of us were very happy with our first record album which was done on Winnipeg's
Galaxy Records. But we had been bitten by the bug and we were sure we could
do much better if we had more control over the process. A few years earlier,
while performing at the very first Morris Manitoba Stampede Rodeo, we met
the Hildebrand and Paley brothers who were well known in Winnipeg as Ronnie
and the Eternals. Now, in 1971, about a year after our Galaxy "fiasco,"
I saw a news item that the former Eternals were opening a modern 8-track
studio on King Edward Street in Winnipeg. Sue-On and I paid their new studio
a visit. It turned out that they hadn't opened yet, and we spent much of
our visit helping the guys tack acoustic tiles to the walls. We were impressed
with their enthusiasm and with the modern equipment they were installing
-- and they assured us that their studio sound, when operational, would
be far superior to that which came out of Galaxy's makeshift set up in
the Grain Exchange. The drums were properly baffled, separated and miked.
The control room was separated from the studio area by class and insulation.
The 8-track Ampex multi-track recorder which used one-inch-wide tape on
10 inch metal spools was pretty high tech for the time and there was an
impressive array of quality mics and sound processing effects units.
Our next step was to talk the other band members into
doing a second album -- and assuring them that we could come up with a
much better product if we financed it and produced it ourselves in a real
recording studio. To expand our sound a bit we planned to add a few musicians
to the band line-up. Sue-On felt that she wasn't ready to play session
drums yet and preferred to concentrate full-time on her vocal tracks. The
choice of a session drummer was easy. The studio had already worked hard
at developing a good studio drum sound using Ted Paley, one of the studio
owners and drummer for the Eternals group.
We were studying geography at Brandon University at
the time, and had developed a friendship with many of the profs. Coincidentally,
one of the new lecturers in the department was Larry Clark -- the same
Larry Clark who had sat in on drums on our old TV noon shows back in the
early '60s. Larry was a well-known jazz musician in the Brandon area, and
for years had played organ nightly at the Suburban Restaurant. Larry offered
to sweeten and expand our sound by arranging and playing piano, vibes and
organ on the session. This was a real boon as it was before synthesizers
became a staple in the recording process, and thanks to the multi-track
recording process, Larry ended up playing one to three instruments on every
The luxury of having eight recorded tracks to play
with opened many doors for us. Sue-On now could overdub harmonies on her
solos and we could double track and add more harmonies to our duets. I
could now lay down acoustic rhythm tracks as well as adding more than one
lead guitar line to our songs. Barry could play bass behind his fiddle
solos. We even experimented with different percussion sounds: hand claps,
tambourine, slapping guitar cases, etc. The big problem with all this experimentation
however, was that we soon learned that we were limited by having only 8
tracks - it necessitated careful planning and even bouncing and combining
Bill and Sue-On with engineer John Hildebrand
Century 21 Studios ~ King Edward St., Winnipeg
As with our first album, each of us was responsible
for doing three songs. Actually, Sue-On and I each did two solos and then
we joined voices on two duets.
Jake did a country ballad, Raggedy Ann. His
uptempo number was a Bobby Goldsboro song, Muddy Mississippi Line.
We liked the arrangement so much on this one that we placed it as lead
off song on side one of the album. A few years later, after Jake had left
the group, Sue-On and I used the backing tracks and redid the vocal. We
then re-released our version of the song on album number 4. Jake's third
song was a cover of the Frank Isfield hit, I Remember You, complete
with the falsetto tricks.
Barry did a fiddle medley of The Irish Washerwoman
and Cock of the North - a medley we called Irish-Scotch.
His uptempo choice was based on a Cajun theme that he called Fiddle
Duddle - this was around the time that Prime Minister Trudeau uttered
his famous "fuddle duddle" line in Parliament. For a change of pace he
then did the famous Bob Wills number, Maiden's Prayer.
I did guitar solos on all three.
Sue-On's first ballad was The Kentuckian Song,
the beautiful title song from an old Burt Lancaster western movie, "The
Kentuckian." This had always been a favourite of mine but we couldn't find
a copy of any recording of it. I remembered, though, that the Ray Little
CKY touring western show had featured the words in a souvenir song book
I had bought at one of their shows in Strathclair's Bend Theatre back in
the mid-'50s. I finally found the booklet in one of my piles of old memorabilia,
and relying on memory, taught the song to Sue-On. It was a natural for
her and is one of my all-time favourite Sue-On songs. Her second song was
another of our stage medleys ~ two country ballad classics: Don Gibson's
Dreams and Born To Lose. We segued into Born To Lose
with a guitar solo and key change.
From The Bend Theatre - Strathclair - Feb 19, 1955
Tex | Ray | Anne | Porky | Jimmy
CKY Radio's Porky Charbaneau
Promo postcard from the '50s
Reflecting our growing fondness for duets, we did an
electric version of Ian and Sylvia's On My Mind on which Larry played
percussive organ riffs. Our second duet was the Gene McLellan gospel song,
Your Hand in the Hand. We were really excited about how these turned
out, and in our naivety we even got a copy of the album to Ian Tyson after
one of his concerts. We were blissfully unaware of the complexities of
performance copyrights, royalties, or any of that end of the business.
(Being avid fans we also went so far as to tape his live concert using
the revolutionary Phillips portable cassette recorder.)
Again drawing upon what worked for us on stage, I put
together a three-song rock medley of '50s hits by Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats
Domino and Buddy Holly. A problem we had that carried on through most of
our future sessions was that we often played numbers too closely to how
we did them on stage, with the result being that the tempo was often too
fast and the vocal pitch too high. This medley really chugged along, however,
and by the end of it you can hear the fatigue setting in on Ted's drum
beat. This was the last album on which we featured a guitar solo. I put
the solos on the back burner, partly because guitar instrumentals are so
exacting, and partly because my dream had been to someday record an entire
guitar instrumental album. I chose Apache for this, our first guitar
solo on a multi-track session, as it was one that I hadn't been able to
do on stage because of our instrumentation. But now, in the studio I could
overdub all guitar parts: a couple acoustic rhythms and two lead parts.
By this time I had customized my Telecaster by adding a Bigsby, homemade
B-Bender and re-wired pickups. I played through a DeArmond volume/tone
pedal, into an Echochord tape delay echo unit and through a Fender Twin
Reverb amp. The arrangement I came up with on this Jerry Lordan instrumental
was about three equal parts of Jorgen Ingman and Shadows versions, with
my own riffs using the B-bender and volume pedal.
Our stage sound was really beefed up and sweetened
by Larry's keyboard and vibes arrangements on each number. The sound of
the vibes was especially interesting as this distinctive instrument is
used too seldom on recordings. The album sold pretty well off stage and
we may even have broken even on our investment. It proved to be a pretty
good promotional vehicle and got us media coverage as well as airplay on
local radio stations and CBC. It also gave us something to feature on our
stage and TV shows and was a nice package to flog to promoters. But more
importantly, it got our creative juices flowing. Sue-On and I started thinking
about doing a solo album, and we realized that we would get very little
airplay or recognition by just recording cover tunes. I started to write.