Aporia Records [Release date 07.10.16] Julian Taylor Band’s ‘Desert Star’ is the album that refuses to lie down. With release dates in 2015 and 2016, it’s now being re-promoted in the UK and is a stellar album worthy of plenty … Continue reading
Posts published in “Toronto”
Auto Added by WPeMatico
Mary Lou Gauthier (Lead vocals)
Louis McKelvey (Guitar, Vocals)
Malcolm Tomlinson (Guitar, Flute, Drums, Lead vocals)
Ron Frankel (Drums)
Ronnie Blackwell (Bass)
Jack Geisinger (Bass, Vocals)
This fascinating Anglo-Canadian group was put together by former Influence and Our Generation member Louis McKelvey (b. 31 October 1943, Killorglin, County Kerry, Republic of Ireland) with ex-King Curtis sideman Ron Frankel (b. April 1947, Montreal, Canada).
Frankel had previously played in The Soul Mates (and with his wife Mary Lou Gauthier) in the lounge band, Five of a Kind, before joining King Curtis & The King Pins in 1968. (Ed: McKelvey may have met Frankel at the Hawk’s Nest on 23 July 1968 when King Curtis & The King Pins played there).
McKelvey approached Frankel and Gauthier about putting a new band together in September 1968 after leaving Influence, but the group didn’t form properly until early March 1969.
During the interim, McKelvey returned to England for around five months and reunited with his old friend Malcolm Tomlinson (b. 16 June 1946, Isleworth, Middlesex, England), from the early 1960s west London band Jeff Curtis & The Flames.
Tomlinson was currently playing with Gethsemane (featuring future Jethro Tull guitarist Martin Barre), and had done a BBC radio session with Elton John in October 1968.
McKelvey and Tomlinson both auditioned for the guitar position in Jethro Tull, but when Barre was offered the place and Gethsemane split up, Tomlinson returned to Toronto with McKelvey around March 1969 to put together Milkwood.
Adding ex-Five Bells bass player Ron Blackwell (b. 27 July 1948, Montreal, Canada), the band played at the Penny Farthing in Toronto in early May. They also played regularly at the Electric Circus.
The band sent a four-track demo to Polydor Records around this time and, according to Billboard, the label signed the band before it had played a single show.
In mid-June 1969, former Influence member Jack Geisinger (b. March 1945, Czech Republic) joined replacing Ronnie Blackwell in time for sessions at the Hit Factory in New York.
Kicking off on 20 June, the week-long sessions were overseen by famous producer and song-writer Jerry Ragavoy who produced the LP and also played piano on some tracks.
While in New York, the band took part in the Polydor Benefit gig at the Village Gate with Dutch band, The Golden Earring on 23 June.
Sessions were completed in July. Members of The Band were at the Hit Factory when the group cut “There’s A Man” and complimented Mary Lou Gauthier on her vocals.
Back in Toronto, the band signed to the Frederick Lewis booking agency and embarked on Canadian dates.
Meanwhile, the LP was slated for release in September to coincide with an American tour, which never happened.
A disagreement between Milkwood’s manager and Polydor resulted in the LP being shelved. In November 1969 the group split up.
The band’s greatest claim to fame is that it appeared at Toronto’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Revival concert on 13 September. Although the group wasn’t billed, they performed just before John Lennon & The Plastic Ono Band, according to roadie Dave Mandel.
McKelvey and Tomlinson (and later Geisinger) stuck together to work in Damage during 1969-1970.
McKelvey also briefly worked with Powerhouse in late 1970, before retiring from the music business.
Tomlinson later recorded with Rick James and Bearfoot and issued two solo LPs. Geisinger played with Charlee and Moonquake among others.
Frankel later did sessions for Jesse Winchester while Mary Lou Gauthier recorded a solo single, “In The Summertime” c/w “Come Run” for Polydor and later sang with Celine Dion at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. Blackwell is a computer consultant and lives in Las Vegas.
Malcolm Tomlinson died in April 2016. Louis McKelvey died in November 2017 and Jack Geisinger has also passed away.
3 May 1969 – Penny Farthing, Toronto (possibly when Jimi Hendrix dropped in to listen)
25 May 1969 – Rock Pile, Toronto with Kensington Market, Grand Funk Railroad and Leather
June 1969 – Electric Circus, Toronto (this is where Rubbott Management spotted them)
21 June 1969 – Rock Pile, Toronto with Brother Brent
23 June 1969 – Village Gate, New York with The Golden Earring
18 August 1969 – Penny Farthing, Toronto (Led Zeppelin played this night at the Rock Pile and Robert Plant and John Bonham dropped in at the club afterwards)
13 September 1969 – Toronto Rock ‘N’ Roll Revival, Varsity Stadium with John Lennon & The Plastic Ono Band, Gene Vincent, Alice Cooper and many others
19 September 1969 – York University, Toronto with Teegarden and Vanwinkle
11 October 1969 – Electric Circus, Toronto
17 October 1969 – The Hawk’s Nest, Toronto
Many thanks to Louis McKelvey, Mary Lou Gauthier, Ron Frankel, Ronnie Blackwell, David Mandel, Malcolm Tomlinson and Jack Geisinger for information.
Toronto gigs were taken from the After Four section of the Toronto Telegram.
Copyright © Nick Warburton. All Rights Reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced or transmitted in any from or by any means, without prior permission from the author
Fred Keeler (Guitar, Vocals)
Gord Fleming (Keyboards, Accordion, Vocals)
Denny Gerrard (Bass, Vocals)
Frank Di Felice (Drums)
Scott Cushnie (Keyboards)
Danny Marks (Guitar, Vocals)
Bob Yeomans (Drums)
This musically interesting band was formed in March 1970 by former Paupers member (turned manager) Chuck Beal, who teamed Fleming and Keeler, both of whom had worked together in the mid-1960s with The Shays with former Paupers’ bass player Gerrard and ex-Grant Smith & The Power drummer Di Felice.
Between The Shays and Jericho, Fleming had played with Ronnie Hawkins & The Hawks, John Hammond and Gord’s Custom R&B Sound, while Keeler had been in The Majestics. Gerrard had done stints with McKenna Mendelson Mainline and Luke & The Apostles.
The group recorded an album, produced by Todd Rundgren, at The Band’s Bearsville Studios. Rundgren incidentally also worked with The Band around this time and is also featured on guitar.
The sound not surprisingly then is reminiscent of The Band’s Stage Fright period and is thoroughly recommended. Rundgren’s production is top notch, particularly on tracks “Make It Better” and “Lonely As Me”.
“Make It Better” reached #80 on the Canadian RPM chart in July 1971 by which point Fleming and Keeler had lost interest and left. Gerrard left too to join Heaven and Earth.
Di Felice quickly reformed the group with ex-Tundra member Scott Cushnie and former Edward Bear and Mama Lion member Danny Marks.
Bob Yeomans replaced Di Felice in late 1971 but the band broke up soon afterwards. Cushnie subsequently played with Mudlark (and also worked with Aerosmith) while Yeomans was one half of Jackson Hawk.
Fleming subsequently joined Great Speckled Bird and also did stints with Cat Stevens and the McGarrigle sisters. He died in February 1996.
Gerrard played with Heaven and Earth and recorded two singles for RCA Victor before forming Great White Cane (both groups were fronted by Rick James).
Marks subsequently joined Rick James & The Stone City Band after a brief stint with Zig Zag.
45 True Fine Girl/Back Track (Ampex 1303) 1971 (Canada)
45 Make It Better/Cheater Man (Bearsville X31003) 1971 (US)
LP Jericho (Ampex 10112) 1971 (Canada)
LP Jericho (Bearsville 10112) 1971 (US)
Copyright © Nick Warburton. All Rights Reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced or transmitted in any from or by any means, without prior permission from the author
David Clayton-Thomas (Vocals)
Jack Mowbray (Guitar)
Peter Hodgson (Bass)
Pat Patterson (Drums) then
Pat Little (Drums)
David Clayton-Thomas formed this band in Toronto in February 1968 with former Bossmen guitarist Jack Mowbray, who had been playing in Italy for six months backing pop singer Nicola di Barri.
He also brought in former Jon-Lee Group (aka Jon & Lee and The Checkmates) bass player Peter Hodgson for his new band and drummer Pat Patterson who was quickly replaced by ex-Luke & The Apostles and Edward Bear drummer Pat Little.
The group recorded the original versions of “Spinning Wheel” and “Father Dear Father” for Arc Records, which were pressed for a single but it’s not clear if any copies were released.
In June, Clayton-Thomas was asked to be Al Kooper’s replacement in Blood, Sweat & Tears and the band split up. Hodgson moved out to LA and joined Jackson Browne’s band (recording an unreleased album) and later Rhinoceros.
Little and Mowbray joined another ex-Bossmen, Tony Collacott in The Georgian People, which soon changed name to Chimo!
16-24 March 1968 – El Patio, Toronto (After Four section of Toronto Telegram)
Thanks to Pat Little and Peter Hodgson for help with the entry
Copyright © Nick Warburton. All Rights Reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced or transmitted in any from or by any means, without prior permission from the author
Doug Stokes (Vocals)
Greg Carducci (Bass)
Ray Rychlewski (Drums)
Josef Chirowski (Keyboards)
Larry Leishman (Guitar)
Singer Doug Stokes formed The Power Project in mid-1967 with former Roy Kenner & The Associates members Carducci and Rychlewski.
Former Mandala member Josef Chirowski and ex-David Clayton-Thomas & The Phoenix and Jon-Lee Group guitarist Larry Leishman joined around November 1967.
The band never recorded but did open for James Brown at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens. The Power Project played during the evenings only as Chirowski was working for Canadian Pacific Railways during the day.
After a few months of playing live, the group changed name to Freedom Fair in January 1968.
The band reverted to The Power Project name in mid-1968. Chirowski joined Grant Smith & The Power at the end of 1968, before becoming a member of Crowbar, while Leishman ended up with Rhinoceros after a stint with The Duke Edwards Cycle and Bobby Kris & The Imperials.
10 June 1967 – The Hawk’s Nest, Toronto
30 June 1967 – North York Centennial Centre, Toronto with Mandala, The Spirit and Livingstone’s Tripp
30 June 1967 – The Hawk’s Nest, Toronto
14 July 1967 – Balmy Beach Club, Scarborough, Ontario
15 July 1967 – Broom and Stone, Scarborough, Ontario with The Ugly Ducklings and Trayne
26 July 1967 – The Hawk’s Nest, Toronto
28 July 1967 – The Hawk’s Nest, Toronto
6 August 1967 – Port Carling Surf Club, Port Carling, Ontario
8 September 1967 – The Thing, Toronto with The Jon-Lee Group
15 September 1967 – The Hawk’s Nest, Toronto
23 September 1967 – The Hawk’s Nest, Toronto
Chirowski and Leishman joined during November
4 November 1967 – Hawk’s Nest, Toronto with The Tiffanies
11 November 1967 – The Pavilion, Orillia, Ontario
19 November 19 1967 – Maple Leaf Gardens with James Brown (this may have been May 1968)
25 November 1967 – The Hawk’s Nest, Toronto
2 December 1967 – Inferno, Toronto
9 December 1967 – The Bunny Bin, Toronto with The Counts and Bunny Band
30 December 1967 – The Hawk’s Nest, Toronto
31 December 1967 – Broom and Stone, Scarborough, Ontario with Jackie Shane, Frank Motley The Hitch-Hikers
26 January 1968 – The Hawk’s Nest, Toronto
28 June 1968 – Port Carling Surf Club, Port Carling, Ontario
5 July 1968 – Port Carling Surf Club, Port Carling, Ontario
The gigs were taken from the After Four section in the Toronto Telegram. Thanks to Larry Leishman for some background information.
Lee Jackson (Vocals)
Michael Fonfara (Keyboards)
Larry Leishman (Guitar, Vocals)
Dave Brown (Drums)
Peter Hodgson (Bass)
Wes Morris (Drums)
John Finley (Vocals)
Jeff Cutler (Drums)
Toronto’s R&B favourites, Jon & Lee and The Checkmates were originally known as Lee Jackson & The Checkmates.
The original band (formed at a local high school in 1962) comprised singer Lee Jackson (real name: Michael Ferry), lead guitarist Al Dorsey, bassist Dave McDevitt, drummer Paul Carrier and a saxophone player, whose name the others cannot remember.
They were joined soon afterwards by classically trained keyboard player Michael Fonfara (b. 11 August 1946, Stevensville, near Niagara Falls, Ontario).
Towards the end of 1963, the group’s manager introduced a second lead guitarist, Larry Leishman (b. 4 April 1947, Dunfermline, Scotland) from local band The Tempests.
The new line-up however, was short-lived as Dorsey soon left. His departure precipitated a series of personnel changes and by mid-1964, former Esquires singer John Finley (b. 6 May 1945, Toronto, Ontario) and his cousin, bassist Peter Hodgson (b. 16 April 1946, Toronto, Ontario), also ex-The Tempests were added alongside drummer Wes Morris.
Morris’ predecessor, Dave Brown meanwhile had gone on to join Jay Smith & The Majestics. When Morris left to join The Majestics in the summer of 1964, the group added Jeff Cutler (b. Rowland Jefferies Cutler, 8 September 1941, Toronto, Ontario).
The new line-up quickly changed its name and was picked up by local booking agent, Ron Scribner, who organised concert dates in high schools across Ontario to promote the band.
In early 1965, the band moved up to the city’s vibrant club scene and for a while were residents at Yorkville’s Avenue Road Club and the Devil’s Den. In April of that year Jon & Lee and The Checkmates opened for The Rolling Stones at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens, followed by what was probably their most prestigious concert performance, an appearance (in front of 60,000 people) at Nathan Philips Square in September supporting Bobby Curtola.
Around this time, the group cut two songs on four-track with their manager and musical director, Eddie ‘Duke’ Edwards, which led to TV appearances in Buffalo and New York.
The band also attracted the attention of American record companies RCA, Motown, Mercury, Elektra and Decca; they actually cut some demos with the latter in New York but they were never issued.
During 1966, the band traveled to New York and played at the Phone Booth and the Peppermint Lounge. The group also performed alongside Junior Walker & The All Stars, The Chiffons and The Temptations at Shea Stadium. On 21 August, the group appeared on Compass on Channel Six.
That same year, Edwards composed ‘Batman Batusi’, which the band recorded for the ABC-TV Network. The track appeared on a rare 45 with the A-side performed by another group.
Shortening their name to The Jon-Lee Group in June 1967, the band travelled to New York to play at Steve Paul’s The Scene and to record for ABC Records.
The band completed four tracks, including a cover of The Lovin’ Spoonful’s ‘Girl Beautiful Girl’, which never saw the light of day.
Instead, the label chose to release the soulful ‘Bring It Down Front’ with the instrumental rocker ‘Pork Chops’ (credited to Edwards, and provisionally titled ‘Fuck Up’).
The single subsequently reached #23 on the RPM chart in October, when it was released in Canada by Sparton Records. The single also hit #10 on Toronto’s Chum chart.
On 31 July 1967, the band returned to Toronto for its final set of gigs. The band’s music started to take on a more psychedelic bent but didn’t go down so well with audiences.
Jackson and Finley separated from the band in mid-September 1967 and the others moved to New York to become the house band at Steve Paul’s The Scene. For a while they acted as David Clayton-Thomas’ support band, The Phoenix.
However, when Thomas was deported from the US in November for being an illegal alien, Fonfara joined The Electric Flag (in time to appear on their debut album) and toured with the group for almost a month before running into Finley and Hodgson in L.A in early December.
Both had auditioned for Elektra’s new band ‘Project Super group’ (which later became Rhinoceros) and although Hodgson missed out on the original line-up, Finley was recruited, and duly recommended Fonfara for the band. Hodgson and Leishman would later join Rhinoceros together with Duke Edwards.
Lee Jackson meanwhile remained in Toronto and reverted to his former name. He later went on to work with Bruce Cockburn briefly and became a local rock promoter. In the early ‘70s, he worked for the Toronto Stock Exchange and ran a small studio before joining a floor-covering firm in 1974.
Jeff Cutler, who briefly worked with The Holy Modal Rounders and The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, later became a movie set producer.
The others (minus Cutler and Jackson and with new members) reformed as Blackstone in 1972.
45 Batman Theme/Batman Batusi (ABC-TV Network) 1966 (B-side only)
45 Bring It Down Front/Pork Chops (Sparton P1617) 1967
Advertised gigs (as Jon & Lee and The Checkmates)
25 April 1965 – Maple Leaf Gardens with Rolling Stones, The Paupers and others
20 June 1965 – Devil’s Den, Toronto
26 June 1965 – Purple Candle Club, Wasaga Beach, Ontario
10 July 1965 – Purple Candle Club, Wasaga Beach, Ontario
11 July 1965 – Devil’s Den, Toronto
16-17 July 1965 – The Hawk’s Nest, Toronto
18 July 1965 – Devil’s Den, Toronto
25 July 1965 – Devil’s Den, Toronto
29 July 1965 – “Red Cross Blood Donor Clinic”, Varsity Arena, Toronto with The Big Town Boys, The Paupers and J B & The Playboys
10 August 1965 – Sauble Beach Pavilion, Sauble Beach, Ontario
27 August 1965 – Club 888, Toronto
29 August 1965 – Devil’s Den, Toronto
3 September 1965 – Dunn’s Pavilion, Bala, Ontario
5 September 1965 – Lakeview Casino, Grand Bend, Ontario
12 September 1965 – Devil’s Den, Toronto
13 September 1965 – Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto with Bobby Curtola, David Clayton-Thomas & The Shays and others
25 September 1965 – Gord’s A Go Go, Oshawa, Ontario
26 September 1965 – Devil’s Den, Toronto
1 October 1965 – Mimicombo A Go-Go, Mimico, Ontario
10 October 1965 – Hop in the park, Eglington Park, Toronto
31 October 1965 – Maple Leaf Gardens with Rolling Stones and others
12 November 1965 – Mimicombo A Go Go, Mimico, Ontario
13 November 1965 – Hop in the park, Toronto
4 December 1965 – Avenue Road Club, Toronto
10 December 1965 – The Hawk’s Nest, Toronto
December 1965 – Peppermint Lounge, New York
14-16 January 1966 – The Avenue Road Club, Toronto
22 January 1966 – North Toronto Memorial Gardens, Toronto
28-29 January 1966 – Avenue Road Club, Toronto with Majestics with Shawne Jackson (then to New York)
20 February 1966 – Avenue Road Club, Toronto
27 February 1966 – Avenue Road Club, Toronto
4-5 March 1966 – Avenue Road Club, Toronto
6 March 1966 – Avenue Road Club, Toronto
12 March 1966 – The Hawk’s Nest, Toronto
26 March 1966 – Avenue Road Club, Toronto
1 April 1966 – Avenue Road Club, Toronto, with Franklin Sheppard & The Good Sheppards
3 April 1966 – Avenue Road Club, Toronto (afterwards went to New York, Detroit and Philadelphia for three months)
6-7 May 1966 – Avenue Road Club, Toronto
13 May 1966 – Avenue Road Club, Toronto
20 May 1966 – Hawk’s Nest, Toronto
22 May 1966 – Avenue Road Club, Toronto
19 June 1966 – Broom and Stone, Scarborough with David Clayton-Thomas and The Ugly Ducklings
9 July 1966 – Hunters Beach Pavilion, Lake Simcoe, Ontario
13 July 1966 – Whitby Arena, Whitby, Ontario with The Five Rogues, Bobby Kris & The Imperials and The Ugly Ducklings
13 July 1966 – North Toronto Memorial Arena, Toronto with The Big Town Boys and The Secrets
16 July 1966 – Port Carling Surf Club, Port Carling, Ontario
20 July 1966 – Don Mills Curling Club, Don Mills, Ontario with The British Modbeats, Bobby Kris & The Imperials and Dunc and The Deacons
23 July 1966 – Hidden Valley, Huntsville, Ontario with Barry Allen, Wes Dakus & The Rebels
26 July 1966 – North Toronto Memorial Arena, Toronto with The Jaybees and Wes Dakus, Barry Allen & The Rebels
30 July 1966 – The Hawk’s Nest, Toronto
7 August 1966 – Avenue Road Club, Toronto
14 August 1966 – Avenue Road Club, Toronto
19 August 1966 – Hidden Valley, Huntsville, Ontario
20 August 1966 – Hunter’s Beach, Lake Simcoe, Ontario
21 August 1966 – Avenue Road Club, Toronto
27 August 1966 – Port Carling Surf Club, Port Carling, Ontario
28 August 1966 – Broom and Stone, Scarborough with The Just Us and All Five
29 August 1966 – The Hawk’s Nest, Toronto
2 September 1966 – Balmy Beach Club, Scarborough, Ontario
3 September 1966 – Purple Candle, Wasaga, Ontario
6 September 1966 – Balmy Beach Club, Scarborough, Ontario
21 October 1966 – Gogue Inn, Toronto with Jack Hardin & The Silhouettes, The Five Good Reasons, Nicky Garber and Percy Dovetonsils
28-30 October 1966 – The Castle, St Catherine’s, Ontario
6 November 1966 – Avenue Road Club, Toronto
11 November 1966 – Cobourg Lions Pavillion, Cobourg, Ontario
19 November 1966 – Gogue Inn, Toronto with Jaye’s Rayders and others
30 December 1966 – Villa Inn, Streetsville, Ontario
31 December 1966 – Gogue Inn, Toronto with Eddie Spencer & The Power and The Wyldfyre
22 January 1967 – Club Isabella, Toronto
29 January 1967 – Charlie Brown’s, Toronto
4 February 1967 – Gogue Inn, Toronto with The Five Good Reasons and The Paytons
22 April 1967 – Avenue Road Club, Toronto
28-29 April 1967 – Avenue Road Club, Toronto
6 May 1967 – Gogue Inn, Toronto with Jack Hardin & The Silhouettes and Simon Caine & The Catch
20 May 1967 – Centennial Cool-Out, Kingston, Ontario with The Guess Who, The Esquires, The Townsmen and others
Advertised gigs (as Jon-Lee Group)
8-11 June 1967 – Steve Paul’s The Scene, New York
2 August 1967 – The Hawk’s Nest, Toronto
5 August 1967 – Port Carling Surf Club, Port Carling, Ontario
26 August 1967 – Broom & Stone with The Peepers and Christopher Edward Campaign
1 September 1967 – Hawk’s Nest, Toronto
2 September 1967 – Port Carling Surf Club, Port Carling, Ontario
8 September 1967 – The Thing, Toronto with The Power Project
16 September 1967 – Hawk’s Nest, Toronto
Toronto live dates were taken from the ‘After Four’ section of The Toronto Telegram.
Joe Mendelson (Guitar, Harmonica, Keyboards, Vocals)
Mike McKenna (Guitar)
Pat Little (Drums)
Timothy Leary (Bass)
Denny Gerrard (Bass)
Tony Nolasco (Drums)
Mike Harrison (Bass)
Frank ”Zeke” Sheppard (Harmonica, Bass, Vocals)
Ted Purdy (Bass, Guitar, Vocals)
Larry Leishman (Guitar, Vocals)
Bob Adams (Harmonica)
Following a brief spell in The Ugly Ducklings, former Luke & The Apostles guitarist Mike McKenna (b. 15 April 1946, Toronto, Canada) put an ad in a local paper (around May 1968) searching for blues enthusiasts interested in forming a band.
Local singer Joe Mendelson (b. Birrel Josef Mendelson, 30 July 1944, Toronto, Canada) answered his ad, and together they formed the basis of this musically interesting group.
A very short-lived line up formed with former Luke & The Apostles drummer Pat Little (b. 10 March 1947, North Bay, Ontario, Canada) and bass player Timothy Leary (not the more famous US namesake) but it never got passed rehearsals.
Soon afterwards, former Paupers member Denny Gerrard signed up alongside drummer Tony Nolasco (b. 9 July 1950, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada), who had spent a year with The Spasstiks and was only 16 years old when he arrived in Toronto.
The quartet began advertising its talents in mid-June and recorded a demonstration tape over a few days in early September, which was subsequently issued as a “legal bootleg” by manager John Irvine, who had the legal title to the tapes but released it without the band’s approval. This line -up also became residents at Toronto’s Night Owl.
Following several early live performances, Gerrard left the group in early October (subsequently rejoining The Paupers briefly) and ex-Grant Smith and The Power bass player Mike Harrison (b. 1 November 1948, Brampton, Ontario, Canada) was recruited in his place.
This line-up opened for John Lee Hooker at the Rockpile before moving to London, England in December.
Mendelson and McKenna arrived on 10 December, Harrison on 15 December and Nolasco on 26 December.
The band built up a steady following on London’s blues circuit and also played some dates on the continent, including the ‘Flight to Lowlands Paradise 2’ concert, in Utrecht, The Netherlands on 27/28 December alongside Pink Floyd, where the Canadian band was reputedly the only group to receive a standing ovation. (Nolasco had only arrived in England on 26 December!)
During their stay in London, McKenna Mendelson Mainline won a recording deal with Liberty Records and in April and May 1969 recorded the album Stink, generally considered to be the band’s best work, at Trident Studios in London’s Soho district.
By the time it was released in July the musicians were back in Toronto, where they were greeted as returning heroes.
The single, ‘Better Watch Out’ reached #47 on the Canadian RPM chart and the album sold very well.
However, despite the LP’s success, the group’s career was about to grind to a halt.
On 23 November 1969, Mendelson guested with Whiskey Howl at Toronto’s Night Owl, which was a precursor of things to come; he left abruptly [late] the following month for a solo career.
During the early part of 1970 McKenna found time to record with a revamped Luke & The Apostles and the group was put on hold.
Mendelson however, decided to reform the band in March 1970, recruiting former Franklin Sheppard & The Good Sheppards singer Zeke Sheppard on bass alongside Nolasco.
The group, now named simply “Mainline”, was invited to play at the Scarborough Fair Festival in the summer, and Mendelson decided to ask McKenna to join the band for the one show.
The concert was a great success and McKenna was invited to rejoin full-time. The new line-up embarked on a tour of Australia in 1971 as opening act for Frijid Pink.
During this period the band scored another hit with the single ‘Get Down To’, from the 1971 GRT LP Mainline: Canada Our Home & Native Land. The single hit #45 in April 1972.
In late 1971, bassist Ted Purdy replaced Sheppard and appeared on the 1972 GRT album The Mainline Bump & Grind Revue. This version of Mainline dissolved in late 1972.
In March 1973, a new entity formed, “King Biscuit Boy Meets Mainline”, with Richard “King Biscuit Boy” on vocals and harmonica, Mike McKenna on guitar and vocals, Mike Harrison on bass, and Tony Nolasco on drums. In May, former Rhinoceros/Blackstone guitarist Larry Leishman was added on guitar and vocals.
“King Biscuit Boy Meets Mainline” was booked for an Australian tour, but Richard Newell’s fear of flying prevented his participation.
In June 1973, Joe Mendelson replaced Newell for the Australian tour, so the Stink album quartet of McKenna, Mendelson, Harrison, and Nolasco was reunited (with Larry Leishman added) for the first time since December 1969.
After the Australian tour, the Biscuit Meets Mainline band reassembled for several months, but dissolved later in the year. Contrary to legend, this band never recorded or released any material.
On 31 December 1973, the quartet of McKenna, Mendelson, Harrison, and Nolasco presented “The Mainline Bump & Grind Revue” at Toronto’s Victory Burlesque Theatre. The show was broadcast the same evening on TV Ontario.
In 1974, Mendelson decided to reform the band. McKenna and Nolasco agreed, but Harrison opted out, and female bassist Leslie Soldat was recruited. This line-up, most notable for opening for Rush at Toronto’s Massey Hall, dissolved in less than a year.
In 1975, McKenna and Mendelson recorded No Substitute for Taurus Records. Produced by Mendelson and Adam Mitchell, the LP included an assortment of players including Ted Purdy on bass and Jørn Anderson on drums. The album didn’t sell; soon after McKenna and Mendelson went on to pursue separate careers.
Mendelson resumed his solo career while McKenna had brief spells with The Guess Who and The Downchild Blues Band.
In 1997, McKenna and Gerrard formed Slidewinder and recorded an LP for the Pacemaker label.
A new line up of the band was formed in late-April 1999 featuring Mike McKenna (guitar, vocals), Tony Nolaso (drums, lead vocals), Mike Harrison (bass, vocals), Ted Purdy (guitar, vocals) and Bob Adams (harp).
The band recorded a CD, Last Show @ The Elmo for Bullseye in November 2001. The CD release party was at Toronto’s Hard Rock Café in December 2002.
45 Better Watch Out/She’s Alright (Liberty LBF15235) 1969 (UK release)
45 Don’t Give Me No Goose For Christmas Grandma/Beltmaker (Liberty LBF15276) 1969 (UK release)
45 One Way Ticket/Beltmaker (Liberty 5601) 1969
45 Better Watch Out/She’s Alright (Liberty 56120) 1969
LP Stink (Liberty LBS83251) 1969 (UK release)
LP Blues (Paragon 15) 1969 (Canada only)
LP Canada, Our Home And Native Land (GRT 9230-1011) 1971
LP The Mainline Bump And Grind Revue – Live At The Victory Theatre (GRT 9230-1015) 1972
45 Get Down To/Pedalictus Rag (GRT 1233-22) 1972
45 Games of Love/O Canada (GRT 1233-32) 1972
45 Sometimes/Do My Walkin’ (Taurus 005) 1975
LP No Substitute (Taurus TR103) 1975
5-10 August 1968 – The Night Owl, Toronto
16-17 August 1968 – The Night Owl, Toronto
24-25 August 1968 – El Patio, Toronto
31 August 1968 – The Night Owl, Toronto
5-8 September 1968 – El Patio, Toronto
6 October 1968 – Massey Hall, Toronto with The Fugs and Transfusion (Gerrard’s final show as Toronto Telegram’s 19 October issue reports he’s back with The Paupers)
22-27 October 1968 – El Patio, Toronto (Harrison’s debut)
2 November 1968 – Grande Ballroom, Detroit, US with Jeff Beck, Toad and Joyful Wisdom
14-16 November 1968 – The Flick, Toronto
17 November 1968 – Rock Pile, Toronto with The Leigh Ashford Group
18-20 November 1968 – The Night Owl, Toronto
22 November 1968 – The Night Owl, Toronto
23 November 1968 – Rock Pile, Toronto with John Lee Hooker
30 November 1968 – Rock Pile, Toronto with Transfusion
1 December 1968 – Rock Pile, Toronto (“Going to England party”)
8 December 1968 – Rock Pile, Toronto with Buddy Guy (probably last show for leaving for UK)
27-28 December 1968 – Flight to Lowlands Paradise II, Margrietel Jaarbeus, Utrecht, The Netherlands
26 January 1969 – Nottingham Boat Club, Nottingham, England (debut UK gig)
19 February 1969 – Speakeasy, central London
20 February 1969 – South Parade Pier, Portsmouth, Hants, England with The Pretty Things and The Deviants
20 February 1969 – Concorde Club, Bassett Hotel, Southampton, Hants
27 February 1969 – Locarno Ballroom, Swindon, Wiltshire, England with Family (needs confirmation)
6 March 1969 – Concorde Club, Bassett Hotel, Southampton, Hants
8 March 1969 – Bay Hotel, Sunderland, England
16 March 1969 – Mad Gin Mill, Angel, Godalming, Surrey, England with Six Bob Cheep
22 March 1969 – Kimbells Club, Southsea, Hants, England
26 March 1969 – Rambling Jack’s Blues Club, the Railway Hotel, Bishop’s Stortford, Herts, England
28 March 1969 – Mothers, Birmingham, England
30 March 1969 – Nottingham Boat Club, Nottingham, England
7 April 1969 – Cooks Ferry Inn, Edmonton, London
11 April 1969 – Ritz, Bournemouth, Dorset
21 April 1969 – Quaintways, Chester, Cheshire with Van Der Graaf Generator, Peter & The Alphabet, The State Express and Wall City Jazzmen
23 April 1969 – Toby Jug, Tolworth, Surrey, England
24 April 1969 – Concorde Club, Bassett Hotel, Southampton, Hants
25 April 1969 – Blues Loft, High Wycombe, Bucks, England
27 April 1969 – Roundhouse, Chalk Farm, London with White Trash, Third Ear and others
1 May 1969 – Locarno Ballroom, Swindon, Wiltshire, England with Caravan
7 May 1969 – Blues Loft, High Wycombe, Bucks, England
22 May 1969 – Concorde Club, Bassett Hotel, Southampton, Hants
29 May 1969 – The Marquee, London with Howlin’ Wolf and The John Dummer Blues Band
12 July 1969 – Rock Pile, Toronto (probably the band’s first show after returning from the UK)
21-24 August 1969 – Rock Pile, Toronto
29 August 1969 – Huron Park, Mississauga, Ontario
9-14 September 1969 – Electric Circus, New York, US (or was this Toronto as dates advertised for 11-13 September 1969?)
19 September 1969 – St Gabe’s, Willowdale, Ontario
20 September 1969 – Barrie Rock Festival, Barrie Central Auditorium, Barrie, Ontario with Teegarden and Vanwinkle, Leigh Ashford, Neon Rose and Milestone
1 November 1969 – The Hawk’s Nest, Toronto
28 November 1969 – The Workshop at Seneca College, Toronto
30 November 1969 – The Hawk’s Nest, Toronto
30 November 1969 – The Night Owl, Toronto
13 December 1969 – Cedabrae Collegiate, Toronto
31 December 1969 – Grande Ballroom, Detroit, US (without Mendelson) Advertised but didn’t happen
3 January 1970 – Le Hibou, Ottawa (without Mendelson) Advertised but didn’t happen
4 January 1970 – Notre Dame Hall, Ottawa with Whiskey Howl and Brimful (without Mendelson) Advertised but didn’t happen
7 February 1970 – Our Lady of Fatima Hall, Toronto (without Mendelson)
Advertised gigs (As Mainline)
3 April 1970 – Dunbarton High, Toronto
11 April 1970 – Hawk’s Nest, Toronto
24 April 1970 – Electric Circus, Toronto
15 May 1970 – St Gabe’s, Willowdale, Ontario
30 May 1970 – Electric Circus, Toronto (McKenna rejoins after this show)
6 June 1970 – Scarboro Fair, Scarborough, Ontario, with Richie Havens, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Lighthouse, Edward Bear, Fludd and others
4 July 1970 – Memorial Gardens, Toronto with The Guess Who, Manchild and Balazar
17 July 1970 – Jubilee Auditorium, Oshawa, Ontario
18 July 1970 – Hidden Valley, Hunstville, Ontario
14 August 1970 – Jubilee Auditorium, Oshawa, Ontario
22 August 1970 – Le Hibou, Ottawa (as McKenna Mendelson Mainline)
I don’t think this tour of Australia and New Zealand happened. They toured in 1971 and then again in 1973
2 September 1970 – Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
3 September 1970 – Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
4 September 1970 – Brisbane, Australia
5 September 1970 – Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
9 September 1970 – Perth, Western Australia, Australia
11 September 1970 – Wellington, New Zealand
12 September 1970 – Auckland, New Zealand
3 October 1970 – Runnymede Secondary School, Toronto
24 October 1970 – St Gabe’s, Willowdale, Ontario
1 November 1970 – York Masonic Temple, Toronto with Mudflat (advertised but didn’t happen)
19 November 1970 – U of T Convocation Hall, Toronto with Jason
26 December 1970 – Markham United Church, Markham, Ontario
29 December 1970 – Huron Heights High School, Toronto with Jason
Huge thanks to Mike Harrison for his help with this entry. Thanks also to Mike McKenna and Tony Nolasco.
Thanks to Cole Mathieson for the Concorde Club, Southampton gigs at the Bassett Hotel.
Kensington Market produced perhaps the most gentle, lyrical rock music to figure on the Toronto music scene during the 1960s.
Fusing folk, classical and jazz elements with attractive melodic phrasings, and anecdotal lyrics, Kensington Market (named after a street market in the city’s west side) was formed initially to promote the song writing talents of English-born Keith McKie (b. 20 November 1947, St Albans).
McKie’s musical abilities first came to prominence after his family had emigrated to Sault Ste. Marie in northwest Ontario in 1953 when he began singing in local church choirs. Learning the guitar in his teens, he formed his first band, The Shades, with fellow guitarist Bobby Yukich.
When The Shades broke up, McKie and Yukich next pieced together The Vendettas with three members of rival group, Ronnie Lee and the Five Sharps – sax player John Derbyshire, drummer Bob Yeomans and bass player Alfred Johns, who soon made way for Alex Darou (b. 6 January 1943, Sault Ste. Marie), a former student at the Oscar Peterson School in Toronto.
Several years older than the others, Darou had recently come off the road with a jazz trio helmed by Geordie MacDonald, later drummer with Neil Young’s short-lived group Four To Go. Darou’s intellect and musical abilities had a profound influence on the rest of the band and Keith McKie in particular.
“Alex taught us a lot about feels and jazz and kinda got us really aware of time,” says McKie about his future Kensington Market band mate.
In the summer of 1965, The Vendettas accepted an invitation to audition for singer Ronnie Hawkins, who’d been passed the group’s tapes by Mary Jane Punch, a female fan studying in Toronto.
The promise of a deal with the singer’s Hawk Records never materialised but the band did get to play some dates on the local bar circuit.
By this point, John Derbyshire had made way for Toronto University music graduate, Scott Cushnie. An accomplished pianist, Cushnie ended up playing with Aerosmith’s road band during the 1970s.
Towards the end of the year, Bob Yeomans also moved on to join The A-Men, and was replaced by a 15-year-old drummer from Thunder Bay named Ted Sherrill.
Returning to Toronto the following spring, the band gigged regularly at Boris’ Red Gas Room and during June 1966 recorded two McKie-Yukich songs: ‘Hurt’ c/w ‘You Don’t Care Now’ for a prospective single.
For some reason, however, the single never materialised, prompting Alex Darou’s departure for New York to work with David Clayton-Thomas.
The group never really recovered from losing its inspirational bass player, and although Wayne Cardinal from Satan and The D-Men came to the rescue, McKie’s thoughts turned towards forging a new musical path, one where he could promote his increasingly introspective and anecdotal songs.
Such an opportunity arose in the spring of 1967 when aspiring rock manager Bernie Finkelstein approached McKie and offered to build a group around him.
Finkelstein was on the look out to launch a new, progressive band after selling his interests in The Paupers to Bob Dylan’s manager Albert Grossman. In fact, it had been Paupers’ guitarist and lead singer, Adam Mitchell, who’d first told him about Keith McKie and encouraged him to check out the talented singer/songwriter.
“At one point I was living with Steve Gervais, who was later a successful actor, in a station wagon and he wanted to be my manager,” says McKie.
“But it seemed like Bernie was the better deal. In retrospect, and in spite of the fact that Bernie was really good, I probably should have stayed with the guy I was with at the time because it would have been more fun in the long run and more organic. Bernie had a lot of experience and that was probably a smart move to make if you were being a business person.”
First on the list for the new band was Gene Martynec (b. 28 March 1947, Coburg, West Germany), a brilliant guitarist with a Polish/Ukrainian background, who’d recently quit local folk/rock band, Bobby Kris & The Imperials after two singles for Columbia Records.
As McKie explains, it was Finkelstein’s decision to link the two musicians together.
“I wasn’t totally sure about Gene at first,” admits McKie. “But he was nice guy and a good player and so we started playing a bit and started to gel.”
“I heard Keith playing a couple of tunes in the back seat of a car one night and really liked what he was playing, so we started from there,” recalls Martynec.
Searching for like-minded souls, McKie’s former band mate Ted Sherrill pointed him in the direction of Jimmy Watson (b. 23 August 1950, Belfast, Northern Ireland), a self-taught drummer and a dab hand at the sitar. It also didn’t hurt that the young Irishman happened to be Van Morrison’s cousin!
“Jimmy was just this young kid and when I first saw him, well, I thought how can this person play, he’s so young?” says Martynec.
Despite these initially concerns, Watson soon proved his worth and they began searching for a bass player to complete the band.
The musicians ended up trying out several players before McKie turned to former Vendetta Alex Darou. Having located a number for his friend in New York, McKie remembers Darou needing little persuasion. “He thought, ‘Bernie Finkelstein’, now I am interested.”
In a city renowned for its gritty R&B and blues, the group’s music tread a far more delicate path, closer in sound perhaps to early Jefferson Airplane or the Incredible String Band.
Finding an appropriate name that captured this diverse and eclectic blend of musical styles prompted the group to call itself after a popular street market in the city’s west end because store owners “sell everything and we wanted to do everything”.
Kensington Market did indeed seem quite fitting and after settling on the name, the band retreated to an old waterfront warehouse to practise for six weeks.
Emerging with an intricate and sophisticated sound, the band launched its new musical vision on the public at the Night Owl on Avenue Road on 4 June 1967.
Writing in the Toronto Star, Sid Adilman reported that the group was “the brightest and most inventive band ever grouped together in Toronto”.
Another witness to the early group’s live performances was journalist Peter Goddard who caught the band at Boris’ Red Gas Room a few weeks later (possibly 17 June when they were billed as The Kensington Market Band).
Reviewing the show for the city’s Globe and Mail, Goddard commented: “Unlike many West Coast-orientated groups the Market’s primary concern is with music and not its supposed mind-expanding after-effects.”
Such accolades were well deserved and in July Finkelstein negotiated a deal with the local Stone label, which resulted in four recordings, all Keith McKie compositions.
The fruits of these sessions were soon made public when the band’s debut single, ‘Mr John’ c/w ‘Kensington Market’ was issued as a single in September 1967. Though the recording quality isn’t great, the single has a certain charm and perhaps it was this that propelled ‘Mr John’ into the lower rungs of the national RPM chart.
Within a matter of months, a second single, coupling the more rock orientated ‘Bobby’s Birthday’ with the original (fast) version of ‘I Would Be The One’ was issued to capitalise on ‘Mr John’s’ success.
Like its predecessor, the two tracks reveal a rare glimpse of the early line up’s raw energy and dynamic live sound. The public, however, wasn’t impressed and the single died a quick death.
It didn’t really matter as by then the group had developed a fuller sound with the addition of a fifth member, former Luke & The Apostles lead singer Luke Gibson (b. 5 October 1946, Toronto).
“We were always looking around for someone extra,” explains McKie.
“We wanted another singer preferably because we wanted to get harmony. Gene and I had written some tunes that could do with a lot more harmony and Luke being such a great singer was out there. I think Bernie approached him.”
When Finkelstein approached Luke Gibson to join the Market in early August, the singer had literally played one of his final shows with the Apostles, a performance at the O’Keefe Centre, opening for visiting US acts, The Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead. Gibson’s bluesier, soulful voice gave The Kensington Market an earthier sound and complemented McKie’s vocals perfectly.
A week after Gibson’s arrival, the band composed, arranged and recorded eight tracks for the soundtrack for Don Owen’s highly acclaimed Canadian Film Board movie, The Ernie Game.
“Don Owen made a trilogy, Nobody Wave Goodbye, Donna and Gail and The Ernie Game,” says McKie.
“I forget which one was the middle one, but the most popular one was Nobody Wave Goodbye. Leonard Cohen was actually in the one we did, he played in the movie.”
“We were in Montreal at Expo ‘67 in the National Film Board,” adds Martynec.
“We were there I guess for a week and it was like going for a job. We’d get up in the morning and go and work and we’d get out of there fairly late.”
Among the songs Kensington Market contributed to the soundtrack are McKie’s ‘Colouring Book Eyes’ and ‘The Ernie Game’. “We wrote ‘The Ernie Game’ in our hotel room at the Hotel Des Artistes and then we did it the next day.”
Around this time, the group also performed at the seventh annual Mariposa Folk Festival in a watershed year in which electric instruments were featured for the first time. Alex Darou and Jimmy Watson found time around the group’s increasingly busy schedule to play on Ian and Sylvia Tyson’s latest single, ‘Candy Girl’.
While ‘Mr John’ had proved a minor hit, the group’s fortunes were about to change.
Shortly after the group had appeared in the centre-fold of the popular MacLean’s magazine, the band members participated in a jam session with former Gordon Lightfoot guitarist, David Rea.
Impressed by the group’s sophisticated sound (McKie admits that Rea nearly became a member), Rea brought the band to the attention of US producer Felix Pappalardi, whose musical resume included Cream and The Youngbloods.
Pappalardi flew up to Toronto to check the group out and immediately offered a two-record deal with Warner Brothers.
“We were playing Le Hibou in Ottawa [most likely 29-30 September] and they came and signed the papers there,” remembers McKie.
Flying down to New York in February 1968, the group played a series of shows at the Bitter End, running from 14-19 February. Over the next five-weeks, the group recorded its debut album at Century Studio, abetted by Felix Pappalardi in the producer’s chair, to the tune of $30,000.
“It was our first introduction to a major studio,” says Martynec. “I wish I had bought my amplifier from Toronto because I couldn’t get a reasonable sound out of the amps that we rented, at least to play with comfortably, not enough distortion.”
Back in Toronto, the band resumed its regular gig at Boris’, with occasion forays to clubs like the Static Journey and El Patio. In early summer, the band headed west and played a show in McKie and Darou’s hometown, Sault St Marie at the city’s Memorial Arena on 5 July.
A few weeks later, on 21 July, the group got the opportunity to support Jefferson Airplane for a show at McMaster University in Hamilton alongside the obscure Bittergarden.
Reviewing the show for the Toronto Daily Star the following week, Stephen Dewar reported that he’d never heard the Market sound better instrumentally.
During this hectic period of gigging, the group’s debut single for Warner Brothers, the slower version of ‘I Would Be The One’, was released in a picture sleeve and peaked at #18 on Toronto’s CHUM chart on 22 July.
That same month, Kensington Market’s debut album, Avenue Road, was unveiled at Warner Brothers’ annual convention in Honolulu and contained a slew of musical gems.
Australian journalist Ritchie Yorke was moved enough to call it “probably the finest album ever cut by a Canadian group” in the Globe and Mail while the Canadian Hit Parader commented, “Pappalardi’s masterful orchestrations; the Market’s soft, melodic sound; and anecdotic lyrics mark it as one of the finest albums of this year.”
With its shifting time signatures, sitar, horn and bell embellishments and vivid lyrical imagery, Avenue Road was a mini-psychedelic masterpiece.
McKie credits the influence of Bulgarian folk music for shaping the band’s musical styles and particularly the band’s harmonies.
“When we sang together, there was a kind of ecstasy to it. A nice blend would happen.”
As Gibson readily admits, some of the songs were inspired by the band’s experimentation with drugs. One of the first songs he ever wrote, ‘Speaking of Dreams’, is about an acid trip.
“I liked ‘Speaking of Dreams’ because I was ecstatic to sing the harmony on that,” says McKie. “Singing with Luke was like Simon and Garfunkel. It was like a soft blanket or cloud.”
“Luke had some great tunes and some interesting guitar concepts,” continues McKie. “Luke was a real feel guy. I am really surprised that he was never a big, huge international star because when I first came to Toronto, The Rogues and Luke & The Apostles were the two absolutely best bands I had ever seen.”
Some of the songs on the album dated from earlier times, such as McKie’s ‘Coming Home Soon’, which was first performed by the Vendettas and was written in a hotel in Winnipeg when the band first met guitarist Lenny Breau.
McKie hit a prolific writing streak during this time. Against better judgment, many of his songs, some of which he professes were among his finest, were either never recorded or were never finished – fascinating titles like ‘Cobweb Room’, ‘Butterfly Mind’, ‘Rubber Socks’, ‘The Time of Man’ and ‘Ring On Good Times’.
Luke Gibson’s compelling ‘Suspension’ was another popular live number that was never recorded.
“‘Suspension’ and ‘Ring On Good Times’ were our set closers,” says McKie. “When we did those, it meant the set was ending because they were the most exciting tunes.”
On 27 July, Stephen Dewar reviewed Avenue Road in the Toronto Daily Star and compared the band’s sound to the old Lovin’ Spoonful.
“It’s an ambitious album, too,” he noted. “‘Aunt Violet’s Knee’, the best song on the album, comes complete with a 17-piece orchestra that [Felix] Pappalardi hand-picked in New York. I think he might be right when he says its [sic] only a taste of what the Market’s Keith McKie can write.”
Dewar saves particular credit for guitarist Gene Martynec, who “has as much technical skill as any rock guitarist needs, and he’s got a fine sense of music and rhythm. He wrote two of the songs I like on the album (‘Phoebe’ and ‘Presenting Myself Lightly’) and he seems to have provided most of the inspiration for the arrangements.” (Ed: Martynec calls “Presenting Myself Lightly” his Ringo Starr imitation piece and says that “Phoebe” was built around some techniques he was learning on classical guitar.)
The writer finishes off his review by telling the record buying public: “Just so you don’t get the wrong idea: This is the best recording by a Canadian group I’ve heard. I think the Market are going to make it really big. The tunes are good, the lyrics are usually good. The whole thing is tastefully electric.
“I don’t think the Market has completely sorted out where it’s at yet – they’re getting better all the time. Pappalardi really called it right when he recorded Cream. He dropped The Youngbloods, but he has faith in The Kensington Market. I think he’s right.”
Journalist Ritchie Yorke was equally impressed, after sneaking a preview listen of the album. Writing in the Pop Scene section (most likely in the Globe and Mail), he noted: Avenue Road, as a total entity, is subtle, uncluttered and almost poetical. The production and arrangement work is magnificent.
“But this album is not overwhelming. It has sexual sublety [sic], unlike the almost uncouth provocation of a Hendrix. Yet it is compelling and intense. And it is always lush, reminiscent of a soft green crop in spring, gently blowing in a light wind.”
On 18 August, Kensington Market had appeared at the “Time Being” show at the Canadian National Exhibition before heading off for a US tour, which began with five nights at the Bitter End in New York, kicking off on 29 August.
A few days later, on 2 September, McKie’s ‘I Would Be The One’, reached #59 on the national RPM chart.
That same month, Variety magazine in the States reviewed the album.
“Kensington Market is a new Canadian group which is hoping to do for Canada what the Beatles did for Britain. This combo has an excellent sound and the material in the kick off stanza contains some standout numbers.” The magazine picks out ‘I Would Be The One’, ‘Speaking of Dreams’, ‘Coming Home Soon’, ‘Looking Glass’, ‘Beatrice’ and ‘Colour Her Sunshine’ as highlights.
“The music of Kensington Market is pleasant. And, oh, so civilised! You’ll hear no toilets flushing on this record! Also no raunchy blues, no electronic dissonance, no lyrics praising drugs and rebellion,” noted hip West Coast magazine, Rolling Stone later that year, in a review by David Butcher.
“‘I Would Be The One’ is an example of what might be called Granada-Rock,” he writes. “All the ingredients are present: the bull-fight trumpets, the flamenco guitar solo, the bravado vocal with the mawkish lyrics – all held together with a driving rhythm section. Oddly enough, it works well.”
Butcher saves special praise for Martynec’s guitar playing on the album.
“As an accompanist, he is superb. He always seems to play just the right line, the most appropriate figure. His playing is crisp, but never detracts from the vocal or the arrangement. Very few pop guitarists display this degree of taste and restraint.”
“Most guitarists in Toronto used to imitate Robbie Robertson,” says Martynec. “He had a technique where he used two picks on his fingers but he also used a plectrum. You can get some sort of rolling folk thing.”
Interestingly, Butcher argues that the weakest aspect of Avenue Road is the song lyrics. At best, there are some very good teenage songs, simple and lightweight, he says. The worse are bland or banal, or both. Even so, he recognises that “Keith McKie, who wrote most of the album’s material has a genuine and impressive poetic talent.”
Perhaps surprisingly, McKie admits that he was disappointed when the album came out.
“For some reason, I reacted very badly about it. It was so smooth compared to what I thought of the band. I remember at the time, thinking, ‘it’s not tangy enough’. At one point when we were doing the second album, I didn’t want to work with Felix anymore. I am probably the most challenged musically and I definitely don’t know what I want but I know ‘this isn’t it’. I wanted it edgier.”
During the first week of September, the band traveled down to San Francisco for a show at the Fillmore West on 7 September with The Steve Miller Band and Chuck Berry, which as far as Martynec is concerned, marked the beginning of the end.
McKie agrees: “We started playing and we were all playing five different songs. It was like one of those great rock ‘n’ roll band fiascos. They must have thought we were amateurs. It’s like Felix said afterwards, ‘what happened?’ I think in a way it kind of demoralised the band and I don’t think we ever recovered from it personally.”
Kensington Market next headed down to Los Angeles, sharing the bill with Spooky Tooth at the Whisky A Go Go in West Hollywood on 12-15 September.
“We played there and people were out dancing, which normally people never danced to our music at home because it was quite unusual,” says Martynec.
“We weren’t a very danceable band. We played this one tune that we normally finished a set with and it had one of those tacky speed up things at the end we looked down and the crowd was trying to keep up and at the end they were waving their fists at us.”
“Everybody was on pills and I can remember we didn’t have a really good time,” remembers McKie.
“I had a bit of an attitude about the States when I was there. We got stopped by the police in L.A. It was just their attitude towards everybody.”
From Los Angeles, the band flew up to Chicago to complete the US tour. Kicking off with a show at the city’s Kinetic Playground, the band then played some suburban gigs with The Young Rascals and Paul Butterfield’s Blues Band before heading home.
Back in Toronto, the group headlined a two-night stand at the Rock Pile on 11-12 October, supported by The Apple Pie Motherhood Band.
Local journalist Loren Chudy caught the group on the first night and came away largely disappointed. While the writer acknowledged that part of the blame lay with the concert’s planners, who turned the volume so high that Kensington Market’s “amplified equipment sounded off-balance, distorted and fuzzy”, he noted that the group “still needs work, definition, before it lives up to is potential.”
The Toronto Telegram’s Peter Goddard, caught up with the band members that same week and wrote a long article for the newspaper’s After Four section, published on Saturday 12 October. In the piece, he asks Gene Martynec whether the band’s recent US tour was a success.
“Well, I think because this was our first one, we never got completely used to it,” replied the band’s lead guitarist. “You know, it was a little lonely, a little tiring. Often we would have a day or two in some strange city just to walk around to do nothing.
“All of us found it difficult to write on tour, and it wasn’t until we got back that anything started to come.”
As Martynec points out, the group was already planning material for a second album and that it had learnt a lot from recording its debut in terms of overall sound.
“Our experience in the studio made us much more aware of time,” he added. “What people hear on stage will be pretty much like what will go on record.”
The review lists a number of recent compositions such as McKie and Martynec’s Beatleseque “Side I Am” and “Ow-ning Man”, which would turn up the following year on the group’s second album. Interestingly, it also lists “Fable Eleven” another composition that would ultimately be left in the can.
After playing the second night at the Rock Pile, Kensington Market headed across the border to play a show at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit on 18 October with The MC5 and Pacific Gas and Electric. Two more dates followed with only Pacific Gas and Electric sharing the billing.
As 1968 drew to a close, the expected sales of Avenue Road were not forthcoming. Part of the reason was that Warner Brothers had reportedly taken issue with the cover, a picture of the band huddled together in a fierce snowstorm and had done little to promote the record, despite its great potential. Work continued on a follow up with Pappalardi once again in the producer’s chair.
Started at Yorkville’s Eastern Sound Studios that winter and mixed at the Henry Hudson building in New York, Aardark is in many ways, the group’s strongest collection and contains such gems as Martynec and Pappalardi’s ‘Help Me’, McKie’s ‘Half Closed Eyes’ and ‘Think About The Times’, and the aforementioned ‘Side I Am’.
More experimental and progressive than its predecessor, several tracks feature new recruit Toronto University music student and Intersystems member, John Mills-Cockell (b. 19 May 1946, Toronto) who adds the unearthly sounds of his Moog synthesizer to the group’s heady brew.
“The idea of using a sequencer that was like in its day very unusual and the way he used it,” says Martynec. “I think John played a big role in that recording, more than people realise.”
Looking back, McKie feels that Aardvark was a step forward musically.
Once again, McKie dipped into the past for some of the songs, notably ‘Think About The Times’, which he’d first performed with The Vendettas.
Of his more recent compositions, the singer explains that ‘Have You Come To See?’ (co-written with Martynec) was written on the way to California in September 1968 while under the influence of mescaline.
Listening to some of the tracks, there is a noticeable Beatles feel and McKie admits that the superb ‘If It Is Love’ was influenced by that band’s White Album, in particular Lennon’s ‘Cry Baby Cry’.
To coincide with the album’s release in early 1969, Warner Brothers issued the rare single, ‘Witches Stone’, which was a slightly different version from the one that appeared on the album under the guise of the ‘Ow-ning Man’, backed by ‘Side I Am’.
Despite the promising second album, Kensington Market began to unravel in the spring of 1969.
“I think my problem with the Market was too much too soon too fast,” says McKie.
“Creatively, things were starting to break down. There was no real creative direction. One of the problems we started having was, I was writing tunes that I think didn’t really fit the format of where we were headed. In a sense, the Market would have been really wise to just take a sabbatical at one point. But in pop music if you take a two-week sabbatical, you’re gone.”
McKie says the first blow came when Bernie Finkelstein left as manager.
“It was [Bernie’s] drive that kept the group going in many ways. He started it in a way. In a way, he should have been a band member. He had a better idea of where to go with things. The band had a musical vision but we didn’t really have a vision that put the music into its perspective within that vision. When he left the band, it was kind of ‘that was it’. The driving force had gone.”
Others quickly followed Finkelstein out of the door. Jimmy Watson was first to bow out, and reportedly later suffered from a major breakdown. John Mills-Cockell and Gene Martynec dropped out soon afterwards.
“I think Gene wanted to get on to bigger and better things,” remembers McKie. “He was pretty progressive and was studying all the time and I think production was sort of what was coming up for him anyway.”
“After our second album, I just got a distinct feeling that it wasn’t going anywhere,” says Martynec.
“Jimmy was having a hard time. We were in limbo, so I decided that was the time to leave and I went to study.
“I ended up doing composition, orchestration and electronic music because I was always fascinated by the mechanics of whatever music had to offer,” continues the band’s lead guitarist on his post-Kensington Market career.
Martynec subsequently worked extensively with Bruce Cockburn, producing and playing on all of the singer/songwriter’s albums up to the mid-1970s. Throughout this period, he also worked as a studio guitarist and producer for a variety of artists.
The biggest blow for McKie, however, was when his old friend Alex Darou left.
“I remember being really pissed off with Alex,” says McKie. “I was particularly close to him because of the Sault St Marie connection.”
Sadly, the band’s inspiration bass player died in tragic circumstances in the early 1970s.
“He became a real recluse,” explains Martynec. “Eventually, he just locked himself in a room and people we knew would throw some money under the door because we knew he wasn’t doing anything. I think he caught Hepatitis and just passed away.”
Stripped down to a duo, Gibson and McKie carried on with The Kensington Market name, headling a show at Toronto’s Rock Pile on 17 May with Edward Bear and then returning the following week to provide support for visiting US act Grand Funk Railroad on 25 May alongside local bands, Milkwood and Leather.
The following month, the duo played at the Toronto Pop Festival, held at Varsity Arena with UK group, Man, former Blood, Sweat & Tears front man, Al Kooper, The Band and several other acts. The venture, however, was short-lived and a few weeks later, the pair had gone their separate ways.
After playing a one-off date with The Rock Show of The Yeomen on 5 December, Luke Gibson revived his former band Luke & The Apostles for a lone single, the superb “You Make Me High” for Bernie Finkelstein’s True North label.
Turning down an offer to become lead singer with US band, Seatrain, he embarked on a solo career in 1ate 1970 and recorded two albums for True North, including the excellent Another Perfect Day. He currently lives in Toronto and still performs.
As for Keith McKie, the singer/songwriter made an appearance on an album by former A Passing Fancy member Jay Telfer, which was never released, before retiring from the music business to spend time building boats.
In 1977, he returned to the limelight with the short-lived Village, formed with former Maple Oak guitarist Stan Endersby and bass player Bruce Palmer from Buffalo Springfield fame. When that folded, he went solo and in 1981 released a lone solo album, Rumors at the Newsstand on the small Quantum label.
Over the years, McKie and Gibson have participated in a few Kensington Market reunions. The first get together was for the Toronto Rock Revival show, held at the Warehouse on 2 May 1999 and also featuring the Ugly Ducklings among others.
In 2007, McKie and Gibson reunited with Gene Martynec to play at a summer festival in Toronto to celebrate 40 years since the “Summer of Love”. The show was a resounding success and has been captured for a DVD release.
All that is left now is a comprehensive CD release, pulling together all of the band’s material for Warner Brothers but including the rare Stone singles.
Many thanks to Keith McKie for putting me up in Toronto and being the perfect host. Thanks also to Gene Martynec, who gave up an evening in London to reminisce about the group. Thanks to Luke Gibson, Stan Endersby and Carny Corbett.
This article was originally posted on the Nick Warburton website on 8 February 2008.
4 June 1967 – The Night Owl, Toronto
10 June 1967 – The Flick, Toronto
17 June 1967 – Red Gas Room, Toronto (billed as Kensington Market Band)
6-9 July 1967 – Red Gas Room, Toronto
13-16 July 1967 – Red Gas Room, Toronto
20-23 July 1967 – Red Gas Room, Toronto
28-30 July 1967 – Red Gas Room, Toronto
3 August 1967 – Boris’ Red Gas Room, Toronto
6 August 1967 – Boris’ Red Gas Room, Toronto
9 September 1967 – Boris’ Red Gas Room, Toronto
15-17 September 1967 – Strawberry Patch, Toronto
22-23 September 1967 – The Flick, Toronto
26 September-1 October 1967 – Le Hibou, Ottawa
13-14 October 1967 – Boris’ Red Gas Room, Toronto
21 October 1967 – Boris’ Red Gas Room, Toronto
28-29 October 1967 – Boris’ Red Gas Room, Toronto
5 November 1967 – Boris’, Toronto
14-19 November 1967 – Le Hibou, Ottawa
24-26 November – Boris’, Toronto
8 December 1967 – Boris’, Toronto
9 December 1967 – St Pascal’s Church, Toronto
10 December 1967 – Boris’, Toronto
16-17 December 1967 – Boris’, Toronto
23 December 1967-1 January 1968 – Boris’, Toronto
28-30 December 1967 – Purple Peanut, Toronto
5-7 January 1968 – Boris’, Toronto
12-14 January 1968 – Boris’, Toronto
19-21 January 1968 – Boris’, Toronto
26-28 January 1968 – Boris’, Toronto
2 February 1968 – North Toronto Memorial Hall, Toronto
3-4 February 1968 – Boris’, Toronto (last show before US debut)
14-19 February 1968 – Bitter End, New York
23 February 1968 – Boris’, Toronto (first show after back from US debut)
16 March 1968 – Boris’, Toronto
23-24 March 1968 – Boris’, Toronto (back to New York)
29-31 March 1968 – The Static Journey, Toronto
21-26 May 1968 – Le Hibou, Ottawa
17-23 June 1968 – El Patio, Toronto
27-30 June 1968 – El Patio, Toronto
5 July 1968 – Sault St Marie Memorial Arena, Sault St Marie
13-16 July 1968 – El Patio, Toronto
21 July 1968 – McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario with Jefferson Airplane and The Bittergarden
26-28 July 1968 – El Patio, Toronto
1-14 August 1968 – The Bitter End, New York (unlikely)
5-9 August 1968 – El Patio, Toronto
10 August 1968 – Jubilee Auditorium, Oshawa, Ontario
11 August 1968 – Northern YMHA, Willowdale, Ontario
17 August 1968 – El Patio, Toronto
18 August 1968 – ‘Time Being’, Canadian National Exhibition, Toronto (last Toronto appearance before US tour)
29 August- 2 September 1968 – Bitter End, New York
7 September 1968 – Fillmore West, San Francisco with Steve Miller Band and Chuck Berry
12-15 September 1968 – Whisky A Go Go, West Hollywood with Spooky Tooth
11-12 October 1968 – Rock Pile, Toronto
18 October 1968 – Grande Ballroom, Detroit with MC5 and Pacific Gas and Electric
19-20 October 1968 – Grande Ballroom, Detroit with Pacific Gas and Electric
22-24 October – Boston Tea Party, Boston with Jeff Beck and Earth Opera
9 November 1968 – De La Salle, Toronto
12-17 November 1968 – Le Hibou, Ottawa
18 April 1969 – War Memorial Hall, Guelph University, Guelph, Ontario
17 May 1969 – Rock Pile, Toronto with Edward Bear
25 May 1969 – Rock Pile, Toronto with Grand Funk Railroad, Milkwood and Leather
21 June 1969 – Toronto Pop Festival, Varsity Arena, Toronto with Man, Al Kooper, The Band and others