GEORGE WEST JR
George West died peacefully at home on May 19, 2023. He is pre-deceased by his mother Lorraine. He is survived by his father, George West Sr, his sister Martine (husband Gerry), brother Joseph (wife Sonja) and nephews, Paul and Jason. He will be remembered by aunts, uncles and cousins on both sides of his family. His memory will live long in the hearts and minds of his many friends and colleagues.
George was born in Winnipeg sixty-one years ago. It can now be revealed to all his friends that his birthday was in February. George wasn't keen on receiving gifts or greetings on his birthday, thus it was a mystery date to most people who knew him.
George was born prematurely and developed asthma as a young child. Despite this rough start, his baby pictures reveal a plump smiling laughing child with eyes full of mirth and as history has proved… a bit of mischief as well.
Physically present with his mum and dad, sister and brother, George was witness to the broadcast of the Beatles first live performance in North America on the Ed Sullivan show. Our father set his reel-to-reel tape recorder up to capture this momentous moment in music history. I don't believe he was able to quite grasp what he was seeing and hearing in those few exhilarating moments but perhaps a spark of something downloaded into his tender brain and altered the path of things that hadn't happened yet.
When the family travelled to Vancouver a few years later, George really discovered the Beatles in a big way. Once exposed to albums our cousin had, he would spend many happy hours beside her turntable listening over and over. As young as I was at the time, even I thought it was extraordinary that he was so intent on listening...all day. Perhaps a little odd for such a young child, we all thought. This was accepted as "normal for George" and he was sent home to Winnipeg by his aunt with all the aforementioned cousin's Beatle albums, probably to her dismay. Of course, years later, he sent her a live recording of the Vancouver concert she had attended in 1964 to make up for the loss of all those precious records. He would extend this same kind of generosity over the years to scores of people.
Young George was determined to forge his own path in life… preferring not to aim at the usual milestones of life that people in our society usually achieve. School was not for him (until later in life when he finally did finish) pounding the pavement looking for jobs he had zero interest in working at...no George could not wait to get out amongst it.
Our family is populated with musicians and George found he had an affinity for guitar. When he took lessons, he went with it as far as he could, realizing he was a bass player in all reality. He excelled at this instrument.
Liberated from adolesence, he fully embraced Winnipeg's cafe society and began meeting and forging friendships with the kind of people that somehow, some way, shared his one huge passion in life: music. Playing it, talking about it, sharing it, seeing it in person and eventually to recording live local performances of artists he admired. In the record store heyday of the 60s/70s/80s in Winnipeg, he would happily spend hours doing the circuit of record stores downtown either looking for obscure titles or new releases to add to his collection.
He started his main working career at the old Schmecker's restaurant in St James and then onto the Blue Note Cafe on Main St. For a time, the Blue Note Cafe was the place to head after the bars were closed or the concert had let out. If you were lucky enough to get a booth, you could while away the hours with your cinnamon coffee with your friends until the wee hours of the morning. You never knew if Paul Stanley or Rod Stewart or Neil Young or Bowie's band were going to pop round for a very late-night jam... It was at the Blue Note Cafe that George found himself involved with a fledgling band made up of cafe staff who rehearsed at the cafe and became the 'house' band... eventually morphing into The Crash Test Dummies.
When George left the Dummies in the early 90s, he had short stints in other bands but by the late 90s, he put down his bass guitar and completely immersed himself in collecting music. His record collection is legendary in the vinyl community and shows that he has taped or found online (when nobody else could) have been widely sought after at record shows and conventions. George attended every Rockin' Richard's Record Show until Covid raised its head. After Covid, he was back at it attending the newly founded "Manitoba Record and Music Show" over the past year.
He worked for a time at Into the Music, a well-known local record store. George's passion for collecting music really ramped up at this point. in later years he manned his own table of wares at the semi-annual record conventions.
George became fascinated with the promise of computers, achieving a certificate as a Microsoft Technician. He developed a love of creating and enhancing art work to compliment his live recordings. He took huge pride in his attention to detail whether it concerned the design of the entire package or doing what he could on the audio side to improve or enhance the listening experience.
George also shared his love of classic monster movies with his nephew Paul. In Paul's own words: " He was a gem of a guy. He introduced me to monster movies and the macabre. He was a solid guy and I’m sorry I'll never be able to argue if Christopher Lee was the better Dracula over Bela Lugosi with him. Rest well Uncle George."
George's musical tastes could never be pigeon-holed. He enjoyed music from every rock genre there is. From Crowded House to Genesis; from Thin Lizzy to The Stooges; from the Beatles to King Crimson; From Mott the Hoople to Phoebe Bridgers; from Budgie to Yes; from Patti Smith to the Rutles; From Rush to the Cowsills (Yes, the Cowsills) This list could go on for days. If you were the recipient of George's largesse and you received an obscure live show of your favourite band or asked him to digitalize a beloved hard to replace almost used up vinyl record, count yourself very lucky.
His musical knowledge knew no boundaries and he was an encyclopedia of information when it came to music.
Because of his health issues George understood his limitations, yet he lived a life as full as he could. He met friends for coffee, brunch or dinner as often as was possible for him. He detested texting, preferring to talk on the phone and being spontaneous with friends. A testament to that is the number of friends who have called and left voicemails for him, unaware of his passing. "George...call me back"...George, we haven't talked for a few days, call me back". "George, I have a question".
Like everyone George could be grouchy and short tempered... but he could also be generous, helpful, charming, anxious, compassionate, hilarious, regretful, sad and hopeful. For most of his friends and family he is leaving a huge void which will never be filled as he now transitions from this world into legend.
George knew he wouldn't make it to 90 but he lived every day he had left the way he wanted. Others feared this day would come but George didn't look at it that way. He continued on and in facing his mortality his attitude was...as George Harrison said in a Hard Day's Night "I'd be quite prepared for that eventuality".
And one thing is for certain, the music must be pretty amazing where he is now.
Rest well, Brother.
The family would like to thank Rod Kozak for his incredible support and friendship with George over the years as well as all of George's other close friends and trading partners. He appreciated every single one of you. We also thank Carol Sterzer, the sister that George might've wished for, her love and concern for our family and George is warmly felt.
There will be no funeral but an informal gathering is planned sometime during the last week of June. The exact date and time and place will be announced on the Winnipeg Vinyl Museum Facebook page when details have been firmed up. It is hoped that it will be a get together of people willing to get up and speak about how George impacted their lives and a sharing of reminiscence. And of course...there will be cinnamon coffee.
Donations can be directed to Siloam Mission if people desire.
George’s family kindly requests that all of his friends and relatives take a few minutes to honour his memory by watching the photo-biography above. Please, also consider sharing your own photos, memories, and stories by making use of the comment section on this page.
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