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.