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The Prentis-Bernstein Group. (Jim, far left).

At age 19, after graduating high school, I dropped out of my first semester in college and decided to take my music on the road. Me and the guys in my band started playing on the road all over northern and southern Canada in 1968 and five years later in 1973 we left Canada and crossed the border to the United States.

It was really easy. Well, pre-9/11 it was really easy. They ask when you crossed either way, “Citizen of what country and how long are you going and how long have you been gone?” All you have to do is just make up something. And I crossed at Niagara Falls because it was always busy. Going in I said I was going to be at Niagara Falls, New York for a couple of hours, doing some shopping. And then it was always the same on the return home. They would say, “Welcome back to Canada, sir.” Little did they know I had been gone for years! The trick was you had to show that you had purchased some items and while in the states you had to keep out of trouble and work on getting rid of the Canadian accent.

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Jim Dunn, 1970.

My first playing gig was in Beckley, West Virginia up in the mountains. It was really different. Ha-ha. I was 27 or 26 at the time and there were four of us in our band when we came over. The leader and drummer at the time had a plan of his own. I remember we were on the beach in Clearwater, Florida and he says, “Ok, were going to play a week in Albany, Georgia, a week in Chattanooga, a week in Huntington, West Virginia, and a week in Buffalo then cross back into Canada. And does anybody have anything to say?” And I said, “Yeah, I quit!” Everyone was so shocked and they said I couldn’t do that. I remember telling them, “Of course I can, its 121 degrees colder at home than it is here. I quit.” They continued on and asked what would happen if I got caught and I simply told them it was no different than if I stayed and got caught with them – we would all simply be kicked out.225221_197789306925026_208035_n

Luckily I didn’t get caught though. For the next six and half years on the road here in the United States I was illegal. So I left the band and joined up with another band and kept on traveling and playing music. There was always the risk of being caught and getting kicked out but I didn’t care. I was young and single and I didn’t want to go back to Canada – I just didn’t care! There was nobody to be responsible to except myself so I kept going and kept playing music.

Immigration