Richie Knight and the Mid-Knights


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

Recordings:

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)

Musicians on above songs: Knight, Semkiw, Stein, Lloyd, Brough & Chappell

1964 – Homework/Come Back – Try Me (Arc 1047)
1965 – Think It Over/You Hurt Me (Arc 1076)

Musicians on above songs: Knight, Semkiw, Stein, Reeves & Chappell

1965 – Packin’ Up/I’ll Go Crazy (Arc 1078)
1965 – One Good Reason/My Kind Of Love (Arc 1110)

Musicians on above songs: Knight, Semkiw, Stein, Reeves & Chappell

1966 – That’s Alright/Work Song (RCA Victor 3392)

Musicians on above songs: Knight, Semkiw, Stein, Reeves, Chappell & Bell

as The Mid-Knights (Richard Newell, vocals)

1968 – Soul Man/Somebody Somewhere Needs You (Warner Bros. 7180)

Musicians on above songs: Newell, Semkiw, Stein, Reeves, Chappell, Pinkerton, Stilwell, Cairns, Smith & Shymansky

Unreleased tracks

The Mid-Knights Blues Band

Goin’ To New York
Shotgun
Whatcha Gonna Do About It
99 1/2
Don’t Fight It
Keep on Tryin’
Respect

Musicians on above songs: Bell, Newell, Semkiw, Stein, Reeves & Chappell

Mid-Knights Big Blues Band

Knock on Wood
Uptight
You Don’t Know Like I Know

Musicians on above songs: Newell, Semkiw, Stein, Reeves, Chappell, Pinkerton, Stilwell, Cairns, Smith & Shymansky

Mid-Knights Revue

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
Turn On Your Lovelights
When You Comin’ Home
Keep Me Hangin’ On
Losing You
Piece of My Heart
To Sir With Love

Musicians on above songs: Querci, Titko, Semkiw, Stein, Reeves, Chappell, Pinkerton, Stilwell, Cairns, Smith & Shymansky


August 19, 2006 Mid-Knight reunion BBQ, from left, back row: Richie Knight, Barry Lloyd; front row: Doug Chappell, George Semkiw, Barry Stein, Mike Brough

27 thoughts on “Richie Knight and the Mid-Knights”

  1. Great story. All I can add to this is some charted information that I’ve come across.

    Charlena entered the CHUM Chart in July of 1963 and had a 12 week run with a top position as we know of number one.

    One Good Reason charted on the national RPM Chart, entering on November 8, 1965 and reaching it’s highest position of number 33, it charted for 2 weeks.

    That’s Alright charted in RPM as well. Entering June 13, 1966 for a 7 week run. It’s highest position was number 41.

  2. I had completely forgotten and missed finding the RPM Chart history fro “One Good Reason” and “That’s Alright”.
    Can you please advise where you found that info??

  3. I have a book that was published in the late 70’s called A Chartology Of Canadian Popular Music – January 1965 to December 1976. Written by Brendan J. Lyttle. It lists all Canadian content 45’s and LP’s that charted in RPM Magazine in that time period. It lists the information I’ve provided above and the label and catalogue number for each record. This book is long out of print and very hard to find now.

  4. Hi guys…Brendan J. Lyttle here in Calgary. I was the guy who wrote and compiled that report
    mentioned earlier with RPM chart positions etc…I was the original bass player with the
    STAMPEDERS but left before their big hit “SWEET CITY WOMAN”.

    My new book covers 110 years of Canadian music and at present is over 3,000 pages containing
    between 9,500 and 10,000 Canadian artists, 40,000 song titles and approx. 14,000 albums, ep’s,
    and cd’s, with release dates, all chart positions where available, MAPL logos and label numbers.

    But I can’t get a grant to finish it. At the rate I’m going, it will be finished by 2050!

    Would love to talk to Barry Lloyd here in Calgary or get in touch with Doug Chappell by e-mail because I knew him at A & M in the seventies when he would get me free product;

    Brendan J Lyttle in Calgary at………b.j.lyttle@shaw.ca or…..1-403-274-4787…..THANX

  5. Great to see you guys still walking upright – I remember many nights in the sixties hauling the van around the countryside and playing gigs-you guys were great to be with- good music and good times. Rob

  6. For George Semkiw,

    Do you know if the UNRELEASED TRACKS below: are available in any format today?

    Unreleased tracks

    The Mid-Knights Blues Band

    Goin’ To New York
    Shotgun
    Whatcha Gonna Do About It
    99 1/2
    Don’t Fight It
    Keep on Tryin’
    Respect

    Musicians on above songs: Bell, Newell, Semkiw, Stein, Reeves & Chappell

    Mid-Knights Big Blues Band

    Knock on Wood
    Uptight
    You Don’t Know Like I Know

    Musicians on above songs: Newell, Semkiw, Stein, Reeves, Chappell, Pinkerton, Stilwell, Cairns, Smith & Shymansky

    Mid-Knights Revue

    Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
    Turn On Your Lovelights
    When You Comin’ Home
    Keep Me Hangin’ On
    Losing You
    Piece of My Heart
    To Sir With Love

    Musicians on above songs: Querci, Titko, Semkiw, Stein, Reeves, Chappell, Pinkerton, Stilwell, Cairns, Smith & Shymansky

    I’m still in regular touch with Bill (Pinky) Pinkerton & FYI, I can be found on Facebook!

    Best regards,

    Sam Moledzki

  7. Rob: The last gig that I worked with the Mid Nights was at the Mercer Reformatory for Women!
    Were you there ?

    Sam

  8. Hi Sam I remember Mercer and The young Ladies that hit on the band and tried to get out of the place with us when we left at the end of the gig

  9. Do you know if the UNRELEASED TRACKS below: are available in any format today?

    Unreleased tracks

    The Mid-Knights Blues Band

    Goin’ To New York
    Shotgun
    Whatcha Gonna Do About It
    99 1/2
    Don’t Fight It
    Keep on Tryin’
    Respect

    Musicians on above songs: Bell, Newell, Semkiw, Stein, Reeves & Chappell

    Mid-Knights Big Blues Band

    Knock on Wood
    Uptight
    You Don’t Know Like I Know

    Musicians on above songs: Newell, Semkiw, Stein, Reeves, Chappell, Pinkerton, Stilwell, Cairns, Smith & Shymansky

    Mid-Knights Revue

    Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
    Turn On Your Lovelights
    When You Comin’ Home
    Keep Me Hangin’ On
    Losing You
    Piece of My Heart
    To Sir With Love

    Musicians on above songs: Querci, Titko, Semkiw, Stein, Reeves, Chappell, Pinkerton, Stilwell, Cairns, Smith & Shymansky

    I’m still in regular touch with Bill (Pinky) Pinkerton & FYI, I can be found on Facebook!

    Best regards,

    Sam Moledzki

  10. I’m a son of Frank Querci’s of the mid-knights revue. I was wondering if you were able to track down any of those tracks? I can’t find any versions myself. It would mean a lot to me.

    Hope to hear back from you,

    Best Regards,

    Josh Querci

  11. Hey Josh,

    Good to meet you!

    Doug Chappell has contacted me and is offering to make a CD of the music for me & Pinky as well as one for you!

    Please email him your postal address to receive your copy!

    BTW, the last time I saw your dad was at a Restaurant opening in Scarborough @ Danforth Road & Eglinton Ave. many years ago and he gave me his business card. I think he was into Real Estate or something like that maybe?

    Josh, if you Google my name SAM MOLEDZKI, you’ll get a better idea of my personal life outside of the Roadie jobs with the Mid-Knights Revue & later, a brief stint with Shawne and Jay Jackson and The Majestics, simply called The Majestics when Pinky & I joined back in the day!

    Take care,

    Sam

  12. WoW good to hear the old music again… My family were friends with the Reeves and I saw Ray play many times at Peggys at Lake Simcoe.. Like to know what your doing now Ray… I am now living in Thailand… Gordon Everingham P.S. send me a note

  13. Dear Friends, I am sorry to report that we have lost Michael (Mikey) Brough.
    Mikey passed on April 28, 2014 due to complications from Parkinson’s that he had bravely fought for several years.
    That growling solo in Charlena has been silenced, the rest of the band feel that the 50th Anniversary show we played last year, is more important to us today.

  14. We are very sorry to hear that Michael Brough died on the 28th April 2014.
    We are his UK cousins who have been trying to contact him, but did not know where he lived apart from Toronto.

    maureenratchford [at] gmail [dot] com

    Please pass on our condolences to his family and if they wish to contact us, they can do so re the above email address.

    Kind regards
    Maureen, Delia, Glenda and Barbara

  15. My thanks to Doug Chappell in particular for this site, and to those who added their own memories. I was 16 years old at the time the band was coming into it’s own and living in Toronto (Weston area), and I have nothing but fond memories of listening to CHUM most of the days of summer and enjoying the music of Ritchie Knight and the Midnights. Ray Reeves was dating a girl who lived in my neighborhood, and I remember seeing him walking her home from high school on a regular basis. Always polite and courteous, even to younger guys like me who were envious of his position in life. Please keep the site alive and I encourage anyone else to add a few memories. If there is ever another band reunion and I find out about it I’ll be there.

  16. HI Gary, thanks for the note, yes Ray has always been a really good guy. By the way I have just moved to Niagara Falls ( Richie & George also live here as well) moving from Weston. My family lived for 41 years, our house was at the corner of Deerhurst & Woodward.

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