Treasure trove of lost Guess Who memorabilia saved from dumpster, heading to St. Vital Museum

Click to play video: 'Winnipegger Tom Kowalsky shows off his collection of lost Guess Who memorabilia' Winnipegger Tom Kowalsky shows off his collection of lost Guess Who memorabilia
A massive collection of audio, video and other memorabilia from iconic rockers the Guess Who – likely including previously unheard recordings – will be donated to a Winnipeg museum – Nov 16, 2018

A large collection of audio tapes, video footage and other memorabilia from one of Winnipeg’s most famous musical exports is headed to a local museum after a last-minute reprieve from the dumpster.

Winnipegger Tom Kowalsky says the collection – which he’s donating to the St. Vital Museum Saturday – likely includes previously unreleased recordings by the Guess Who.

Kowalsky said the collection, which includes more than 100 tapes, was gathering dust in a garage. The previous owner had been storing it for a family member for more than a decade and eventually needed to get rid of it to reclaim their space.

“You’ve got to clean out your garage eventually,” he said. “Everyone knows what it’s like when you’re storing someone else’s stuff in your space. Eventually you have to make that call … and nobody answered the call.

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“It wasn’t claimed, so an abandonment order was drawn up. The day before they had to absolutely get rid of it and reclaim their space and put it in a dumpster, they thought of me.”

Kowalsky himself has kept the collection in storage for the past four months, while searching for the best possible home for the material. That’s when he discovered the St. Vital Museum already had a small Guess Who display. He contacted the museum, and arranged for an official ‘unboxing’ of the full collection to take place Saturday.

“They are absolutely trembling to get their hands on this,” he said. “I’ve looked through some of it, but the sheer amount of stuff… you can’t really look at it all.

“Some of it is videotaped appearances of public TV throughout the US, a lot of live recordings of tours. Essentially what you’ve got is a time machine – the ability to turn that on and go back in time.”

Most exciting for Kowalsky is a series of reel-to-reel tapes labeled, in very faded pencil, “Guess Who demos.”

“I totally believe there’s going to be stuff that’s never been heard before. We’re going to hear something we’ve never heard before in 40 years. I guarantee it.”

The Guess Who, circa 1970. Wikipedia

Before the tapes can be heard, though, Kowalsky and the museum need to get their hands on now-obsolete audio equipment in order to play them. Kowalsky says he should have no trouble finding a reel-to-reel player, and will reach out Canada-wide if he has to in order to find other technology.

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“Of course, I haven’t been able to play all of that stuff because I don’t have a reel-to-reel in my back pocket.”

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Once the collection has been thoroughly combed through and Kowalsky has a better idea of what he’s looking at, he said the next step is to contact people who were directly involved with the band.

Much of the recorded material, he said, includes detailed, hand-written notes about the personnel involved, including musicians, recording engineers and more.

“In this crazy day and age and nutso, artificial commercialized world, we need down-home stories that really connect people,” he said, “and what connects people more than music?

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