spoken to. They regale me with their stories of the days gone by including some of their ‘sex, drugs and rock n’ roll’ stories that are a little risqué and you might want to leave that out. Or not,” she laughs.
“I’ve spent hours talking to these musicians. It’s pretty special listening to them re-live their glory days.”
Antler originally hoped she would have a hard copy binder printed out with the information in it in plastic sleeves that would be set on a music stand in the exhibit room. Due to the number of responses, she realized that she needs to think bigger.
“Maybe someday an interactive database … maybe the museum has other ideas of what they would like to do as well. It would be cool for future generations of family members, music aficionados and visitors to look back to find musicians they once knew.”
The most rewarding thing about the project for Antler has been the discovery of the rich music history in the Sault and area.
“A few of the ways I would describe the community’s music history is ‘rich,’ ‘magnificent,’ and ‘grand',” she says.
“There is such a diversity of genres and an abundance of amazing musicians, performers, and songwriters. I feel I’ve become much more knowledgeable about our music history just from this project. From Irene Scali, who sang in the big band era with The Personality Boys, to the young Saultites of today with their songs on the radio, for instance Tyson Hanes and Jesse Merineau. And all the others in-between. The Sault is definitely at the top of the list when it comes to having a rich history.”
Although Antler is hoping to wrap up this phase of her project in early July, she looks back on the experience as something that was extremely rewarding.
“I’ve heard some great stories from the musicians and have made many new friends,” she says. “I’ve always been very community-minded and I am happy that I can make a contribution to the history of the Sault music scene. Having this information available to the public will add to the music exhibit at the Sault Ste. Marie Museum.”
Other contributors to the project were Paul LeClair, Don MacDonald, Rob Figures, Shane “DJ Seith” Erickson, Ronn Koski, Ric Datson, Randy Foreman, Kyle McKey, Glen Thomas, Agnes McCarthy and over 250 other musicians and relatives of musicians.
Shaun Antler can be contacted through email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook Messenger.