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.
Matt Faulkner spoke to Bob Burrows, vocalist and leader of Bobby Kris and the Imperials, and writes this article about the group:
Bobby Kris and the Imperials stood at the front of Toronto’s fruitful R&B scene in the mid-60s, alongside other notable acts like Richie Knight and The Mid-Knights, Mandala and Little Caesar and the Consuls. The group was one of the fourteen groups to take stage at the legendary “Toronto Sound” show at Maple Leaf Gardens, where they shared the stage with Toronto garage and psych greats such as Luke and the Apostles, The Ugly Ducklings, and the Paupers.
Originally titled J.S. and the Imperials, with Jimmy Snowden on vocals, the group had a number of lineup changes and recruitments from other bands. In early 1965, Bobby Kris joined the line up, and shortly after the key recording line up of the band was formed.
Bobby Kris (Bob Burrows) – vocals Jerry Mann (aka Jerry Shymanski) – tenor sax Rick Loth – tenor sax Marty Fisher – piano Gene Martynec – guitar Dave Konvalinka – bass Gordon MacBain – drums
The band fashioned themselves primarily an R&B outfit, having a hit with the Dionne Warwick classic “Walk On By”, and boasting a seven part line up, including two saxophones and keyboards. However, their recorded output does little to reflect this side of their sound, as the bulk of the songs on their two singles are more on the folky garage side of things. “Walk on By” was in fact the B-side of their first single, with the Bobby Kris/Gene Martynec penned “Travellin’ Bag” on the top side.
Their second single was fronted with a cover of Dylan’s “She Belongs to Me”, and a Byrds-like Kris/Martynec original, “A Year from Today” on the flip. It only took a lone three hour recording session for all four tracks to be laid down by the group, whom at the time consisted of Bobby Kris on lead vocals, Marty Fisher on keyboard, Gord MacBain on drums, Dave Konvalinka on bass, Gene Martynec on guitar, and Jerry Mann and Rick Loth sharing saxophone duties. Despite the recordings being a departure from their regular material, these singles hold up as worth while listening today, with “Travellin’ Bag” being one of my personal favourite recordings to come from the mid-60s “Toronto Sound”.
“We wrote the two songs as you know. To the best of my recollection we never played either one of them ever again,” said Kris, in one of our many online conversations. “For our normal fan base in Toronto, those songs were, well… an embarrassment, which explains why we never played them live. People who were into James Brown and Ray Charles didn’t want to hear Herman’s Hermits. If we played ‘Travellin’ Bag’ at one of those dances people would have thrown stuff at us.”
“The powers that be behind the recording session – including that wizard in the control room Stan and our supposed manager at the time, Fred White – determined that rhythm and blues was dead meat and that the only way for us to be successful was to make British style recordings. It didn’t occur to them that a lot of those British bands were in fact listening to American R&B. They didn’t want us to record ‘Walk On By’ at all. Not sure how we got away with that. In fact it was the B-side to ‘Travellin’ Bag’. Thankfully some DJ in Toronto turned it over! For some reason or other Eugene and I got commandeered or volunteered to write some songs, although we had never written any songs before. Somebody stumbled across a Dylan song that nobody had covered yet that we all liked. Not sure who did the arrangement on ‘She Belongs to Me.’ Likely Konvalinka.”
“We continued to be an R&B band after the session. We ended up trying some rather extreme experiments with some really fundamental blues songs by Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters and such that was somewhat imitative of The Hawk’s recording with John Hammond Jr. – So Many Roads. But even then we were still fundamentally in the same musical neighbourhood. Unfortunately the pressure from all these supposed wise men to change our evil ways led to us throwing out the horns. No more three-piece silk and wool suits. Now we had flowery shirts or polka dots. Talk about not cutting your own path. Everyone in the world was doing that. Chances of being ‘discovered’ in that environment were about the same as winning the lottery. They say Robert Johnson sold his soul to the Devil. We sold ours to a bunch of dorks on Yonge St.”
“By the way, not long after that, along came Paul Butterfield and others who showed there was still a great market for that approach and style. We did have lots of fun eventually covering a new kind of material. We tried to be selective about it, and still leaned towards the bluesier stuff. That was the most fundamental problem Bobby Kris and The Imperials always had: We were exclusively a cover band. That’s mostly because we were playing teen dances and, later, bars where people expected to hear certain tunes, and you either played them or you didn’t play there. There was very little if any interest in original material in those venues.”
Bobby Kris in RPM, November 29, 1965
When doing some research on the group, I stumbled upon an interesting ad for one of the band’s shows later in their career. It was in 1968 at the Brass Rail Tavern, and the ad boasted that the show would feature “4 Topless Psychedelic Go-Go Dancers”. “We drank our brains out to get through the night there,” was Kris’s only remark.
During their tenure, the group managed to share the stage with an impressive list of bands, including The Lovin’ Spoonful, The Beach Boys, Jose Feliciano, and Wilson Pickett, who at the time boasted Jimi Hendrix on guitar. Hendrix actually joined The Imperials on stage during one of their sets at the Night Owl. However, by late 1967, enough band members had gone on to other projects, that the group decided to call it quits.
Gene Martynec went on to form Kensington Market in May, and in September Marty Fisher and Gord MacBaingot recruited for Bruce Cockburn’s Flying Circus. Kris auditioned for the vocal position in Flying Circus with a favourable outcome, until, as Kris puts it “they decided that no one could sing Bruce’s songs better than Bruce, which was true.” Kris went on to front Livingstone’s Journey for a brief period before reforming an altered line up of The Imperials in mid-1968. A year later Gord MacBain left the reformed Imperials to go to England and join Mapleoak with Marty Fisher and original Kinks bassist, Pete Quaife, and thus Bobby Kris and the Imperials were done for good.
Special thanks to Nick Warburton and Bob Burrows (aka Bobby Kris). You can check out Nick’s article for a more detailed history of the band here.
Thanks also to Ivan Amirault for the RPM article scans.
Bobby Kris also put out an EP in 1995 titled “Now” which you can check out on iTunes.
Nick Warburton assembled this list of advertised live shows:Advertised gigs
June 18 1965 – Mimicombo, Mimico, Ontario July 9 1965 – Jubilee Auditorium, Oshawa, Ontario July 17 1965 – Purple Candle Club, Wasaga Beach, Ontario August 7 1965 – Purple Candle Club, Wasaga Beach, Ontario (new line up with Wayne and Loth) August 27 1965 – Dunn’s Pavilion, Bala, Ontario August 28 1965 – Club 888, Toronto September 4 1965 – Club 888, Toronto September 24 1965 – Mimacombo A Go-Go, Mimacombo, Ontario November 5 1965 – Jubilee Auditorium, Oshawa, Ontario (not sure about date) November 28 1965 – Avenue Road Club, Toronto December 18 1965 – Club 888, Toronto December 25 1965 – Gogue Inn, Toronto with The Sparrows and The Twilights December 26 1965 – Hop in the park, Toronto January 28 1966 – Jubilee Auditorium, Oshawa, Ontario January 29 1966 – The Hawk’s Nest, Toronto March 19 1966 – North Toronto Memorial Arena, Toronto April 13 1966 – O’Keefe Centre, Toronto with National Ballet Company and Susan Taylor April 15 1966 – North Toronto Memorial Arena, Toronto May 8 1966 – Massey Hall, Toronto with The Lovin’ Spoonful, The Big Town Boys and Little Caesar & The Consuls May 14 1966 – The Hawk’s Nest, Toronto (one of Wayne and Loth’s final dates) June 12 1966 – Modern Age Teen Lounge, Toronto (one of Davis’ first dates) June 26 1966 – Broom and Stone, Scarborough with The Five Rogues July 8 1966 – Balmy Beach Club, Scarborough, Ontario July 9 1966 – The Hawk’s Nest, Toronto July 13 1966 – Whitby Arena, Whitby, Ontario with The Five Rogues, The Ugly Ducklings and Jon and Lee & The Checkmates July 20 1966 – Don Mills Curling Club, Don Mills, Ontario with Jon and Lee & The Checkmates, The British Modbeats and Dunc & The Deacons July 22 1966 – Jubilee Auditorium, Oshawa, Ontario July 23 1966 – Hunter’s Beach Pavilion, Lake Simcoe, Ontario July 26 1966 – Balmy Beach Club, Scarborough, Ontario July 30 1966 – Purple Candle Club, Wasaga Beach, Ontario July 30-31 1966 – Purple Candle Club, Wasaga Beach, Ontario with R K & The Associates August 2 1966 – North Toronto Memorial Arena with The Stitch In Tyme and Luke & The Apostles (one of Shymanski’s final dates?) August 20 1966 – The Hawk’s Nest, Toronto August 21 1966 – Jubilee Auditorium, Oshawa, Ontario August 30 1966 – North Toronto Memorial Arena with The Five Rogues and The Fiends September 3 1966 – Port Carling Surf Club, Port Carling, Ontario September 9 1966 – Hawk’s Nest, Toronto September 16 1966 – Jubilee Auditorium, Oshawa, Ontario September 24 1966 – Maple Leaf Gardens with The Last Words, Luke & The Apostles, The Ugly Ducklings, The Tripp, The Paupers, The Big Town Boys, The Stitch In Tyme, The Spasstiks, Roy Kenner & The Associates, Little Caesar & The Consuls and others September 30 1966 – Gogue Inn, Toronto (blue room) October 8 1966 – Club 888, Toronto with The Tripp October 22 1966 – Club Kingsway, Toronto with Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs, The Ugly Ducklings and The Ardels November 27 1966 – El Patio, Toronto December 18 1966 – Boris’, Toronto December 23 1966 – Horseshoe Valley, Barrie, Ontario January 6 1967 – Gogue Inn, Toronto with A Passing Fancy and The Dana January 27 1967 – Shelburne Arena, Shelburne, Ontario March 1967 – The Syndicate Club, Toronto March 24 1967 – The Hawk’s Nest, Toronto with Franklin Sheppard and The Good Sheppards and R K and The Associates May 13 1967 – Whitby Arena, Whitby, Ontario with Shawne Jackson, Jay Jackson & The Majestics, The Last Words, E G Smith & The Power, Jack Hardin & The Silhouettes, Roy Kenner & The Associates, The Tripp, The Ugly Ducklings and others (possibly one of Martynec’s final dates) May 27 1967 – The Hawk’s Nest, Toronto June 9 1967 – The Hawk’s Nest, Toronto June 10 1967 – Scarborough Arena Gardens, Scarborough, Ontario with Eddie Spencer & The Mission, The Magic Circus, The Tripp, Roy Kenner & The Associates, The Lords of London and others June 16 1967 – Bramalea Arena, Bramalea, Ontario with James and Bobby Purify with The Mission June 17 1967 – Don Mills Curling Club, Toronto with The Symbol July 29 1967 – Broom and Stone, Scarborough with BTB 4 and The Dynamics June 13-14 1968 – The Night Owl, Toronto July 19 1968 – Brass Rail Tavern, Toronto October 5 1968 – The Hawk’s Nest, Toronto June 19-21 1969 – The Night Owl, Toronto
Dates taken from the Toronto Telegram’s After Four section, Globe and Mail and Toronto Star.
The Factree, from left: Rick Gauthier, Chris Smith and Mike Weaver
Like the Sinners who I profiled last week, the Factree came from the Niagara region of southern Ontario.
Guitarist Chris Smith spoke to me about the group and shared his incredible collection of photos and memorabilia along with a CD collecting the band’s music.
The Factree postcard
There are some great unreleased songs. The early “Who I Am” was written by bassist Rick Gauthier and drummer Mike Weaver and recorded in Chris Smith’s garage. Chris lets loose three incredible buzzing guitar passages, one after each chorus. Rick’s bass lines lock in with Mike’s drumming for a solid backing rhythm. It must have been a great sound to hear live.
Another self-recorded song was Chris’s original “Blue Shades”. The vocals boom from a distance over rolling drums and a repetitive guitar and bass vamp to give an eerie effect. Chris provides another cutting solo.
There are two versions of another Chris Smith original, “Something Called Love”, and they make for a good comparison. The demo recorded at a Timmins, Ontario radio station has a cool bizarre ending not used on the Sparton 45 version, which is tighter and has good use of echo.
Mike Weaver and Rick Gauthier wrote the other side of the Sparton 45, “Kaleidoscope” which may be the culmination of their heavy sound, from Chris’ dissonant opening riff to the psychedelic lyrics and trippy middle section. After a great sludgy solo, Rick’s bass slows to a final Hendrix-inspired lick enveloped in echo. More than any Canadian or U.S. music of the time, “Kaleidoscope” reminds me of the hard-driving rock being cut by English groups like Tomorrow and the Pretty Things.
By 1969 the band was going by an abbreviated name, the Tree, and cut one last 45 for Michael Addario’s Canland Records label, a loose, catchy version of the Electric Flag’s “See to Your Neighbor” with Mike Weaver’s drums and the rough vocals standing out. It was backed with a Creedence-style version of Suzie Q.
Left to right: Rick Gauthier, Chris Smith and Mike Weaver
Chris Smith answered some of my questions about the group:
I started playing guitar at age 14 like most my age after seeing the Beatles, we figured that’s cool. There were several groups before the Factory. – the Mercy Beats (’64/’65 – there might have been a bigger band with this name, we were just kids in my garage singing Beatles songs); the Spyders (’65/’66 – British rock); the Executioners and the Silencers (’66 – both pop rock); the Moddels (’66/’67 all the cool mod songs and blues); & the 13th Floor (’67 – Doors, Vanilla Fudge etc).
Q. When you joined the Factree they were still known as the Sinners, is that correct? Or was it started as a completely new band?
The Sinners had nothing to do with Factory. Mike and Rick were playing with the Mood – they broke up. I was playing with the 13th Floor. We were looking for a singer and got ahold of Rick to jam. Rick came out but was really only interested in me as a guitar player and wanted to stay with his drummer Mike, so he asked me to jam on our own. This was around ’66 / ’67 – Hendrix, Cream, etc, three man was in, so we wanted to go in that direction.
We came up with the name The Factory. We later changed it to Factree, later our fans kinda shortened to the Tree. The joke was we decided to Fac off. We were about half original, the rest Cream, Hendrix, usual acid rock stuff of the era. We were friends with the Spartons, The Sinners, The Night Walkers, many others, also friendly rivals of everyone – that’s just the way it was.
I wrote “Something Called Love”. We were messing with our garage recordings on a bunch of stuff. The garage recordings were done using two Phillips stereo recorders, Shure PE58 mics one on bass amp, one on guitar, overhead and snare and kick mikes. Run through a Shure mixer, vocals added on during mix. The reverb is the hallway that led to my basement, no processors at that time. I ran 100 feet of cable from the garage, we sang into the PA in the garage, sent it to a speaker in the hall, mike at the other end back to the recorders in the garage. With such long cables no low impedance, no balanced feeds back then, it’s a wonder the noise isn’t too bad considering. That was my start as a engineer for sure.
Pete Borbolli was the DJ friend of the Mood who recorded them on their 45, “Who Do You Love” and “Train’s Late”. He moved to Timmins and asked us to come up. The radio station was old school had real nice full studio for big band era stuff. We recorded “Something Called Love” and some other stuff there. We played a couple of large dance concerts up there hosted by the radio station.
Pete really flogged the music and it was on the playlist and did #1 in the Top Ten. We had a loyal following there and lots of promo and hype to boot. The demo did lead to the RCA contract.
The RCA sessions were a big thing for us small town boys in a real big studio in the big city Toronto. Everything was done in a few hours, we got there around noon and the studio closed at 5:00 so out the door we went. We managed to get it down, so all was good.
The RCA Sparton 45 was promoted by the company and did get considerable airplay at the time so we were happy. The first single on Sparton was to be followed by the second two songs we recorded that day – yeah we did four. It was unfortunate the masters were damaged before the second release was pressed.
We had a falling out with the producer so we decided to [go with] Canland, a friend who had a small music store and some recording gear in a back room. The Canland recording was more home brew and didn’t get the distribution of the RCA 45. It did keep us current and we had product to promote so the live scene was very successful for us.
Q. Regarding the vocals, were you singing lead on your songs and Rick and Mike singing together on ‘Who I Am’ and ‘Kaleidoscope’? How about ‘See to Your Neighbor’, which sounds very different than any other vocal by the band?
Yes, you are right about the vocals. I mainly sing lead on my own and the same for them. “See to Your Neighbour” was sung by Mike.
Q. Can you recall your setup as far as your guitar sound on the recordings and for live shows? You get a great variety of distorted tones on your leads – were there particular combinations of pedals and amps that you preferred?
The Timmins set up was a ’64 Gibson SG and Kimberly Fuzz made in Rochester, NY plugged directly into an Ampex tube mixer then direct to recorder. The garage stuff was Telecaster/SG and Kimberly through a Bandmaster. My set up at RCA was a ’61 Telecaster and ’66 Bandmaster, Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face. The Canland Tree stuff was Ace Tone Wah, Fuzz Face and Marshall Plexi.
Live, my main Factory/Factree/Tree set up was the Ace Tone Wah, Fuzz Face gradually discontinued in lieu of straight over-driven guitar through the Marshall. For the arena rock and halls I used a Marshall and Bandmaster with Sykes cabinets and a Traynor Roto Master Leslie (“I’m a Man” kinda sound). The guitars ’61 Telecaster, ’64 Gibson SG, later ’66 Burns Nu Sonic, ’67 Rickenbacker. The fuzzes evolved from the Kimberly, Zonk [John Hornby Skewes’ Zonk Machine], Fuzz Face, to none. The Ace Tone Wah most of the way in fact I still have it but haven’t used it in years.
Q. Did the group end with Mike Weaver’s sudden death?
Mike was from the club era and wanted to go more commercial away from acid rock, high school & dance concert stuff, so by 1970 we started play more hotel circuit stuff. I wanted to carry on my concert style and didn’t like the club scene on the road – too many nights in the same spot doing stuff I didn’t like. So I left the band.
They continued for a few months when Mike had his first heart attack. He was off a few months then back at it, he became ill again and died a few months later. Either way that was end of the band. Rick finished with another drummer and guitarist but it was over quick.
With the Spencer Davis Group at the McIntyre Arena in Timmins, May 19, 1969 back row: Spencer Davis, Chris Smith, Rick Gauthier, unidentified front: unidentified, Ray Fenwick (?), Mike Weaver can anyone help ID the other members of the Spencer Davis Group at this time? Are these still Pete York and Eddie Hardin, or Dee Murray and Nigel Olssen?
Q. In one of the clippings by Kevin Scanlon he writes that there was a deal with Island Records in the works – what happened with that?
The Island thing never went much beyond the rumor. Spencer Davis was talking about trying to set something up but they were pretty much defunct after our couple of gigs. We were hopeful to go to England and pursue the mission, but our own problems and lifestyles, change in direction and factors I discussed before – well it just didn’t happen. As a recap this inability to keep moving toward larger venues ultimately led me to leave my own group.
When I moved on I allowed Mike and Rick to continue as Factree again. Since the begining I was the leader and as such was paid double and had 50% control of any vote issues as well. Just because I was unhappy with direction, I felt I would let them carry on.
Q. What was your next project?
I was playing my thing with Padlok (heavy ’70s rock, half original) – see my web site www.kingoftheattic.com for details, samples and photos.
André Germain writes about his bands from Welland, Ontario, a short distance from Buffalo: The Sinners, Evan Hunt and the Capris and The Penny Illusion. Demos he recorded with the Sinners now seem to be lost, unfortunately. The Sinners evolved into the Mood, who cut a tough version of “Who Do You Love” for the Cove label after André had left the band.
The Sinners (1965-1966)
Ritchie Gauthier (aka Ritchie Stringer): vocals/rhythm guitar Mike Weaver: drums/back-up vocals Al Bartok: bass (later replaced by Glen Boscei) Jack Schaefer: keyboards André Germain: lead/rhythm guitar (later replaced by Dave Pine)
In 1964, one of my younger frat brothers was taking guitar lessons and he could chord along when we’d have a drinking party and get to singing songs such as “Lemon Tree”, “Tom Dooley” etc., as long as he had a music book with the chords and notes in front of him. Unfortunately he had a “tin ear” and could not even tune his guitar properly. Already 22 years old, I bought a cheap $20 Kent plywood acoustic guitar with “shotgun stringing” (really high and tough action) with the intention of learning a few basic chords so I could tell him the chord changes as we sang. Didn’t take long for me to get hooked on the guitar. Blisters on the fingers of my left hand, blood on the fretboard, until finally I developed thick calluses.
I borrowed my friend’s Kent solid-body electric guitar and his Paul amp when the frat rented a cottage for a couple of weeks in the summer of 1964. As luck would have it, we got “raided” by a rival frat from Pt. Colborne. These guys came in and smashed everything including the Kent and the Paul amp. One of my frat brothers got his nose broken when struck by a tire iron and another had a wicked bruise on his shoulder when another guy hit him with a small crowbar.
Fortunately, my friend’s parents’ home insurance replaced his guitar so I got to keep the broken Kent. I bought a piece of mahogany and carved another body for it, fitted the neck and the pickguard with its electronics to it and ended up with a decent playable guitar. I bought Ventures and Shadows and other guitar-based records and wore the grooves off of them trying to learn instrumentals such as “Apache”, “Walk, Don’t Run”, “Sleepwalk”, etc. This guitar played a lot easier than my cheap flat-top. Another one of my frat brothers who was into electronics added an input jack to our old Westinghouse (5-watt all tube) hi-fi so I could play the guitar through it. Nothing fancy but it worked.
I took to hanging out at the Melody Shop, a neighbourhood music store owned and operated by Tom Wright. Tom, in his late 40’s, let me take various guitars off the wall and play them through whatever amps he had in store. Sure was nice to have such access to pro equipment for free…
One fine day in the spring of 1965, a couple of weeks after having been laid off from Atlas Steels, as I was sitting in the living room of our family’s apartment playing my Kent, two young guys showed up at the door. They introduced themselves as Ritchie Gauthier and Mike Weaver, musicians whose band had just broke up and who were looking for a lead guitarist for a new band. Tom Wright had given them my name. They told me that they were planning on doing Top 40 material such as the Beatles and Rolling Stones, etc. They invited me to a practice at Mike Weaver’s mother’s house if I were interested. When I told them I didn’t even have an amp, they told me they’d have one for me to use. So, I agreed.
A couple of days later, I grabbed the Kent and off I went walking across town to Mike’s house. When I got there, they introduced me to Al Bartok, the bass player. Played a Fender P-bass through one of those Ampeg flip-top all-tube amps with a 15″ speaker. Ritchie Gauthier was the lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist and Mike Weaver was the drummer/back-up vocalist. These guys were all a few years younger then me, in their late teens.
Mike and Ritchie played some 45’s on a portable record-player and explained what parts they expected me to play on any given song. Graced with a decent “musical ear”, I had no trouble picking up on the simple chord patterns and the lead fills of most of the pop songs of that era. Most were 3 or 4 chord structures in C, D, E, G or A. And so I was drafted into the band.
Of course, one of the toughest things a band back then was faced with was coming up with a good catchy name. We bandied a few monikers around and finally settled on one I suggested, “The Sinners”. We then reworked an old gospel tune, “Sinner Man”, giving it a rock beat, and made it our theme song. “Sinner man, where you gonna run to, sinner man, where you gonna run to, sinner man, where you gonna run to, all on that day?!!”
It took two or three weeks of practice to work out enough songs to be able to play a gig. Our song list included such hits as the Rolling Stones’ “Time Is On My Side”, “Walking The Dog” and “Get Off Of My Cloud”, Fontella Bass’ “Rescue Me” which Ritchie sang in a high falsetto, the Beatles’ “I Saw Her Standing There”, Sam the Sham’s “Wooly Bully” and Sonny and Cher’s “Everyone’s Gone To The Moon”. Ritchie and Mike let me take the 45s home so I could work on the guitar riffs and everything was coming together really well.
That’s when I decided I needed to get a “real” guitar and amp. I went to the Melody Shop and asked Tom what kind of a deal he could do me. He’d just gotten a sunburst Gibson ES-330 in trade and offered it to me for $250 with HS case but at the time, that wasn’t my idea of a R&R guitar. Hate to think what that guitar would be worth today! Tom then pulled out a glossy folder advertising a line of guitars out of England. Well, the UK was big news back then with the British Invasion just taking off in N. America! The guitars were the Burns of London line. Already a big fan of the Shadows, how could I resist? I had Tom order me a transparent orange/red NU Sonic. It listed for $325 but Tom sold it to me for $250 with faux alligator case thrown in. I also bought a new Harmony H-306 all-tube amp off of him. 12AX7 pre-amp tubes and push-pull 6V6’s for the power section, footswitchable “Normal” and “Tremolo” channels, single 12″ Jensen speaker, putting out a hefty 15 WRMS. So, in the immortal words of the Bard’s Julius Caesar, the die was cast.
We played a few high school and teen dances and were going over pretty good. There were a lot of high school frats and sororities around at the time and they often held dances to raise funds. A lot of these dances took place at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Lincoln St. W. in Welland. We played there quite a few times. The Rose Festival Committee of Welland hired us to play a big dance at the Welland Arena where two stages were set up, one at each end. The Spartans, another local band, occupied one stage and we the other. We alternated sets.
One of the highlights for me was when Rick Hales who was president of the Welland High & Vocational School Dance Committee hired us to play a Valentine’s Dance in February 1966 at WH&VS, my old alma mater. At another high school dance (Eastdale Secondary School) Al broke a string on his bass during the first set and had no replacement. He made do with the remaining 3 strings but as soon as the set was over (about 9:40 pm) we phoned Bill Nitranski, owner of Central Music. Bill had been building up his music store business over the previous few years and was one of those really nice guys who trusted everybody. He’d rent out equipment such as P.A. systems just on your promise to pay when you brought the stuff back. When we described our plight to Bill, he jumped in his car, drove back to his store which had closed at 9 pm., got a replacement string and delivered it to the high school auditorium where we were performing, all this within 15 minutes! By the time we were to go back onstage, Al’s bass had the new string on it.
After a few weeks Ritchie and Mike suggested we should add keyboards to the band. Right off, I suggested my good friend Jack Schaefer. Jack had taken accordion lessons for 10 years, classically trained, and won 1st. place in one of those kids’ talent shows that were popular on TV back in the late 50’s. The guys agreed to give him an audition. I called Jack and explained to him he’d have to buy an electric organ and an amp if he were to make it into the band. He said that wasn’t a problem. He immediately went out and bought himself a Hohner organ and a huge Gibson Atlas amp with 15″ driver. Jack had an excellent ear and picked up on our songs in no time. Fit right in. Only trouble was that he liked to play everything flat out full volume. Wasn’t long before I had to upgrade my amp just to be heard. Tom Wright at the Melody Shop told me his friend Grant Carson of The Country Diamonds, a local C&W band, was trading in his ’63 Fender Bandmaster for a Fender Dual Showman so I got the Bandmaster at a good price.
On the Road
Neil Peart, the famous drummer for Rush, describes in his book “Road Music” how he spent a lot of time in his youth at the Lincoln Curling Center grooving to live bands. There’s a good chance we were one of those bands because we played there a few times in 1965. Around this time, we were approached by Mike Addario, the bass player for The Marquis, another local band. Turns out Mike was trying his hand at being a booking agent/manager as well as a recording engineer. He soon got us a full-week gig at a teen club in Cornwall, Ontario. This caused a big shuffle in the band. Al’s mother wouldn’t let him go with us to Cornwall for that gig. We got Glen Boscei to take his place on bass. Jack Schaefer had just gotten a job as a teller at the CIBC in Welland and wasn’t about to jeopardise a burgeoning banking carreer so he opted out of the band then too.
So off we went on a hot August Sunday morning, Ritchie, Mike, Glen and I, with all our gear in a rented U-Haul trailer hitched to the back of Ritchie’s father’s car, to the bus station in St. Catharines. After waiting 4 hours for our bus, we ended up missing it because, having been given wrong info, we were on the wrong loading platform. The Greyhound company ended up having to re-route an Express to Montreal through Cornwall to accommodate us. That was a long day. We’d gotten to the bus station at 8 a.m and didn’t get to Cornwall until 1 am that night. The owner of the club where we were to play had been notified of the bus change and had patiently awaited our arrival. He helped us load our gear aboard a taxi and sent us off to a motel room he’d booked for us. I still have a very vivid memory of stepping off the bus and gagging as the rotten cabbage smell of the town’s air hit my nose. Cornwall’s main industry at the time was a pulp and paper mill and anybody who has ever been in the vicinity of one of those will know what I’m talking about here…
After a bad night’s sleep and a greasy restaurant brunch, we loaded our gear aboard a taxi and went to Club 23 to set up. We were to play from Monday through Saturday, 8 p.m. until midnight and also a matinee from 3 p.m. until 5 p.m. on the Saturday where we shared the stage with Wee Five, the band that would be playing there the following week. This was mid-August and Cornwall was in the midst of a heat wave. The club had no A/C so it got hot in there when the local teens filled the place. Ritchie kept tossing back cold drinks in spite of my warnings and by Thursday evening, lost his voice! All that was coming out of him was a croak. Good thing Mike and Glen were able to take up the slack or we’d have been sunk. Between sets, Ritchie helped Mike write out the words to the songs he and Glen would be doing and that got us through the rest of the week. Meanwhile I developed some kind of intestinal infection and suffered bad stomach cramps most of the week and lost about 10 pounds by the time Saturday night came along.
So, that was my introduction to “the road”, and it was enough to convince me this was not the life I wanted, as much as I liked playing music. Our agent, Mike Addario, was supposed to call us and tell us where we’d be going from there, what gig would be next, but by the week’s end we still hadn’t heard from him. Finally, on the Sunday, we phoned him and he told us we could stay put there at the motel (at our cost!) and he’d be sure to find us another gig. Well, I told the guys I was heading back to Welland while I still had change in my pocket. They had a confab and decided that was the smart thing to do so we packed our gear and took the next Greyhound home.
Recording and leaving the band
Mike Addario had set up a rudimentary recording studio in his parents house’s basement and called his company “Canland Recording”. There, we recorded two songs, our original version of “Sinner Man” and “Ten Dollar Woman”, a tune penned by Glen our bass player. Mike did a decent job of the recording with what little he had to work with and the finished result sounded pretty good. Unfortunately, when he tried to register the songs with ASCAP, the B side, “Ten Dollar Woman” was turned down because its content was considered too risqué. The song was about a prostitute who was too expensive for a cheap would-be client (a five-dollar man). I asked Mike Addario if perchance he still had the master tapes of the Sinners songs we recorded but he said they got lost a long time ago, more’s the pity.
It was around this time that I was really getting into the acoustic guitar and folk music, spending all my time trying to learn Tom Rush and Gord Lightfoot tunes. This pissed off my fellow bandmates who were getting ready to go back to Mike’s studio to record another song for the B-side of our record. One day a friend of mine came along and told me he’d just gone by Glen’s house, heard the band practicing and wondered why I wasn’t there. I walked over to Glen’s and sure enough, I could hear the band but nobody’d told me about a practice… I knocked at the door but nobody answered (probably couldn’t hear me over the instruments) so finally I just walked in. Mike, Ritchie and Glen looked mighty sheepish when I appeared. They had a guy playing lead guitar so it was obvious I was being replaced. Mike and Ritchie mumbled excuses about me bing a “folkie” and not fitting in with the band anymore. So that was that! The new lead guitarist introduced himself as Dave Pine. I’d heard of him and knew he was good on his instrument as well as being a fine vocalist, so I wished the guys well and walked out of there.
Some months later I heard that the Sinners, now called “The Mood”, had gone back into Mike’s Canland Studio and recorded the B-side with Dave Pine singing a rendition of “Who Do You Love” [Released b/w “Train’s Late” on Cove Records, produced by Pete Borbely]. And then, the next thing I heard was that Dave had left the group and headed to Toronto to seek his fortune. Over the years, he headed a couple of jazz/R&B groups up there and managed to make a decent living with his music. Then late one night after a gig, he wrapped his car around a tree and suffered some major injuries. He was in a coma for a while, touch and go, and never fully recovered from the accident. He spent the remainder of his life in a wheelchair and died a broken man a few years back. Tragic!
After Dave left the Sinners, Glen soon was out of the picture as well. Ritchie switched over to bass guitar and Chris Smith, a young guitarist out of Port Colborne, took over as lead guitar. The trio changed their name to Factree and later, Tree. They played locally and released a couple of singles. And then another tragedy. Around 1971, the newly-wed Mike Weaver collapsed on stage in the middle of a gig. His doctor recommended at least a month of rest but Mike was back at his drumming within a week. Shortly thereafter he collapsed again but this time, it was fatal. He left behind a young wife and a baby. Sad…
Evan Hunt and the Capris (1967-1968)
Evan Hunt: vocals John Lane: drums Bob Vida: bass (soon replaced by Ron Bovine: bass/back-up vocals) Bob Lightheart: keyboards/back-up vocals André Germain: lead/rhythm guitar/back-up vocals
Meanwhile, about a year after losing my job with The Sinners, another knock at my door. The man introduced himself as Mr. John Lane, manager and agent of a local band, The Capris. He explained the band had just hired Evan Hunt as singer/frontman. Evan had been vocalist for The Liverpool Set, a Canadian “British Invasion” band which had had fair success in the States doing Beatles and Byrds tunes as well as some original compositions. Mr. Lane said he was ready to do anything it might take to make the Capris a successful band. Tom Wright from the Melody Shop had again recommended me. I explained that I’d sold all my gear. Mr. Lane said that was ok, that I could use his son’s gear. Turns out he was firing his one son who had been playing lead/rhythm guitar for the group because he wasn’t cutting it. His other son John Jr. was the drummer for the band. I asked him to give me a couple of days to think it over.
The next day, Evan Hunt and John Lane Jr. both showed up at my door and begged me to come and try out for the band. So, that’s what I did. I used Mr. Lane’s son’s Gibson Firebird and his Ampeg amp for the audition. Right off, after a couple of songs, one of which was Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth”, the guys in the band wanted me to join. I said OK and that was that.
As luck would have it, the very next day, as I was contemplating going to Tom’s music store to purchase a guitar, I got a call from the guy who’d bought my Burns after I left the Sinners. He explained that his band had just broken up and he needed money so wondered if I was interested in buying the Burns back. Of course I jumped at the chance, especially since he was giving it back to me at half the price for which I’d sold it to him!
Up until the time Evan and I joined the band, The Capris had been a pretty “square” band, not hip at all, the guys wearing these preppie dress pants and off-yellow cardigans over white shirt and tie. Mr. Lane explained how he wanted “his boys” to be neat and professional looking. Well, Evan and I told him that just didn’t cut it in 1967! Ok for a polka band maybe, but definitely not for a Rock band!. The “Hippie Revolution” was in full swing and all the wild psychedelic clothing was de rigueur for any would-be hip band. Even The Beatles had forsaken their mod suits, grown their hair long and were wearing sandals and beads. Finally, Mr. Lane caved to our arguments and off we went shopping for wild outfits. Mrs. Lane asked us to pick out material, took our measurements and fashioned us each a pair of groovy bell bottoms. Black slip-over leatherette vests completed the outfits. Evan was the only one in the band with shoulder-length hair, however…
While all this was going on, we were rehearsing almost daily, striving to learn enough top 40 material to play a gig. Songs by The Beatles, Paul Revere and The Raiders, Tommy James and the Shondells, Jefferson Airplane, etc. Soon, Bob Vida, the bass player, decided this was not his trip and wanted out so we got Ron Bovine to take over on bass. Ron worked right in and the band, now called “Evan Hunt and the Capris”, came together and clicked.
Mr. Lane was holding up his part of the bargain and got us some gigs, highschool dances, teen dance clubs etc. in the Niagara penninsula. Evan was the consummate showman on stage and knew how to work the audience and we soon built up a following. When we played the Niagara Falls Youth Center, there were at least 800 teens in the audience and some of the girls, screaming in frenzy, were actually trying to get up on stage to get at Evan. So this was the bigtime (even if the money was still smalltime…)!
And then one day Mr. Lane announced he’d booked us into The Night Owl in Toronto! This club was THE happening place. It was the venue where the Loving Spoonful played when they came to Toronto. In fact, John Sebastian of the Spoonful had composed a harmonica tune, the B side of one of their 45’s, entitled “Night Owl Blues”, named after that club. This place was famous. We were to play 3 nights there, Thursday through Saturday. We rented strobe lights and extra electric gear, a couple of amps etc., to round out our stage gear so that we’d appear pro enough to fit into that venue. We couldn’t afford to rent a place to stay in Toronto for the 3 days so we travelled to Toronto and back, 90 miles each way, in Evan’s ’65 fastback Mustang and John Lane Sr.’s Crown Vic, before and after each gig, getting home at 3:30 a.m. after playing until 1 a.m. We had good crowds all 3 nights at the Night Owl and the audience responded well to our performances. It was starting to look like our careers as musicians, as a band, were about to take off…
Then reality set in.. After we finished up on Saturday night, packed all our gear in the rental U-Haul trailer and headed back to Welland, when came time to get paid, John Lane told us we each owed him $10! Say what???!!! We’d just played a prestigious club for 3 nights, played our hearts out, spent hours travelling back and forth between Welland and Toronto, to find out we’d done this for nothing? No, worse than nothing! All that work and effort and we were each in the hole $10! At the time, music, the band, was my only livelihood. Typically I expected to earn at least $100 to $150 for a 3-night gig. Evan, Bob and Ron were just as taken aback as I was at the news we’d just worked for nothing. John Lane explained that he’d booked us in the Night Owl for next to nothing in order to “open doors to greater things”. Well, possibly it was a good business move but we felt we should have been privy to this decision as it directly affected us. Had we been consulted with the facts, we might have agreed to the terms although I doubt that would have happened because, especially in Evan’s and my case, we were relying on the money from our gigs to live on. We had no other source of income. John Lane owned a motel and was financially secure. His son John Jr. lived at home with his parents and didn’t have to worry about starving. So, for that matter, did Bob and Ron. I didn’t have the $10 to give John and neither did Evan. Mr. Lane told us he would take it out of the money from the next gig but Evan and I conferred and then told him to go to hell! We told John Jr., Ron and Bob that we were leaving and would form our own band. Bob and Ron decided to stick with us and that’s when we found another drummer, Jeff Burgess, to replace John.
The Penny Illusion (1968)
Evan Hunt: vocals Jeff Burgess: drums/back-up vocals Ron Bovine: bass/back-up vocals Bob Lightheart: keyboards/back-up vocals André Germain: lead/rhythm guitar/back-up vocals
We changed our name to “Penny Illusion” (I came up with that name out of disillusionment after being cheated out of our fair pay for that Night Owl gig). We managed to find a few decent paying gigs over the next couple of months but it was tough trying to keep things together, being our own agents/managers/bookers. We somehow got hooked up with a smooth talker, a rep from Top 10 Agencies in Toronto who lived in Pt. Colborne. He promised us the world and delivered nothing. The Penny Illusion never recoded anything, we weren’t together long enough to get that together.
Bob Lightheart and Ron Bovine had both graduated from highschool and were faced with tough career choices. Their parents were pressuring them to get into further education, college or university. The music business, after all, was very chancy at best. Come the fall of 1968, both of them wisely chose to go on to university and that was the end of that band. I’d managed to get hired as a casual worker for Canada Post in late 1967 and in October 1969 became a full-time employee and gave up the music business.
Evan went on to sing for a couple of other local bands while getting work driving a delivery van for a local bakery to support his wife and newborn son, Evan Jr. A while later, another son came along but by then I’d pretty well lost track of what was going on with the lives of the ex band members.
Al Bartok, the Sinners’ original bass player, to the best of my knowledge never played in another band after leaving the Sinners. He came down with meningitis in 1991 and was being treated at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Hamilton at the same time that Jack Schaefer, the ex-keyboardist for the Sinners who had pursued a successful career in banking, working his way up to Manager of a business branch of the CIBC in Hamilton, was being operated on for a brain tumour. Al died at the age of 44 on the day Jack was released from the hospital. Then later the same year, after having undergone painful radiation and chemothereapy, Jack also gave up the ghost at the age of 47, leaving behind a wife and two teen-aged children.
Glen Boscei, the bass player, had always had some “issues”. He was later diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia. He lived his life on meds which helped control the disease but at times, when he “went off the meds”, he was not a pleasant person to be around. Finally, a couple of years ago, he allegedly knifed a man in Welland, was thrown in jail and died mysteriously “of unknown causes” there in his cell a couple of days later.
Ritchie Gauthier played in a few bands in the 1970’s and later started his own roofing company, I believe. He retired a few years ago and moved to North Bay.
Evan Hunt died in British Columbia at the age of 59 in 2005. Ron Bovine completed university and became a pharmacist. I have no idea what happened to Jeff Burgess and Bob Lightheart although I suspect that Bob may have taken over his family’s dry-cleaning business.
In the early 70’s some friends and I got together and formed a folk group, “Tobacco Rudy.” We played on weekends at local coffeehouses for a couple of years until the other guys in the band decided to change the format to rock and go off on the road.
I had gotten married in 1971, planned on starting a family and was still working for Canada Post so no way I was going off chasing rainbows. So, I was out of a gig again. I took a hiatus from performing for a few years. I quit Canada Post in 1979 because of an old back injury which came back to plague me. After an ill-fated canoe manufacturing venture, I put the word out and managed to get work playing lead and bass in various local country, country-rock and classic rock groups from 1982 until 1995. Since then, I’ve gotten back into folk music and perform at local coffeehouses periodically. I also get together and jam with a couple of old friends once in a while.
Early September, 2009, the members of Tobacco Rudy had a re-union here at my house along the lake. The only one not present was our drummer, Jim Acursi.
Of the original Sinners, Ritchie Gauthier and I are the sole survivors.
Here’s a fantastic EP featuring some otherworldly music from Vancouver, Canada. There’s a a sweet innocence to the best songs on this record, and a melancholic feel at times.
Both sides of the sleeve read “Rols Royce Bookings 683-5332 Presents … Live from Vancouver”, obviously intended to promote bookings for the bands, but none of the songs were cut live. The label, SGM Records was located at Station “D”, Vancouver 9. All songs published by Astral Music BMI.
The Sound Set
The Sound Set’s “Mind in a Bottle” is one of the highlights of the EP. The influence of the Beatles is apparent, but the song comes together beautifully, with cool guitar and organ sounds, great harmonies and an interesting song structure. Robert Turner and Ken Dedrick wrote “Mind in a Bottle”.
The members of The Sound Set:
Rob Turner – organ and vocals Ken Dedrick – bass and vocals Gerry Tomey – drums Murray Raymond – guitar
Rob Turner wrote to me:
The Soundset was originally formed by Ken Dedrick and myself in South Burnaby, Gerry Tolmey on drums and Murray Rayment on guitar. We played at Gassy Jacks Disco in Richmond a lot and had an ongoing Sunday evening gig at the HMCS Discovery naval base in Vancouver Harbour. We also did a lot of casual gigs in the Vancouver area. Unfortunately I don’t have any photos.
We recorded another song after Don joined called “Everyone’s Born Under the Same Old Sun” at Psi Chord but it was never released. We also recorded several original songs for a CBC radio show, produced by Ray McGuire of Trooper, with Derek Solby on drums. I remember a song called “Someone in the Shadows”. Unfortunately the tapes from both those sessions got lost.
The band had by this time (1968-69) changed its name to Ichabod Crane and we were playing gigs in the interior of BC and on Vancouver Island as well.
The Reign’s “Sea of Dreams” is another standout, the lead guitarist bouncing licks through an Echoplex while the singer quietly intones the lyrics. Following a drum break there’s a brief impassioned section over a distorted lead.
The Reign were together from 1965-1968. Their members were:
Steve Nordin – lead vocals Don Geppert – guitar Russ Sankey – guitar Bob Douglas – bass and vocals and four drummers: Jack Matches, Frank Gigliotti, Graham Walker and Ken Erickson.
Don Geppert gave me some background on the Reign and sent in the fantastic photos of the group:
Here are a few shots of “The Reign” with then drummer Frank Gigliotti. The first shot is in my basement where it all began.
Stan Cayer was the owner of “Rols-Royce Bookings” and our manager. The record came about totally through Stan who put up the $ and used it to promote his bands at the time. It was recorded at Psi-Chord by Robin Spurgeon in 1968. I still have the contract we signed with Stan.
We believe the drummer on “Sea Of Dreams” (who was absent from the photo) is Jack Matches.
We were very young at the time so the record was exciting. Unfortunately we weren’t rocketed to the top of the charts with it.
After The Reign fizzled out, Rob, Ken, Gerry (Sound Set) and I formed a band called Icabod Crane and played around the Vancouver scene. No recordings.
Bob Douglas was later in Soul Unlimited / Mantra after Carl Graves left the band, and Five Man Cargo (see comments on that page). Don Geppert is now a recording engineer in British Columbia. Russ Sankey passed away in 2008.
Thanks also to Don for filling me in on some of the members of the Sound Set.
The Look from Vancouver originally consisted of:
Bob Warden – lead guitar and vocals Dave Boucher – guitar Barry Warden – bass and vocals Jack Willander – drums
Bob Warden wrote “In a Whirl”, another gentle song with good harmonies and a nice balance between the rhythm guitar and the drums. I believe after this release Bob Rowden and Barry Rowden joined from the Painted Ship.
The Silver Chalice Revue
With heavy drumming and a horn section “Soul Drifting” by the Silver Chalice Revue sounds a little out of place next to the other three cuts of psychedelic pop balladry on the EP. It’s a strong track, though, and there’s an edgy sound to the guitarist and the lyrics.
Members of the Silver Chalice Revue were originally in a group called the Squires. Silver Chalice played around Vancouver from ’67-’69. Guitarist Daniel Orlando wrote “Soul Drifting”.
Billy Regan (Billy Ostendorp) – vocals Danny Orlando – guitar Charlie Howard (Charlene Howard) – keyboards Brian Linnit – sax Terry Linnet – trumpet Bobby Regan (Bob Ostendorp) – bass Tom Watson – drums
Stan Cayer owned both Rols Royce Booking and the SGM label. He had his own 45s on the label, from the fine rocker “3 Wild Women” and the ballad “Crying on My Pillow” in the early ’60s to a release in the early ’70s, “My My Gemini!” plus an LP I haven’t seen.
The only other releases on SGM that I know of come from a group called Long Time Comin’ (formerly the Shags and the Shapes o’ Things) with “Paper Rose” / “Downhill Slope” on SGM 5-S from 1970 and “Part of the Season” on SGM 12-S from 1972. “Paper Rose” was written by Gary Webstad and produced by Stan GM Cayer. Long Time Comin’ also released one 45 on London Records of Canada in 1971, “Magic World”, written by Mike Bosley and produced by Stan Cayer. All of these are published by Astral Music as well. You can see a few photos of Long Time Comin’ on the PNW Bands site. Other members included Jerry Lipinski and Howie Atherton.Thanks to Ed for the photos of the Silver Chalice Revue.
Expedition to Earth, from left: Brian Levin, Bernie Barsky, Dave Mitchell, Gail Bowen and Dan Norton
Winnipeg band Expedition to Earth released a rarely-heard 45 on the Franklin label in 1968. The eponymous A-side features a buzzing fuzz sound on the guitar and a phased ending with the whispered line “examine your past and know your future”. The flip, “Time Time Time” is even more compelling, with an unusual descending melody that segues into a very intense section with the lyrics ”Cause time is all that I have / and all I want from life / is a girl to open wide / the doors to paradise”, and ends with a nearly minute-long crashing freakout!
Dan Norton, lead guitarist and song writer for Expedition to Earth, spoke to me at length about the band and provided the photos for this article:
My musical history started at age four taking classical piano lessons in a small town in southern Manitoba called Crystal City. This continued until age 14 then I ran out of teachers. I got my first guitar at age 14 for Christmas. The year was 1961. I immediately ordered a crystal pick-up from a catalogue and proceeded to build my own amp out of an old tube radio.
A friend of mine, LLoyd McTaggert, and I thought we should form a band with the result of my first band named the Chromatics with Dave Anderson on bass and LLoyd McBurney on drums. This band evolved over the next few years into the Fanthoms (Pilot Mound). Various members included Bob Werry (vocals), Ron McTaggert (bass), George L. Patterson (C-sax), Elgin Schram (bass), Bob Leslie (drums). We used to play local school dances known as “sock hops” and “barnstorm” meaning we would rent a hall and charge admission. Usually 75 cents.
In 1966 I moved to Winnipeg and through an ad in the paper met Dave Mitchell. A friendship formed then lasts to this day. We tried with limited success to start a band. The timing wasn’t right, but through these efforts we did meet some interesting people.
Bernie started the Expedition with Brian Levin and then added Dave. Their manager at that time was Ted Carroll and he suggested that they should add another guitar player. I was invited to join the group. After intensive rehearsals we contacted an agent in Winnipeg to find us some gigs. This turned out to be very fortuitous for us as it was Frank Weiner of the Hungry I Agencies. He had started the Franklin label for recording.
I wrote two songs then and we headed off to CKRC radio station to record them. At this time Frank suggested that he knew of a female singer that had just left her band (The Feminine Touch) and would be interested in joining us. This was, of course, Gail Bowen. She joined the group at the tail end of the recording session and added the whispering voice at the end of “Expedition to Earth”. Frank then sent the master tape to Montreal to have the new effect known as fuzz added to the guitar work and the phasing [to the end of “Expedition to Earth”].
The record was then published by a new publishing company called Sabalora Publishing. This started a decades long friendship with Lorne Saifer. The record did reach #9 in New Glasgow, NS one step ahead of Hey Jude by the Beatles.
The total system that I used back then was: ’65 Mosrite guitar fed through an altered “Y” cord to 2 seperate amplifiers and a new invention of Gar Gillies called a HERZOG. I believe Randy Bachman was also using this device. It was a pre-amp and provided the fuzz overdrive sound that we used on stage shows. The two amps were a Garnet Pro Series with two bottoms and a Fender Super Reverb using 3-10″ speakers and an 8″ horn. The pro bottoms each had 2-12″ speakers. Using an extra guitar tuned to respond to harmonics gave me the ability to reproduce just about any sound effects we needed. The second guitar was set on a stand in front of the amps. With this set-up I never needed a fuzz buster, wah-wah pedal or foot switch.
Other songs were written for the group but never recorded. The band was generally happy with the record but felt we could do better. The songs definitely formed part of our live performances. Cover tunes in the play list included: Sky Pilot (album version) White Rabbit, Magic Carpet Ride, Soul Man, Jumpin Jack Flash, Swalbr, It’s Alright, Monterey, Born to be Wild, Hold on I’m Comin’, and Norweigan Wood.
The Expedition to Earth was predominately a touring band, however we did play a place called Jay’s Disco on Smith Street, various schools and community centers in Winnipeg. We toured extensively in and around the Yorkton, Sask. area including Canora, Togo, Priestville and Langenberg. We also toured in Northern Ontario, Kenora to Sioux Lookout. Manitoba dates were covered by playing in the Roblin – Russell area, Brandon and Pilot Mound.
As far as memorable shows, most of them were but for different reasons. Three shows come to mind:
Anytime we played Jay’s Disco was exciting because of the elevated wing stages that allowed me the freedom to wander.
Canora, Saskatchewan when we played to an over-soldout crowd. The hall would hold 300 people and I think there was 600+ paid admissions. We finished our set and you could have heard a pin drop. I actually heard my pick hit the stage. It was the longest 15 seconds of my life. Seemed more like 15 years. Then one person started clapping, then two, then the roof came down. Very unnerving but extreme rush.
Pilot Mound, MB: It was just after the record had been released and was getting airplay and it was like going home to my roots where it all started. It felt good to justify the faith that my friends had in me when I was starting out.
The music scene in Winnipeg at that time was so alive you could taste it. There were so many talented musicians it was incredible. The legacy that was created then is still alive with the second generation picking up where we left off.
Some of the bands from back then: The Mongrels, with my friend Duncan Wilson, The Devrons, with Ron Savoie, The Quid, Blakewood Castle, Justin Tyme, The Shags, The Shondells, Logan Comfort Station, The Gettysberg Address, Sugar and Spice, The Eternals (members of this group went on to found Century 21 Recording Studios), The Vaqueros, The Canadian Downbeats, and of course the power group The Guess Who. There were many more to add to this list.
Getting back to The Expedition. Bernie was the first to leave the group and was replaced by a singer from Edmonton, Gerry Dayle. The group still under the management of Ted Carroll then decided to move our base to Edmonton. We played in Moosejaw Sask and Prince Albert Sask. on the way there.
Once there Gerry decided to change the name of the group and the musical direction to blend in with the Edmonton scene. I disagreed with the decision and returned to Winnipeg to form a band called Seventh House. This band comprised of three singers: Cheri-Lyn Nathanson, Susan Brown and Fred Peterson backed by four musicians, integrating ascending and descending harmonies to get a chorale effect on some of the songs utilizing all the vocalists in the band. A couple of the cover tunes of the live show were Piece of my Heart and Think.
It was the first group to record at the brand new facility Century 21 Recording Studios, getting in there before the doors were officially opened. The master tape from that session was given to me by John Hildebrand when they shut down the studio at the end. I still have that session of unreleased material on a 16 track 1/2″ tape. The group was folded in spite of having a USO tour booked.
After that came a four-piece group known as McFadden. It gained a certain amount of local fame as a club act. The next group was Madd Hatter. This group lasted until the mid-80s.
The last gig I played was in Grand Forks, BC on Dec 5, 2009 for the folks down at Home Hardware Building Center. This particular gig was memorable to me because it marked the first time in 40 years that I had the pleasure of performing on stage with Brian Levin of the Expedition to Earth. We were joined by Miles Bayley of Grand Forks on bass. The multi-talented Brian played drums. The original Expedition to Earth have talked about a reunion. [There may be] one concert in the summer here in Grand Forks.
The Fanthoms, 1965
Expedition to Earth’s Bernie Barsky with Dave Mitchell on drums
Expedition to Earth, from left, Dan Norton, Brian Barsky, Gail Bowen, Brian Levin and Dave Mitchell
Expedition to Earth
The birds and the flowers of yesterday gone by, The clouds and the aeroplane way up in the sky, They’re out of sight my friend, never to return,
So if you want out take an expedition to, If you want out take an expedition to, If you want out take an Expedition to Earth
Tomorrow will be brighter, and hopes will never die, Forgotten things occur again to remind us we should try, You’ll never make it ’til you’re hurt, you’ve only got one chance,
So if you want out take an expedition to, If you want out take an expedition to, If you want out take an Expedition to Earth
(whispered) Take a look at your life and see how you stand, Examine your past and know your future…
lyrics by Dan Norton
Time Time Time
Time, time, time is all that I have Time, time, time is all that I have
If you want me to remember when, Or if you want me to forget, The crowds of life are lonely days, They leave you no choice except another way,
‘Cause time is all that I have, And all I want from life Is a girl to open wide, The doors to paradise
The girls of yesterday are gone, Their race against time has been won, Their minds are blown too many times, And all the things seem twice their size,
Time, time, time is all that I have Time, time, time is all that I have
‘Cause time is all that I have, And all I want from life Is a girl to open wide, The doors to paradise
Time, time, time is all that I have Time, time, time is all that I have
Gail Bowen, vocals, with Dave Mitchell on drums and Dan Norton on guitar
from left, Brian Barsky, Brian Levin, Gail Bowen and Danny Norton
At the Edison, 1962, from left: Barry Stein, Richie Knight, Mike Brough, Doug Chappell, George Semkiw, Barry Lloyd
Doug Chappell, bass player for Richie Knight and the Mid-Knights wrote to me with the story, photos and songs of the group.
This is actually the story of three bands, Richie Knight and The Mid-Knights, Mid-Knights Blues Band and The Mid-Knights Revue. The time frame covered is from 1962 until 1969, it is an evolution that includes Rock, Blues and R&B.
The Mid-Knights Early Days
In the late fifties friends George Semkiw (guitar) and Leo Donaghue (sax) started the band with fellow members John McCanliss (guitar) and Jim Gwilliams (drums). The band started playing some dates in the area around Toronto. The band decided it required a bass player and Roger Woods is brought into the unit, also joining was Barry Lloyd on piano along with vocalist Rich Hubbard, but by 1961 the band loses all but Semkiw, Lloyd and Hubbard. Unfazed they go about the business of recruiting new players that will eventually become Richie Knight and The Mid-Knights.
Richie Knight and the Mid-Knights, 1963, from left: Mike Brough, Richie Knight, Barry Stein, George Semkiw, Doug Chappell, Barry Lloyd
Richie Knight and The Mid-KnightsRich Hubbard (Richie Knight) – vocals George Semkiw – guitar Barry Lloyd – piano, then organ Mike Brough – sax Doug Chappell – bass Barry Stein – drums
In 1961 Semkiw, Lloyd and Hubbard add new players Barry Stein (Drums), Mike Brough (Sax), Doug Chappell (Bass). At this time Barry Lloyd switches from piano to Hammond organ. The band began playing dances around Southern Ontario quickly becoming one of the circuit’s favourite groups.
It’s amusing that being a garage band we never rehearsed in a garage. Our first space was in Barry Lloyd’s dining room and living room. Had to be since he had a piano there and then a little later it is where he had his Hammond. It’s amazing to me today to think that we did not get any grief from the neighbours (it was a semi-detached house) or Barry’s Mom and Dad. After Barry left the band and Ray Reeves joined we moved to his basement in a small bungalow. Again no problems from parents or neighbours.
Summer of 1962 the group played the entire summer playing bars on the famed Yonge Street Strip. It was at one these joints that Richard (promotion man at Arc) saw the band playing and thought that a song the boys were playing could be a hit record and brought it to the attention of Bill Gilliland.
That song was CHARLENA!
The band had first heard “Charlena” on a record by The Sevilles (a band from Los Angeles) at a Toronto dance hall. It was was quite a rough recording but the band loved the song and at a practice learned how to play it, with a slightly different version due to the fact they were learning it from memory. It quickly became a favourite for the fans at the dances where the band played.
Finally in early 1963 Gilliland got the band into ARC’s studio (with house producer Ben Weatherby), actually it was the label’s office and storage during the day and doubled as the studio at night. With metal garbage pails lifted off the floor and stuffed with rags to stifle any sound the band started the recording process. There were to be no overdubs, vocals and instruments were to be laid down as one item on a mono tape recorder. The process took a few hours stopping each time there was any error or to move microphones and even one time due to a train passing behind the buildings which had no sound proofing. Four hours later Charlena was recorded with a “B” side of “You Got The Power” a ballad originally done by James Brown.
ARC Records approached the band with the idea of not using just the name The Mid-knights on the record label since most artists of the day were featuring the name of the singer. After much discussion the name Richie Knight was arrived at and the birth of the new name Richie Knight and The Mid-Knights.
“Charlena” was presented to radio in the Spring of 1963. A local radio station CKEY was first to play the record but the powerhouse station was CHUM who took a wait and see attitude. Eventually due to fan demand CHUM began playing the song and it quickly became a listener favourite. “Charlena” had an infectious beat that allowed it to rise to the amazing position on the chart of #1, a position it held for two weeks. This was the first time that a local Toronto rock ‘n’ roll band had attained the prized #1 position on the CHUM chart! The record went on to sell in excess of 100,000.
Every dance wanted the band because with a hit record the teens flocked to wherever the band played, it was a very exciting time. The band played such memorable places such as The Balmy Beach Canoe Club, Crang Plaza, The Met, Mazaryk Hall, The Jubilee Pavilion in Oshawa, and The Pav in Orillia. Simply put the band played virtually every dancehall in Southern Ontario. The band’s two biggest shows were at Maple Leaf Gardens, the first was in 1963 while “Charlena” was still on the CHUM chart and the station presented a Dick Clark Caravan of Stars show at the Gardens. They were not only the only Canadian act on the bill but they also had the record that was highest on the chart at the time. Other acts included The Dovels, Dick & Dee Dee and Gene Pitney.
When we played Maple Leaf Gardens on the Dick Clark Cavalcade of Stars show on July 19, 1963 we were still babies in the business. It was quite a shock to hear Dick Clark reaming someone out using a string of profanities that we couldn’t fathom the baby faced icon of the teen world knowing let alone using.
Before Charlena hit we backed up many artists that toured without their own bands here are some memories of some:
Barbara George – we backed her up at dance hall called Mazaryk Hall that held about 1000 teens. When we had a rehearsal it was obvious that Barbara did not have a large repetoire. The only song she knew other than “I Know” was Ray Charles “What’d I Say”. The performance was the two songs with “What’d I Say” going on for about 20 minutes, most of which she shook her booty with numerous guys she pulled up from the audience.
Jimmy Reed – this show was at a venue that was in the YMCA in downtown Hamilton, Ont. His stuff was very simple, straight ahead blues, the only problem was that Jimmy did not really use 12 bar blues, he would do 10, 11 and sometimes 13 bars, so we had to listen to where he was going and try to follow. This was further exacerbated by his penchant for also changing keys in mid-song for no discernable reason.
Carl Dobkins Jr. – his major hit was “My Heart Is An Open Book” and he surprised us by being the most together of all the artists we backed up. The gig was at a summer dance hall in Orillia , Ont. called the The Pavillion (a great summer venue that held an audience of about 600), it was always called “The Pav”. Carl showed up with sheet music charts for us, we only used the chord patterns and the gig was really good; he was a consummate professional.
Bobby Curtola – Worked a few times with Bobby, he was a pro and was always easy to get along with.
I am quite sure that most bands had the same experience we had when playing High Schools. It seems that the only door that the custodians would allow us to use to bring in our equipment was the door furthest away from the area we were to perform, even if there was an entrance very close to the stage area. It also seemed that as the last note of the performance was still ringing they were there telling us to pack up immediately and leave.
Barry Lloyd’s parents house, 1962, from left: Doug Chappell, Barry Lloyd, Barry Stein, George Semkiw, in background Barry Lloyd’s sister Myrna.
Backing Bobby Curtola, 1962, from left: Chappell, Brough, Curtola, Semkiw, Knight, (hidden Barry Lloyd)
CHUM Chart of July 1, 1963 – shows Charlena at #1 for second week
Dick Clark Parade of Stars, July 19, 1963 at Maple Leaf Gardens
1963, from left, back row: Richie Knight, Barry Lloyd; front row: Doug Chappell, George Semkiw, Barry Stein, Mike Brough
Late in 1963 or early ‘64 the band records “The Joke” and soon after organist Barry Lloyd departs the band and is replaced by Ray Reeves. The second show at the Gardens was to open the show by The Rolling Stones, April 25, 1965.
Rich Hubbard (Richie Knight) – vocals George Semkiw – guitar Ray Reeves – organ Mike Brough – sax Doug Chappell – bass Barry Stein – drums
Seeing the action, other Toronto bands entered the recording studio and the Toronto music scene changed incredibly because they knew there was a chance to get on the radio. Little Caesar and the Consuls, Robbie Lane and The Disciples, Jon & Lee and The Checkmates, David Clayton Thomas and The Shays, The Big Town Boys, Shirley Mathews, The Sparrow, The Mynah Birds and The Mandala. The music scene in Toronto exploded!
Third lineup, 1964, from left: Barry Stein, George Semkiw, Richie Knight, Doug Chappell, Ray Reeves
1966, sleeve for their RCA single, “That’s Alright” / “Work Song” – note different spelling of “Richie”. Click to see back
RCA promo card, 1966. From left: Rick Bell, George Semkiw, Barry Stein, Richie Knight, Ray Reeves and Doug Chappell
The Mid-Knights Blues Band, 1966, from left: Richard Newell, Ray Reeves, Barry Stein, George Semkiw, and Doug Chappell
Mid-Knights Latter Years
1966 saw Brough (sax) packing it in to move to Oklahoma with his regular day gig resulting in the band adding Rick Bell on piano. Then with the departure of Rich, also in 1966, the band took a different direction with the addition Richard Newell on vocals and mouth harp. This was the era of The Mid-Knights Blues Band. Eventually, Ronnie Hawkins cherry picked Bell to join his band The Hawks, the Mid-Knights, in chameleon fashion, changed yet again.
The Mid-Knights Blues Band, 1966, from left: Barry Stein, Richard Newell, Doug Chappell, Ray Reeves and George Semkiw
The Mid-Knights Revue, 1966
The new result was The Mid-Knights Revue, a soul-charged R&B unit. Added to the core of Semkiw (guitar), Stein (drums), Reeves (Hammond organ) and Chappell (bass) were Bill Pinkerton (drums, yes 2 drummers, both had double bass drums!) , Dave Stilwell (trumpet), Rick Cairns (trumpet), Jerry Shymansky (sax), Mark Smith (trombone) and Newell on vocals. One single was recorded for Warner Brothers and Ronnie Hawkins came into the picture again grabbing Newell and soon dubbed him “King Bisquit Boy”. The band rebounded quickly adding vocalists Frank Querci (Robert E. Lee) and Karen Titko. This version of the band created a huge wall of sound playing mainly the R&B songs of the Stax/Volt type of artists.
The tracks by Mid-Knights Blues Band and Mid-Knights Revue are tracks recorded during our rehearsals, we were lucky enough to have RCA Victor studios as a practice place since George Semkiw was a recording engineer there. George was able to get us Studio A, a huge room, to rehearse in. It was soundproof of course and had the best recording gear of the day. At the end of many practice sessions we laid down tracks with George working the board and playing guitar. The size of the room really paid off when we got to the Revue stage of the band, two drummers both having double kick, bass, guitar, keys and a four-man horn section.
Some tracks are taken from tape, some from 45’s and others from laquers (also called soft cuts) so there is some scratching but it almost makes it all the more realistic.
The meeting place for most Toronto Bands on Saturday morning was a great music store called Long & McQuade, the original store at the corner of Yonge St. and Collier St. Players from most of the Toronto bands would meet and trade road stories. What an amazing little store this was, the two Jacks (Long & McQuade) offered musicians the ability to buy on credit financed by the store, they trusted that the bill would be paid. Pete Traynor had a space above the store where he built the original Traynor amps, he was an amazing guy who invented a great line of amplifiers and sound systems. The manufacturing was later re-located to a large manufacturing plant in Toronto and became a huge business.
This story is one where we did not even play. Jimi Hendrix played Maple Gardens, Toronto ( May 3, 1969) and the Musicians Union had a rule that any music show at the Gardens had to hire a certain amount of Toronto Local musicians whether they played or not, I believe the number was around 31. I became the leader for the gig and gathered other Toronto rock players to make up the number needed. We didn’t play, just sat in the nose bleed section and watched the show. Jimi and his manager were the producers of the show, so after they finished I went to collect the monies for the Toronto musicians. They said for me to meet them at their hotel the next morning to settle up. Of course when I got there they had checked out and fled the scene. So I filed a grievance with our Local 149. Amazingly about two months later the New York local showed up at Madison Square Gardens and informed Jimi of his debt and would not let him perform until they received the money due. It was sent to Toronto and our local lads got paid.
Doug Chappell, 2010
RPM, March 30, 1968 Thanks to Ivan Amirault for this scan
Where Are They Now
Richie Knight (Rich Hubbard) – after the band studied Finance and Marketing at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute and in 1968 went on to manage Yorkville Records and Yorkville Talent Mgt., which was a part of ARC Records, The Mid-Knights original label. Presently owns a magazine publishing company.
George Semkiw – record producer, musician, recording and live event engineer
Barry Stein – runs own accounting firm
Barry Lloyd – retired from insurance industry, resides in Calgary
Mike Brough – after many years in men’s apparel industry now teaches business at Seneca College, Toronto
Doug Chappell – retired after years in the record industry (A&M Records, Island Records, Virgin Records, Mercury Records)
Ray Reeves – settled in Atlanta, Georgia
Richard Bell – after Hawkins he went on to play in Janis Joplin’s Full Tilt Boogie Band, returned to Toronto to do session work. Deceased in 2007
Richard Newell – after Hawkins he played with Crowbar, released records as King Biscuit Boy. Deceased in 2003
Frank Querci – was in the real estate business, Deceased
Leo Donaghue – presently resides in Australia
Richie Knight and the Mid-Knights
1963 – Charlena/You’ve Got The Power (Arc 1028) 1963/64 – The Joke/My Kind Of Love (Arc 1037)
From left: Bruce Peterson, Larry Borrisoff, Myles Kingan, Terry Jacks and Guy Sobell
This coming January, 2010 will see a CD of British Columbia’s Chessmen re-mastered from the original master tapes under the supervision of Terry Jacks. Besides their eight rare single sides, it will include bonus tracks of the group live at their last concert in 1966 and a previously unreleased demo of ‘You Lost Your Game’. Fans of tough garage sounds will dig the never-before-heard “No Blood in Bone”.
The early roots of The Chessmen began in the late 1950’s with musical influences from the Swedish group The Spotnicks and the English group The Shadows. Guy Sobell was a guitarist in a Vancouver band, The Ken Clark Trio, and while in Europe, he had heard these groups and decided to form his own band when he returned to Canada.
At the same time, a 17 year old named Terry Jacks had put together a “surf” band”, The Sand Dwellers. The group never played live but recorded two unreleased songs including one original penned by Jacks and fellow member John Crowe called “Build Your Castle Higher”. It was later recorded and released by a California group Jerry Cole and The Spacemen with the title changed to “Midnight Surfer”. When the Sand Dwellers folded, some of the members re-formed as The Vancouver Playboys.
Jacks and Sobell were introduced by a mutual friend, Sam Bawlf, who later became the Environment Minister of British Columbia. (Sam,Terry, and Guy all happened to be going to the University of British Columbia at the same time). Guy and Terry teamed up with two other UBC students, Bill Lockie, a guitar player who was learning to play bass, and Erik Kalaidzis, a singer who played chess with Guy. Thus `The Chessmen’. They started out doing gigs at UBC fraternity houses for $40 a night without a drummer. Kalaidzis later left the group because his vocal style was more classical and not geared to what the group was doing at the time. So the band became an instrumental group.
The Chessmen played in the Okanagan (the interior part of British Columbia) in the winter of 1963 and stayed at some strange motels; namely the `Tell-a-Friend’ in Vernon, and ‘The Davy Crockett’ in Kamloops. Lockie recalls Jacks swimming in the motel pool at night while it was snowing and way below freezing. The next day, their newly found drummer, Tom Meikle didn’t show up and they had to play with no drums.
At a gig in Kelowna, Jacks met a guy named Craig McCaw who was played in a band called The Shadracks. He had come to The Chessmen concert with his friend John Tanner (who later went on to become a well known disc jockey in Vancouver). It was a fateful meeting as Craig would later play with Terry in The Poppy Family, an internationally acclaimed group.
Back in Vancouver, The Chessmen got a new drummer, Kenny Moore, who played with them on their first single, “Meadowlands” b/w “Mustang” and a third previously unreleased song called “When I’m Not There”. These were recorded at Robin Spurgin’s Vancouver Recording Studio in 1964.
Red Robinson, a highly acclaimed Vancouver disc jockey who had a lot of connections in the music business passed the tape on to Alice Koury, Vice President of London Records and in December 1964, London released The Chessmen’s first single, “Meadowlands” b/w “Mustang”. It did really well locally and Red Robinson who was undoubtedly instrumental in launching The Chessmen, was credited as the producer of the record. With Red’s help, the single was also released in the U.S. on Jerden Records out of Seattle, with the A-side listed as “Mr.Meadowlands” just to spice it up a bit.
With the success of their first single the band toured, playing roller rinks, high schools and dances across British Columbia throughout the spring of 1965. Terry recalls that because he wasn’t a great guitar player, the other band members were thinking about replacing him in the group. Then, he wrote a song called “The Way You Fell”. Because no one in the group could sing, Terry ended up singing the song and adding his own harmony to it. Up to that point the band had considered other possibilities for a lead singer including adding a female vocalist to their line up. They had tried out a girl named Bonnie Huber, who played some shows with them and even recorded some demos with the band. She was great but the band was too gross for a little girl.
Clockwise from left: Al Wiertz, Bill Lockie, Guy Sobell and Terry Jacks
With Terry now in place as the band’s vocalist, “The Way You Fell” b/w “She Comes By Night” was recorded at Vancouver Recording Studio with their new drummer, Al Wiertz and released on London Records in April 1965. That single ended up being one of The Chessmen’s most successful records, peaking at #4 on the CFUN Top 50 in Vancouver.
1965 was turning out to be a busy year for the group.
Terry had gone to see Brenda Lee at The Cave Supper Club in Vancouver, wanting her to hear a song he’d written with the hope that she would record it. He ended up becoming good friends with Brenda and her manager, Dub Allbritten who was one of the biggest managers in Nashville. Besides Brenda, he had worked with Red Foley, Hank Snow, Ernest Tubb, and Roy Orbison just to name a few. He also had co-written Brenda’s huge hit “I’m Sorry”. Dub offered to manage The Chessmen and got them a recording contract in the U.S. with Mercury Records. They recorded four songs in Nashville with producer Jerry Kennedy who had produced Roger Miller, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Charlie Rich among many other famous artists.
It was an incredible step forward for the band. It was almost unheard of at the time for a little Canadian band with moderate success going to Nashville to record, and being signed to a major record label with one of the biggest managers and most prominent producers in Nashville.
In September 1965, The Chessmen made their way down to Nashville for a recording session via a Greyhound bus. New drummer Myles Kingan and electric accordion (Chordovox) player Bruce Peterson had since become members of the band.
Bruce Peterson was well known among the other band members for his dry sense of humour and the trip to Nashville was no exception. He had brought along a small box, wrapped up very carefully. As people walked by him on the bus they would ask him what was in the box. He told them that it was his pet aardvark. During the trip, when the bus entered a tunnel somewhere in Colorado, he stood up suddenly and announced loudly that his aardvark had escaped. Astonished passengers on the bus lifted up their feet as he pretended to search the bus for his fictional pet, which of course was never found.
Once in Nashville, the band was put up by the record company at a sleazy motel, where they all had to share a room. The walls in the room were full of holes and huge cockroaches had infested them; so the guys sprayed shaving cream into the holes to prevent the cockroaches from coming out. However, now it turned out even worse. These monster cockroaches would emerge from the walls, covered in shaving cream, and would run around the floor all night long! Guy’s memories in Nashville included buying Beatle boots and striped pants, and visiting Hank Snow’s guitar store.
Mercury had booked the group into Fred Fosters studio, where many famous hits had been recorded including all of Roy Orbison’s records. During the recording session, the group found it amusing that their producer Jerry Kennedy kept going to the vending machine, throughout the session, purchasing peanut butter filled Ritz crackers, which he seemed addicted to.
Following the session on September 16th and 17th, the band returned to a busy schedule in Vancouver. On September 24th they played the The Beach Boys show along with Charlie Rich and The Castaways at the PNE gardens. On November 5th they played with Buddy Knox, then toured the dance halls and high school circuit, and on November 28th ended up doing a show with Roy Orbison at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
The songs they had just recorded on their first trip to Nashville “Love Didn’t Die” b/w “You Lost Your Game” were released in December 1965 on Mercury Records. On December 29th the band played with Gary Lewis and The Playboys in Vancouver.
With new members Al Weirtz and Larry Borisoff.
On February 25th 1966, The Chessmen returned to Nashville for two sessions. This time the record company had booked them a flight to Nashville. Larry Borisoff, a new member on this trip, replaced Bill Lockie on bass guitar and also helped out on vocals.
While waiting for a connecting flight at the airport in Chicago, a drunken Jacks bet the guys he could get a bottle of rum from the bar without being seen. But the bartender spotted him as he swiped the bottle and he fled, running down the wrong way on the escalator to escape. In the parking lot he ditched the booze and jumped into a surprised girl’s car to hide. Although he wasn’t caught, the delay caused the band to miss their connecting flight to Nashville.
When they finally arrived, The Chessmen cut what was to be their last single “What’s Causing This Sensation” b/w “For Running Wild” which was released in April, 1966 on Mercury Records. Prior to the session Guy Sobell had shown up looking a bit pale, he had apparently been hit by a car outside the studio. Although shaken, he wasn’t seriously injured and proceeded to record his solo in “What’s Causing This Sensation”.
On the flight home from Nashville, drummer Miles Kingan passed out having had a bit too much to drink prior to leaving the airport. Terry and Guy remember pulling down his pants and putting his hand down his underwear, then calling the stewardess and complaining that Miles was acting in an obscene manner. The stewardess woke him up and told him to get his act together or she would have to report him to the pilot.
Upon their return, The Chessmen continued touring across British Columbia with their new drummer Duris Maxwell, their fifth and final drummer. Guy recalls the time when someone threw a beer bottle at Duris while the group was playing in Victoria. Duris stopped playing, walked up to the front where Jacks was singing and said “Whoever threw that bottle would you please come up to the stage”. Despite his polite request, he did not look like a guy you would want to mess with and no one responded.
The Chessmen’s final gig was in Ladner, British Columbia on July 15th 1966 where the band was paid $180 to play. Terry and Guy recall that there was a lot of drinking before the performance. Local mobile sound engineer Douglas Gyseman (aka Kurtis Vanel) recorded the last gig. (Two of these tracks plus a bonus track that he recorded appear on the Chessmen Collection CD).
The break-up of The Chessmen occurred after Guy’s father gave him a choice of either going to London University (because Guy was quite “a brilliant guy”) or getting out of the house and continuing music with Jacks. He chose University. Checkmate.
While in England, he met Jimi Hendrix who purchased his white Fender Stratocaster guitar for £80. When asked in a 1966 Chatelaine Magazine interview if success had changed The Chessmen in any way, Jacks replied, “No, we all still eat raw eggs for breakfast!”