Ex-Georgia Straight editor spearheads blues-rocking benefit for Mary Steinhauser bursary



By Steve Newton

Remember “Hurricane”, that great Bob Dylan tune about the imprisonment of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter?

Bob Mercer sure does.

Dylan’s 1975 protest song came out five months after a notorious hostage-taking incident at the B.C. Penitentiary that took the life of 32-year-old prison social-worker Mary Steinhauser. Three years later, finding major inspiration in “Hurricane”, Mercer wrote a song called “Wilson, Lucas & Bruce” that told the inside story of the 72-hour standoff, including Steinhauser’s death “from a prison guard’s gun” and the fact that B.C. Pen’s extensive use of solitary confinement was what led to the hostage-taking in the first place.

At the time Mercer was editor of the Georgia Straight and lead vocalist for a band called the Explosions, which included longtime Straight music critic Alex Varty, as well as then-Straight staffers Tom Harrison and David Lester. The group released “Wilson, Lucas & Bruce” as a 45 rpm single, the first and only release on Georgia Straight Records.


Fast-forward 35 years and self-described “song and dance man” Mercer is still fighting the good fight, trying to keep the memory of Steinhauser alive. At the Russian Hall this Saturday (Dec. 7) his current group, Mercer Van Eyes, will join Jughead and the Mud Bay Blues Band at a benefit for the Mary Steinhauser Memorial Bursary, which gives priority to an SFU student of First Nations heritage pursuing a career in Arts & Social Sciences.

As well as aiding a deserving student, the bursary—initiated by Steinhauser’s younger sister, Margaret Franz—is meant to commemorate Steinhauser’s courageous life.


“Do you remember a woman named Mary,” sings Mercer on “Wilson, Lucas & Bruce”, “she was held on the edge of a blade/But she never died from no knife at her throat/She died for the friends she made.”

Those wishing to contribute to the bursary fund can contact Wanda Dekleva at wdekleva@sfu.ca.

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