Discover the fascinating story of the role of music in shaping the region’s unique character. Fairbairn House led an ethnographic and community engagement research project to investigate the impact of the musical subculture of the ’60s & ’70s in Western Quebec.
The exhibition explores 4 major themes, along accompanying video; What is Hippie Culture? the “Back to the Land” movement, the Role of Music and lastly, is Wakefield a groovy town? 

Hippie Music-banner

What is a Hippie?

A tempestuous decade, the 1960s were witness to the Vietnam war, the advent of the birth control pill, political assassinations, the civil rights movement, the Quiet Revolution, anti-war protests, sit-ins, LSD and birth of ‘the hippie’. While the term hippie already existed, it was adopted by the media in San Francisco to describe a distinctive group of free-spirited anti-establishment and typically white middle-class teenagers seeking freedom of expression and awakened spirituality. Sometimes called ‘long hairs’, or flower children, hippies differentiated themselves from their ‘square’ parents by rejecting capitalism, employing unique lingo, exploring new sexual mores, dabbling in psychedelic drugs, and listening to different styles of music. Thousands of young people travelled the ‘Overland Route’ in Asia where drugs were plentiful and legal, looking for enlightenment via drugs or Eastern spirituality.

Although the most illustrious hippie scene in the United States was in the Haight Ashbury region of California, culminating in the ‘Summer of Love’ in 1967, the movement was fertile in college campuses across the U.S., eventually spilling into Canada. Vast numbers of draft dodgers and resisters, many of whom espoused back-to-the-land or hippie values, found their way to Canada and more specifically Western Quebec, bringing hippie culture along for the ride. 

At the height of hippiedom, participants looked for harmonious ways to relate to one another and to the natural world. It was an era of bell bottoms, awakened consciousness, and peace and love.  

“The {hippie} movement was heading towards a nicer place, without the war, without racism, without money.” –Mike Chartier

Back to the Land

While some who moved to Western Quebec in the heyday of hippiedom identified more as back-to-the-landers than hippies, many of them had similar desires: living a simpler life by growing organic food,  becoming  self-sufficient and building atypical dwellings.

Some of this work was done via work bees, often celebrated with communal meals, music jams and getting high. Pockets of hippies and back-to-the-landers could be found in Lac-des-Loups, Val des Monts, Meech Lake, the Pontiac, and many other rural settings in Western Quebec.

Those who pursued the country were not all prepared for rural life, oft-times relying on neighbours and publications such as ‘Whole Earth Catalogue’ and ‘Mother Earth News’ to learn about homesteading. Some returned to villages or cities to subsist for part of the year, while others explored artistic endeavours. 

In 1970, Mark Frutkin bought property in Wolf Lake/Lac-des-Loups, which became known as ‘the Farm’. Numerous people moved in and out of the Farm over the years, and an eclectic assortment of structures were built on the property. Farm life included tending gardens and livestock, splitting firewood, saunas and skinny-dipping. 

Countless large gatherings and musical jams were hosted at the Farm, where the merging of musicians from the Gatineau Hills and the city resulted in a confluence of musical styles. 

“Music was germane to our life at the Farm. Music, food, and gardens were what drew us together…” –Mark Frutkin

“The spirit of the back to the land movement… you wanted to tune into the vibrations of the natural world.” -Thoma Ewen

The Role of Music

Music played an integral role in cultivating hippie culture, from large festivals like Woodstock to music jams around the campfire. International musical influences of the time included Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead, while closer to home, Bruce Cockburn, Joni Mitchell and Buffy St. Marie frequented the nearby Café le Hibou in Ottawa. The waves of this music reverberated across the river into Western Quebec.

Singer/songwriter traditions exploded during these years, as did jamming circles that welcomed beginners and seasoned players alike.  

“Music was the beat of the generation; it was our big influencer.” –Paul Hayes

The dominant flavour of live music in Wakefield in the 1970s was country music at the Chateau Pearson (formerly the Chateau Diotte, currently the Black Sheep Inn). It was a popular venue for hippies and locals alike, with Wayne Rostad a regular performer. The influx of migrants changed the music scene in Wakefield, with the emergence of funky places like ‘Le Chantier Café’. Dances at local ski hill lodges were also part of the goings-on, hosting popular bands, such as Eugene Smith and the Warm-Up Band.

Other ‘happening’ venues for live music included the Wakefield Inn Motor Hotel, Café Chez Nous, and the piano bar upstairs at the Earle House. Pot and hash were omnipresent at many of these venues; Charlie Major, Golden Earring and Heaven’s Radio were just some of the bands that passed through town. 

Open air concerts at Camp Fortune contributed to the vibe, bringing Gordon Lightfoot, The Band, Peter Tosh and many others to the area.

Is Wakefield Groovy?

“The hippies didn’t affect Wakefield; Wakefield affected the hippies.” –Mike Chartier

Hippies and back-to-the-landers were attracted to Western Quebec for a myriad of reasons; inexpensive farmland, less police presence, a younger drinking age and easily accessible pot. Word of the ‘scene’ in Wakefield spread to Ottawa and beyond. 

“The liberal mindedness of Quebec at that time matched the liberal mindedness of the hippies who were moving out to the country and the back-to-the-land movement.” –Mark Frutkin

Wakefield has always attracted diverse, eccentric, creative and passionate people.  Artists, musicians, farmers and committed activists thrive together, creating quirky festivals and happenings. The climate of acceptance is still prevalent today in this community-minded region.

“It’s always been a progressive place, it’s always been open.” –John Pagani

Music continues to have a strong presence in the village. The late Louis Rompré created ‘Rompré Stomp’, a party that sometimes spilled over into the whole village, with music and jamming at its core. He later hosted the Open Mic at Kaffé 1870, which continues to this day. The Black Sheep Inn has become somewhat of an institution, coveted by artists from afar.

“Once Paul Symes opened the Black Sheep…he put the music scene on the map.” –Paul Séguin

The tradition of outdoor music continues today at the Wakefield Farmers Market and ‘Musical Mondays’  at Fairbairn House, while the spirit of jamming comes to life at open mics and social gatherings.  Wakefield is outta-sight!

Hippy Music Banner 1
Hippy Music Panel 2
Hippy Music Panel 3
Hippy Music Panel 2