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DAFFODIL RECORDS

The Roots of Canadian Rock:
1970 to 1982

PART I: THE LABEL

Daffodil Records was conceived in the Penthouse Suite of the Playboy Club in London, England on July 16th 1969. It was a strange ‘union’ indeed - an Aussie music journalist, an Arkansas rockabilly star, and an English record company ‘management-trainee’- planning the formation of a Canadian independent record label, with international ambitions, out of the UK.

It was born of a friendship between Ritchie Yorke, the Aussie, and myself that had existed for a few years before this eventful meeting at Hugh Hefner’s pad in swinging London. Ritchie and I first met in 1966 while I was at EMI Records, the largest record company in the world at that time. He was the UK representative for Australia’s Sunshine Records and its biggest star, Australian Hall of Fame inductee Normie Rowe, as well as a freelance journalist for various international music publications. As was his wont, Ritchie was constantly on the hustle for the latest stories and pictures of England’s hottest acts, and I was fortunate to be working in the international division of the hottest label on earth and therefore able to provide them.

My job was marketing EMI’s vast array of English-based recording artists to the company’s affiliates around the world and to the international media. This included providing international journalists, DJs and TV producers with press packages, producing a weekly radio show called “Stars on Wings”, and setting up interviews with EMI’s star acts like the Beatles, the Hollies, Pink Floyd, the Yardbirds, Dave Clark 5 and many others. I also co-ordinated promotional television appearances and tours for the roster as well as the visiting international (read ‘American’) acts represented by EMI in Europe - back then global pop music was driven almost exclusively by these two countries alone. I was enamoured by music and the industry making it. I took out my first subscription to Billboard in 1959 at age 13 while attending English boarding school and later began my music career in France by writing for this international trade music ‘bible’ from 1964 to 1966.

But it was now the Summer of 69. What a time that was!  Just one month before Woodstock (August 15-17) – and also the peak of an unparalleled period of creative and cultural growth in the UK. As Withnail later mused on the moment “They’re selling hippy wigs in Woolworth’s, man. The greatest decade in the history of mankind is over…….and…. we have failed to paint it black”. England not only ‘swung’ in most every sense imaginable, it ‘ruled’ - musically and creatively. It was indeed “a wonderful time to be young and in love”.

And if you were young and motivated, suddenly anything and everything was possible (plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose). If you were an Englishman to boot, and in music, your accent alone magically opened doors for you in North America within the business. It provided instant street ‘cred’ - earned or not.

I had three main ambitions in the music business: one to work in America (I generally loved ‘American’ music more than the English music scene I was part of – Dylan, the Band, CSNY, Motown, Ray Charles etc, American folkmusic - and yes, I was shortly to learn that what I thought of as ‘American’ wasn’t in fact always so - frequently being Canadian); the second - to actually ‘produce’ the artists that I discovered and signed because I was convinced I had an uncanny ability for predicting hit songs – borne from years of religiously watching and digesting the charts, Top of the Pops and Juke Box Jury; and finally, to create a label that had the taste, music, image, and credibility of Island Records. It all sounded simple really. But never so simple in practice!

I had experimented with some production in England in 1968 with a group called the Bunch of Fives and a guitarist and protégé of the great Spanish maestro Segovia - Miles Dempster. Other than that my production experience (apart from sitting in on numerous Abbey Road sessions by the likes of the Hollies, Swinging Blue Jeans, and Cilla Black) was zero. I was not an engineer or a musician, but fortunately this was the era of Mickie Most, Larry Page, Andrew Oldham, Phil Spector – producers who relied on their gut instincts, personal taste, and just ‘knowing’ what hit songs were, more than a knowledge of music theory itself.

On the Island Records aspect of my ambitions, I did know Chris Blackwell slightly, courtesy of Ritchie, and already loved their music, their label, their jacket designs, and overall ‘cool’ factor. I had actually been presented with the opportunity of road-managing the wonderful Spencer Davis Group (fronted by Stevie Winwood) by Chris, as a result of that first meeting at his tiny offices on Oxford Street in 1968. As I recall, Island had perhaps 5 employees at that point in its existence, including David Betteridge who became a good friend in the business and who continued managing the Island operation for Chris for many years.

Of all the great English groups I went to see at the Marquee in the sixties, the SDG certainly left the most indelible mark. Stevie’s brother Muff (SDG’s bass player), who later became a leading A&R guy in the UK record business, also remained a good pair of ears for various future projects of mine. I was to reconnect with Chris and the label a few years later by playing a part in his launch of Island Records as an independent in North America, following many successful years as a licensed label – but more on that later.

So, back to the 1969 meeting at the Playboy - where Ronnie and Ritchie had taken up temporary residence.  Ritchie by this time was living in Canada and this trip back to London was to accompany the infamous Rompin’ Ronnie Hawkins (he of Arkansas birth) on a promotional trip - combining the release of The Hawk’s Atlantic Record’s debut produced by Jerry Wexler, alongside spreading John Lennon’s message “War Is Over: If You Want It - Give Peace A Chance” ideology. John and Yoko had spent time at the Hawk’s place outside Toronto and had made believers of Hawkins, and Ritchie particularly, in their campaign for peace. Ritchie later organised the meetings with Pierre Trudeau and other political figures during the infamous Montreal hotel bed-in that grabbed worldwide headlines for John and Yoko.  Even as I write this, Ritchie is completing a book, with Yoko’s blessing and support, on the incredible efforts the couple made to make a difference and make a change in the universal attitude to war.

The plan we discussed was for me to run this label we would create, and to produce and publish the artists we signed, while Ronnie would be a scout and artist-magnet and provide start-up funds and offices for the venture. Ronnie’s lawyer John Finlay would take care of all the legals, and we would bend the ears of our mutual friend and catalyst, Ritchie, to hopefully say nice things in the press about all the acts we signed.

Later that year, on December 27th 1969, after he and Ronnie had spent time back in Canada discussing our UK meeting and the plans emanating from it, Ritchie called from Toronto to tell me that the stage was set - Ronnie was ‘in’ - and that I should come over to Canada to sit down and work out the specifics and see how I liked the country.

I arrived in Canada in February 1970 when “All Right Now” by Free (on Island Records) was the #1 record in the UK and “Thank You” by Sly & The Family Stone was #1 Stateside (and incidentally “No Time” by the Guess Who was #6!). I stayed with Ritchie and his first wife Annette – a photographer and an Aussie too. This was to be a trial trip for me, though the ‘trial’ ended shortly after touching down in Toronto (courtesy of the now long-defunct Caledonian Airways) by turning quickly to love at first sight. My first time ever in North America and in the middle of a Canadian winter – what a thrill!

It just so happened it was glorious weather, warm and sunny and I wondered what all the ‘freezing-fuss’ was about as I spent several weeks with the Yorkes getting to meet the surprisingly few people in the Canadian industry back then, and getting to know this ‘provincial’ town which was a far cry from the cosmopolitan/multicultural city it is today.

We checked out a lot of the local talent; which was, to paraphrase Billy Joe Shaver, a real, raw, passionate ‘sackful’ of coal that was destined to be diamonds someday. Great players, steeped in a unique hybrid of tight, white r’n’b grooves and rock’n’roll soul and confined to hundreds of small, funky, dirty Ontario clubs and bars where they honed their considerable talents. I went to the first ever Juno Awards held at St. Lawrence Hall on February 23rd and attended by a small group of local industry execs and recording artists.

Ritchie and I spent the next few years wondering why Canadians were such wimps about their weather. We flaunted the cold – wearing T-shirts in midwinter and spending as much time outside and in the country as we could. Indeed just a year after arriving in Canada the Yorkes and I decided to head for Hudson Bay (Moosonee) to experience the real Canada, on a train ride to beat them all. It was novel to us back then, but now that I am a ‘real’ Canadian ‘habitant’, so to speak - having experienced 38 such winters - I do understand better what the whining was all about! And so does Ritchie, who conveniently headed back to subtropical Brisbane in the mid-1980s with his second wife Christine!

Ronnie’s back-up band And Many Others, who had replaced the  recently departed Hawks (they’d gone to Woodstock with Dylan - but were now known as The Band), had already started fooling around (literally) in Terry Brown and Doug Riley’s Toronto Sound Studios (previously Revolution Studios) by the time I arrived. I immediately found myself thrown into the deep end as their producer during this ‘exploratory visit’, embarking on a full scale production to complete an album (“Official Music”) forthwith.

Ronnie renamed the group ‘Crowbar’ shortly after they split from him, as a dual reference to the nature of its members (“They could fuck up a crowbar in 10 seconds flat!’’) and its ‘dangerously disruptive’ live show. When the King Biscuit Boy, who had been Ronnie’s harmonica player and sometimes lead vocalist, also then left him, the collective group became King Biscuit Boy with Crowbar. ‘Biscuit’s’ real name was Richard Newell. Ronnie had given him the ‘Biscuit’ moniker after a flour mill-sponsored radio program out of Helena, Arkansas.

My first business meeting during the February 1970 trip was with then President of Capitol Records – Ron Plumb. Capitol was my first choice because of course it was owned by my ‘Alma Mater’, EMI Records UK. I had also had a number of dealings with its U.S sister company while still in England, as well as with Capitol Canada’s A&R head – Paul White - who would send me acts like the Staccatos (later the Five Man Electrical Band) to check out for possible European release.

I explained our plan for the label to Plumb and he seemed interested despite the fact that no Canadian independent label had ever been distributed by a ‘major’ before. By the time I returned to the UK to get my immigration papers, and headed back to Canada in the late spring of 1970 Ron was on the brink of retirement and was being replaced by Arnold Gosewich, the owner of a record store chain in Ottawa who had just sold his stores to Capitol and was to become President of the label. 

Arnold embraced the idea of a Canadian indie label which would find, sign, produce and develop its own acts, while Capitol would provide the marketing and distribution for it. Arnold felt that having a young entrepreneur from the UK with some EMI credibility and experience to head it up, along with Ronnie’s notoriety and local fame to act as its ‘flagbearer’, and with the initial exposure in Billboard and elsewhere that Ritchie had already accorded us, was a good combination and he agreed to the deal.

And so Daffodil, named as a symbol of spring and new beginnings (not to forget its personal connection as the national flower of Wales, my motherland), two publishing companies - Freewheeled Music and Love-Lies-Bleeding Music (both named in homage to my musical inspiration Dylan), Love Management (a management division), and LOVE Productions Limited, the parent company of them all, were now officially in business. LOVE was actually formally ‘born’ (incorporated) on May 7th 1970. 

We left ourselves free to licence or sell our product in the rest of the world, as we saw fit. We produced our first album “Official Music” for about $6000 and all on credit - thank you Terry and Doug for giving us that valuable breathing room to pay the bills!

We signed the label deal with Capitol, and moved into the Hawks Nest at 331 Yonge Street in Toronto, where the HMV flagship store now stands today. It was Ronnie’s office, gym, and boxing ring, as well as the general hangout for most local and visiting artists - including Ted Nugent who would sleep in my office on his trips up from Detroit, and ‘Spirit’ (she of Strawberry Fields notoriety), among many others.

Not long after finishing Official Music, I assigned the rights to the album (and future options for the artist) to the recently formed and then ‘hot’ U.S label Paramount Records for the world, excluding Canada and Australasia. We had already set up a label deal for our product downunder through Festival Records in what I believe was the first ever Canadian label distribution deal outside Canada.

By the end of 1970, not much more than six months after startup, the first major change to the label’s structure occurred when I acquired Ronnie and his lawyer John Finlay’s interest in the company. Our plans for Ronnie’s involvement had been over-optimistic. He had his own career as an artist that was all-consuming at that moment, and the funds he had planned to invest in the label never materialised. So for $10,000 he and Finlay agreed to sell me their shares, and shortly thereafter Daffodil officially moved out of the Hawk’s Nest and into the Capitol Records building on American Drive near Toronto’s international airport – into what became EMI’s A&R office suite right to the end of 2008.

Through an introduction from Ritchie, I had engaged a lawyer - Peter Steinmetz - to represent the label’s future legal interests, since Finlay was really Ronnie’s man, and in so doing somewhat unconsciously introduced Peter, a young, ambitious and already ascending corporate lawyer, into a lifetime career in the music and entertainment business – from which platform, fortunately for the emerging Canadian industry, he has carved out an illustrious career, and place, in this country’s entertainment business history.

Things then started to move so fast that it is hard for me to comprehend how we did it all, looking back these many years later. But no less than 39 separate business trips that I took both within Canada and internationally during those first two years after moving to Canada perhaps attest to just what we were intending to accomplish, and the energy and drive we mustered to do so.

These trips included 18 separate visits to New York, 4 to Europe, 11 to Canadian destinations, and 6 to other U.S cities all within that 24 month period. And this for someone coming from a business culture where I had to actually pay for my own business trips to France, Belgium, and Scandinavia initially as a EMI UK trainee – because only Assistant and full Managers’ trips were then paid for by the company. Indeed, as a sign of those times, it is interesting to note that George Martin and the other senior A&R guys at Manchester Square (like Ron Richards, John Burgess, Norman Newell, Norrie Paramor, Bob Barratt) were not even credited on the records they produced back then, and EMI’s standard artist contracts were just two pages long!

My new travelling regime was being done while simultaneously producing albums, managing and publishing most of the acts, and running the fledgling record label out of my one bedroom Warren Road apartment, all with a total paid staff of one – Marlene Duhacek - and her not until March 1971. This was accomplished through the dedicated and committed involvement of Peter, as lawyer and confidante, and the generous and liberal time spent by Ritchie in helping with many of the PR, Press, and Promotional concepts for the acts signed in that first couple of years. He was not dubbed ‘Supergrease’ for nothing!

I started signing other artists to the label – almost all of whom (like KBB & Crowbar) we managed and published too, and most of whom I also produced. These artists were all Canadian, including the next artist signing in 1971 - the Oshawa progressive hardrock group Christmas, formed from the San Francisco-inspired, psychedelic group Reign Ghost - featuring a certain Lynda Squires as its lead singer on their two previously released albums.  Lynda shortly after became my wife.  We honeymooned in Montreal while attending one of the innovative Maple Music Junket concerts put on for Europe’s press elite who had been specially flown in for the occasion.  

This signing was later followed by the heavy melodic A Foot In Coldwater (1972), pop/glamrock band Fludd in 1973 (managed by William ‘Skinny’ Tenn and self-published), folksinger Joe Probst (1973), singer- songwriter Tom Cochrane (1973), the multi-dimensional concept band Klaatu (1974), the George Martin-produced renaissance music ensemble the Huggett Family (1974), and progressive jazz-rock group Dillinger (1975), who later morphed into the hardrock Hunt.

We also released a number of singles by various other artists during these years – simply as one-offs or with the hope of singles leading to albums. And in certain cases we licensed our productions to other Canadian labels rather than release them on Daffodil.

We did make a significant foreign signing in this period – the Spanish arranger/conductor Waldo De Los Rios (whose albums featured well known classical music pieces recorded with a rock band and the Madrid Symphony Orchestra). Waldo gave Daffodil our first Platinum album in 1971.

In the summer of 1972 I got a visit from one of Capitol’s young warehouse staff who came to tell me how much he admired what the label was doing and that he’d love to work for us. When I explained that we had absolutely no funds to employ anybody right then but would hopefully be in a position to do so in a year or two, he offered to work for nothing for a few months until we could then afford to pay him ‘something’, anything.  And he did! And he of Scottish origin? Amazing! That sort of commitment was an early sign of what was to become an unparalleled career in the Canadian record industry.

So just two weeks before Christmas, a still teenage Deane Cameron got officially added to our payroll as Production Manager. His energy, enthusiasm, and his love of music and the business of making it bode well for his future all those years ago. In fact recently Deane not only celebrated 30 years of continuous work for Capitol/EMI - he returned to Capitol in 1977 after Daffodil’s A&M and GRT distribution years - but he also celebrated 20 years as the company’s youngest ever President. While at Daffodil, it was Deane that introduced me to his former high school bandmate - Tom Cochrane.

By the end of 1972, with an artist roster then boasting A Foot In Coldwater, Christmas, Waldo and others joining the King Biscuit Boy and Crowbar, we felt Daffodil was on course to become the ‘new’ Island, or the next Chrysalis (another more recently successful English label that also became a major inspiration to me for its tasteful and musical take on everything it did – from jacket covers to marketing its acts).

Our confidence was high. 

We had Clive Davis and Ron Alexenburg at CBS Records in New York proposing a U.S label deal for us, after overtly trying to woo three of our artists away from us via their Canadian operation. They did later end up getting two of them to sign directly to their U.S labels (Epic and Columbia) after our label deal negotiations fizzled out! At the same time the late Bob Guccione wanted several of our acts for his newly formed Penthouse Records venture.

Our very first two album releases had both made the U.S bestseller charts (not to mention the Canadian recognition they had already garnered); we had no less than three of Capitol’s top 6 best-selling albums; and with the generally incredible press our releases were being accorded by the leading music publications of the day - from Rolling Stone, to Creem, Fusion, Crawdaddy, the L.A Times, NME, the Village Voice and everything in between - we felt we had it all. And we did…………. except the money to keep it going!

By early 1973 it was clear Daffodil was over-extended financially. We were trying to conquer the world on credit, and the goodwill of creditors who believed in us; and being in an era when rock’n’roll was not taken seriously as a business in Canada – more as a target of envy and derision by the ‘establishment’ – we could not access bank loans or secure credit facilities or even venture capital money, try as hard as we did to do so. Peter Steinmetz and I scoured the Bay Street universe and beyond for financial assistance throughout 1973; but ultimately with no success.  In late June I advised my small staff that if Daffodil had not secured any financing by the end of July I’d have to close the company down until we did.

Peter then made the vital connection through one of the articling students at his law firm of Cassels Brock & Blackwell. The student was William O.S (a/k/a Wild Billy) Ballard, top of his class at the prominent Osgoode Hall law school and son of the Toronto Maple Leafs owner Harold Ballard. Bill had heard about this ‘happening’ new record label Peter represented, and its search for money, and met with me on September 24th 1973. Bill then had me meet with his father Harold Ballard and Maple Leaf Gardens CFO Donald Crump on November 21st to discuss the possibility further.  When he mentioned that meeting to his best friend Myron Wolfe (of the Oshawa Group supermarket family), and that both the King Biscuit Boy and Crowbar were acts on the label, the fates interceded.

Myron, being the blues afficionado that he was (and is), already had albums by both acts in his collection, and among his favourites, so he and Bill met with me in early December to see how they could help. And so they did!

Together with Bill’s partner in concert promotion, Michael Cohl (through the fledgling company CPI that they jointly owned), the three of them took a position in Daffodil by providing debt financing to us; and generously allowed me to retain a majority interest in the future of it. It is interesting to note (and speaks much of the times that existed then in Canada), that outside of these young entrepreneurs our most interested potential investor had been the First National Bank of Chicago!

One of the casualties of these cashflow problems, was having to permanently shelve two important projects:

“Save The Seals” was an album we had put together painstakingly over the course of more than a year and with some wonderfully big-hearted, generous and unique contributions. We were readying its release on Daffodil just as we ran into difficulty. This was a not-for-profit effort to generate funds for the World Wildlife Fund, and to create public awareness for the plight of the seal pups and their mothers on Canada’s east coast. Long before Paul McCartney and Heather Mills got into the fray some 30+ years later, people like Farley Mowatt, Brigitte Bardot and Brian Davies (particularly), were incensed about the mindless, merciless, and inhumane slaughter of baby seals on the ice floes around the coastline of our modern, ‘civilised’ country for their beautiful, untainted fur. These courageous individuals were pushing for a worldwide condemnation and ban of this practice. We agreed with their stance and wanted to do something about it in a way we knew best - through music and internationally recognised artists.

Artists like Steve Winwood, comedian Spike Milligan (the Goons), Rolf Harris, Procol Harum’s lyricist Keith Reid, songwriter Sammy Cahn, film-maker Harry Saltzman, Traffic, Stephen Stills, David Clayton-Thomas, and others contributed music, spoken poems, short plays, and words to the project.  I was able to secure written contributions from Lord (Roy) Thomson of Fleet and Sir Peter Scott, Chairman of the World Wildlife Fund -who also agreed to write the liner notes - after personal meetings with them both in London. The Black Star photo agency provided a stunning front cover image. I still have all of their contributions and of course, ironically, the problem that spawned the idea in the first place is still with us.

The second project that fell victim to our insolvency was Miles Dempster, a superb young classical guitarist from England, but then living in Mexico, who had been a protégé of Segovia in Spain and with whom I intended to create a concept album using multilayered, overdub techniques previously unemployed in the world of the classical guitar. This approach was extremely difficult for anyone but the most disciplined technician and disciple of the instrument to execute. Miles and I experimented with the idea at Toronto Sound and to the limited extent we did, the results were striking.

So with the new funding now secured from our intrepid investors Daffodil got back into completing the production of the second album by Christmas – by then renamed the Spirit of Christmas and with a new lead singer - which had been in hiatus during my search for money.

Billy Ballard and Myron Wolfe remained as shareholders (along with Peter Steinmetz and CPI) right up to the final sale I made of the company’s masters in 1996, but more importantly than that, they have all remained ‘lifelong’ friends.

In between the two Capitol licensed label deals - from 1970 to 1974 and again from 1978 to 1982 - Daffodil secured a P&D  deal with Gerry Lacoursiere and Joe Summers at A&M for one year in 1974/5, and then a three year licensed-label deal with Ross Reynolds at GRT Canada from 1975-78.

The reason for the A&M deal was multifold – but was led principally by the leftfield success we had, through Capitol’s distribution, with the artist Waldo De Los Rios - licensed to us by Hispavox Records in the artist’s native Spain. Ritchie had been working with Hispavox helping publicize their very successful pop artist Miguel Rios (not related) in America. Miguel’s producer Rafael Trabucchelli used Waldo (who he also produced) to score and conduct the orchestra for Miguel’s records. Hispavox had played Ritchie the first orchestral album (Sinfonias) by Waldo which was a beautifully produced and arranged pop rendition of various great classical pieces, using orchestra and rock band; and after Ritchie turned me on to it, Daffodil acquired the Canadian rights to the album along with Waldo’s future output.

Much against Capitol’s wishes we released the then unknown - outside of Spain - artist and album (“Sinfonias”) in Canada and met with incredible radio response out of the box (led by Art Collins at CFRB) and consumer reaction followed quickly. Capitol’s marketing team had been convinced that there was no sales potential for such a hybrid of rock and classical music and refused to release it initially, let alone devote any funds to the marketing of it. After a Mexican-standoff that held up the release, Daffodil offered to cover all of Capitol’s marketing and manufacturing costs. Capitol relented and somewhat begrudgingly put the album out. I think they were so taken with the degree of our belief in it they capitulated just to save the relationship. We were both glad they did. The album went ‘platinum’ in Canada and by the time we were preparing its follow-up, Mozartmania, the first album had also hit the charts in the U.S. Mozartmania which came out on 15/10/71 was also a platinum record for us and two further Waldo albums we released (Operas, and Christmas with Waldo) went ‘gold’ as well - and a fifth (Great Movie Themes) almost got there. Needless to say, Capitol never did charge us back for those marketing costs!

So with that success, combined with the buzz and international releases we had created for our own Canadian acts, along with the distribution rights to the Immediate Records catalogue which had also done well for us, we decided we had the sales base to actually start making money by going the P&D (Pressing and Distribution only) route.

P&D deals meant a bigger share of the profits for labels, since their distributors were only required to press and distribute the product – not record it, market it, or promote it. Waldo’s five albums had fulfilled the initial license deal with Hispavox and we were now in negotiation with them to re-sign another term for Waldo’s future product, in conjunction to moving our label to A&M.

Unfortunately, and here was the first of several pivotal ‘moments’ for us as a label and company, Hispavox chose to sign instead with Warner Music worldwide giving Warner’s Canadian branch the rights here. Certainly Warner’s advances and royalty levels would have probably been higher than what we were capable of offering, but we were stung badly by the decision; particularly after being responsible for breaking the artist in North America in the first place. Ironically those future Warner releases never came anywhere close to matching the sales we had done, and particularly sadly and tragically, Waldo, for reasons unknown to us, took his own life a short while after.

Another such ‘turning point’ for Daffodil - or “Major Interference”, as I called it - and another reason for our move to A&M’s distribution, was an earlier decision by Capitol Canada not to export into the U.S the two Peter Frampton/Steve Marriott-led Humble Pie albums (Town & Country and As Safe As Yesterday Is) that we had acquired from the Immediate Records label in the UK, and that we’d been selling in Canada for some time.

I had made the deal for Immediate with the late Frank Chalmers at EMI in London, who I’d worked with in the 60s. EMI was one of the main creditors of the recently-bankrupted Immediate record label and had worldwide distribution rights to its masters.  The label had been created by Andrew Oldham and Tony Calder. They’d built a very ‘cool’ and eclectic artist roster during and after Oldham’s notorious period managing and producing the early Rolling Stones.

Although Humble Pie had gained a solid reputation in the UK and in Canada too, they had remained unsigned in the U.S - despite significant demand from their American fans for their product due to their live touring success there. Sometime after we had released the second of their albums in Canada, A&M in the U.S decided to sign the group.  A&M then announced that the band’s first release in America, scheduled for a few months later, would be a double album titled “Lost & Found” - which was in fact our two albums combined. We had U.S importers scrambling to buy our product; requesting almost a quarter million copies of the two albums. These would, of course, have been available to them immediately - months before A&M’s local release. While Daffodil could not contractually manufacture and sell this product directly in the U.S, we were not prohibited from exporting finished product, and this appeared to be a huge potential windfall for the label.

Capitol’s U.S lawyers however felt that exporting this amount of product was contentious and might inflame the already simmering debate about cross-shipping/trans-shipping product into the U.S, as a result of Canada’s lower wholesale prices (and much lower dollar). So they refused to do so. The late John Macleod (Capitol Canada’s VP of Business Affairs at the time) went to bat for us, but to no avail.

It was a costly moment that we had fought hard but unsuccessfully; and the effect of it motivated us to seek greater control of our own destiny, as well as a desire to increase our mark-up on future product sold. Hence the decision to seek a P&D deal (ironically from A&M in Canada), over the license deal with Capitol. And to complicate matters further, we completed this P&D deal with A&M before we found out that Waldo was to be signed to Warner Canada instead of Daffodil.

Around this time in 1974, in conjunction with our new financing and the new agreement with A&M, I made a deal to oversee the launch of Island Records as an independent label in Canada with Chris Blackwell (its owner) and Charlie Nuccio (its U.S President). Island would operate alongside Daffodil in Canada under my direction and would use and share the costs of our now ramped-up staff that I’d taken on to oversee both labels. Island’s product was distributed by Quality initially; and then A&M thereafter, alongside our own.

After just a year, and without Waldo’s platinum sales base to increase our ‘bottomline’ after all, and with still very limited operating funds to pay for the production and marketing of our acts, we had to end the P&D deal with A&M and let go the excellent cross-Canada staff I’d taken on. We moved Daffodil’s distribution on to GRT Canada under a licensing agreement made with Ross Reynolds, GRT’s then President.

The deal with Ross and GRT was a lifesaver at the time. Even though we had managed to rescue Daffodil from imminent bankruptcy, we did not have sufficient ongoing funds to pay me or anyone else a salary, or cover much, if any, of the future recording costs. In exchange for paying me to oversee GRT’s music publishing interests, and handling their artist roster internationally – which included Dan Hill, Ian Thomas, Prism, and Moe Koffman - GRT agreed to fund the ongoing recording costs of Daffodil’s artists on a first-option basis.  This required me to convince GRT’s A&R head (Jeff Burns) on an artist-by-artist/project-by-project basis to provide the funding for our future productions, or find it elsewhere.

During the GRT years from 1975-78, we did manage to get the 2nd Dillinger album (“Don’t Lie To The Band”) paid for by a private investor and fan from Detroit, after GRT passed on the act, and then later made a deal with Marty Scott at Jem/Passport in the U.S for an additional three albums by the same group when they changed their line-up and went ‘hard-rock’ as the Hunt. GRT distributed all of these albums for Daffodil in Canada, save for the last Hunt album (which Capitol distributed).

GRT was not prepared to finance an album with Tom Cochrane but did agree to provide funding for two singles – the first was “Softly Walk Away” produced for us by Fred Mollin & Matt Macauley who had just had a huge international hit with Dan Hill’s “Sometimes When We Touch”. This single became Tom’s biggest Top 40 hit on Daffodil, and provided the incentive to GRT to fund another single - “Sail On” - which I asked Terry Brown to produce. TRIVIA: Unbeknownst to almost anybody to this day, Brown used the then unknown Klaatu to back-up Tom on this single.

We also got GRT to record one more single with A Foot In Coldwater – “Midnight Lady” but, as in all these cases, I really needed albums to back up the singles and to get live dates for the artists - in order to keep their careers moving forward. GRT was, somewhat understandably, focused on putting money into its own artist signings where it would be assured of an undivided, larger return. When their American parent went bankrupt just a couple of years after our distribution deal with them ended, and GRT’s Canadian operation had to shut its doors too, it became clearer why.

Most importantly of all though, the work that I did for GRT, and the salary they paid me for it, enabled me to keep working all the Daffodil projects – and most particularly Klaatu. Terry Brown was financing their production through his studio, right up until I secured their U.S deal with Capitol, so that enabled us to be completely autonomous with this very special project. Klaatu’s first two albums (“3:47 EST” and “Hope”) were distributed for us by GRT, and went Platinum and Gold in Canada, respectively.

We moved the label back to Capitol Canada in 1978 in conjunction with an exclusive production deal with Capitol U.S through a new production company I had formed - Partisan Music Productions (the first ever exclusive production deal between a Canadian and a U.S Major). These deals were instigated by Rupert Perry and Deane Cameron at Capitol. The only new albums we released on Daffodil from that point forward were by Klaatu (“Sir Army Suit” and “Endangered Species”) and The Hunt (“Thrill Of The Kill”).

From 1978 onwards no new acts were signed to the Daffodil label while I focused on developing acts for Partisan and Capitol worldwide. Capitol Canada continued to distribute the label until the late eighties at which time I licensed the rights to several Daffodil albums, on an artist-by-artist basis, to various distributors in Canada and the U.S (Stony Plain, Attic, Pacemaker, BEI, Laser’s Edge and Permanent Press). In the mid 1990s I sold all the Daffodil masters to Unidisc in Montreal with the exception of Tom Cochrane’s debut album (Hang On To Your Resistance) which was acquired by Capitol/EMI - Tom’s label from 1975-2005!

Daffodil’s swansong and its very last release was A Foot In Coldwater’s “Keep The Candle Burning”, a track recorded some years before, that I had always felt should have been a single.

This boxset will hopefully achieve the goal of keeping a candle burning for this wonderfully diverse, sometimes eclectic, but always interesting group of talented artists and their work.

Footnote: The Daffodil label and Klaatu – As an independent Canadian label signing and developing some outstanding Canadian artists in the early seventies, Daffodil was constantly fighting insufficient funding and insolvency. It was the very first Canadian label to be distributed by a Major record company in Canada and even though it signed such unique talents as Crowbar, Tom Cochrane, A Foot In Coldwater, the King Biscuit Boy, Christmas and Fludd it was not until Klaatu that the label broke into the upper reaches of the U.S and international record charts.

The royalties that Daffodil derived from its share of Klaatu’s worldwide record sales staved off the labels most precarious financial moments in the mid to late 1970s allowing it to continue on until we ceased signing new artists in the early 80s. Daffodil remained solvent for the rest of its days, courtesy of Klaatu. 

In recognition of their role in the label’s survival, and as a very grateful record company president, I had the Daffodil label completely and permanently re-designed in the late nineteen seventies to include the Klaatu sun rising behind the Daffodil emblem – an emblem originally chosen because it represented spring and new beginnings and therefore above all, hope.

“All is lost if one abandons hope”.  

The Catalogue - The Stats:

Daffodil put out 61 albums over the twelve years since its launch in 1970 (with an additional two - previously ‘canned’ - being released from the vaults by new owner Unidisc in the 1990s). 31 of those albums were by Canadian artists.

In Canada, 3 of these albums reached Platinum status, and 4 went Gold. The label also released 87 singles, 68 of which were by Canadians. Our production company (‘LOVE’) licensed an additional 9 singles for release by other Canadian labels (Capitol, MTCC, London, Strawberry) - all of which were by Canadian artists.

In Memoriam:

Paul Naumann, Richard (King Biscuit Boy) Newell, Brian Pilling, Heavy Andrews, Franklyn Boyd, Linda Brown, Fred Burchill, Ralph Cruickshank, Dave Evans, Rick Bell, Doug ‘Doc’ Riley (Dr.Music), Leslie Huggett and Domenic Troiano. 

PART II: THE ARTISTS

The King Biscuit Boy with Crowbar

 

The King Biscuit Boy with Crowbar was our first artist signing and “Official Music” - their only album together (as featured artists) - was Daffodil’s first release. It came out on July 13th 1970, some six months prior to the introduction of the Canadian Content rulings (CanCon) in 1971.

The reaction to Official Music was fantastic, out of the box. The trade press called it the fastest selling Canadian album in memory - though it never actually reached the GOLD certification level (a very rare sales peak at that time for any Canadian artist in this country).

It charted nationally in Canada and on all three U.S official trade charts of the day (Billboard, Record World, and Cashbox), received rave reviews throughout the world from journalists like Lester (“Almost Famous”) Bangs, Dave Marsh, Andy Gray, Jann Wenner, and from most other music critics of the time; not to mention widespread praise from artists, music executives, radio broadcasters and producers like Keith Richards, Jerry Wexler, John Peel and Allen Toussaint. Quite a coup for the label’s, and artist’s, debut - and for Canadian artists, period.

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The album yielded two hit singles in Canada – “Corrina Corrina” (released 27/7/70) and “Biscuit’s Boogie” the latter of which, at over nine minutes, was an almost unheard of length for any top 40 AM hit before or since.

 

Most producers were told to keep singles to around 2 to 2 ½ minutes maximum (3 minutes tops) back then. Kudos to people like John Donabie at CKFH, Nevin Grant at CKOC, Wayne Bryant at CHED, Larry Green at CHUM, Roy Hennesey at CKLG, Terry-David Mulligan and others for spearheading support at radio for what we were trying to do with records like this. And remember, this was before there were any CanCon airplay rulings in Canada, and before Canadian music was ‘cool’! Rare support indeed.

 

The Official Music sessions (like the sixties - as they say) are hard to recall (in much detail anyway), partly because the album happened so fast and so furious (we completed it in just a few days), and partly because it was 40 years ago! I produced the sessions with the talented engineer (and studio owner) Terry Brown, as well as lots of grease and encouragement from Ritchie who attended many of the sessions. It was a wild affair and I think that’s evident ‘in the grooves’.

“Official Music” remains one of the best reviewed albums I have ever seen over many years in the Canadian music business. It was a killer combination of blues and rock’n’boogie - created by one of the finest blues artists of the modern era, together with a rock’n’roll band par excellence that lived and breathed a no-holds barred, go for the throat, tear down the house, take no prisoners ethos. They were “tighter than a gnat’s ass stretched over a rainbarrel” as their mentor Ronnie Hawkins would say. They instinctively knew what to play and what not to play, and somehow they collectively made it all mesh together seamlessly, while having a great time doing it.

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After a couple of trips to New York to garner interest in the band and the album in America, I secured a U.S and rest of the world deal with the newly formed Paramount Records (not the original label from the 1920s but a division of Gulf+Western, and sister to the film company of the same name). Paramount was ‘hot’ – being one of the newest and best funded labels in town - and was actually making a deal with Elton John (for the “Friends” soundtrack he composed for their film company parent) the same week I completed the KKB & Crowbar deal. Elton and his manager Ray Williams (an old friend and colleague from my Liberty Records days in the UK) and I celebrated our signings at a bar in New York on September 10th of that year and compared the advances we had each received from the label - ours was bigger!!

I was to thank goodness for that a few months later when the band split in two and I was obliged to deliver Paramount albums by both artists for the same money.

 

There were many great gigs played by this band before they split into two separate acts. A few I missed, like their dates opening for Joe Cocker’s legendary “Mad Dogs & Englishmen” tour at the Fillmore and other theatres in the U.S. in the spring of 1970; but one I remember well, and certainly the biggest crowd they ever played to, was on August 8-9th that same year when they joined Jethro Tull, Mountain, Alice Cooper, Melanie, Ten Years After, Procol Harum, Grand Funk Railroad, Eric Burdon & War, Sly & The Family Stone, and two other Canadian acts - Luke & The Apostles and Syrinx - playing the giant two day Strawberry Fields Festival at Mosport, one of the last of the massive outdoor events of its type that had followed Woodstock a few months earlier.

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Due to delays, shifts in the order of appearance, and other such distractions the group actually hit centre stage literally as the sun was rising over the second day of the festival, and so with “Spirit’ dancing naked in front of them, the band started playing for the 100,000+ crowd. It was a surreal moment. The crowd and the critics loved them. Bernie Finkelstein and I met backstage there for the first time – he managed the other two Canadian artists on the bill. Daffodil, and then Bernie’s True North label shortly after, became the first two Canadian Record companies to be distributed by a ‘Major’ in Canada. True North and its eclectic and talented roster of artists, continued on under Finkel’s ever-solid, faithful, tasteful guidance until the end of 2007, at which time he decided to sell the label.

The band in its original form - see picture at top - included Biscuit (lead vocals), Kelly Jay (keyboards), Roly Greenway (bass), John Gibbard (guitar), Rheal Lanthier (guitar), Larry Atamanuik (drummer - who left soon after to join the George Martin-produced Seatrain in Boston), John Rutter (percussion - who left to pursue a solo career), and Josef Chirowski (keyboards – who left to join Alice Cooper’s band); along with musicians like Rick Bell (who was about to leave to join Janis Joplin’s Full Tilt band), Doug Riley and other friends adding various bits and pieces in the recordings or at live events.

 

It was most gratifying to recently see the Official Music album included in Bob Mersereau’s interesting and entertaining book as one of “The Top 100 Canadian Albums” ever released - chosen by this country’s leading artists, critics, media, musicians, and other music devotees.

Crowbar

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Biscuit, who was the musical and spiritual leader of the combined group, was always a blues purist at heart, and the more commercial rock’’n’boogie stylings of what he was doing with Crowbar did not satisfy him. When I got the call from him one night late in 1970 that they were going to split and go their separate ways, Richard asked me what would happen to him and whether I’d be interested in continuing on with him as a solo act. Given the red-hot popularity of the group at the time, I was initially dumbfounded by the decision but soon realised he was serious; and after hearing what he wanted to do it became clear that instead of having just one fine artist, Daffodil now had two.

Crowbar soon followed Official Music with their (own) Daffodil debut “Bad Manors (Crowbar’s Golden Hits Vol.1)” which included the Canadian classic “Oh What A Feeling” the first “Canadian Content” record release issued in Canada - on the actual day the ‘CanCon’ regulations were introduced in February 1971.

Bad Manors was a joy to make. It captured a group at their absolute peak, and even though it was a huge amount of collective work by everyone involved - largely due to it’s conceptual nature and with so many clever arrangements and ideas from the band to consider and then fit in - it was an unforgettable time.  It had a carnival atmosphere surrounding it from the day we started until 8am on December 7th 1970 when I headed straight from the studio at the end of one of many all night sessions to deliver the final mixed tapes to Capitol - as they arrived for work that morning.

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Oh What A Feeling was a major hit in Canada and has been used since as the theme for the 25th anniversary of the Juno Awards, and the title track of the biggest selling CD boxset in Canadian history that celebrated this milestone Juno event – as well as the two boxset sequels that have been released since. It has been the title of a book on the history of Canadian music. Tom Wilson’s Junkhouse did a great cover of the tune for the Due South soundtrack album in the mid-90s - proving yet again that when you put a great artist together with a classic song it takes on a new life, all over again. The song has had many other uses over the years including as the theme for the Ontario government’s Participaction public fitness program, various movies and television shows, and numerous cover versions.

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TRIVIA:  If you listen carefully during the Ghetto’s blazing guitar solo on the track “Let The 4 Winds Blow” you will hear Kelly say “Not that fucking guitar solo again” - which has now been heard subliminally on radio thousands of times, with probably no one any the wiser. Kelly was punching in his lead vocal over and over in the studio during the sessions for this particular song and of course we used the guitar solo as a cue for his entry/exit – to the point where on the 100th ‘take’ he could take no more and emitted those immortal words! It sounded so natural that we just couldn’t bear to take it out so we buried it just under the track, so the few of us who knew would smile every time we heard it – and we did!

Kelly Jay, the leader, singer, keyboardist, songwriter, immoveable force behind and in front of the group, and promotion man extraordinaire – is rock’n’roll’s ‘Andre the Giant’! A walking mountain of memorabilia, he would carry the Ghetto (John Gibbard) - lead guitar wailing, and Roly Greenway – yanking his oversized bass, on each of his shoulders while singing and playing boogie-woogie piano, all at the same time! The band was rounded out by the rocksteady, always beaming drummer Sonnie “Come Va” Bernardi, and the ‘Frenchman’ Rheal Lanthier from the Gatineau Hills – the other lead guitar - he of the silky soulful smooth sounds and sweeter disposition. If you never saw a Crowbar show – you never really lived. It was more like a Roman circus, a freak show, the wildest raunchiest party you ever imagined!

The band followed up Bad Manors with “Larger Than Life (and live’r than you’ve ever been)” a double live album recorded at Massey Hall on 23/9/71.  We had previously recorded a sort of barebones, couple of mikes, live-off-the-floor recording of their live show at the Whiskey in Los Angeles on 22/7/71 when Crowbar played there for a week straight to rave reviews. There was a veritable ‘who’s who’ of artists sitting-in or attending the shows in L.A that week including David Clayton-Thomas, John Kay, the Five Man Electrical Band, the Chambers Bros, Edgar & Johnny Winter, ELP, Domenic Troiano, and Goldie St. John of Steppenwolf to name just a few. This raw live recording became a full album release by Unidisc in the late 1990s when they found it in the vault; but it was really just a ruff dress rehearsal (without the ‘dress’) for the Massey Hall show that followed a few months later. Crowbar were at their very best in a live environment and without a lot of new material written (no time - too many dates) we felt the best album for their fans would be to record a live concert ‘extravaganza’. And that’s what it was. Massey Hall jammed to the rafters, full brass bands parading up the aisles, choirs at full voice, strippers jumping naked out of giant cakes, Lighthouse and other notable friends playing on stage, and Crowbar blazing their way through hours of music with the gentle giant and his cohorts pulling out all the stops!

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To ensure we had more than a packed house to celebrate this first ever live stereo simulcast in Canada (by CHUM-FM), we needed to add something special for everyone who attended and fortunately I was blessed with a ‘brainwave’ - to include, on the album jacket, the name of every single person who attended the concert. The audience handed their names in on a piece of paper as they entered Massey Hall and we printed them all on a giant poster that was included in the package. It is interesting to  see some of the people who were there then as kids, and who are now prominent citizens in their own right - like ‘Napoleon’ who apparently attended too. “Larger Than Life” became the first gold ‘live’ album by a Canadian artist - reaching that mark just 17 days after its release date (of 15/11/71).

Kelly and the band presented then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau with a Gold album on March 1st 1972 at a Liberal Party dinner, citing the importance of Trudeau’s CanCon rulings in allowing Canadian artists to be heard in their own country. The Prime Minister had already attended several Crowbar shows with his wife Margaret – most notably on July 16th 1971 at the Perth County Festival when the group presented ‘the first couple’ with solid gold Crowbar pendants.

Kelly and the band presented then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau with a Gold album on March 1st 1972 at a Liberal Party dinner, citing the importance of Trudeau’s CanCon rulings in allowing Canadian artists to be heard in their own country. The Prime Minister had already attended several Crowbar shows with his wife Margaret – most notably on July 16th 1971 at the Perth County Festival when the group presented ‘the first couple’ with solid gold Crowbar pendants. Maggie was frequently seen wearing hers in public afterwards. On that same day Kelly also gave the Prime Minister a vintage CKOC Hamilton announcer’s microphone - the band was Hamilton-based and Nevin Grant (at CKOC) one of their, and Canadian music’s, staunchest supporters.

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Just after the Massey Hall concert Paramount released the “Oh What A Feeling” studio single from Bad Manors in the U.S (on 22/1/71) but radio would not touch it because of what they perceived to be ‘drug-related lyrics’. Kelly Jay has always maintained that the lyric is just about the joy of living – nothing more, nothing less – regardless of the ‘environment’ that the band may have thrived in at the time.

Early in 1972 the band and I left for Long Island, New York to record the group’s third album at Soundview Studios there. The studio was owned by Lou Lofredo and Bob Gallo (engineers/producers of Del Shannon’s ‘Runaway’, Lou Christie, the Coasters, Bo Diddley and all sorts of other classic r’n’r artists).

I had originally encouraged the two Americans to come to Canada to set up a studio in the country with us in order to make our own records, at our own pace, and as a way to beat the spiralling studio costs that were then starting to get out of control. We scoured Ontario for locations and came up with a couple of wonderful sites but collectively we couldn’t raise the funds to realise the idea. Bob Gallo did end up moving to Canada, and becoming head of A&R for CBS Records here. He also recorded his own solo album which I released on a sister label to Daffodil (Strawberry Records) – it was the only album Strawberry ever released; though we did release singles by the Invitations, UK’s Little Witch, Rod Stewart, Tommy Graham, and Wayne St. John.

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Crowbar’s “Heavy Duty” album resulted from these New York sessions. We did the beds between January 24th and 28th of that year and finished the album shortly after. While it did not have the goodtime, rock’n’roll, ‘live’ party feel of its predecessors (being more of a poprock album) it did have some inspired and interesting lyrics by Kelly, and a few gems – a couple included here. The album title was a double-entendre. The sound was a bit ‘heavier’ using that era’s interpretation of the word, and writing and making the record did not come easily. Crowbar had a new manager, in promoter Martin Onrot, and wanted to capitalise on their live concert revenue and success, and they were also being wooed by other (major) labels. Heavy Duty sold respectably, but just to their core fan base. It was released throughout the world including the U.S but failed to ignite the same response that their earlier recordings had achieved.

Crowbar and Daffodil parted ways some time later when the group went on to sign with Columbia Records in New York. Their first CBS album was produced by Jack Douglas (Aerosmith), his first as a producer, and executive produced by Bob Ezrin (Alice Cooper, Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel, Kiss). After this record failed to ignite, the band broke up; but have got together every few years since for special events, and to give some of the newer generation of music fans a glimpse of this wonderful, larger than life band of the seventies.

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Kelly and I spent many days and weeks on the road together promoting the various albums we were involved with – he was simply the best promotion man I ever knew. He made many friends on these trips, from Prime Ministers (and their wives), to CRTC chairmen (thank you Pierre Juneau), to national celebrities, to groupies and everyone in between. I remember being in Montreal with him for a couple of days on a promo trip of some sort. We spent half the time having leather cowboy boots with Canadian flags emblazoned on the outside, sized for him (very large!) and custom made, and the other half painting the town ‘red’ with every available journalist, DJ, and recording artist friend in tow. I don’t know how many records it sold but we made a lot of friends!

I spent many hours at ‘Bad Manors’ watching the band rehearse but one small moment there stands tall and is burned in my psyche. Right behind this large old manor house, which was located in Ancaster atop the Niagara Escarpment and adorned their album cover of the same name, was a very long, high and steep hill. Kelly and the boys had a 10 man custom toboggan that they used late at night after shows, and during parties, to unwind. This was usually in the midst of a massive snowfall or right after. One such night around 3am as I recall, we all climbed on – me, Crowbar, groupies, and hangers-on. 

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There must have been 15 people and one dog too, I think, piled on that thing – most of them zonked out of their brains. If it had been a boat it would have sunk without trace but somehow we got it moving and then there was no stopping it! The thing careened down the mountain like an Olympic bobsled, dodging trees, houses and other obstacles along the way with the maddest bunch of a-holes this side of Canmore screaming at the top of their lungs in sheer terror. This ‘yard went on forever’! Somehow we all lived to tell the tale, but once was enough!

Kelly Jay has since dabbled with books, screenplays, documentaries, and feature movies after moving to Alberta in the 1980s, and has played keyboards for visiting artists and celebrities there, as well as raising children and writing more songs.

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Footnote: 

I feel fortunate and proud to have been the producer of both debut albums for Biscuit and Crowbar; as well as the co-producer of Biscuit’s follow-up “Gooduns” (before he signed to Epic in New York), and producer of Crowbar’s two follow-up albums (before they in turn signed to Columbia in New York). These albums were my initiation into the ‘professional’ producer’s chair, they were tremendously fun and exciting experiences, and were a steep and exciting learning curve for everyone involved – most of all me.

The King Biscuit Boy aka Richard Newell

(March 11, 1944-January 5, 2003)

Richard Newell was born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada and lived there all his life. He travelled the world far and wide as one of the most respected and acclaimed blues artists, musicians, songwriters, and singers of his generation.

At an early age he was exposed to and developed his obsessive, lifelong love, knowledge, and understanding of the blues. Richard spent countless days and nights listening to the offbeat radio personalities of the day like George "Hound Dog" Lorenz at WKBW in Buffalo. Richard would make trips to William Street in Buffalo to build upon his collection of rare and classic blues records, many of which were unknown to the mainstream audience and unavailable in Canada.

Richard credited one song in particular for inspiring him to take up the harmonica, on which he excelled - "Juke" by Little Walter. Other inspirations musically included Howlin’ Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Richard (later to become the given name of his son), Willie Dixon, Little Junior Parker, and John Lee Hooker amongst the better known.

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In 1963 Richard joined rock’n’roll group The Barons as their vocalist. Just a year later they changed their name to ‘The Chessmen featuring Son Richard’ and then ‘Son Richard & The Gooduns’ to recognise their new blues influence and the man that caused it. The Chessmen toured Germany in 1965 and snuck into England to audition at London’s famed Marquee Club.

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Richard was asked to replace Richie Knight as lead vocalist for one of Ontario’s hottest Sixties bands, the Mid-Knighters. They recorded one single together in the 18 months Richard fronted the band – a remake of Sam & Dave’s classic ‘Soul Man’. In 1967 Richard was introduced to Ronnie Hawkins by his friend Rick Bell, an ex Mid-Knighter (and later of Janis Joplin’s Full Tilt Boogie Band). Hawkins auditioned him, hired him on the spot and gave Richard the moniker "King Biscuit Boy" after a daily ‘live blues’ radio show on KFFA in Helena, Arkansas. It took Richard a while to get used to his new name but after a while he thought it sounded rather impressive and embraced it.

The programme was sponsored by the local King Biscuit Flour Company which gave ‘rise’ to the unique flour sack cover which we would create for the ‘Gooduns’ Daffodil Records album release in 1971. That album jacket cover was submitted for a Grammy nomination by our U.S record label Paramount and has since become a collector’s item.

‘Biscuit’ accompanied The Hawk down to Muscle Shoals, Alabama in 1969 to play on Hawkins’s Atlantic Records debut, produced by the legendary Jerry Wexler (Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Dylan and so many others). Jerry said of him “The Biscuit man has always kept the flame of righteous roots music. The man blows desperate harp.”

Biscuit then toured the U.S as part of Hawkins band ‘And Many Others’ which opened the notorious Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour to great acclaim. As Ronnie observed: “(Biscuit's the) Best damn harp player I ever heard.” A short while later Keith Richard was quoted in a Rolling Stone article calling Biscuit “the legendary harp player”. The seven member band returned to Canada and promptly decided to leave Hawkins en masse, with a desire to be their own musical masters. Hawkins had by then renamed them ‘Crowbar’.

After spending some time honing their new sound, the King Biscuit Boy with Crowbar, led and inspired and driven by Biscuit, signed with Daffodil in early 1970 and shortly thereafter recorded ‘Official Music’ as the label’s very first album release. ‘Corinna Corinna’, the folk blues standard adapted by Biscuit, was the initial single and became an out-of-the-box national Top 20 hit. The album became a Canadian best seller and then later charted on the Billboard Top 200 LPs chart in America. The 2nd single was ‘Biscuit’s Boogie’ an unheard of 9 minutes long but also hitting the top single charts in Canada despite being too long for most AM stations to play.

After touring relentlessly to support the album, Biscuit split with Crowbar, who by now were wanting to embark in a different musical direction to the pure blues that Biscuit lived for. I was determined to keep going with both artists and began working with Biscuit on producing another album “Gooduns” while completing the first Crowbar album “Bad Manors”.

‘Gooduns’ was released in Canada and then worldwide on October 15th 1971 to more rave reviews; and again charted in the U.S. Billboard Magazine described Biscuit as “a blues singer of uncommon power and control”.  He returned to the UK in late 71 to tour with the Idle Race (later known as the Electric Light Orchestra) as his band, and created many lifelong fans amongst the deeply rooted and knowledgeable British blues cognoscenti. I saw several of Biscuit’s performances on that tour. One that stood out was at the 100 Club in London. His show attracted a ‘who’s who’ of English blues musicians, artists, and critics. It was a proud moment watching Biscuit there in his prime bringing his wildly appreciated take on this wonderful American music form, but as a Canadian, to this knowledgeable blues audience - English bluesmen who single-handedly resurrected and restored this genre to a worldwide audience during the sixties.

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Britain's "New Musical Express" (then the largest circulation music magazine in the world) wrote "It's easy to see why his name is bandied around like pieces of silver". Biscuit was now firmly established as a serious blues artist with fans and record releases in all corners of the globe.

 

By the time Daffodil was ready to start on his 3rd album the label had run into financial difficulties. We did manage to complete this album with Biscuit at Soundview Studios in Long Island (which I had Robert John Gallo produce) – but it’s still unreleased to this day. Though I was not happy with the finished result and shelved it, I have included here one of the tracks I liked, which also pays homage to one of Biscuit’s favourite blues haunts – Duffy’s Tavern.

Biscuit then had the choice of either re-signing with Daffodil Records - in a joint venture with Phil Walden and Frank Fenter’s Capricorn Records (the Allman Brothers Band, Marshall Tucker, Wet Willie etc) with the two labels working in tandem and sharing the costs - or, signing to Epic Records worldwide. In 1974 Biscuit signed with Epic in New York.  He picked New Orleans’ famed Allen Toussaint to produce his first Epic album using Allen’s Sea-Saint Studios in the hopes of getting “that old sound” on his new record. Dr. John (whose song “Lord Pity Us All” we cut with Biscuit on the Gooduns album) was brought in to play guitar along with the great Meters rhythm section, and Allen on piano. The results were tight, funky, and bluesy but with a contemporary twist and included a mix of Biscuit penned tunes along with some Allen songs, amongst others. The Meters accompanied Biscuit on the supporting tour and despite more great reviews (but modest sales) Epic decided to try another producer Tom Werman (Cheap Trick, Ted Nugent, Motley Crue) in 1975 for their next Biscuit sessions. These included a remake of the Gary Bonds’ 1950 classic ‘New Orleans’ and Alvin Lee’s ‘I’m Writing You A Letter’. Only one single got released from those sessions and shortly thereafter Epic let him go.

During the nearly 30 years that followed the release of his last major label recording, Biscuit recorded several more albums for a number of independent blues labels around the world including 1980’s ‘Mouth Of Steel’ (Red Lightning UK), 1988’s ‘Richard Newell aka King Biscuit Boy’ (Stony Plain) which was nominated for a Juno Award in the Best Roots and Traditional category, and 1995’s ‘Urban Blues Re: Newell’ (Blue Wave Records U.S). It too was nominated for a Juno Award in the Best Blues and Gospel category. He even returned once or twice to using his original blues group moniker ‘Son Richard & The Gooduns’.  A Goodun indeed!

Biscuit rarely veered away from making the music he loved – authentic, honest, edgy, classic blues. He was a ‘bluesman’s bluesman’.

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It is ironic but noteworthy nonetheless, that Biscuit’s two albums ‘Official Music’ and ‘Gooduns’ both hit the national pop album charts in the U.S and Canada before ‘CanCon’ ever existed, and before almost any Canadian-based and recorded artists were able to sell any meaningful amount of records nationally or internationally. Not to mention him being the first Canadian blues artist to ever reach the best selling (pop) charts in America.

As a songwriter, several well respected American blues artists recorded Biscuit songs including Albert Collins, who tragically did not live long enough to finish his final vocals on “Mean Old Lady”. A best selling rap artist sampled Biscuit’s “Now I’m Good”, and his music has been used extensively in television productions over the past 20 years.

In the 1960s young musicians playing the ‘old-style’ blues was an area ruled by and confined to just a few groundbreaking UK acts, a small group of dedicated American traditionalists, and some localised club bands. Young blues harmonica players were even more unusual – Paul Butterfield, John Mayall, Charlie Musselwhite, Brian Jones, John Hammond, and Canned Heat’s Alan ‘Blind Owl’ Wilson make up most of this elite list…………along with Hamilton’s King Biscuit Boy, that is.

A funny, sweet, real, badly bent,  beautiful "original", who lived, sang and played the blues better than any white guy I ever heard. Richard's ‘soul’ will give him more than twenty-nine ways to make it through heaven's door.

Thanks: Dave ‘Daddy Cool’ Booth/Johnny V, Canoe/Warren Cosford for additional details on Biscuit’s early career.

Blake Fordham is Kelly Jay’s real name. Even though “Uncle Pen” was actually recorded by KBB & Crowbar (with Kelly handling lead vocals), it did not end up on the Official Music album because it was more about Kelly, musically-speaking, than anyone else. Blake’s sound was (and still is) country, r’n’b, bluegrass, fifties standards, rock ‘n’ roll, and boogie-woogie piano all wrapped up in one giant package – just like the man himself.

The track was also too good to waste, so along with its B-side “Roberta” we made a single deal for it under Kelly’s real name with Alice Khoury at London Records in Montreal, who released it on June 15th 1970. In hindsight, it was of course the beginning of Crowbar’s own recording career and sound, sans KBB, but we did not know that was what the future held at the time. It was also the very first release of any sort of one of our ‘LOVE’ productions (albeit not on the Daffodil label).

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John Rutter was another original member of And Many Others and then KBB & Crowbar, and while he remained with the band during the early days of Official Music, he had left to pursue his own future around the time of “Bad Manors” launch. 

John was a talented singer and songwriter in his own right, and Crowbar did end up recording their own version (with John) of his song “the Prince of Peace” which became an important ‘live’ anthem for them as you will hear if you ever pick up a copy of Crowbar’s live album “Larger Than Life” which it opens. A pop version of the same song was also released by the group Rip Van Winkle (see below). As you will also hear from the bonus tracks of his included on this set, John’s strength was as a pop/rock artist more than the blues/boogie sound of Crowbar and he had the image and songwriting to match. For much the same reasons as we did a separate record deal for Blake Fordham, we had a solo deal for John with Modern Tape Cartridge Corporation who released “Jesus, She Is Leaving” on June 22nd 1970.

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John’s song “Band Bandit” also became a national pop hit for A&M Canada’s Tundra. John co-wrote it with the group’s Al Manning (ex- Sugar Shoppe).

Tundra was the very first domestic signing made by Gerry Lacoursiere and Joe Summers, less than a year after establishing A&M’s presence in Canada. The label and their superstar promotion head Doug Chappell went on to sign and break many more great Canadian acts before being swallowed up like the rest of the great independent record labels of the sixties and seventies.

TRIVIA:  Doug was the former bass player for The Mid-Knights, along with George Semkiw on guitar. George later produced Daffodil’s The Hunt for me, as well as a later Foot In Coldwater single. Other Mid-Knights’ members included Rick Bell on keyboards - listen to him play with Biscuit on “You Done Tore Your Playhouse Down, Again” -  just before moving on to join Janis Joplin’s Full Tilt Boogie Band, and the King Biscuit Boy himself, then known by his real name, Richard Newell, as lead singer - replacing Richard (Hubbard) Knight who left in 1966. It’s a small world after all!

Rip Van Winkle is actually Crowbar. When John Rutter first introduced the song to the band everyone saw it as too ‘pop’, so this fictional group was created because we all felt, given the then-fashionable “Jesus” movement in music, that it was a hit. Unfortunately it was not, but it still feels good. The track was recorded on February 4th and 5th 1971 at Toronto Sound but not released until March 25, 1972.

Christmas (aka The Spirit of Christmas)

Christmas was formed by songwriter Bob Bryden after the breakup of his earlier group Reign Ghost - a ‘San Francisco’ inspired band from the late 60s that recorded two albums for Jack Boswell’s Allied Records. That band and its recordings have gone on to become a critics and cult favourite - a progressive group with a far larger following amongst avid record collectors some 40 years later than they had when playing together in the 60s. TRIVIA: Reign Ghosts’ vinyl albums have been selling on eBay over the past several years for well over $2500 U.S each. Retail price for the LP was $2.49 in the late 60s!! Reign Ghost’s lead singer Lynda Squires had split from the group to become the very first person to audition (and land) a leading role in the original Toronto cast of HAIR, at age 18, so Bob had replaced her pure, clear, rangey soprano vocals by assuming the lead singer role himself with this new group.

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Oshawa-based Christmas auditioned for me on August 20th 1970 at the Hawk’s Nest. Their sound was more direct, hard and driving than Reign Ghost but was still progressive in nature, though not much of the San Francisco influence remained. Lyrically, Bob’s social and political comments were shared equally with the darker images and perspectives of life and its future prospects for youth, during those politically-charged times.

Lynda came to the audition with the group to give them moral support, thus eventually enabling me to ‘kill two birds with one stone’ so-to-speak – signing the group to a record deal and (later) signing her to a marriage licence!

There were very few ‘progressive’ groups in Canada at that time. Heavy metal, heavy rock and some pop-rock ruled the FM airwaves up here and so getting the band airplay on their debut Daffodil album “Heritage” was not easy. 

We released Point Blank as a single but had to have it ‘beeped’ for AM Radio because of the “offensive” word ‘goddamn’. The version you hear here is the unbleeped version released in its original album-only version, and the re-release in the U.S in the late 90s.

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By the time we got to record the 2nd Christmas album, Bob had already replaced himself as lead singer with Preston Wynn, from Whitby. Preston added more melody as well as intricate and well planned harmonies to the band’s sound; but the group remained equally progressive instrumentally. This concept album “Lies To Live By” contained several extended tracks and some tour-de-force playing; and as a result of a much bigger budget than the first and with New Yorker Lee DeCarlo engineering (Lennon’s “Double Fantasy”) at the recently opened Manta Sound studios in Toronto, the album was both sonically ambitious and more accessible. It received some great reviews, particularly in the U.S. Again the AM airplay was non-existent but the American FM radio tip sheets like the Walrus raved: “(Christmas is) a classy, well trained band more musical and less prone to histrionics than, say, an ELP or even Yes. They succeed intensely. Merit (pick)”.

Nevertheless I could not get a U.S release for the album until 20 years later!  The double gatefold album jacket (a painting by the group’s artist/friend Garry Gatti, who also did the equally exceptional artwork for Dillinger’s debut for me) was ‘inspired’, and captured the mood and intensity of the music perfectly. We even got permission to reprint a still from the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” on the inside.

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After the band split in the late seventies, the group self-released the “Live at Massey Hall” concert album I recorded with them when they were the opening act for Crowbar’s Larger Than Life live album concert at that Toronto venue. Their small but devoted fan following reveres their unique sound three decades later.  They have even spawned tribute bands that play their music to this day.

A Foot in Coldwater

‘Foot’ hold a very special place in the heart of many rock music fans of the 70s and beyond, and most certainly in the history of this label.

Perhaps one of the most talented combination of individual musicians that I have ever worked with and certainly the owners of a unique sound with their combination of grand and ‘heavy’ yet superbly melodic song structures – sometimes wildly electric and sometimes acoustically sensitive – but always underpinned by the watertight rhythm section of Hughie Leggat’s  inventive and rich bass and Crow’s (Danny Taylor) outstanding talents as a drummer that, in combination, were about as tight, intuitive and together as a seeing-eye dog to its owner.

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This rhythm core was overlayed by the majestic, inspired and unmistakeable guitar voicings and solos of ‘Otto’ (Paul Naumann)…. all wrapped with the warm, swirling and edgy tones of Hornet’s (Bob Horne) B3  and topped off by the husky, sexy but pure voice of heart-throb Alex Machin. Foot enjoyed a ‘live’ following originally made up almost entirely of biker gangs and willing young females.  

I first heard the band on Larry Green’s nightly show on CHUM-FM in late 1971. Larry had the occasional feature on an emerging local artist of note that he felt deserved attention.

 

Despite their youth, Foot’s members already had impressive music pedigrees - with Leggat, Taylor and Horne having made up ¾ of the Lords Of London, one of the big local pop groups of the era (who had a #1 single in Canada with the song “Cornflakes & Ice Cream” in 1967) - and thereafter, likely in reaction to that hit ‘commercial’ status, the very adventurous Nucleus.  

At the time of Larry’s show Foot was still called Nucleus but had added to that core lineup of Taylor, Horne, and Leggat with the addition of guitarist Naumann and vocalist Machin from the band Leather (which in turn had been produced by Felix Pappalardi a founding member of Mountain, and the producer of Cream).  Nucleus themselves had been signed to Bob Shad’s Mainstream label in New York and had its debut album produced by none other than legendary producer Phil Ramone. While Nucleus and its album had attracted a lot of great press and fan reverence, its music was highly progressive and was not that ‘commercially’ accessible with its somewhat freeform jazz-rock fusion.

 

Anyway, Nucleus with Machin/Naumann aboard had done some demos of new material financed in part by a CHUM-AM DJ called Johnny Mitchell and it was these that Larry was playing on his show that night I was listening. The tracks included ‘Dream On” and “Heartbreaker” just as you hear them here – released commercially for the very first time. I called Larry immediately, hooked up with Mitchell and his partner Shelley Saffran on November 19th 1971, got a copy of the demos to listen to further, and then being satisfied that the band still sounded as good on tape as I had heard them that night on the radio, I arranged to meet the group at the home of one of its members.

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The band was set up in the basement of this bungalow in Scarborough and were somewhat intimidating at that first meeting.  They looked tough and lean, had a young, intense ‘biker’ vibe to them but were generally a good-looking bunch (given how most rock musicians looked back then). They were quite demanding with all their questions of me and what my interest was in them. I got the impression that I was the one being auditioned and interviewed for the job, not the other way round – but such was their way I was later to learn. Their suspicious nature had been inherited from some less than straight-up relationships in their collective past and a tough journey along their rock’n’roll highway. Most recently that had included living together in the country north of Toronto at, or below, starvation level and freezing point.

The moment they started playing for me it was obvious that the demos were just the very tip of the iceberg. Certainly one of the tightest group of players I have ever heard or encountered - never treading on the musical toes of each other, always complementing each others parts, and with the musical and fluid dynamics that were born of natural instinct and ability – something that could not be taught, or bought, or learned, and which belongs to a very rare and select group of those that strive for a career in this tough business of music.

As I later learned, the biker connections gave Foot the street-cred it liked, and also afforded them some decent protection when they wanted it (which was not infrequent given the type of clubs and clubowners the band was playing in to survive back then). There was one gig I was at some months later at a club (then called the Embassy Tavern on Bloor Street) that things got so seriously out of hand with the biker presence that it resulted in the death of a rival gang member right in front of me – so close that the poor guy’s wounds actually shot blood all over my leather jacket. I chose the Foot gigs I attended more carefully after that disturbing night.

Only one or two of the guys regularly hung out with the bikers themselves, however, while the rest of them accepted the interest of their biker friends and involvement in the band’s life on the road, the same way we might our relatives interest in what we do in our daily lives…………….

 

There was one standout, obvious hit played to me at that first basement rehearsal, while the rest of the material was demonstrative of what was to come. Their playing that night was so tight, so together and so cohesive musically that it has stayed with me over this 35+ years as one of the highlights of a career inspired by great music, played by great players. I was ready to sign them then and there, and basically did so, agreeing to buy out the future rights to the demos I had heard from Mitchell, pay the outstanding studio bill for them, and sign them to the label.

The recording of the first album is highlighted by three particularly strong recollections. It was the first album engineered for me by Lee (Leo) DeCarlo, an American who had just moved to Canada and who became a very close friend (I stood up for him at his marriage to his French bride Annick, as did my wife for his). Leo went on to engineer several other Daffodil albums, and later I had him produce the Fludd At The Manor album for the label in England. After leaving Canada a few years later, Leo engineered and co-produced John Lennon’s fateful last album “Double Fantasy” in New York – and then disappeared for many years to Hawaii after a career engineering some other landmark recordings at the Record Plant in L.A.

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Lee DeCarlo (front left) w. John Lennon

Leo was a ‘master’ at recording guitars (electric and acoustic) as you will hear on this and the second Foot album. This was only the second album to be recorded at the terrific but now defunct Manta Sound Studios owned by Andy Hermant (we followed Jack Richardson who was producing Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels after it opened in November 1971). I went on to produce several more albums there during the 70s. 

The third highlight was the inspiring ease and ability which the band demonstrated in everything they did in the studio during those sessions, and the actual feeling and reaction we all had recording and completing ”(Make Me Do) Anything You Want”. We knew it was a ‘classic’ and we held our collective breath waiting for it to come out to see how the public and media reacted. The album was also an interesting experience for me soundwise. We had problems getting the same dynamic B3 sound that Hornet got ‘live’ from these otherwise warm and lovely (but audio spectrum-confining) analogue machines, and I also started my journey of discovery in appreciating cymbals and hi-hats, having previously preferred the very dry, controlled English drum sound employed by some of the newer studios over there at the time (Trident particularly). 

Crow is one of Canada’s all-time great drummers and that live percussive sound mix of cymbals and his Rogers kit was big and dynamic but symphonic and musical too – not easy to capture on tape. We continued working together on various albums after Foot split up and we got closer as the years went by to capturing the breadth of his live sound in the studio – particularly on the Leggat Brothers “Illuminations” album in the 1980s.

Foot broke through immediately with the ‘classic’ “(Make Me Do) Anything You Want” which has been a staple of Canadian radio’s gold rotation for 35 years and still named by many music directors and audiences alike as one of their all-time favourite records. The guitar solo is arguably the best known in Canadian pop music history with most radio stations still preferring to play the long extended solo version.

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In more recent times such a hit would have spawned a multi-platinum selling album but Foot had to make do with a near gold record only – partly because it was the only single off the album (due to the other cuts being too heavy for pop radio back then) and partly due to the lack of, and variety of, Canadian media support for its homegrown artists – not, fortunately, as we experience it today. Q107 in Toronto, Canada’s leading rock FM, radio station recently included the track as one of the 500 greatest rock records ever released.

The second Foot album included an even more sonically sophisticated mix of heavy rock and majestic, melodic pop including my personal favourite and possibly the track I spent more time and effort completing than any other single song (or album for that matter), in the label’s history – “(Isn’t Love Unkind) In My Life”.  Like ‘Make Me Do’ I never tire of listening to this track and I am incredibly proud of it even if, relatively successful as it was, it never achieved the reach and prominence of Make Me Do. Again, I strongly feel that with the Media promotion and marketing push that would have been accorded a similar level group today, this track would have catapulted Foot into the big leagues.  As it was, it became a top 10 single in most parts of Canada and was released by the prestigious Island Records in England, but unfortunately never even made it out as a single release in the U.S - for reasons I will touch upon later. While the lyrics might have been considered a little obtuse for pop radio back then, the music was all-embracing and undeniable with another trademark Naumann solo to top it off.

The album also contained the Hughie Leggat ballad “Love is coming” that Alex graciously allowed Hughie to sing lead on, and which became another top 10 single for the group in many parts of Canada. That song also contained yet another Naumann gem of a guitar solo in that soaring, sweeping, patented style of his - as well as French horns, acoustic bass, and sweeping orchestration by Doug Riley, Naumann and myself (featuring members of the TSO).

Alex countered Hughie’s plaintiff song and sensitive vocal with the ultimate Foot answer song “Coming is love” on the same album – probably the heaviest track Foot ever recorded, along with Hughie’s song “How Much Can You Take” with its huge and monstrous bass guitar sound!

 

Not included in this boxset (but of course featured in the second Foot album released on CD by this label) but deserving particular mention is “Sailing Ships” a song that further added to that trademark Foot sound of electric, orchestral, melodic rock and again featuring a magnificent soaring sole by Otto.

When I signed Foot to Elektra Asylum in New York for the world outside Canada and Australasia - after they had been seen by one of Elektra’s A&R people (Ann Purtill) performing on Kenny Rogers’ shot-in-Canada TV show “Rollin’” on August 2nd and 3rd 1972 – we all felt their time had come internationally. The legendary Jac Holzman, a great music man, signed them. Armed with a serious production budget, we chose John Anthony (Queen ,Genesis, Van Der Graaf Generator, etc) to produce their third album. John was one of that elite group of great engineer/producers that came out of the Trident Studios in England that included Roy Thomas Baker and Gus Dudgeon.

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Elektra wanted John to remake “Make Me Do Anything You Want” as well as a couple of other cuts off the first two albums, including “In My Life”. John did a particularly great job with the overall sounds of the band (particularly organ and drums and vocals) but with the remakes, it is (and was) almost impossible to “go back” and try to reproduce that kind of magic twice. John’s production of ‘Make Me Do’ is not included in this set – but is available on CD as part of Foot’s third album re-release on Unidisc.

Unfortunately the new ‘Make Me Do’ did not become a hit in the U.S, though it did do really well for a second time in less than three years in Canada - but not at the same level as the original. The reasons for this were largely due to the shortened guitar solo and outro fade, and the lack of any orchestration, in my opinion. John ended up using the original “In My Life” I had produced but remixing it. Again that version is not included here largely because it was shortened and did not feature all the aspects of the song that the group had originally created. John’s production of the first single (“I know what you need”) from the “All Around Us” album is here however, as is the wonderfully powerful and tight “Its only love” - my favourite cut on the album. Both were beautiful-sounding tracks and displayed that unique ‘big’ transparent ‘Trident’ sound that artists like Queen and Elton John made famous back then.

We introduced the album in Canada and announced their first national tour of the country from coast-to-coast to the press by taking over centre ice and the arena at Maple Leaf Gardens on May 14th 1975, courtesy of Bill Ballard and his father, Toronto Maple Leafs owner Harold. We sent Mr Ballard ten dozen Daffodils as a thank-you. The group entered the rink on a flotilla of Harley-Davidsons with some of their ‘friends’ from the Para-Dice Riders who are actually celebrated with the incredibly powerful self-titled closing track from the album.

After just one single release in the U.S, the proverbial s—t hit the wall in Foot’s bid to conquer America – Holzman left Elektra. He had been elevated to a senior executive position at Warner’s parent company and David Geffen stepped in to take his place. Foot was dropped shortly thereafter.

 

We recorded one more single (“Midnight Lady”) produced by ex-Richie Knight and the Mid-Knights band member George Semkiw, who had built a fine engineer/producer career in Canada since having his own #1 in 1963 with this band the Mid-Knights.

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Foot were trying to commercialise their sound to fit what they saw as the public’s then current craze for dance rock music and while the single did quite well and the playing was terrific, it did not have their indelible ‘footprint’ on it. Shortly thereafter the band signed to their new manager Ray Danniells’ label, Anthem, and made one more self-produced and excellent album (“Breaking Through”) with several of the cuts capturing that unique sound of theirs.

 

Sadly, the ups and downs of their life in the fast lane, while waiting for the big break that never came, eventually caught up with them. Hornet had already left the band to go live in the U.S before the Breaking Through album, and Hughie Leggat, a gifted songwriter, now wanted to strike out on his own musically with his guitar-playing brother Gord. The group split – and Naumann also moved to the U.S where he still lives today - continuing to record his own music down there ever since. Alex formed the band Champion signing with Solid Gold Records and recording one album for them before that label went out of business.

 

The Leggat brothers and I continued working together on both a writer/publisher and producer basis for many years – first under the name Private Eye which group I signed to Capitol in L.A under a production deal I had with them (their first album produced by Eddie Leonetti and their second, shelved album, by Rick Hall at his Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama); and then as Leggat - also with Capitol. Hughie and I produced the Leggat double album “Illuminations” which is a personal favourite to this day and an album I consider a high point of my production career. Both groups were managed by my Daffodil partners - Michael Cohl, the Rolling Stones promoter extraordinaire, and Bill Ballard. The Crow continued to play with Hughie in both bands – they were inseparable musically (joined at the foot, so to speak) – and in the process further solidified their reputation as one of the finest rhythm sections Canada has ever produced.

A Foot In Coldwater were for me, and perhaps many others too, far and away the best rock group I have ever heard that did not make it really ‘big’; and their music still sounds as striking and inspiring to me today as it did then.

Joe Probst

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Joachim Wolfgang Probst was a folksinger and songwriter introduced to me by the late Ralph Cruickshank, a leading Toronto print music publisher in the early seventies. We recorded one album together – primarily a reworking (through overdubs contributed by some of the best players in Canada at the time) of some demos he had done of his songs. We secured a Juno nomination for our efforts.  It was titled ‘The Lion & The Lady” from a painting that hung in Ed Mirvish’s restaurant “Ed’s Warehouse” and inspired two poems by poet Brian Purdy which opened each side of the vinyl record. Joe had a plaintiff, heartfelt vocal style that I think is splendidly captured by the two excellent songs on this boxset - “Kingston” which became a minor national pop and country hit and “Love”, which did well at A/C radio. Not long after the album’s release Joe decided to move to Europe and give up his singing career for his faith, becoming a minister in the process.

St. John

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Canadian-born Wayne St. John has been a fixture on the Toronto music scene as a lead singer, bandleader, composer, producer, Pan flute player, manager (the Innercity Kids), choir director and musician for well over 30 years now. His group St. John recorded just one single for the Strawberry label - a Daffodil Records offshoot – in late December 1971.

A few years later, in 1976, Wayne topped the Canadian charts with Fighting on the Side of Love – a collaboration with the THP Orchestra, produced by Willi Morrison and Ian Guenther. Wayne also contributed his unique vocal styling to the massive fund and awareness-raising song, movie and video Tears Are Not Enough, produced by David Foster - which was also included in the We Are The World album, raising millions for African Famine Relief. Wayne has received 2 Juno Award nominations (1977 & 1985), an AMPAC Award, and a Clio Award.

St. John's members were in the funk/rock band ‘Hairafter’ (created after their record breaking success in HAIR from 1968-70) and recorded the "Stand-Up, Baby" single at Moses Znaimer's Thunder Sound studio. The band included: Wayne/lead vocal, Lynda Squires/lead & backup vocals, Joe Larmond/drums, Gord Fleming/Hammond B3, bass (arranger of the song), Doug Richardson/tenor sax & flute, Demo Cates/alto and soprano sax (intro horn arrangement), Wayne Jackson/Trumpet, and Terry Logan and Walter Rossi/guitars & background vocals. Brock Fricker engineered and Wayne produced the cut. This remix by Michael St. Clair and Wayne in 2006 includes new ‘takes’ on bass and bg’s by the great Prakash John (Bush/Parliament/Funkadelic/Lincolns). 

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Michal Hasek

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Michal, now a successful Toronto realtor who continues playing his ‘untraditional’ blues to devoted audiences in the city to this day (but with his sons, wife and daughter as part of his group now), released two singles on Daffodil – the first of which is featured on this boxset.

He was born in post-war Bohemia, now a province of the Czech Republic. His mother escaped from behind the iron-curtain with him and his two brothers. Stateless, they travelled for the first twelve years of his life before acquiring landed immigrant status in Canada.

After leaving university Michal toured the US and Canada performing traditional blues and a mixed bag of folk and self-penned songs at campus coffee houses and pubs. He formed his band Sundog in 1972 and recorded his first LP with them and self distributed it until it was picked up by A&M records. In the mid seventies he teamed up with band mates including Ian Guenther, Rodney St. Amand, Mitchel Lewis and John Shand (who died November 1, 06) to produce ‘am radio’ playable singles with the Scottish producer Willi Morrison. This tune is the result of one of those sessions.

The members of Sundog in the picture are from the left Ron Nigrini, Michal, Rodney St. Amand, Jessica Borrasci, Brian Browne and Ian Guenther.

The Huggett Family

Active from 1969 through 1982, Canada's Huggett Family - Leslie, Margaret and their four children, Andrew, Jennifer, Ian and Fiona - performed original and historic music, song and dance on over 30 different wind, stringed and plucked Renaissance instruments. Highlights of their 13 year career include concerts in New York, London, and Paris and extensive touring in all Canadian provinces and the Yukon. They enjoyed numerous television specials, a multi year recording contract with Beatles producer George Martin, an extended 55 date national tour with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, two seasons as Artists in Residence at the Shaw Festival and the performance of a number of film scores for the National Film Board of Canada. Leslie and Margaret now run the Huggett Family Music Studio in Markham, Ontario which emphasizes the development of musical talent in children. Andrew currently lives in Ottawa and is a multi award winning television and film composer. 

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Jennifer lives in Switzerland where she teaches English as a second language and plays the cello with the Lugano Radio Orchestra. Ian lives in Aylmer, Quebec and is active in environmental issues. Fiona lives in London, England, where she is a long time member of the English Concert.

Daffodil released two albums by the group. George Martin produced most of the cuts you will hear on this set in England at his AIR London studios. The Huggetts would regularly spend extended periods in the UK researching the music of the period from which they then created their own original and full bodied arrangements before recording them with George. The first album featured mostly traditional folk songs alongside some originals written by the family. Included in the latter group was their song “I’ll Be Gone” which became a top 5 Canadian A/C hit. The second album released in 1975 was “Renaissance Delight” and it was just that!  Four pieces from that album are featured here together with “The Streets of London” which was recorded in Ottawa later that year. That track was intended to be a stop-gap single to be released before recording their follow-up. It is a remake of the classic folk hit of the sixties by Ralph McTell and has never been released prior to this boxset.

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The Huggett Family were an exceptional live act with their authentic costumes and instruments of the period, their fine voices, their handsome demeanour, and so much charm. I remember A&M's Gerry Lacoursiere and Joe Summers (Daffodil's distributor at that time) being surprised by the originality and freshness of this unusual group that they were being asked to promote and sell alongside Supertramp, Cat Stevens, the Police, the Carpenters and other mainstream A&M artists of that era. Not surprisingly the critics loved them. Their performances elicited comments like “Persuasive communicators and amazing musicians” (Evening Echo, UK 1973), “An exceptional experience” (Ottawa Citizen, 1973), “An astonishing success….a beautiful experience” (London Evening Standard, UK), “Well deserved seven curtain calls” (Daily Mirror, UK 1973).

Tom Cochrane

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Tom was first brought to my attention by my production manager at the time, a certain Deane Cameron!! Deane had played drums for Tom in an earlier incarnation that Tom fronted called Harvest (picture Neil Young and the Band rolled into one, with a dash of Dylan mixed in). Deane was already a big believer in Tom’s potential and arranged to have us meet on July 22nd 1973 to hear some demos that Tom was then working on.

Tom was certainly steeped in ‘folk/rock’ music at that time but leaning more to a rock mix in the instrumentation and sound, though his acoustic guitar was always prominent. Sort of an early Dylan-meets-Tom Petty vibe but of course several years before Petty came on the scene. He was very interesting lyrically and had a rock’n’roll soul, which he combined with a real strong sense of vocal harmonies and intricate vocal arrangements. 

In his early Daffodil days Tom played solo more often than with a band mostly because of the costs involved and the difficulty in getting paying gigs. His national tour with Jose Feliciano would never have happened if he had had to pay for a full band and gear too.

 

Like most really great artists it was a combination of everything that made him unique, and therefore standout. His lyrics and storytelling abilities were certainly outstanding but he combined those with a real understanding of melody and clever arrangements (vocally particularly) that continues to this day. He was also passionate about his music and a perfectionist. He knew what he wanted and worked hard to ensure he got it.

 

I signed Tom to a deal that included financing and completing the finished versions of the demos he had been working on, with options for about four additional albums to follow.

 

Tom produced the completion of the “Hang On To Your Resistance” album - with Paul Barker (engineering at Toronto Sound Studios) and myself co-producing and mixing it with him. Craig ‘Cub’ Richardson had engineered some of the early tracking work at RCA’s studios. Tom used a group of his close musician friends for the sessions, several of whom had been in Harvest including the renowned, if since anonymous, drummer!

 

The single “You’re Driving Me Crazy” got a tremendous amount of airplay across the country and attracted quite a lot of attention and press. Like many debut singles for Canadian artists at that time, it did not unfortunately sell many albums. We went single by single in those days. There was no ‘master marketing plan’ that the major distributor “bought into” six months ahead of release. There was no big ‘set-up’. It was mostly a case of flying by the seat of your pants. You hoped that the tour dates might fall into the same release timing that the label had set for the record. If the first single did well enough you probably got a second single. If the second didn’t do much better and certainly if it didn’t sell a few thousand albums then you had to beg and plead for a third. If the third didn’t set the world alight, you were told the album (and artist) was over and then you grovelled and threatened and whined and just because it was the nice guys at Capitol, you sometimes got a fourth single. Funny how often it was that the third or fourth single for so many artists back then turned out to be the hit!!

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“You’re Driving Me Crazy” is included in the CD re-release that Capitol put out in 1987 called “Hang On To Your Resistance (The Early Years)”. I was very pleased that we got Jerry Uelsmann’s beautiful image for the cover of the Capitol re-release.  It was such a perfect match to Tom’s sometimes desperate, but always poetic and personal lyrics on that album.

TRIVIA:  Jerry had also given me a magnificent front cover photo in the early eighties for another Capitol release - “Illuminations” by The Leggat Brothers. Tom lent us one of his beautiful blonde ‘Rickies’ for that album too! 2008 Oscar nominee, a then very young Paul Massey, was assistant engineer on this Leggat album, as he was on our “Back on the Hunt” record by label artist the Hunt. Tom later included another cut from the “Hang On…” album (the poignant “Charlie Was A Dancer”) on his CD boxset “Ashes To Diamonds”.

The Hang On album got some nice press but quite limited sales - just a few thousand; which was certainly not unusual for most debut albums by Canadian artists with hit singles even, in the early seventies. Even a band like Crowbar only had one gold album after years of constant touring and lots of airplay and yet they could sell out concert halls across the country at the drop of a hat. A Foot in Coldwater, for all their multi-format AM and FM airplay on classic cuts like “(Make Me Do) Anything You Want” and “In My Life”, and their relentless touring, never reached gold even as one of the country’s top rock groups.

 

I did not expect “Hang On” to sell tens of thousands but I did expect it to create a tremendously loyal and devoted cult following for Tom; but, without videos and constant touring and no record company ‘machine’ behind him and other such artists, word spread very slowly and albums were off the shelves by the time the public became aware of the acts that had recorded them. Sporadic airplay, word-of-mouth and some occasional press were the only tools we had to break a Canadian act at that time. Tom did a few select concert dates to strong reviews; particularly later on with Feliciano (including the O’Keefe Centre on 27th July 1975) and his many Riverboat appearances in Yorkville, but it was not enough given the tough time all the labels had attracting any media attention for Canadian artists - no matter how good they were.

Tom’s second Daffodil album was actually the score and songs he wrote for Xaviera “Happy Hooker” Hollander’s movie autobiography (“My pleasure is my business”). I had encouraged Franklyn Boyd (the Bee Gees original English publisher) to start up a publishing company in Canada and shortly after arriving in April 1973, Franklyn, who had good film connections, offered Tom and I the opportunity to become involved with creating and releasing the music soundtrack for it. There were a couple of really nice cuts on the album – one of which (Gus’ Theme) is featured on this set.

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Its funny how time changes attitudes because right now if an artist did the music for a movie about the life of someone as notorious and controversial as Xaviera was then, it would make headlines, draw audiences, sell a ton, and be seen as real ‘cool’. Back then, it was almost as if Tom was the lead actor in the movie itself, insofar as how some critics saw it!  But for him it was just an opportunity to do something he had been interested in – namely, scoring a movie.

 

Daffodil released 6 singles by Tom in all. Three were from the “Hang On……” record and one from the “My Pleasure Is My Business” movie soundtrack album. Later on, through GRT’s distribution, we released two more, the first being “Softly Walk Away” which was a fine pop record produced for us by Fred Mollin and Matt McCauley who had just had a monster hit with Dan Hill’s “Sometimes When We Touch”. We got a lot of airplay on that song, more than any other of Tom’s Daffodil singles, but we had no new album to support it. Likewise, his final single for Daffodil, “Sail On”, which I asked Terry Brown to produce, got some decent airplay but had no album behind it. TRIVIA:  Something very few people know is that Tom’s backing band on “Sail On” was Klaatu, who were just breaking big in the U.S at the time!

 

These last two singles were released under the “Tom Cochrane” solo name and were intended to maintain his presence at radio and with the public while I tried to raise money to make another album and keep him going financially.

Unfortunately, that took too long to pull off so I had to reluctantly encourage Tom to go to L.A to try to be seen and break in down there. I felt his talent was too different for the few ‘artist(e)’ signings that were being made up here back then - it was mostly about groups, hairdos, and rock’n’roll at the time. I feared that he would languish unsigned and unrecognised if he stayed.

 

Daffodil simply ran out of money to keep bankrolling its artists at just the wrong time in Tom’s career otherwise he would, from my point of view, be still signed with us today, I can assure you! Just a year or so later, after Klaatu broke big internationally for us, it could have been quite different but by then Tom was in L.A - some time still before being spotted to front Red Rider and eventually getting on that highway of his to the top.

 

It’s, of course, terribly easy, in hindsight, to say that I knew that Tom would breakout the way he eventually did. But, regardless of that, I did know he would; and without any qualification required! The only thing, from my point of view back then, that would have prevented Tom being successful and having a huge hit was the same, and is still the same, for any real ‘artist’ with real talent -  meeting the right believer at the right time in his/her career in this tough, fickle and faithless business. And for Tom that was most certainly and most surely Deane Cameron, who stayed with him through thick and thin, all the way from their high school days in a band together right up to recent times.

 

Tom is the consummate Canadian artist. On one hand, somewhat reserved but on the other hand - wonderfully ‘wordy’, and highly capable without needing to scream it out loud. He was a perfectionist as a teenager and he is still a perfectionist today. He was the dark horse amongst the front line of Canada’s artists of the 80s and 90s. He never compromised his art. He might have been a little too ‘artist’ and not enough in-your-face ‘star’ for the public pop arena but I like him the better for it. That will last longer, everytime. ‘Stars’ burn out sooner or later and sometimes very fast.

(The foregoing notes are extracted from the 2003 Juno Programme contribution I made honouring Tom Cochrane as that year’s inductee into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.)

Fludd

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Fludd was one of the most popular ‘commercial’ rock bands of the early 1970s in Canada. Formed by the Pilling brothers (Brian and Ed) and Greg Godowitz out of the ashes of their former band the Pretty Ones, the group merged their rock sensibility with a Liverpool-bred knack for good pop music stylings and songs.

The band was signed initially by the Warner Bros label and their first Warner album was produced by ex-Paupers member Adam Mitchell who at the time had moved to California and was making a name for himself as both a record producer/songwriter and the paramour of Linda Ronstadt.

The first album produced the excellent single “Turned 21” that displayed all of Fludd’s strongest trademarks – an expressive lead vocal, multilayered vocal ‘bg’ harmonies, tight and melodic playing. It became a hit on both sides of the border but for reasons unknown - and for which Daffodil was extremely grateful - Warners did not exercise their option on the group.

I first saw the band on May 27th 1972, playing one of the hundreds of high school gigs that rock bands played annually in the 70s – this one at Cedarbrae Collegiate in Scarborough. They already had a ‘big’ show and had lots of Rock’n’Roll attitude and Brit-style glamour. The girls loved them!

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We launched their first Daffodil album “On” (originally to be titled “Cock On”) to the country’s media at the then luxurious (but now torn down) Inn On The Park hotel in Toronto on 14/11/72. “Cock On” was to include a somewhat risqué cover shot of the band in the ‘altogether’ (see edited version above) and combined with the proposed title this sent the red flags up Capitol’s masthead on Malton in a manner of minutes. I was asked to change both and while arguing for the merits of the title it was harder to argue for the front cover shot, given the known reaction of the mainstream distributors to anything remotely smacking of politics, religion, or sex.

We ended up with a metallic red and gold cover and the title “On”. Unidisc has since re-released the album in CD form with its correct title and uses the controversial photo of the group as a double-spread inside.

We released three singles to reasonable national AM and FM radio reaction but it was not until the success of “Cousin Mary” - there’s that enigma of the 4th single popping up again - that the album really kicked in. Rosalie Tremblay at CKLW loved the single and agreed to push it hard if we came up with a U.S release.  I made a deal with Seymour Stein at Sire Records who put the single out just as it was peaking in Canada. Rosie did play the heck out of it and while it created some local Detroit sales activity it did not catch on in the R&B and R’n’R-crazed Midwest, so Sire did not exercise their option for the album.

For the second album, we discussed the need for the band to realise on their British roots and decided to go to the UK to record it. We chose Richard Branson’s recently opened The Manor (becoming only his second project in after Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells). I gave Lee DeCarlo his first solo production gig with the album and while the tracks being sent back to me sounded great and the songs were stellar, it was costing a lot of money and moving very slowly. The band later admitted that they were spending most of their time living the life of country lords, and the balance fooling around! Needless to say (Sir) Richard was not too happy about the time it took for Daffodil to pay its bills, and nor was I – particularly given that I didn’t have an album to show for it, and it was at the juncture of Daffodil’s own financial problems.

I ended up selling what we had done at the Manor (the beds for about 6-7 tracks) to the recently launched Attic Records, as their first artist signing and release. Before doing that however, we finished and released a new song at Manta - “I Held Out” - as an upfront test single. I was convinced it would be a huge hit and would set the stage for the album and make the ongoing expense worthwhile – but unfortunately radio did not agree, though it did do moderately well wherever it was played.

 

It was in the latter stages of Daffodil’s tenure with the group that Brian Pilling was diagnosed with Leukemia. As the leader of the band, its principal songwriter (with brother Ed), and most importantly a terrific person, it was devastating news to everyone involved – personally and professionally. Brian soldiered on but finally succumbed to his illness on June 28, 1978 at the age of 29.

 

The original Fludd members split up into various parts  - their immensely talented drummer Jorn Anderson became a successful sideman/session player with the likes of Murray McLauchlan & Honeymoon Suite, has been a longtime member of the Lincolns, played a key role in Alannah Myles worldwide success and currently is a member of Kevin Breit’s splendid Folk Alarm; Greg Godovitz had great local success in the late '70's and '80's with his band Goddo and is now a radio personality, author, and memorabilia collector; while Ed retired from music for a brief period but subsequently continued singing and writing to this day.

 

TRIVIA: Original ‘On’ keyboard player Peter Csanky left shortly after completing that album; while latterday Fludd members Jim Crichton, Steve Negus and Peter Rochon would go on to form Saga in 1977; Gord Waszek (originally from Leigh Ashford) went on to join several Toronto bands, including a reformed version of Motherlode; and Doni Underhill joined the very successful West Coast group Trooper. Manager William ‘Skinny’ Tenn and I continued working together on various artists throughout the 80s and 90s including the ‘blazing’ rock guitarist/artist Gus, and the brilliant and eclectic Queen Street darlings - the Pukka Orchestra. Andy Hermant, owner of Manta Sound Studios and Duke Street records, played banjo on Fludd’s hit “Cousin Mary”.

 

Fludd attracted a highly vocal, young female following. Their stage show was campy, controversial, flamboyant and always sold out. Lead singer Ed particularly, and also bass player Greg (later of Goddo fame) were chick magnets and outrageous performers, while Brian was the musical leader and driving force. For me, there is no doubt that were it not for Brian’s tragic early death, Fludd would have become a very successful group in North America, at the least. The group has recently reformed, recorded a new album, and are playing live again with Brian’s brother Steve - along with longtime friend Gord Waszcek.

Klaatu

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There is a very thin line for any talented artist and creator between success and failure, fame and obscurity, and therefore ultimately, public acceptance or rejection. That line is forever straddled by timing (above all), trends (those that flow for and against), and the whims of the guardians and arbiters of public taste (those media gatekeepers that control the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ buttons) - not to mention unforeseen market forces and a serious measure of good luck…………. among other tipping points.

Klaatu was unique in the history of rock and pop music. Really!

This talented band consisted of three completely unknown, sincere, genuine, real, and gifted musicians and songwriters. Together with their production partner, Terry Brown, Klaatu made timeless, and highly underrated, records over the span of ten years. They did it entirely by their own rules and in their own way. While artists today strive to take control of more and more facets of their careers, thirty years ago such creative empowerment was generally unheard of or allowed. Klaatu’s career was defined - in every way - by being an exception to the rule. They charted their own course believing that, in the grand scheme of things, they were just a group of almost-normal (!), unpedigreed ‘nobodies’ - save for the music they made. So they insisted from day one that the music alone do the talking. And it did!

 

This band, their songs, their writing and arranging skills and their production ideas and techniques were absolutely amongst the very best in pop and rock music of the seventies – an already gem-rich period for many, and arguably most, of the ‘classic’ albums made in pop music history.

 

As was Klaatu’s wish since the very first day I met them back in October 1974, I am going to let their music do most of the talking here, save for the opportunity to make a few personal observations and comments that may be of interest along the way:

 

As every A&R person worth their salt will tell you – rule number one - you never sign an artist simply based upon hearing one song (however much you may love it). The process is supposed to unfold as follows: check the artist out live, hear more material, meet their management team - if they have such a thing - a few times, go over their career gameplan, ‘hang’ with the personalities a bit, measure the reaction of others to the music, conduct some research, explore the artist’s commitment and dedication to their career and music, gauge their ambition and their attitude, and above all think about the whole ‘enchilada’ quietly on your own, in the cold, unemotional light of the following day before making any rash decisions.

 

And, after fully absorbing the previous comments, as every person involved in the creative arts also needs to know – you can and should never say never; about anything. There are NO rules. There are merely the gut instincts, experience and knowledge that working in the music industry may bring to making decisions……along with a deep love of music itself. And so to the purpose of my comments.

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When we arranged to meet in the fall of 1974, Terry Brown was already a good friend who had engineered, as previously indicated, several records I produced after my arrival in Canada in the very early seventies. Since coming to Canada himself in the late 60s, Terry was producing albums for Rush and Max Webster amongst others, at that time. 

Terry and I knew each other well so we wasted no time in simply getting to the music without any further hype or comment required. Accordingly, I was introduced to Doctor Marvello. This is a very special song and recording for me and while it is not included in this set, it is available on SunSet, a Klaatu CD boxset that captures most of the highlights of their five album catalogue.

It was, as you have gathered, the very first music by Klaatu I ever heard. I made up my mind well before the song was over that I was ready to make a deal (any deal) based purely on this one song alone. The next song Terry played was the superb California Jam a hit single if ever I heard one (and of Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds-era quality to boot).

I first met the members of Klaatu (John Woloschuk, Terry Draper, and Dee Long) a month or so later at the first and last live public appearance they were to make for most of the next decade - the taping of a CBC TV show from Toronto titled “Keith Hampshire’s Music Machine” featuring their performances of California Jam and True Life Hero (which they had agreed to do in order to capture the results on film for posterity). They had one bizarre but crucial (to the band) requirement implicit in any possible future relationship between us; namely, that in the marketing and management of their career there were to be no bios, no photos, no personality descriptions, no interviews, no appearances, no names or album credits even, except the bare minimum required for copyright purposes. The music alone would be the only tool I would have to market and promote their career. Just the music. In short, if ever there was anything that was contrary to every fundamental principle of how to break and expose any new artist and their music, this was it.

 

There was, of course, no way any ‘major’ or mainstream label of any size would have accepted those terms (limitations), hence the reason that Terry felt my independent record label might be the answer, provided I liked what they did enough to accept these conditions. Enough? Indeed!

 

Some time later Terry came in to play me the two most recent tracks the band had been working on. While the earlier songs represented pure pop at its very best, thus providing an opportunity for mainstream accessibility and acceptance (or ‘hit single potential’ in yesterday’s vinyl era), Calling Occupants and Little Neutrino represented the other extreme – FM (rock) radio at its very best. These were the tracks that the late night deejays would pick and play for themselves (and thus their audience) on the cool FM stations throughout North America, and John Peel’s show, as an example, in the UK. Together these two seemingly divergent and diverse styles were, when they worked in tandem, far greater than the sum of their two parts to those artists that were able to successfully cover those extremes – like Pink Floyd, the Who, the Rolling Stones, the Eagles, mid-period Fleetwood Mac and Rod Stewart, Bob Seger, the Doobie Brothers, Queen, Bowie, ZZ Top, Springsteen and of course, the Beatles, to name the cream of them.

The reason so few acts have successfully done this is the alienation these extremes can sometimes cause to the fans of the artist – particularly the view of hit singles to the FM rock audience, who regarded anything but the very best hits as selling out (one of the reasons Led Zeppelin never strove for hit singles or even releasing them), but also to the pop fans who couldn’t quite get their ears around anything too ‘out there’.

 

What this ‘bridging’ meant to record companies was substantial album sales, which is of course where the real profits are generated, as well as long term careers and ‘classic’ credibility for the artists. The difficulty for most artists back then was balancing these extremes. If you were too pop you didn’t sell albums, though you may have had plenty of single hits, and if you were too ‘progressive’ on the rock side you didn’t produce ‘hit’ singles and therefore reach the mass audience. 

 

Calling Occupants written by Woloschuk and Draper combines majesty, depth, power and melody but in a poignant, dynamic form. It was quite clear from the very first listen that it also represented the ideal ‘crossover’ between pop and rock audiences that I have already mentioned. We did eventually decide to establish Klaatu’s rock/pop sound in Canada with California Jam as the first single because it was cool, had that poprock vibe to it with some great harmonies and an interesting yet accessible lyric, and it was undeniably hooky all at the same time. I had also secured a U.S deal with Island Records for the track after playing the footage of the band’s Music Machine performance to Island’s then American President.

 

We got the single added to the mighty CKLW radio in Windsor/Detroit on 22nd January 1975 and with that station’s coverage throughout most of the central United States and Island’s release, Klaatu reached America’s ears for the first time. Releasing California Jam first also helped ensure that Calling Occupants would not be overlooked when it came out as a single, since it was very lengthy for a potential pop hit and obviously was pretty offbeat lyrically. The theory was that we would at least introduce the audience to Klaatu’s unusual sound without risking the loss of Calling Occupants in the process.

 

As soon as Terry had completed mixing the balance of the tracks that constituted 3:47 E.S.T I started approaching the U.S labels to make a worldwide deal for the group and its debut album outside Canada; with Daffodil set to release the albums here.

 

The first meeting I set with an American label was with Rupert Perry, the Vice President of A&R at Capitol in the U.S on September 26th 1975. Rupert and I had worked at EMI in London at the same time in the mid-60s and stayed in touch frequently after both of us ended up in North America in the 70s. He had already heard many of the other artists I had been developing in Canada when I took him the 3:47 EST tracks.

 

Rupert immediately expressed some interest and some six months later Capitol accepted the same bizarre conditions that I had been subjected to. “Can I at least meet them or talk to them on the phone so I know they do really exist” asked Rupert. “Later, perhaps” was my response. We did agree that since the deal was being done with Terry’s production company and my record label, on one side, that Capitol, on the other side, would be entitled to a ‘rider’ with the Klaatu members’ signatures attached to the deal saying that they approved of it (not an uncommon scenario when artists are signed indirectly like this).

Amazing and incomprehensible as it later appeared to the media at the time, Rupert and the other Capitol executives in Hollywood were being absolutely truthful when they later said that they had neither met any single member of the group, nor knew what they looked like, nor had they ever even spoken to one of them.

 

The ‘rumour’ surrounding Klaatu that eventually led, indirectly, to their break-up was neither conceived, instigated, nor ever imagined in their wildest dreams either by any member of the band or by anyone associated with them. It was not only a huge surprise to us all, it was a shock - albeit with pleasant results initially - and it became a cruel irony in that it was so diametrically opposed to what the band had stood for from day one. Klaatu were inspired (like so many others) by the music of the Beatles, but that’s where the likeness and the association stopped.

 

Think about it – this band of anonymous, unknown musicians from Canada suddenly had half the music world believing their album was, in fact, the Beatles reunited! Germans, Australians, Scandinavians, Japanese and Brits proclaiming that this album was without question the production work of George Martin, the penmanship of Lennon/McCartney, recorded by the four lads from Liverpool, with some English industry colleagues, in Terry and myself, fronting for them all!

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We decided that the best thing to do was to try to ride it out, neither confirm nor deny a rumour we had never started in the first place, maintaining ad-nauseam the same position that we had lived by from day one: “just let the music do the talking”. It may sound cliché now, but back then (not that its changed much) nobody was prepared to just let the music do the talking – they would have been lost at sea, never made it to first base, leg before wicket. Everyone was trying to find a way, other than through the music, to grab attention, be noticed, and get heard. Clapton is rumoured to be playing kazoo on this track, it’s Winwood humming on the remix of the single’s B-side, Dylan’s girlfriend once dated the road manager’s brother; and so on.

 

I must say that the rumour was fun for a while, and looking back at it, the intense period of recognition and activity that the rumour spawned created a very exciting period for all of us - particularly for all the attention it suddenly brought to this talented bunch of unknowns, and certainly too for the relief it brought to a ‘battle-weary’ group of music industry people – both the media and all those working for the record labels involved.

 

The sales skyrocketed. Capitol worldwide could not keep the album in the stores and had to have parts shipped to all its manufacturing plants which were meanwhile on a 24hour pressing schedule just to keep up with the demand. 15,000 sales grew in days to 150,000, which grew in weeks to 500,000 and that was in the U.S alone. Canadian and Australian sales reached ‘Gold’ status first.  Daily newspaper headlines, TV and Radio interviews around the world, contests, university dissertations and analysis on the lyrical implications and hidden clues found on the album, comments and denials by the individual Beatles themselves, mass speculation!

I even received a postcard from McCartney saying he was having a laugh watching all the rumours swirling. It was a giant roller-coaster ride that for a while looked like it would never end.

And it probably would have continued a lot longer, were it not for a straightforward, very normal occurrence that took place several years earlier. The band’s members had decided to protect the copyright in their songs shortly after they first created them, by registering the songs in a very public place – the Library of Congress in Washington D.C - and with their Canadian addresses attached for all to see! No clandestine conspiracy afoot here.

All it took was a music director at a radio station in Washington to wander over to the Library on his lunchbreak, ask to see the publicly available copyright registration record for the song “Sub-Rosa Subway” and the rumour was history.

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Nothing IS as it MAY seem. An oft-used expression that flies in the face of conspiracy-theories, speculation, coincidence, rumour, and over-active imaginations. Because Terry Brown was English and had been involved with the engineering/production behind records by the Who, the Moody Blues, Procol Harum, and Donovan in his native London in the 60s, because I had worked for the Beatles’ UK label Parlophone in the same period and was British too, because Klaatu’s production had the quality, inventiveness, and richness of George Martin’s work, because when you played certain tracks backwards they seemed to be saying ‘something’, because “Sub-Rosa Subway” used the mysterious morse code to deliver its message, because Klaatu was signed to the Beatles’ American label Capitol Records, because the Carpenters recorded “Calling Occupants” - the type of song not normally associated with them lyrically or musically, because Richard Carpenter was known to be a huge fan of the Beatles’ productions, and because Klaatu wished to remain entirely anonymous…………all the roads (appeared to) lead to Rome………..but since when has one and one made two in the minds of those looking for the impossible - or the unattainable? The Beatles were never to record together again, not in Canada, not nowhere, man.

 

As Klaatu said at the time, “people believe what they want to believe. Like true sailors nothing would have changed our original course” (a theme, by the way, that is rampant throughout their recordings, as you have probably noticed – be it on the water or in space). The band set out on their trip wanting their music to speak for itself; and that’s what they always let it do.

 

Steve Smith quoted me in his original February 1977 Providence Sunday Journal article – the one that created the Beatles rumour - as stating “when it is finally known (who) they are, your story will be interesting to look back on”. What an understatement.

 

It is both a comment on how insecure and unsure many music critics were about music itself (and still are), and regrettably, sometimes, how important their influence can be nonetheless, that so many of them abandoned Klaatu’s music when the false rumour was subsequently uncovered; as if the band was at fault, and their music was suddenly less because of it.

How doubly ironic it is therefore that this band, which refused to partake of, or become a slave to, any of the over-hype surrounding the regular, standard promotion and marketing by record companies of most recording artists to the media in the seventies, should itself later be reproached and stifled by the media itself for causing a media-furor over their own desire to be anonymous.

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If Klaatu’s career had taken the same course as that of any other talented, emerging artist following up a well reviewed but typically modest selling debut (which we certainly expected it would in those days shortly before the rumour was ‘introduced’), the HOPE album would have been regarded and hailed, in my opinion, as the ‘masterpiece’ it was (and is).

 

It has everything that the great concept albums of that era by artists like Pink Floyd, Procol Harum, Yes, Genesis, and King Crimson among others, had captured. Great playing, superior production, songs full of rich melodies, clever arrangements, and meaningful lyrics linked to each other, track by track, and wrapped as one continuous, flowing fantastic story within the framework of an uninterrupted sonic journey.

Terry and Klaatu had asked Doug Riley, ‘Dr Music’ himself, a classically-trained arranger and composer and a superb musician (who has arranged for and played with Ray Charles, Bob Seger - that’s Doug on “Night Moves”- the Brecker Brothers, David Clayton-Thomas and so many other greats) to orchestrate the parts and then conduct the 80+ members of the National Philharmonic Orchestra that had been booked for January 12th and 13th 1977 in England at Terry’s ‘Alma Mater’ Olympic Sound.

 

Klaatu returned to Toronto and started adding final overdubs and then mixing the HOPE ‘symphonic-version’ through the balance of the winter, so that by March 9th 1977 I was in a position to take the fully mixed tapes to Los Angeles to play the album for all the senior executives of Capitol who had agreed to attend a luncheon/listening session I had organized in the Tower at Hollywood & Vine.

 

The final sustain of the title track’s piano and strings faded into oblivion some forty minutes later, when the entire group collectively and spontaneously burst into wild applause. The following day the Capitol ‘machine’ sprung into action and started planning the substantial marketing buildup for the upcoming, imminent release of the record scheduled for just a few weeks away.

 

That was not to be the case, of course, once the rumour really hit. The HOPE album release was delayed for six months and more, and the band decided to re-work it while they waited. This included stripping out most of the acoustic orchestral parts and replacing them with the then emerging synthesizer sound that the band painstakingly layered on their original tracks. Though the ‘symphonic’ HOPE was then permanently shelved until it was released for the very first time in 2005 on the aforementioned SunSet collection, the HOPE album that was eventually released, that included the three tracks here, did sell very well around the world; and certainly to all those Klaatu afficianados who were not sidetracked by the hype, HOPE surely has a special place amongst their alltime favourite albums. It certainly does in mine.

While it was nominated for no less than three Juno Awards (Canada’s Grammy) for production, album jacket design, and engineering, I was especially happy to see Terry Brown take the stage to pick up 1977’s Best Engineered Recording of the Year Juno.

“We’re off you know” was the first single from the album and is a great album opener, while “Around the Universe” captures a handful of the sonic, musical genius of Klaatu’s guitarist Dee who wrote the song.

 

The final moment of HOPE is given to its title track, a beautiful song by lead singer and main writer John Woloschuk that will get a huge ‘cover’ one of these days with its universal theme, inspired lyric and gorgeous melody.  Surely one of the finest crafted pop songs and recordings of the recent pop era:

 

HOPE IS LIKE A LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER'S BEAM

HOPE, THE MASTER COBBLER OF OUR DREAMS

FOR HOPE BELIEVES IN DESERT STREAMS,

THE MIGHTIEST OF STARS, THE MICROCOSM IN A JAR

VAST OR SMALL THEY ALL REVOLVE ON HOPE.

©1977 Magentalane Music Limited. By John Woloschuk. Lyric reprinted by permission.

Shortly before we finally released HOPE I received an extraordinary phonecall from a man by the name of Ed Sulzer, who was an executive at A&M Records in California, advising me that The Carpenters, the brother/sister duo of Karen and Richard and one of the most successful recording artists in the world in the seventies, had decided to record Klaatu’s song “Calling Occupants” for their upcoming album. Apparently Richard was fascinated by the song and the production after hearing Klaatu’s version on the radio, and he had decided to make the Carpenters next album much more ‘progressive’ and adventurous than their predecessors, which of course contained countless lush, shimmering pop ballads and radio smashes. That they had chosen “Calling Occupants” of all songs was surprising enough; but that it then became their single from the highly praised “Passage” album, left us all in amazement. This was only capped later by that single then going into the top 10 in America, reaching #3 in the UK, #2 in Japan, with the album peaking at #1.

SIR ARMY SUIT was a ‘complete’ pop album from beginning to end – full of gems. Another step forward that in any other career would have added worldwide hits and ongoing momentum to an already burgeoning success story. The three band members, Terry and his vibrant and spirited late wife Linda, myself, her Majesty QE2, Ian Thomas’ grandfather, and Hugh Syme (the noted album jacket artist) are featured in Hugh’s front cover painting on Sir Army Suit, along with a very significant mouse.

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Routine Day was certainly an important pop moment in this band’s musical history. Klaatu continued to prove that on this, their third album, they remained innovative and original despite all the market forces and conditions weighing-in on them.  This track features ingenious songwriting melodically and lyrically, a brilliant production, and tremendous orchestrations and arrangements.

An atypical animated video was produced for the song by the Hollywood directors Al Guest and Jean Mathieson (both Canadians) and extracted from the half-hour animated Happy New Year Planet Earth special which they also directed. The full special has never been seen though it features music from 3:47 E.S.T and Sir Army Suit exclusively. It is mired in ownership issues and just waiting for someone to discover and release it, as recently happened with the excellent movie documentary created from 1970’s Festival Express footage. The three minute excerpt of “Routine Day” was played by Don Kirshner on his “Midnight Special” show in the U.S several times, however.

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Rupert Perry (mostly recently the Chairman of EMI Europe) and the man who had the guts to accept our unusual and unique signing conditions for the band as the then head of A&R for Capitol Records in the U.S, was faced with a multi-pronged quandary by the time he optioned Endangered Species, Klaatu’s fourth album. The band’s sales were declining, and the bloom was off the rose - the rumour that they had become the victim of, had unfairly affected their credibility with the media, who in turn passed on their own embarrassment (at being innocently duped by a journalist-colleague), to their audiences.

Chris Bond, who had been the producer responsible for a string of Hall & Oates hits and was a terrific musician in his own right, was recommended by Rupert to the band as the producer of this new album in order to have them fit more into the pop mainstream and the prevailing sounds that were on the charts. The band were not at all keen to work with another producer but finally agreed that they wanted to get another shot with Capitol and therefore moved down to sunny L.A for a few months to record ENDANGERED SPECIES with Chris. 

The album turned out to have some fine moments and while it took, quite naturally, a very different direction to its predecessors, it spawned a sizeable radio hit in Knee Deep In Love, another well crafted pop song. Rupert contributed the vocal line “Peddle Yourself” to the song Sell Out, Sell Out on the originally released album recording.

Klaatu produced intelligent pop at its finest, and rock music with integrity, depth and taste. Their pop sensibilities were on a par with sixties inspirations like “Walk Away Renee” (the Left Banke), “Green Tambourine” (the Lemon Pipers), “Louie Louie” (Kingsmen), Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit In The Sky”, the Beach Boys’ “Heroes & Villains” and other such records, while their rock credibility has drawn comparisons with not only the Beatles, but Floyd, Supertramp, early Genesis, and the Moody Blues.

John, Dee and Terry  each possess significant individual skills and talents that they brought to Klaatu to bring it life. Dee’s overall musicianship, off-the-wall writing, inventive and ingenious electronic and playing skills; John’s pure pop, rich songwriting sensibilities and quality, and distinct lead vocal abilities; Terry’s staunch and stubborn commitment to the band’s ideals, together with the drive and enthusiasm he displayed both behind and in front of the drum kit. All of this combined allowed Klaatu to be far greater even than the sum of its parts, and all of which contributed to their undeniable, unique body of work, of which they can and should be justifiably proud.

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Listen to Klaatu and know there will always be hope. Hope for great music when artists, songwriters and musicians let their music do the talking….. first and foremost - above all other ambitions and concerns!

 

The edited notes above are extracted from the longer version I wrote for the booklet included in the Klaatu boxset “SunSet” released spring 2005 on Bullseye Records.

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Klaatu fans from around the world gather at a 3 day convention for them held in Toronto in May 2005.

Dillinger

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In early 1974 manager Cliff Hunt (Zon, Killjoys etc) brought me the track “People” that this half English/French-Canadian band were in the midst of recording independently with producer Bruce Ley.  It was striking with its unusual, but still commercial-sounding, jazz/rock fusion and their tight playing. After then seeing how strong the group was live - the band had also developed a decent-sized live following, particularly in Quebec - we signed them.

The group members were accomplished musicians playing ‘progressive’ music with a Francophone twist – but sung mostly in English.

While we got good FM airplay on “People” and their interesting cover of Spirit’s enviro-classic “Nature’s Way”, the debut album received late night FM exposure only and generated very modest sales. The jacket artwork paintings by Gary Gatti were exceptional.

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The album did however attract the attention of U.S investor/promoter Thomas Demeter from Detroit who encouraged us to bring the band down to Flint, Michigan to record a second album there – “Don’t Lie To The Band” - at a converted Red Barn outlet that he had transformed into a studio. We decided to focus more on the band’s progressive rock leanings, over its jazz influences, and to blend that into a commercial mix of the two by doing a couple of classic songs by Spooky Tooth and George Harrison along with some longer, rock pieces the band had written.

This time we got a bit more Top 40 play by releasing both of the covers as singles but these did not enhance their live following particularly or sell albums, and their originals were still regarded as too progressive for most stations. The band, which had been getting more and more into the hard rock arena musically, decided to split up and were shortly after reborn as the Hunt.

The Hunt

Like Moxy, Frank Marino’s Mahogany Rush, Triumph, and even earlier-era Rush, before them, the Hunt developed their core fan following out of the Midwest States and Texas particularly - moreso than in Canada.

Dillinger’s Jacques Harrison and Paul Cockburn joined up with multi-instrumentalist Gerry ‘The Mozz’ Mosby, drummer Paul ‘Sally’ Kersey (from the original Max Webster), and bassist Brian Gagnon to form the Hunt (named after the band’s manager) - an edgier but somewhat more focused and commercial reincarnation of Dillinger. 

Their debut album produced by George Semkiw met with little initial reaction in Canada but attracted strong radio airplay in San Antonio where Canada’s heavier rock’n’roll groups had something of a Can-Invasion going on.

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This, and some good reviews from Kerrang and other international ‘metal-mags’, led to interest from Marty Scott head of New York’s Jem Records, a leading U.S importer of British music. After importing a good quantity of the first Hunt album to service the Lone Star state, Marty offered me a direct U.S-only deal for the group on his own domestic label – Passport.

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The Hunt recorded two further albums for Daffodil/Passport under that deal, both produced by Steve Vaughan - a talented, transplanted Brit musician who had engineered some other projects for me (Private Eye, Leggat, Gus).  On the first of these albums, “Back On The Hunt”, the band had become a three piece with Kersey and Gagnon adding new lead singer Paul Dickinson to the group. The Mozz had departed for Larry Gowan’s Rheingold group (and then on to Alfie Zappacosta’s Surrender), Jacques Harrison had gone back to Quebec to join his brother in the very successful Offenbach, and Paul Cockburn left to form his own group.

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The Hunt’s third and last album - “The Thrill Of The Kill”- was released in 1982 and became Daffodil’s final album release. It saw another change to the line-up with newcomer Carl Calvert replacing Brian Gagnon. Carl and Paul Dickinson wrote all of the material except two covers – one of which was The Crazy World of Arthur Brown’s 1968 #1 smash “Fire”.  But the record did not set the world alight and the band broke up in 1984.

THE CATALOGUE

Daffodil put out 61 albums over the twelve years since its launch in 1970 (with an additional two - previously ‘canned’ - being released from the vaults by new owner Unidisc in the 1990s). 31 of these albums were by Canadian artists.

 

In Canada, 3 of these albums reached Platinum status, and 4 went Gold. The label also released 87 singles, 68 of which were by Canadians. Our production company (‘LOVE’) licensed an additional 9 singles for release by other Canadian labels (Capitol, MTCC, London, Strawberry) - all of which were by Canadian artists.