If you’re a record collector living in Ottawa you’ve undoubtedly heard of the legendary Birdman Sound: a cherished treasure of any serious music lover and vinyl afficianado. John Westhaver, the shop’s owner, has been a staple in the Ottawa music scene for over 20 years — and not just for the obvious reason of “owning a record store”. He hosts Friday Morning Cartunes, the 20-years-and-running hugely influential show on Carleton University’s CKCU FM, has played in and supported tonnes of local bands, ran a Birdman Stage for 2 years at Ottawa Bluesfest, and can easily be credited with singlehandedly introducing Ottawa to countless great acts he’s brought to town (everyone from Acid Mother’s Temple to Nathaniel Mayer to Nebula to Howe Gelb to The Greenhornes to T-Model Ford to The Bellrays… phewf that’s just off the top of my head).
He’s had a profound impact on the national capital’s musical palette.
Birdman’s habit of importing one of the most diverse catalogues of music into a retail store easily allows them to earn the mantle of the city’s best record shop and, in my humble opinion, one of the best record stores in all of Canada. Yeah. I’m serious.
Check out this great piece Bradley Turcotte penned a couple of years ago. John Westhaver has essentially operated a word of mouth business that rests on the foundation of recommending great music to like-minded people. Speaking from personal experience, John helped a former band I was in locally break a record about 6 years ago and that led to a slew of new fans coming out to our shows — something I had never experienced so organically before.
However, a recent downtown construction project has hampered business in Ottawa’s core and this includes John’s summer walk-up business. You can read a note on his blog reminding customers that he’s still in business under the construction mess. Go support him right now and buy a record!
Birdman sound genuinely sports the credo “fine purveyors of music” in a way that is unmotivated by nothing other than helping great records to get attention and get shared between people, something that I think just about anyone can get down with. If there was ever anyone in town who approached Rob Gordon in terms of their status as a sheer audiophile, then Westhaver’s it for the 613 area code and Birdman Sound is Ottawa’s Championship Vinyl. Check them out.