Tribute and Variety
Shows are super successful. The buyer gets more bang for the buck, spending the same amount on
4 to 6 names.
The audience gets to hear a variety of artists. Win Win!
FIVE MAN ELECTRICAL BAND
Man Electrical Band is one of Canada's best loved and hardest
working rock and roll bands from the 60s and 70s.
Originally formed in Ottawa, Ontario in 1964 as the Staccatos
(Rick Belanger, Les Emmerson, Brian Rading & Vern Craig),
the group first gained national recognition in 1967, when they
recorded an album for Quality Records called, "A Wild
Pair', shared with The Guess Who. The L.P. had some success in
Canada, and later that year a single was released by Capitol
Records called "Half Past Midnight" which sold around
By 1968, The Staccatos featured guitarist/vocalist Les
Emmerson, bassist Brian Rading, keyboardist Ted Gerow, and
drummers Rick "Bell" Belanger and Mike
"Bell" Belanger. They released their second album
called "Five Man Electrical Band" which met with
modest local success.
The band made a brief and unsuccessful attempt to establish
themselves in Los Angeles, releasing a song called "It
Never Rains on Maple Lane", which flopped completely.
Without necessary work visas, the band had a tough time
gaining steady bookings and further recordings went nowhere.
Capitol eventually released them from their contract and with
their money running out, the band headed back to Ottawa with no record deal and a very cloudy future.
Rather than quitting, the quintet decided to change their
style a bit and re-named the band after their last album.
Heading back to L.A. more organized, they soon caught the
attention of Dallas Smith, who recognized their talent
immediately. Smith's enterprise, Renaissance Productions, was in
partnership with Canopy, a production company owned by the
successful composer, Jimmy Webb and Webb's father, Bob. Canopy
expressed interest in financing a project with the band and
Smith produced three songs, though none was released
In November 1969, Canopy signed a deal with MGM Records,
Inc., whose parent company, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, decided to
feature one of the tracks, "Moonshine
(Friend Of Mine)", in one of its films, "The
Moonshine War", starring Alan Alda. Unfortunately, neither
the song nor the movie became a hit.
MGM records then released "Hello
Melinda, Goodbye" with a song called "Signs"
on the "B" side. Les Emmerson had written "Signs"
after driving to California along Route 66, where he had noticed
the many billboards obscuring his view, and had seen them as a
perfect metaphor for the frustrations of the band and the times
they were living in. When the single failed, the label quickly
lost interest, and Five Man Electrical Band once again retreated
to Ottawa to lick their wounds and debate their future.
Dallas Smith was not as easily discouraged. His belief
in the band was still very strong, and with no apparent interest
from MGM, Smith met with Clive Fox, a young music publisher who
wanted to form his own label. Fox had a connection to Lionel,
manufacturers of model railroad equipment, whose expansion plans
included a record label. In February, 1971, MGM Record Corp.
assigned all rights to Five Man Electrical Band, its masters as
well as its production agreement with Renaissance (including the
Canopy masters) to the Lionel Entertainment Corporation. With
Fox in the office and Smith in the studio, the new Lionel label
needed a promotion man, whom it soon found in the person of Abe
Glazer - an old pro, by this time in his seventies - whose
energy, undiminished by his age, became crucial to the
immediate future of the group.
In May 1971, Lionel released the album "Goodbye And
Butterflies" and its first single, "Signs",
which at Smith's urging, now became the A-side. Glazer, Smith
and the band's manager, Abe Hoche started working the phones,
trying to break the record on U.S. radio.
Meanwhile, disillusioned and broke, the band was very close
to disintegration. Still in Ottawa and only barely known beyond
the borders of Canada, their seven years of hard work had
resulted in little but disappointment. The band members were
ready to call it quits when Abe Hoche called them. "Signs"
was getting a lot of air play in the southern U.S., especially
Georgia, Florida and Louisiana. To top it all off, radio station
CKLW in Windsor, Ontario - the powerhouse ratings leader in the
middle U.S. due to its immediate proximity to Detroit, had added
the record to its play list.
Quickly regrouping, the band rushed back to the States to
perform some hastily arranged dates. First to Detroit, then to
West Virginia, then straight across the U.S. to Seattle for a
series of shows. By the time they reached the Pacific Northwest,
"Signs" was a smash,
eventually reaching #3 on Billboard's Top 100 and selling over a
million and a half copies.
Basing themselves in Los Angeles, the band toured extensively
for the next two years, sharing the stage with some of the major
acts of the era such as The Allman Brothers, Sly & The
Family Stone, Jefferson Airplane, BTO and many others.
The album, "Coming Of Age" was released in January
1972 and contained the band's second hit single,
"Absolutely Right", which sold 750,000 copies and
reached #26 on Billboard.
The LP, "Sweet Paradise" followed in 1973, but
problems within the band began to surface and relationships
became strained. As the primary writer in the band, Les Emmerson
was garnering much more attention for his songs than the others
were for their musical abilities, and he was receiving more
money than the others as a result of his publishing royalties.
He wanted to come off the road. Never fully involved in the
day-to-day business of the band, the others were finding it
difficult to justify the struggle, and nine years of constant
touring had taken their toll. Prior to the completion of the
album, Mike Belanger left the band and Brian Rading left just as
it was wrapping up. The group discussed becoming a recording
unit only, but no one could agree on a direction. In the absence
of Rading and Belanger, new players were brought in to try to
salvage the band.
Although their next release, "Money Back
Guarantee", got some attention in Canada, it did nothing in
the U.S. The follow up, "I'm A Stranger Here", fared
only a little better and 1974's "Werewolf" got only
limited airplay. Emmerson and Gerow attempted to continue with
new versions of the group, but by 1975 after their last release,
"Johnny Get A Gun", Five
Man Electrical Band's heyday was over.
Over two decades later, Five Man Electrical Band's songs are
still a staple of Canadian Radio, and continuing airplay attests
to their popularity. They have taken their rightful place
alongside other Canadian rock legends, The Stampeders, April
Wine, BTO and Guess Who.