A Group Called Bubs profiled in the Ottawa Citizen
|David Leroux of the Raphaelssent in the scans and story of his next band:|
The reformed version of the Skaliwags, from left: Pete Christensen, Gerry Foster, Eddy Mitchell, Ralph Leroux and Chris Saunders
|The Skaliwags (sometimes misspelled Skalliwags) came from Ottawa, Canada like a band I profiled last month, the Raphaels. The Skaliwags had been around since 1961, based in Gatineau. Lead singer Eddy Mitchell remembered Big 12 shows at the old Coliseum from noon to midnight, where each of the 12 bands would play two short sets and as many as 8,000 kids would attend during the day. Those shows gave the band many contacts, including John Brower (who would later produce the Rock and Roll Revival festival where the Plastic Ono Band would record Live Peace in Toronto) and local DJs including Al Pascal of CFRA.Alex Sherman of Sherman’s Music was owner of Excellent label and put up the money for the singles. The Skaliwags went to RCA studios in Montreal to record their first single in February of 1966. “Turn Him Down” reached #1 on CFRE. The flip, “365 Days a Year” is equally excellent.After this single, the band splintered. Lead guitarist John Bacho left to join the Townsmen, and bassist Andy Cody left the band to get married. Ed Mitchell recalled the Skaliwags recruiting Chris Saunders and Ralph Leroux from The Slaves of Time. Ralph Leroux is the brother of David Leroux of the Raphaels. Pete Christensen of the Raphaels joined on bass.|
I’ll reproduce Eddy Mitchell’s comment below:
Paul Warman (spelled Paull Warman on the green label releases) wrote all four songs the Skaliwags released, including their second release, “Me Minus More” / “Broken Man Am I” from 1967. Eddy Mitchell said in an interview on Brian Murphy’s Capitol Roots radio show on CHEZ 106.1 FM in Ottawa in the early ’80s that the band was trying to find a song as catchy as “Raindrops keep Falling on My Head”. The band broke up after the second single.
Eddy wrote to me about Paul Warman:
Paul Warman passed away on Jan 23rd, 2011 at the age of 67.
Excellent E-5001 (1st issue, gold label) – 365 Days a Year / Turn Him Down
Excellent E-5001 (2nd issue, green label) – 365 Days a Year / Turn Him Down
Excellent E-5001 (green label) – Me Minus More / Broken Man Am I
Thank you to Alex for the promotional photo seen at top, and to Ivan Amirault for the scans of the Skaliwags 45s, the additional photos, and the clip of the Capitol Roots show.
Until now, this 45 by the Raphaels has been unknown outside of Ottawa collectors circles. Both songs are well-written mid-tempo numbers with harmonies.There’s not much info on the label other than Ottawa, Canada 1965 and the matrix number QC 272. The QC prefix indicates a Quality label custom pressing.The songs are “Someday” by Peter Christensen and “I Change My Mind” by Dave Leroux.
I didn’t know anything about the group until Alex Taylor commented, below. I’ll repeat his comment here in its entirety:
The Raphaels, like The Beaux Geste, were among the most promising garage bands from the Ottawa-Gatineau scene, and that too this day, remain the least known. Their single was cut at HH Bloom studios on Bank Street in Ottawa (the QC prefix was Bloom’s own). This was the same place that Don Norman & The Other Four had cut “Mustang Sally” and where Those Naughty Boys made their first demos too. Only a couple hundred copies of The Raphaels single exists (the single was custom pressed in Toronto by Quality Records).
As for The Raphaels, they fell apart at the close of 1966, right around the same time The Skaliwags were breaking apart. In early 1967, Raphaels member Pete Christensen joined up with the remaining Skaliwags for a second stab at fame!
Check my page on the Skaliwags for a little more information on that band.
David (Dave) Leroux: Lead vocals and lead guitar
Claude Gravel: Rhythm guitar and vocals
Peter Christensen: Bass guitar and vocals
Daryl Wadsworth: Organ and vocals
Greig Lund: Drums and vocals
My name is David Leroux and I was a member of the Raphaels. The Raphaels name came from the artist/painter Raphael. My school principal suggested it in my Rideau High School days. Since I was one of the early folks with long hair not yet allowed in schools at that time, I quickly agreed with him! He said we were all good artists!
We were always a definite part of the “BIG 12” shows. The “action” pictures from from those shows.
My Mom made all our frill shirts…and that my sister ironed them for each gig! My poor Mom was our biggest fan but passed away in 1973 at the age of 42 from cancer. The shorts and suspenders were my idea. In those days the friendly rivalry between bands was pretty cool. Everyone was looking for that little edge over the other for recognition … quite fun at times.
I still cherish and hold safely the original metal press of the record!
The website finding was an incredibly timed event. We have not seen each other in about 40 years. Two of the members last month accidently found themselves standing at an ATM machine and then recognized each other. They knew where I was located through some previous email contacts. We are having a band reunion this coming Saturday as a result!
After the finish of the The Raphaels, I eventually formed a new band called “A Group Called BUBS” with my brother, Ralph, from the Skaliwags and guitar player, John Bacho along with other local musicians of the times. The “BUBS” had a very successful time and then we all decided it was time to say it was fun and time to move forward. CFRA radio gave us an incredible farewell concert at Pineland of those days. We all moved on in life but have maintained contact and reunion times over the years.
I am now moved on as a Labour Law Advisor with the Federal Department of Labour working and living in Kingston, Ontario.
David Leroux, August 2012
Thank you to Dan Lee Laymann for sending the scans and transfers of the 45 and alerting me to its existence. Special thanks to David Leroux for the photos and news clips seen here, except where noted.
The Esquires – The Singles… Plus (2011, Pacemaker PACE 085)
Review by Rebecca Jansen
It’s been two dozen years now since a short b&w film clip of a well-groomed skinny-tied early ’60s instrumental combo began showing up on the Canadian music video channel. They played an original Shadowsesque toe-tapper on Fenders and a Gibson whilst a not too serious drummer paradiddled at a kit with a bass drum that read “The Esquires”. It was too perfect to be a hoax, and the song burrowed into my mind even more than the drum lettering.
About a dozen years ago a CD series was launched by EMI Music Canada called the “Northern Heritage Connoisseur Series,” and part of this series was the 1963 album Introducing The Esquires. Remembering the Shadowsesque group in the film clip and seeing the cover made up to look like the Shadows own famous first LP (right down to the guys’ sweaters) I knew this must be that Esquires. It was, and I would hit replay after the track “Man From Adano” so many times I risked wearing out that button! I don’t know if it’s the memory of the almost Devo-like vintage film clip appearing anachronistically among a lot of modern videos, or the interweaving of guitar and background aaaah-aaaah-aaah-aaahs, but I’d almost swear The Esquires were more the Shadows than the Shadows ever were for this sligthly under two minutes. Like Les Paul’s “Nola” or Link Wray’s “Rumble” before it, it’s one of those tunes that branded itself right onto my brain and will never go, and yet somehow with each relistening making the mark deeper it feels good there.
Now Pacemaker has collected up seemingly everything else by the Esquires of Ottawa and with a photo-festooned and informative book I can scratch this itch all over again. In the manner of England’s Fluer De Lys or Germany’s Rattles, the Esquires of the earliest demos included here are a totally different group of people than the ones who play on their final Columbia single some years further along. In between still other members came and went, like singer Don Norman who dominated vocally and lyrically for the third through fifth Capitol singles only and then went on to lead Don Norman & The Other Four. Norman’s style was very smooth mid-60s Cliff Richard, and his original songs are as satisfyingly hook-laden as anything by bigger names of the era, particularly “So Many Other Boys”.
Don Norman has become somewhat familar to me before this release, so the real revelation here are the final two Columbia singles from 1966. With new members Ted Gerow on keyboard (a future Staccato, see Pacemaker’s great two disc First Sparks collection), and John Cassidy on guitar the Esquires took a moddish r&b turn for the interesting. Still with second drummer Richard Patterson (destined for 3’s A Crowd), and lead vocals from Brian Lewicki, “It’s a Dirty Shame” is a solid garage-rocker that escaped my ears until now, and the follow-up “Love Hides A Multitude Of Sins” is a totally infectious dancable raver (reportedly Zombies inspired). My poor replay button! The flipsides of both are almost equally deserving of attention as well, and yet what with the lack of support in Canada for homegrown rock & roll this was to be the last heard from the Esquires until much later reunions.
This CD is however loaded with bonus tracks from unissued demos and TV appearances to quality live recordings. And now finally, wonder of wonders, that film clip that haunted me all this time itself is explained; “shot in 1963… (two clips, one I’ve yet to see) are considered the first-ever Canadian pop videos and were made when a local vending machine entrepreneur brought back some early video machines [Scopitones] from France. Having nothing but French pop stars on them, he decided to feature Canadian acts.” That 16mm film of “Man From Adano” stands as a peek into a different time and sound as iconically as the celebrated 1906 Market Street in San Francisco film, as only a few weeks later the Beatles began their invasion! In the footsteps of Lonnie Donegan, Cliff and the Shadows, the Beatles hit first in Canada (many later-famous U.S. musicians have noted how they first heard that group while in Canada), but for me ‘Man From Adano’ will always be the coolest piece of Canadian rock.
See the Pacemaker site for more information on this release.
Rebecca Jansen’s writing and artwork can be seen at Hippies stole my blog! *
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Don Norman had been playing guitar and singing in Ottawa bands since 1961, with the Continentals, the Jades and the Esquires, who cut his song “Cry Is All I Do”.
Don described his early work:
I began playing guitar in 1958 and was composing songs by late 1959. Early influences were Elvis, Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry. The first time I was in a professional recording studio was September 1961 and I still have the master tape. The session was for two songs that I had composed and the band was known as the Continentals.
By the year 1963 I had joined a band by the name of the Esquires, which had already released two singles in Canada for Capitol Records. I became the vocalist for this group and some months later, in the early spring of 1964, we recorded an LP for Capitol. This was followed by three more single releases including “Cry Is All I Do”. I wrote the song in 1964 and it was recorded in early 1965 and released that spring.
Don had an acrimonious break with the Esquires in the summer of ’65, leading to a lawsuit when he named his new band Don Norman and the Esquires. He gave up the Esquires name, but his departure from the band cost the original Esquires their contract with Capitol. The band he formed became Don Norman and the Other Four: Gary Comeau (who had also been in the Esquires) on lead guitar, Bill Hellman bass, Ron Greene organ and Brian Dewherst on drums. With the addition of John Matthews on sax, the Other Four were five!
At their first session at RCA’s Hallmark Studios in Toronto, they recorded two different singles. They backed Bob Harrington on “Changes” / “Country Boy” on REO 8947X, the A-side being a Heinz cut, the flip a Phil Ochs composition. It was released as “Bob Harrington with Don Norman & the Other Four”. Bob Harrington was the original lead vocalist of the Esquires who Don had replaced in the band.
The other single without Harrington was their upbeat cover of the Olympics’ hit “The Bounce”, with Don’s original “All of My Life” on the flip. It was released on the Barry label (a subsidiary of Quality) in the summer of ’66. Despite being picked up by MGM for distribution in the U.S., Quality failed to get behind the release and let it fade.
There is also a French version on the Solfege label, “Le Bounce” / “Je T’ai Cherche”. The band listed, Les Demi-Douzaines (“The Half-Dozen”) was actually Don Norman & the Other Four under a pseudonym. Ivan Amirault wrote to me: “I have a copy of it. Funny thing with mine is it doesn’t have the same Quality number as the one shown in your site. Mine has a one hundred series number which is what the label used for their Quebec French titles.”
Dissatisfied with Quality’s promotion of the band, their manager, DJ and CJOH-TV’s Saturday Date host John Pozer started the Sir John A label with Ron Greene to back Don’s songwriting and vocal talents. Gary Comeau left after “The Bounce” to join the Townsmen.
The band’s first 45 on Sir John A was the amazing “Low Man”, definitely one of the great moments in Canadian rock. Don recalls recording it at Stereo Sound in Montreal while the studio was still under construction! Don used a Gibson fuzz box on the bass to get that distinctive sound. “Low Man” was released in November of ’66, backed by a cover of “Mustang Sally”, and featured their new guitarist Art Kirkby.
The picture sleeve that accompanied the 45 was printed with the opening for the record on the bottom, so most copies were cut up and pasted onto plain white sleeves.
Next up was another Norman original, the fine “Your Place in My Heart”, featuring John Matthews on vocals, backed with “Trae Hymn 1”.
Their third and last 45 on Sir John A was just a pairing of the last two a-sides: the label scans I’m featuring here. Both songs were produced by Norman Greene.
Several factors have been mentioned as reasons for why this talented group didn’t make a bigger mark at the time: a disinclination of the band to tour, a lack of enthusiasm from Ottawa audiences, John Pozer’s departure to work for Variety Artists in Toronto, and the low distribution of Sir John A records.
In early 1967 the band went through a drastic line-up change, keeping Ron Greene on keyboards, but with Don moving to bass, and three members of the Bittersweet joining: John Winskell on lead guitar, Rick Paradis on vocals and Skip Layton on drums.
With a new pop sound, they recorded what was to be the band’s next single, “Nothing To Do, No Place To Go”. The band broke up without even recording a b-side, so it remained unreleased until the 1997 release of ‘Ottawa Rocks! The Sir John A Years’ compilation. Disillusioned and not seeing a future in music, Don retired from performing at the age of 23!
Sources include Erin Truscott’s interview with Don Norman in Misty Lane #15; the Sir John A site (link); Don’s own description of his career (link); and Glynis Ward and Alex Taylor’s history of the band.Special thanks to Ivan for his scans of record sleeves and promotional materials.