He played the southwestern Ontario folk circuit in the late 1960s and early 70s. His two albums never became best-sellers, but they maintained enough of a following to make the leap to CD, decades later, and long after he'd retired from regular stage performances.
Any Direction, first released in 1969, featured fourteen of Winston George's original songs. It is the moodier and, in many people's opinion, stronger of the two records, marked by his distinct folk vocals and Bill Gunn's dramatic organ. There's a hint of period mysticism here, and psychedelia. The cover sports a black and white image, created by Gil Moll, that looks like a Rorschach blot running asymmetrical.
Winston George: vocals, guitar, harmonica.
Bill Pigram: drums.
Rob Connor: guitar
Bill Gunn: organ
Ron Kilgour: bass.
The second album, 1976's City Wilderness, features more conventional folk. It's easily recognized by its cover, a Robert Crumb-influenced drawing of downtown London, Ontario with Win and various real-life city characters transformed into cartoon animals. Roger Baker, a friend of Win's, created the image.
Winston George: vocals, guitar
Bill Pigram: drums, vocals, autoharp
Rita Christie: vocals
Phil Blackler: guitar, harmonica
Dave Atwood: sax
Larry Weir: bass
While he still played occasionally, he had always had to balance his music with his career as a high school teacher; he even co-authored texts which were used in Ontario for many years. City Wilderness would prove his final recorded contribution to folk music. His life as Win Schell, however, remained a dynamic one.
Ergo Press, founded by Win and wife Linda in 1977, published fiction and non-fiction relating to southwestern Ontario. Its catalogue includes work by lesser-known names, and more widely-recognized local authors, such as James Reaney. Ergo also produced Souwesto Words, a CD of local writers reading their work. Win counted among his close friends local legend Roy McDonald. Ergo introduced Mcdonald's writing to a wider audience, and Win helped bring the eccentric writer's house-- which lacked many modern amenities-- into the modern era.
Win also wrote, producing an impressive number of published articles, essays, poetry, and works of short fiction.
I knew him first and foremost as Win Schell, mentor and friend. He died, suddenly and unexpectedly from an aneurysm, somewhere between Thursday, September 2 and Friday September 3, 2004.
The phone call from a mutual friend woke me from a dream. We generated names of people who needed to be told. Every time I repeated the words, they sounded surreal. He was 62 and as far as we knew, in good health.
He played folk music, published other people's writing, raised a family. Recently, he had taken up painting. He kept a garden and brewed his own beer. He amassed a large and diverse collection of unusual beer bottles, which he finally intended to sell. He regularly attended my plays, and always paid, though I would have given him free tickets. His laugh was infectious.
A mutual friend held a Christmas party each year, in December. Win would lead a makeshift band, singing carols.
He is survived by Linda, a son, Michael aka "Freedom," Elaine (ex-wife), a granddaughter, a sister and brother-in-law, some nieces and nephews, and many, many good friends whose lives will be less rich.
UPDATE: In November 2004, a novelty CD by "the Gobblers" featuring Winston George appeared. In included "Tom Turkey," a song Win had recorded shortly before he died, and other material.