A walk through my Montreal garage bands: the It Group, the Virgins, and Steve & the New Beats, 1964 -1967 by Gus Appignanesi
My name is Gus but went by the name George in garage band era. I started as a drummer playing in a number of garage bands in the east end of Montreal. Unfortunately, the people I met and played with was all with first names. We never thought that we would need last names or photos to find each other years later. We truly lived in the moment.
As a drummer I played in at least two bands; The Ancient and The Morticians. Please don’t laugh; bands had a variety of names. I played with a bass player called Perry and a guitarist singer by the name of Yehor. Downtown the street from us was a great garage band called Little Michael and the Archangels. Their drummer was Called Leddy and his younger brother was Michael. The last band, with the same line up, was called The It Group (managed my girlfriend at the time – Donna). At the same time bands that became more popular were sprouting all around us. There was; The Monks (later called the Exit 4), Bartholomew +3, The Haunted, The Rabble, J.B. and the Playboys and a number of great French bands (The Sinners, Les Classels, Les 409 to mention just a few).
In 1966, I bought and electric Fender Rhodes piano and started to play in bands that were actually getting real paying jobs. The Virgins was a really great rock and R&B band in which we had two drummers (Steve and Peter), guitarist (Dario), two lead singers (???) and me (aka George) playing piano with bass boost (similar to The Doors with no bass player). I then played with another dance R&B band that had changed their image from a rock band called Les Horribles to Steve and the New Beats. Steve was lead singer, Mario on bass, me (aka George) on piano, Serge on lead guitar and a drummer (???). We played every city and town throughout Quebec from 1966-1967.
Expo 1967 actually killed a lot of the local bands, since everyone was coming to Expo to hear a variety of international bands. I believe so called garage bands were coming to an end. Musicians and the equipment changed drastically over the years. People actually rented studios to practice in and recordings became more popular. Bands moved out of their local garages and moved into the larger arena of music. I miss those guys. Hopefully one of them may read this and contact me. Regardless, I hope this short history will be beneficial to anyone out there from that great era. Rock on!
Jim Robertson (Vocals) line up A-G Tim Forsythe (Keyboards, Harmonica) line up A-G Domenic Angelicchio (Drums) line up A-F Danny Barrucco (Bass) line up A-E Dave Hannah (Guitar) line up A Don Duncan (Guitar) line up B, G Jean Pierre Lauzon (Guitar) line up C Richard Lasnier (Guitar) line up D Gary Marcus (Guitar) line up E Bob Burgess (Bass) line up F Louis McKelvey (Guitar) line up F Nick Farlowe (Drums) line up G
The original band was formed in the summer of 1966 by former Haunted members Jim Robertson and Tim Forsythe. Robertson was originally from Edinburgh, Scotland where he’d played sax in a group during 1964 before moving to Montreal. Based in Lachine, Quebec, the band made its debut at the local YMCA.
Hannah left soon after the band started playing live. However, the group went through a succession of lead guitarists, starting with Don Duncan, who left in September 1966, before McKelvey joined in December. His arrival coincided with that of Bob Burgess from The Haunted. In between Duncan leaving and McKelvey joining, Our Generation featured temporary stopgap guitarists, J P Lauzon, who went on to The Jaybees, Richard Lasnier and Gary Marcus from Oven.
The line up with Duncan, however, was responsible for the first single, a cover of the Muddy Waters blues favourite ‘I’m a Man’, backed by Forsythe’s ‘Run Down Every Street’.
Louis McKelvey, who had arrived in Montreal around October 1966 after playing with South African bands The Upsetters and The A-Cads, appeared on the band’s second single, before forming Influence in late May 1967. Prior to joining Our Generation, McKelvey had played with Les Sinners for a few weeks and was later given co-production credit for The Haunted’s third single with fellow ex-A-Cads member Hank Squires. This line up reportedly provided the soundtrack to the Canadian Film Board film, ‘It’s Not Jacques Cartier’s Fault’.
McKelvey wrote ‘Cool Summer’ while Burgess composed the b-side. Burgess left Canada in late 1967 to spend some time in the UK where he recorded, and then returned to form a new band Lilac. In the ‘70s he led Aean.
Robertson and Forsythe kept the band going for a few more months bringing back Don Duncan and new drummer, former Haunted member Farlowe. When the band split in the autumn, Forsythe joined Peter & The Pipers.
After The Jaybees, Lauzon went on to play with The Carnival Connection, Life, Mylon Le Fevre and ultimately The Wackers. Marcus joined The Haunted.
Echos of ‘Season of the Witch’
45 I’m A Man/Run Down Every Street (Barry 3461) 1966 45 Cool Summer/Out To Get Light (Trans World 1678) 1967
February 17 1967 – West Hill High, Montreal February 18 1967 – Stanstead College, Montreal February 24 1967 – Malcolm Campbell High, St Laurent, Quebec February 25 1967 – The Barn (on Du Hamel) March 3 1967 – Gig in Hudson (Quebec?) March 4 1967 – Salle Espangnola, St Therese, Quebec March 10 1967 – The Jail, Montreal March 11 1967 – Gig in Huntington, Quebec March 18 1967 – St Hubert Inn Club, St Hubert March 25 1967 – Caveman’s Hive, Montreal March 27 1967 – St Augustine’s NDG (Montreal?) April 8 1967 – The Jail, Montreal April 14 1967 – St Willabroads School (Montreal?) April 22 1967 – St Bartholemew (Montreal?) April 28 1967 – The Barn, Ile Perrot April 29 1967 – Roxboro Chalet, Roxboro May 5 1967 – Hot Spot, Rosemere May 6 1967 – Town and Country, Cote de Liesse with Munks May 7 1967 – Town and Country, Cote de Liesse with The Jaybees September 24-30 1967 – Garden of Stars, Montreal
Live dates taken from the Montreal Star newspaper.
Many thanks to Bill Munson, Carny Corbett, Louis McKelvey and Bob Burgess.
This single was a Hank Squires production and featured Montreal singer Brian Redmond on lead vocals. The A-side of the single features ex-Influence member, Irishman Louis McKelvey (see entry on this website), who had played with Squires in South African group The A-Cads in early 1966.
McKelvey co-wrote the A-side with Englishman Roger Gomes, who had joined McKelvey in Canada after working as a DJ and as American singer Millie’s road manager. The track in fact had originally been recorded in demo form by Influence in 1967.
Issued in June 1970, the single was reportedly a minor hit, and is a fascinating piece of music.
The B-side was composed by a certain Martin Martin, who later composed a single for Brian Redmond, also produced by Squires. The track features Brian Redmond and his group Soundbox, who had previously recorded a single (see www.marcdenis.com/ckgm-soundbox.html).
Recordings: 45 Marble Hall/Get Your Things Together (Aquarius 5003) 1970
Many thanks to Hank Squires for his input. Marble Hall sleeve and CFCF scans courtesy of Ivan Amirault.
Copyright (C) Nick Warburton, 2009, All Rights Reserved
Louis McKelvey (Guitar, Vocals) line up A-D Andy Keiller (Vocals) line up A-C Dave Wynne (Drums) line up A-B Jack Geisinger (Bass, Vocals) all line ups Walter Rossi (Guitar, Vocals) line up B-E Bob Parkins (aka Bobo Island) (Keyboards, Vocals) line up B-E Frank LoRusso (Drums) line up C-E
The Influence was one of the most fascinating bands to emerge from Canada during the ‘60s. The group’s rich diversity of styles was a result of the group members’ wide range of musical backgrounds and geographical origins.
The band’s driving force was Louis Campbell McKelvey (b. October 31, 1943, Killorglin, County Kerry, Eire), who had spent the early ‘60s playing with London bands, The Persuaders and Jeff Curtis & The Flames (frequent residents at the Ealing Jazz club).
After travelling to South Africa in the summer of 1965, he met singer Andy Keiller (b. August 16, 1941, Bodmin, Cornwall, England), who had already recorded a solo single, ‘Find My Baby/Elaine (Continental PD7-8936), and an album entitled ‘Round About Midnight’ after moving to South Africa in March 1964. Together they formed The Who-inspired band The Upsetters, named by McKelvey after Little Richard’s first support group. The Upsetters recorded a lone single, ‘Daddy Rolling Stone/Pain In My Heart’ (Continental PD7-9012), issued by the small Trutone label later that year. When Keiller left to return to London in November, McKelvey subsequently joined The A-Cads.
McKelvey was only a member of The A-Cads for a few months, but did appear on the single ‘Fool, Fool, Fool/Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah’ (RCA Victor 41-827) and helped finish off the band’s lone album. The A-Cads spent the early part of 1966 travelling with the Boswell-Wilkie circus before splitting up in April. Together with former A-Cads, Hank Squires and Les Goode, McKelvey returned to England and together they hatched plans to move to India. The project, however, never materialised and McKelvey (later joined by Squires) moved to Montreal in October 1966.
McKelvey played with Les Sinners for a few weeks then joined Our Generation in time to appear on their second single.
During his time with the latter band, he co-produced (with Hank Squires) The Haunted’s single ‘Searching For My Baby’ and through the group met former member Wynne (b. May 17, 1947, Stockport, England). McKelvey subsequently invited him to join the new group he was planning.
Around the same time, McKelvey met bass player Geisinger (b. Jakob August Geisinger, March 1945, Czechoslovakia), who had recently been playing with The Buddy Miles Quartet and before that The Soul Mates.
When Buddy Miles and the group’s guitarist and organist, Rossi (b. Rossignuoli Rossi, May 29, 1947, Naples, Italy) and Island (b. Bob Parkins, Montreal, Canada), were picked up by Wilson Pickett for a US tour, Geisinger accepted McKelvey’s offer to join the new group.
Shortly afterwards, McKelvey spotted an ad in the paper by Keiller (who had moved out to Montreal the previous spring and had tried to contact McKelvey after seeing him playing with Our Generation on TV), and invited him to join as the band’s lead singer.
Formed in late May, the quartet, named The Influence, immediately made its presence felt and became regulars at Montreal’s Barrel during the summer of 1967. In June, Rossi and Island returned to Montreal and, after catching the band’s set, joined the line-up. The new line-up became more musically adventurous, adopting a style that was influenced by jazz musicians Sonny Murray and Archie Shepp, and with Island adding a second lead voice. After tightening up their act, The Influence moved to Toronto and became a regular sight at Boris’ Red Gas Room throughout September-December.
Live in Toronto, 1967.
Andy Keiller singing and Dave Wynne on drums
In October 1967, the band sent demos to ABC Records in New York and with producer Dennis Minogue recorded a lone album on 4-track that was issued in January 1968.
The record is a startling piece of music and clearly shows how unique the band was. However, it didn’t sell well and is now something of a collector’s item. The highlights are the chanson styled ‘I Don’t Know Why’, composed by Rossi and Island, and heavier pieces like McKelvey’s ‘Natural Impulse’ and ‘Pieces of Me’, co-written with Andy Keiller.
Shortly after the album’s release, former Soul Mates’ drummer Frank LoRusso (aka Yum Yum) replaced Wynne. The new line-up toured extensively in the US Midwest and the New York area throughout the first half of 1968. A live album, captured in Chicago on a bill with Steppenwolf, was recorded on a rough tape during May but immediately afterwards, Keiller left to return to Montreal (he eventually returned to the UK briefly before emigrating to Australia).
The band continued but internal differences led to McKelvey’s departure in September 1968. The remaining members carried on as a heavy rock, blues band into 1969, but broke up when Rossi joined The Buddy Miles Express and Geisinger left for McKelvey’s new group Milkwood. LoRusso later rejoined McKelvey in Damage. McKelvey lives in Toronto and plays with his own band.
Island was subsequently killed in a highway accident in late 1969. Wynne joined the diplomatic service and is working in Singapore, while Keiller currently runs a fibreglass business making racing cars in Melbourne. Rossi has established a successful solo career and lives in Quebec while Geisinger was last heard of living in Montreal.
June 1 1967 – Barrel, Montreal June 3 1967 – Bonaventure, Montreal June-August 1967 – Barrel, Montreal (nightly) September 2 1967 – Boris’ Red Gas Room, Toronto September 8 1967 – Boris’ Red Gas Room, Toronto with The Sky September 10 1967 – Boris’ Red Gas Room, Toronto with The Sky September 15 1967 – Boris’ Red Gas Room, Toronto September 16 1967 – Boris’ Red Gas Room, Toronto with The Sky September 22 1967 – Boris’ Red Gas Room, Toronto September 23 1967 – Boris’ Red Gas Room, Toronto with The Sky September 29 1967 – Boris’ Red Gas Room, Toronto September 30 1967 – Boris’ Red Gas Room, Toronto with The Fringe October 15 1967 – Boris’ Red Gas Room, Toronto October 22 1967 – Boris’ Red Gas Room, Toronto October 27 1967 – Boris’ Red Gas Room, Toronto December 2-3 1967 – Boris’, Toronto December 9 1967 – Boris’, Toronto December 15 1967 – Boris’, Toronto December 25-31 1967 – Steve Paul’s The Scene, New York with Blood, Sweat & Tears February 17-18 1968 – Boris’, Toronto March 2 1968 – Boris, Toronto March 4-9 1968 – Penny Farthing, Toronto March 15 1968 – Boris’, Toronto March 22 1968 – Boris’, Toronto March 29-30 1968 – Boris’, Toronto April 5-7 1968 – The Static Journey, Toronto April 13 1968 – Boris’, Toronto April 20 1968 – CNE Hall, Toronto with The Doors, Earth Opera and City Muffin Boys May 10-12 1968 – Chessmate, Detroit May 17-19 1968 – Grande Ballroom, Detroit with Procol Harum, Nirvana, The Nickle Pulte Express, The Soul Remains and Muff May 24-26 1968 – Electric Ballroom, Chicago with Steppenwolf August 31-September 1 1968 – El Patio, Toronto
Live dates are largely taken from the Toronto Telegram’s “After Four” section. Thanks also to Andy Keiller for some concert details.
Thanks to Louis McKelvey, Walter Rossi, Andy Keiller, Dave Wynne and Jack Geisinger. Grande Ballroom concert poster from Walter Rossi’s site. LP front cover scan courtesy of Ivan Amirault.
Neil Sheppard (Producer) line up AB Michael Ship (Keyboards, Vocals) line up AB Marty Simon (Drums, Keyboards, Vocals) line up AB Danny Zimmerman (Bass) line up AB Jean Pierre Lauzon (Guitar) line up AB Barry Albert (Guitar) line up AB Clockwise from top: Danny Zimmerman, Marty Simon, Mike Ship and Barry AlbertNeil Sheppard (real name Neil Ship) was a Brill Building songwriter who was trying to get his songs promoted with a group. Sheppard wrote all of the songs and produced Life’s lone album, released in spring 1970.
In the early 1960s, Simon and Zimmerman had worked together in Montreal group, Marty Simon and The Capris and The Humdingers before forming The Scene.
Formed from the ashes of The Scene, the original line up was completed with Sheppard’s brother Michael Ship on keyboards and lead vocals, guitarist J P Lauzon (ex-Carnival Connection) and former Bartholomew Plus Three guitarist Barry Albert. Lauzon and Albert alternated lead guitar and rhythm on the band’s recordings.
The group’s debut single, a cover of The Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever”, with an arrangement by Marty Simon, was a fascinating record with jazzy feel and featured Lauzon’s exquisite flamenco guitar solo. However, it did not do much chart wise (entered RPM on May 9, 1970, reached number 83 and charted for 5 weeks). Its follow up, “Hands of The Clock”, featuring Albert’s lead guitar intro, was the band’s only hit, reaching #19 on the RPM chart in August 1969, and charted for 12 weeks.
Life played at the First Montreal Bi-Cultural Pop Festival in June 1969, which was held at the Montreal Forum and featured Triangle, Robert Charlebois and headliner Steppenwolf.
The group’s lone album, which features contributions from Englishman Malcolm Tomlinson on flute from Milkwood, was recorded on four-track and then transferred to the first eight track in Canada by Andre Perry.
Towards the end of 1969, Simon left Life and moved to Los Angeles to work with a new group. The rest of the band carried on as After Life but split up in early 1970.
Simon and Lauzon reunited in Mylon Le Fevre. Simon later moved to the UK and formed Sharks with former Free bass player Andy Fraser.
Recordings 45 Strawberry Fields Forever/Come Into My Life (Polydor 540-005) 1969 45 Hands of The Clock/Ain’t I Told You Before (Polydor 540-009) 1969 45 Sweet Lovin’/Desire (Polydor 540-013) 1970 45 Needing You/Loving Time (Polydor 540-017) 1970 LP Life (Polydor 2424-001) 1970
One of the very top Canadian records of the 60’s, its origins were somewhat obscure until I heard from Bob Panetta and George Legrady in 2010 and 2011.
The A-side is a good cover of “Each and Every Day”, recorded by Manfred Mann and written by Mike Hugg. The flip, “Funny Feeling”, is something else altogether, blending a heavy fuzz riff, pounding drums, swirling organ and a first-rate vocal, with a ripping guitar solo to top it all off. It was written by the group’s bassist, Joey Campelone.
Mike Jones was an alias for Michael LaChance, a recording engineer from Montreal. I’d read that he put a studio band together with musicians from other groups for this 45, but the band was actually a working group. Roger Rodier described recording an acetate with the Mike Jones Group and traveling to New York to try for a record deal which didn’t materialize.
The original group, who recorded demos in New York that have yet to be released:
Mike Jones – lead vocals Bob Panetta – lead guitar Richard Dupuis – rhythm guitar Roger Rodier – bass Earl Kimble – drums
Mike Jones – lead vocals Bob Panetta – lead guitar (replaced by Richard Lasnier) Billy Smith – rhythm guitar George Legrady – keyboards Joe Campelone – bass Earl Kimble – drums
Jet Records was run by Don Wayne Patterson and distributed by London Records. Rumor had it there is a whole LP’s worth of material in the Jet vaults, but that seems to be an exaggeration.
Recently founding member Bob Panetta contacted me with the photos and some early history of the band:
I unearthed this rare photo of a later version of the Mike Jones Group. An old friend of the band, Louise D. had kept it in an old shoebox. From left to right: Bob Panetta lead guitar, George Legrady keyboards, Billy Smith rhythm guitar, Joe Camplone bass and vocals, Earl Kimble drums and Mike lead vocals.
When I met Mike at the St-Germain high school in Ville St-Laurent, I was already playing guitar for a few years. He was a great pop music aficionado. He had all the recent albums by Manfred Mann, The Animals, Stones, Beatles and the rest. We’d get together and learn all of the more obscure songs of these groups. We didn’t want people to tag us as a cover band.
We formed our first group The Forgotten, but it was just a garage band. I don’t think we ever played anywhere. Then we auditioned for Mel Younger who was to be our manager (he was also The Rabbles’ manager). We reformed the band with different musicians and changed our name to The Mike Jones Group with Earl Kimble on drums and Roger Rodier on bass. There was also a guy called Richard Dupuis on rhythm guitar. That’s the original band who went to New York to record a few demos.
We started at the Jail, a pretty hip little joint in the north-end of Montreal. We started getting a pretty good following of fans. As time went on we were playing bigger and bigger dance halls around Montreal. In those days there were literally hundreds of places you could play.
One of the more memorable places was the Bonaventure Curling Club in Dorval. That hall could contain thousands of people. If you were booked there, it meant that you had made it big in Montreal. There was also a place called the Hullabaloo but it’s kind of vague in my mind.
I was in the band for most of the journey and when I quit Richard Lasnier replaced me. They went on to record a single but the band broke up not long after that. I used to have a copy of the demos we recorded in New York but I lent them to some friends and never got them back.
I’ve been a musician all my life and still play to this day. In the ’60’s I played with a group called The Oven with Gary Marcus, a great guitarist and friend. We were the opening act for The Young Rascals at the Paul Sauvé arena if I recall. Then went on to backup French artists like Nicole Martin, Steve Fiset and Claire Lepage. Today I’m more into jazz & blues.
Keyboardist George Legrady wrote to me with some information about the band and also his later experience with the Haunted:
The Mike Jones group in Montreal consisted of Mike Jones (Michel Lachance) on vocals, Earl Kimble on drums, Joey Campelone on bass, Ricky on lead guitar, I think Bill Smith on rhythm guitar, (he and I later played in the Haunted with Bob Bosak, Johnny Monk, Gary Marcus) and I on keyboards. I was the last to join the band in January 1966. We rehearsed in the basement of a suburban house out in north Montreal – I think Pierre Dumouchel was the name of the roadie and it was his parents’ house.
We were together for about 1.5 years and played all the time. There was a lot of youthful “lets conquer the world” energy. I was the youngest at 16 as most of the others were between 18-19 which at that time seemed to make a big difference. We played week-ends mostly french Canadian dance halls. I remember competition were “The Sinners” but then we crossed paths with the Rabble, and did see and admire the Haunted. We began with Animals songs, and moved on to Kinks, and other top music of the time. It was a great experience to be part of this group as for me, I was still in high school and it definitely gave me a boost in the “getting out into the world” scheme of things.
The group was very eager to get Don Wayne as manager.
“Funny Felling” was recorded in a Montreal studio near Cotes-des-Neiges Blvd. The song was written right near the end of the band’s existence, in fact. I played a Hammond B3 with Leslie speaker, but on gigs I normally used a Hohner keyboard and Fender amplifier. I don’t have any photos, nor have kept in touch with anyone, but I do have a tape with three other songs. We used to play at a club called the “Jail” in east end Montreal and one of the songs begins with an intro by Don Wayne…I have to find it…
Mike Jones Group stayed together from 1966 to about 1968. The band broke up because Mike got the offer to become a recording engineer at the studio where we recorded “Funny Feeling” [and] reverted back to Michel Lachance. I knew Roger Rodier but don’t remember when he was with the band. I think before I was in it. I don’t know what happened to the players.
Q. I asked Jurgen Peter of the Haunted if any members were involved in the Mike Jones Group, and he said no, but maybe he just didn’t know about it?
Jurgen does not list me at his website: http://www.thehaunted.com/ and he may have a block about keyboard players as there were others who are not listed either. I was part of the last group consisting of Johnny Monk, Joey Toplay, Gary Marcus, Bill Smith. The original mythic power of the early “1-2-5” rock band Haunted was gone. Jurgen continued to rebuild the band, and I was in the last one which was more Doors/Hendrix/LCD/hippie direction. Our lead guitarist wore a long Japanese robe and sword and went barefoot on Trois-Rivieres TV.
Jurgen did not play anymore but was the manager. He would travel with Hank Squires in front of the truck. I was also the youngest in this band. Jurgen and I had some email exchanges a few years ago about the fact I am not listed, and he was not that receptive to my request to list me as keyboard player. In fact, the exchange could have been a bit more constructive.
Q. How long did you play with the Haunted?
I think it may have been about 8-9 months. My father was pressuring me to go to college, and I had to drop around May 1969. I remember this as I chose to stop playing the night when the Haunted opened for the Who at the Forum who were on their highly successful “Tommy” tour.
Q. I’m curious as to how separate the French and English music scenes were in Montreal, and if it changed between the mid and late 60s. Did the Mike Jones Group sing only in English?
Mike Jones and also the Haunted played at a lot of French gigs. The odd thing was that the French were crazy about R & B. With the Mike Jones group at the Jail, I remember the minute we would break in-between sets Wilson Picket’s “Midnight Hour” would be received with total joy by everyone. We would make jokes about it.
Q. The flip of the Haunted’s 45 “Vapeur Mauve” was a cover of Talk Talk in French called ‘Porquoi’. I’ve read this was a different group and the Haunted were not pleased about it showing up on the b-side of their record. Any idea who the band was and why this was done?
I am playing the keyboards on “Vapeur Mauve” but there was a previous keyboardist I met who played on “Out of Time” the Rolling Stones song and some other recordings…I forget his name…nice person. Jurgen Peter was the business manager and so he was the one negotiating all of this. We were all surprised about the fact that someone else was put on the back.
Don Wayne Patterson sent to me the photo above from the cover of Rag Pot no. 1 and wrote to me:
Managed and recorded Mike Jones Group – have an album in the vault and a 45 RPM one-sided French version of “Each and Every Day”. Also put out a lot of other Garage bands on my Jet Label. Have a full album in the can from King Beezz (Edmonton). And have several master tapes of Louis McKelvey bought at a garage sale in Montreal.
Published seven issues of RagPot promoting Canadian groups … missing vol. 1 no. 3 and hope to reprint all issues (book form) along with several columns I wrote for Hollywood’s Teen Screen magazine and a small Rosemere newspaper.
Sources include: Roger Rodier’s notes in the reissue of his 1972 LP Upon Velveatur (thanks to Ivan for pointing that out). Thank you to George Legrady and Bob Panetta for their help.
Where does a song like “A Someday Fool” come from? The parts are not much more than a steady snare beat, a repetitive fuzz riff, simple rhythm guitar and faked at-wits-end vocal, but the result is staggering, a template for what garage bands have been trying to do ever since. The unstoppable drum beat and the mesmerizing guitar really give this song its hooks, and they catch you fast.
The band was Glenn Grecco lead guitar, Graham Powers vocals, Mike Gauthier guitar, Glen Stephen bass and Bill Bryans on drums, from the Pointe Claire section of Montreal.
Their other 45s are excellent as well. You can hear that distorted guitar sound on their very first 45, “Please Don’t Ever Change”, which was a top ten Canadian hit in May of ’66. It was written by Glenn Grecco, who also wrote “A Someday Fool”, and backed with a slow ballad, “Sorry to Hear”.
Their second 45 featured a great British-sounding beat number, “I Can’t Go On” backed by one I haven’t heard yet, “The One Who Wants You”.
“It’s Too Late”, the flip of “A Someday Fool”, is maybe their most complex song, featuring organ, celeste, solid rhythm playing and good harmonies and was written by Grecco and Bill Bryans.
The band’s fourth and final 45, “Next to Nowhere” shows a more soulful direction, and lightly psychedelic. It was backed with “Remembering”, a well-crafted ballad with more fine harmonies, and a personal favorite of mine. This single also was released in the U.S. on the Mala label.
Bill Bryans has been keeping a blog, misterbryans, which is focused mainly on Cuban music, but he has an entry about the band that I’ll quote here, with his permission, along with the photo he posted:
We were called M.G. & The Escorts. This type of name was trendy back then, initials followed by a name (I’ve no idea why). The biggest group at the time was called J.B. & The Playboys – another suit band – who were from NDG [Notre-Dame-de-Grace]. We were from Pointe Claire, which was a bit more middle class. But eventually, we became more popular.
We did pretty good, we had a good run. We put out three singles that got a lot of airplay and we played every weekend in Montreal or Ottawa, Kingston, Brockville – that area of the country. We played teen clubs and high school dances mostly and a lot of “Battle of The Bands”, which were popular back then.
We had an advantage because my father owned a record store, so we could get the newest songs before anyone else because back then all the music came out as singles, and whoever could play the hit parade was the most popular. The hit parade was the best music back then. Albums were just the singles with a few filler tunes.
Everything changed in 67. Pop music began to get more complex. I remember seeing the Grateful Dead and The Jefferson Airplane at Expo 67 and that changed everything for me. I began to listen to Frank Zappa, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, blues music, free jazz, Aretha Franklin. I began to connect the music to the other things going on in the world, mostly triggered by the war in Viet Nam. I didn’t even hang out with the guys in MG & The Escorts anymore.
I followed up with a few short questions:
Q. I read a rumor that the group was going to record an album in Texas – is that true?
Billy Bryans: News to me although I’d love to know where you read the rumour.
[I read this in the liner notes to Nightmares from the Underworld, a great Canadian garage compilation by Andre Gibeault that was released over 20 years ago – but even there it’s called a rumor.]
Q. Was there much recorded that was never released?
Billy Bryans: I don’t believe so. We just recorded single by single.
Q. Did you ever play any TV shows – is there any live footage of the band?
Billy Bryans: We did play TV shows (usually lip-synching) but I’ve no idea if any of that footage exists.
In late 2010, Glen Stephen sent in photos and news clippings on the group. An article from Music Trend in June of ’67 quotes Bill Bryans: “we got to a point where we were out and out tired of the music we were playing. It had served a purpose for a while but … we want to put something into our performances now that we couldn’t do before with top 40 material. So, we’re drifting away from it but not divorcing ourselves altogether. We’ve learned a lot from watching the big name groups on the tours. Now I think we’ve become a little more artistic in our music rather than mechanical.”
The article continues “The groups [sic] has also finally produced a record that they are satisfied with,” and quotes Glen Grecco saying “We are really pleased with it. It’s a bigger sound and a bigger arrangement and not like the others which shouldn’t have been released. But at the time we didn’t have the money or the time to keep working at a track until it was an ideally perfect product. The record will be out in the beginning of July. We have no title for it yet but that’s because we haven’t been able to get together on the name.”
Since the article says the band’s previous record was “Someday Fool”, it seems the song they’re discussing is either “Next to Nowhere” or “Remembering”, the two sides of their last single.
I asked Glen Stephen about the Music Trend article, and also about the band’s early days:
I played in a couple of groups prior to M.G. and the Escorts. The first band was in high school in a group called the Crescents which focused on Buddy Holly songs. I later joined a group with Glenn Grecco and Billy Bryans in a group called the Strangers and the focus of the music was Cliff Richard and the Shadows.
The Stratocaster was purchased in New York City in 1961 and it was coral red. I played rhythm guitar and we used a Danelectro reverb for the lead guitar. Glenn Grecco could imitate the Shadows guitar sound to the letter. We also played the Chet Akins style of finger picking as there were several people in the Pointe Claire area that played that style.
I don’t remember the details of how the group formed into M.G. and the Escorts. Part of the group The Strangers joined with another part of a group with Graham Powers and Mike Gauthier.
Our first major performance as M.G. and the Escorts was at the Maurice Richard Arena where we were the opening act for the Beach Boys” Other groups we opened for were The Young Rascals, Tommy James and the Shondells, Neil Diamond, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Serendipity Singers, & the Happenings. Our group would play a lot of the top 40 of the hit parade, many of which involved four part harmony which we did fairly well.
We could see that there was a trend towards a heavier sound, ex. The Rolling Stones and we started to adjust accordingly, but still maintained much music that involved harmonies. That is where “Someday Fool” flowed from. There was no harmony, some background singing, but a solid beat which was different from the style we played.
The first recording we did was at Stereo Sound Studios where we recorded on a two track system which was one one of the better ones in Montreal. It cost $100/hour in the early 60s which was alot of money in those days. When recording you had to play and sing at the same time and make no mistakes or you would have to redo the song. Once completed you would hope for a good mix.
In one song, we recorded the guitar and lead on a 4 track tape machine in a house; brought the track to the recording studio and added in the drums and bass at the studio. The last song we recorded was in the RCA studio in Montreal which had a 4 track system. It was called “Next To Nowhere.”
Q. The article in Music Trend in June of ’67 mentions many long hours in a recording studio – what kinds of songs was the band working on? What became of them? Is it true the band had clearance for an album?
All the songs that we worked on in the studio, we recorded. There was some talk of an album. but it never materialized.
We played in the Garden of Stars at the World’s Fair in 1967 and it was not much longer after that that we disbanded.
Q. The article also says the band was in semi-retirement before June ’67? Is this true?
What we did was re-evaluate our direction and a change in the style of music. It was more of a time of reflection. We were offered a possible recording session to produce advertising music for French’s Sloppy Joe Mix. We were to go to Texas for the recording, but it didn’t materialize.
M.G. and the Escorts 45 releases:
Reo 8936 Please Don’t Ever Change / Sorry to Hear Reo 8960 I Can’t Go On / The One Who Wants You Reo 8975 A Someday Fool / It’s Too Late (early 1967) Reo 8998 Next to Nowhere / Remembering (released in the U.S. on Mala 582) (late 1967)
Thank you to Billy Bryans and Glen Stephen for the photos and clippings and for answering my questions. Thanks to Ivan Amirault for many of the scans from RPM.
Update, April 2012:
I’m sorry to hear that Billy Bryans passed away on April 23, 2012. Bill was seventeen when he started recording with the Escorts, and he spent the rest of his live working in music as musician, promoter, producer, and writer.
Is this the same band as Les Chantels who had several 45s on the Fantastic and A1 labels, including “L’avion de Son”? Some sources say so, but it seems unlikely to me.
The sound is just too different. The band doing “Shaggy Baggy Joe” is extremely well produced compared to the murkier sound of many Montreal bands. As musicians they’re more accomplished than Les Chantels, nor do they use fuzz on the guitar. Plus there’s the fact that both of these songs are sung in English. Why would a jeans maker sponsor a French speaking band to make a promotional 45 in English? Furthermore, the songwriter on both these sides, one “Henry” does not match any of the names of Les Chantels.
Uncertainty aside, here are two very catchy numbers, with “Have You Ever Felt Blue” having a slight edge in my book. The guitarist throws in all kinds of riffs and the lyrics to both songs are a laugh. “Baggys are out … TeeKays are in!”
Since posting this there have been a lot of comments with more info. Also, their excellent first single (I think) has just been posted up at Mr Ed Music Round Up.
Another promotion for TeeKays (thanks to J. at Alpha Pest)