Louis McKelvey (Guitar, Vocals) line up A-D
The Influence was one of the most fascinating bands to emerge from Canada during the ‘60s. The group’s rich diversity of styles was a result of the group members’ wide range of musical backgrounds and geographical origins.
The band’s driving force was Louis Campbell McKelvey (b. October 31, 1943, Killorglin, County Kerry, Eire), who had spent the early ‘60s playing with London bands, The Persuaders and Jeff Curtis & The Flames (frequent residents at the Ealing Jazz club).
After travelling to South Africa in the summer of 1965, he met singer Andy Keiller (b. August 16, 1941, Bodmin, Cornwall, England), who had already recorded a solo single, ‘Find My Baby/Elaine (Continental PD7-8936), and an album entitled ‘Round About Midnight’ after moving to South Africa in March 1964. Together they formed The Who-inspired band The Upsetters, named by McKelvey after Little Richard’s first support group. The Upsetters recorded a lone single, ‘Daddy Rolling Stone/Pain In My Heart’ (Continental PD7-9012), issued by the small Trutone label later that year. When Keiller left to return to London in November, McKelvey subsequently joined The A-Cads.
McKelvey was only a member of The A-Cads for a few months, but did appear on the single ‘Fool, Fool, Fool/Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah’ (RCA Victor 41-827) and helped finish off the band’s lone album. The A-Cads spent the early part of 1966 travelling with the Boswell-Wilkie circus before splitting up in April. Together with former A-Cads, Hank Squires and Les Goode, McKelvey returned to England and together they hatched plans to move to India. The project, however, never materialised and McKelvey (later joined by Squires) moved to Montreal in October 1966.
McKelvey played with Les Sinners for a few weeks then joined Our Generation in time to appear on their second single.
During his time with the latter band, he co-produced (with Hank Squires) The Haunted’s single ‘Searching For My Baby’ and through the group met former member Wynne (b. May 17, 1947, Stockport, England). McKelvey subsequently invited him to join the new group he was planning.
Around the same time, McKelvey met bass player Geisinger (b. Jakob August Geisinger, March 1945, Czechoslovakia), who had recently been playing with The Buddy Miles Quartet and before that The Soul Mates.
When Buddy Miles and the group’s guitarist and organist, Rossi (b. Rossignuoli Rossi, May 29, 1947, Naples, Italy) and Island (b. Bob Parkins, Montreal, Canada), were picked up by Wilson Pickett for a US tour, Geisinger accepted McKelvey’s offer to join the new group.
Shortly afterwards, McKelvey spotted an ad in the paper by Keiller (who had moved out to Montreal the previous spring and had tried to contact McKelvey after seeing him playing with Our Generation on TV), and invited him to join as the band’s lead singer.
Formed in late May, the quartet, named The Influence, immediately made its presence felt and became regulars at Montreal’s Barrel during the summer of 1967. In June, Rossi and Island returned to Montreal and, after catching the band’s set, joined the line-up. The new line-up became more musically adventurous, adopting a style that was influenced by jazz musicians Sonny Murray and Archie Shepp, and with Island adding a second lead voice. After tightening up their act, The Influence moved to Toronto and became a regular sight at Boris’ Red Gas Room throughout September-December.
Live in Toronto, 1967.
Andy Keiller singing and Dave Wynne on drums
The record is a startling piece of music and clearly shows how unique the band was. However, it didn’t sell well and is now something of a collector’s item. The highlights are the chanson styled ‘I Don’t Know Why’, composed by Rossi and Island, and heavier pieces like McKelvey’s ‘Natural Impulse’ and ‘Pieces of Me’, co-written with Andy Keiller.
Shortly after the album’s release, former Soul Mates’ drummer Frank LoRusso (aka Yum Yum) replaced Wynne. The new line-up toured extensively in the US Midwest and the New York area throughout the first half of 1968. A live album, captured in Chicago on a bill with Steppenwolf, was recorded on a rough tape during May but immediately afterwards, Keiller left to return to Montreal (he eventually returned to the UK briefly before emigrating to Australia).
The band continued but internal differences led to McKelvey’s departure in September 1968. The remaining members carried on as a heavy rock, blues band into 1969, but broke up when Rossi joined The Buddy Miles Express and Geisinger left for McKelvey’s new group Milkwood. LoRusso later rejoined McKelvey in Damage. McKelvey lives in Toronto and plays with his own band.
Island was subsequently killed in a highway accident in late 1969. Wynne joined the diplomatic service and is working in Singapore, while Keiller currently runs a fibreglass business making racing cars in Melbourne. Rossi has established a successful solo career and lives in Quebec while Geisinger was last heard of living in Montreal.
Andy Keiller, South Africa 1965
L-R: Andy, Louis and Walter
Andrew Keiller, Bob Parkins and Jack Geisinger
LP Influence (Sparton 630) 1968 (Canada)
June 1 1967 – Barrel, Montreal
|Live dates are largely taken from the Toronto Telegram’s “After Four” section. Thanks also to Andy Keiller for some concert details.
Thanks to Louis McKelvey, Walter Rossi, Andy Keiller, Dave Wynne and Jack Geisinger. Grande Ballroom concert poster from Walter Rossi’s site. LP front cover scan courtesy of Ivan Amirault.
© Copyright Nick Warburton, January 2008. All Rights Reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced or transmitted in any from or by any means, without prior permission from the author.
To contact the author, email: Warchive@aol.com
Music Trend, May 26, 1967. Click for larger version. Scan courtesy of Dave Wynne.
This ad appeared in the March 9, 1968 issue of the great KRLA Beat newspaper!