Portage Avenue mural honouring Winnipeg music legend taken down

A popular mural on Portage Avenue was taken down on the weekend, leaving local music fans perplexed and frustrated.

The mural, located at 1349 Portage Ave., honoured Winnipegger Gar Gillies, famed creator of Garnet Amplifiers.

The mural was erected in 2003, when the building was the home of Second Encore Music store, and was apparently paid for by the music store’s owner and the West End BIZ.

Both were surprised to see it taken down over the weekend.

“We were not aware that the mural had been removed until this weekend,” said incoming BIZ director Joe Kornelsen.

“Now that we’re aware of the issue, we’re working to resolve it.”

Former Second Encore owner Scott Gair called the removal “shocking” in a post on a Facebook group about Manitoba’s music history.

“I’m not sure if the new tenant realizes the significance of the mural.”

The late Gar Gillies.

When Second Encore shut its doors, Gerg’s Music took over the location, followed by a pawn shop. It’s now a Great Canadian Travel Group office.

The travel agency has not yet responded to a request for comment.

On Monday evening, the mural was found in pieces in a nearby alley and was taken to the West End BIZ for storage.

Gillies, who died in 2006, was a notable trombone player who toured Manitoba in the 1940s with the Gar Gillies Jump Band, and later rose to fame as the creator of the distinctive Garnet amps, which powered Winnipeg legends like the Guess Who and Neil Young early in their 1960s careers.

The Guess Who’s Randy Bachman – also depicted with his band on the mural – has said Gillies’ amplifiers ‘created’ his guitar sound, and many other notable artists from Winnipeg and beyond have sworn by the distinctive tones of Garnet equipment in the decades since.

Garnet shut its doors in 1989, but Gillies continued to build custom gear until the early 2000s.

His amps continue to be highly sought-after by collectors, and have been exhibited as part of the National Music Centre’s collection in Calgary.

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