Chad Allan Speaks Out
Photo courtesy Steis's Guess Who Site
CHAD ALLAN SPEAKS OUT
An Interview from the Wayne Russell Collection
Transcribed April 25, 2001 by Bill Hillman
Jim Kale ~ Chad Allan ~ Garry Peterson ~ Randy Bachman ~ Bob Ashley
Q: You were born and raised in Winnipeg?
CHAD: I certainly was... way back in... should I say it... 1943, March 29th
Yes, I was born and raised in Winnipeg - an only child. I lived in Winnipeg for most of my life until I moved to Vancouver in 1977.
Q: Was yours a musical family?
CHAD: Ah, yes. It didn't seem a fantastically musical family but now that I think back it was really. My mother, in particular, is very knowledgeable in music. She sings and plays the mandolin. My mom would probably do well on one of those "name the tunes" contests. She's pretty knowledgeable that way -- especially if you throw a tune at her from the '30s and '40s -- her era -- she's pretty good at calling all the tunes. My dad liked to tinkle on the piano as well. They're both pretty musical in their own way and thank goodness they gave me a chance to take accordion and Hawaiian guitar lessons and stuff like that.
Q: If you were doing accordion and Hawaiian guitar then obviously rock 'n' roll wasn't uppermost in your mind as a youngster.
CHAD: Of course I'm talking about when I was really really young -- my first instrument was the Hawaiian guitar about age three or so. When you're that age you're not really thinking in terms of genres or types of music -- although certain things are instilled in you. I was influenced to a very large degree by commercial pop radio back in Winnipeg. All I knew, as much as I liked the Hawaiian guitar - it was a lap guitar with a bar that you play on the strings - I found that grating of the metal on metal - at that time anyway - kind of bothered me, and I went over to the accordion. I stayed with the accordion for more than 15 years. I even taught accordion so my basic grounding was really on the accordion. I picked up guitar more or less on my own later on.
Q: One your first records was A Tribute to Buddy Holly. Was Buddy Holly the guy that got you into rock 'n' roll?
CHAD: Ah, well, you could say that. He was very instrumental - a tremendous influence on me. The name of the band at the time of the Tribute to Buddy Holly recording was Allan and the Silvertones. As a matter of fact, going way way back to the junior high school groups I had just small little groups with friends - a group called the Rave Ons after the Rave On tune by Buddy Holly and we did various school things and some live radio functions but were not really crystallized as an actual band. The actual core nucleus band I considered to be the Silvertones in the late '50s. And then in 1962 was the Tribute to Buddy Holly recording on the Canadian-American record label which was the same label that Santo and Johnny were on, if you remember, with Sleepwalk and stuff like that. Canadian-American were doing very well -- Linda Scott was also on that label, and we got a pretty good deal with a fellow by the name of Herbie Britton, who was the rep in Winnipeg.
So we did Tribute to Buddy Holly backed with a kind of a Floyd Cramer piano instrumental called Back and Forth - it was on the flip side and it did pretty good regionally in the mid-West. That was the time when DJs could play a record 40 times a day - there was no particular restriction at that time, so we were helped quite a bit by DJs like PJ the DJ and Dennis Corrie. Certainly Tribute to Buddy Holly was a reflection of how we felt about Buddy Holly and how I felt. I was quite saddened when he died and Buddy Holly was a tremendous influence: Peggy Sue and That'll Be the Day of course. I guess I really admired the innocence and straight aheadness of the whole thing which I think that we lack today.
Q: When did you change your name?
CHAD: Just about the time of A Tribute To Buddy Holly seemed to be one of the first manifestations of my new name and the group's new name. I had liked the name Chad in that folk pop group, The Chad Mitchell Trio. My first name was Allan - the original name I was born with was Allan Peter Stanley Kowbel - so I got Chad from Chad Mitchell and I retained my first name which became my last name... to Chad Allan... and the group changed its name to the Reflections. The Silvertones name had been inspired by the Simpson Sears line of guitars but we didn't feel that The Silvertones was a particular viable stage name, so hence, the Reflections. So I guess it was in 1962 with that record release that we became Chad Allan and the Reflections. Chad Allan was just my stage name at that time but I changed it legally in the early '70s -- my legal name is now actually Chad Allan.
Q: When did the Reflections become the Expressions and was there a personnel change then?
CHAD: I think the bulk of the personnel changes happened during the latter part of the Silvertones. In the original Silvertones we had other people: Johnny Glow on guitar, and Brian Donald on drums, and that was all before Randy Bachman and Garry Peterson came in. Jimmy Kale was pretty well an original Silvertones member and Jimmy Kale suggested that we check out Randy Bachman who was doing very well locally in Winnipeg. So eventually we got Randy Bachman in, and Randy knew Garry Peterson who was playing with the Winnipeg Junior Symphony at the time. Randy and Garry are both very good players. So the Silvertones were made up of Randy Bachman, Garry Peterson, Jimmy Kale, with Bob Ashley on piano, an excellent classically trained pianist, and of course myself singing and playing largely rhythm guitar. So, there was the five of us at that time. And that was basically also the Reflections and the Expressions and also the Guess Who.
Q: How come you changed your name so much? Was it just something you didn't feel properly reflected what you were doing?
CHAD: Actually I think we were all quite pleased with the Reflections name. We were on Quality, Quality Canada at that time, and interestingly the bulk of our recordings were released on the actual Quality label from Toronto except for a kind of an obscure, fairly hard-to-get recording on Reo Records which was an arm of Quality Records. But it was a totally instrumental recording which saw the name of the group changed to Bob Ashley and the Reflections, Bob being the piano player. One side was a kind of very British influenced, Cliff Richard and the Shadows type guitar instrumental that Randy wrote I believe, and there was a piano instrumental that I wrote on the other side. Just some little known facts I've thrown in. But what actually happened with the major name change was this. If you recall, there was a vocal group, kind of a Detroit Motownie group - I don't know exactly where they were from but they sounded like that - called the Reflections and they had a tune called Just Like Romeo and Juliet [sings] and that did very very well. They were called the Reflections and that was just the time we were going with our group the Reflections and I don't remember exactly what happened but there seemed to be a suggestion from Quality Records that we change our name. I don't believe there was ever any heavy pressure, but there were too many reflections groups, so we decided to change the name of our group.
The other group was doing probably better than we were at the time with record sales and air play, I would think... so we changed the name to The Expressions and you know the Expressions were sort of hand in hand with the Guess Who name. As a matter of fact, our very first album, Shakin' All Over - the red album - was billed as Chad Allan and the Expressions -- Guess Who? Well, actually the way we got the name Guess Who was through a radio contest. We were the Expressions at the time, and they wouldn't tell anyone who we were and they'd say: Shakin' All Over - guess who this band is. Listeners would phone in and they would win prizes or whatever if they guessed our name. That was during the time of the heavy British Invasion with the Beatles, the Dave Clark Five, Gerry and the Pacemakers... and people would guess The Beatles, Paul McCartney and John Lennon, and what have you. There was an association there that seemed to stick and we were associated with heavy duty American bands or British bands in particular, and it seemed to me that we kinda passed that local plateau before people had a chance to realize that we were a local band and boom it was a hit. So that's how we got the Guess Who name... from the radio contest. As a matter of fact, the original 45 -- the white promo radio copy -- simply said in big bold black letters on white: Shakin' All Over - Guess Who? But people were supposed to guess who, it wasn't our name but it simply stuck. To this day I believe if it hadn't been for the secrecy about who we were, possibly things wouldn't have been the same but you know that kinda situation where local boys could never make it this big... which still exists unfortunately... and the reason for it is of course, because there weren't too many bands making it... mostly in Toronto. As I've said before that local syndrome had a chance to settle in, it was a hit. So in general terms that had a lot to do with it.
Q: Who suggested that you do Shakin' All Over?
CHAD: Of course we were very much into Cliff Richard and the Shadows. We were getting import albums from England all the time through a very good friend of mine - Wayne Russell - who is from Winnipeg originally. We were pretty much school buddies, he's now living in Brandon, Manitoba. Wayne is a record buff extraordinaire, very much into '50s and '60s material, especially early '60s, and really what happened is that I would go over to Wayne's place and he would play me the latest records that he sent away for in England. He had some amazing stuff that had never reached Canada, especially Winnipeg, and he's playing me all these tunes, Gerry and the Pacemakers and more obscure stuff... and he played some material for me by Johnny Kidd and the Pirates.
One of the tunes was Shakin' All Over and there was some other material as well. And this stuff was not making it in Canada at all to my knowledge... it was on HMV Records of England, I think. He played me this stuff and it really knocked me out. I don't remember the exact sequence of events but I do remember that Wayne suggested Shakin' All Over to us and I remember having some sort of reel to reel tape without any labels, without any song titles, or artist credits or anything and we weren't always aware of who actually wrote or recorded these tunes. And I remember, fairly distinctly being at home at a practise playing this reel to reel tape with all these tunes on it and we were picking tunes to record. We'd generally go down to Minneapolis to record a lot of our stuff - between Winnipeg and Minneapolis. As far as Shakin' All Over, we all liked it immediately. I don't remember who did the initial selling job on those. It was largely from Wayne Russell and then I guess the rest of us picked it up. We decided to do Shakin' All Over on stage. Later for the recording I added an acoustic guitar, we also added the click click click piano and we came up with a much different arrangement.
The flip side of the original Shakin' All Over release had a tune called Till We Kissed which was not the actual name... it was a mis-titling. That was the original hit version, Shakin' on one side and Till We Kissed the actual title of which was Where Have You Been All My Life written by a guy and girl songwriting team... I can't remember who it was... it wasn't King-Goff, it was the other guy/girl songwriting team. The record became a hit and Till We Kissed was actually trailing on the success of Shakin' and I remember us getting a nice letter in the mail. What had happened was that the actual authors of the song weren't listed on record. I was put down as the author of the tune which wasn't true... and I don't know how, these are just things that happen... and we got a letter from the actual writers saying that they hoped they would get the proper royalties and incidentally the actual name of the tune is Where Have You Been All My Life. So we finally got all that straightened out. But the influence was largely from Wayne Russell and we picked up on it later on. It was fun trying to get the actual titles of these songs because on a reel to reel tape with no labelling it's actually pretty hard. It's very interesting.
Q: Jim and Randy both seem to suggest that you left the Guess Who to go back to school but in reading your biography you seem to suggest that that was an idea that came after you had left the band.
CHAD: Well actually school was always there.. that was a given, really. I felt that I had a need to study and get some sort of degrees. I remember as a kid looking at the liner notes on the backs of popular albums that sometimes some of the musicians would also be studying in some sort of university, and I thought that was kind of neat, kind of an insurance and I knew, and most of the band also knew that music was kind of precarious so I had this thing in my head to get my schooling. And I think that's probably good advice at any time - along with doing music of course.
But there were many factors, I think one of the main things was, well I blew my throat really really bad. I'd never taken any sort of formal singing lessons or training and I was singing improperly and I wasn't using the diaphragm properly. I was singing from my throat almost exclusively which is totally the wrong thing to do. It got to the point when I was singing Shakin' All Over and stuff like that, two or three nights a week or more, initially, and later while touring it was a lot more. I was just simply drained and tired and my throat was pretty much blown at the time -- and I was getting all these throat sprays and nose sprays and spraying some not very good stuff into my nasal cavities. It just got to a point where I got really sick, and I was just physically and psychologically drained and was just pushing too hard. I needed a break. The throat thing became magnified when we were on the road. Where you don't have other friends and relatives you are kind of more isolated on the road. I just got really sick in all ways out there. And as much as I like music, I said that's it... the health comes first.
What actually happened was I could have had cancer of the throat... I was getting these nodes or nodules which are inflammations or whatever. It was really quite serious... doctors told me to take substantial time off, so I had to take time off anyway and that gave me a chance to go back to university to get back into my second or third year Science. And there were all sorts of personal things happening as well, but basically I blew my throat and I did want to go back to university anyway, so these were things that happened. Plus the fact I should say, I did realize that as much as I liked music that the road at that time anyway, didn't seem to be the life for me.
Q: You weren't too keen on the life style then?
CHAD: No, not really. I won't say that I was an introvert but being an only child and being fairly studious I guess, if I may say so myself, I was a little bit of a loner and didn't seem to be cut out for the party life. There we were, five young naive fellows from Winnipeg, not too conversed with the ways of life, and suddenly we're thrown onto the road doing our own driving, our own setting up - although we had a roadie there later on - it was almost like being in the army, it was good experience actually, a difficult but good experience.
Q: Was there any question of you going back to the band later? Any discussion of that?
CHAD: Well I did get a call... it was kind of interesting. After I had left the band, that's when the work really began for me. I started doing clubs. I formed a little trio doing clubs. I started doing a national CBC Television show called Music Hop, and stuff like that, so I was really quite busy. And also going full time to university. I started a Science programme and I switched later to a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and the School of Music.
I remember getting a call later on from the Guess Who on the road, Garry Peterson or somebody called me. I don't know what happened there on the road but they called me and asked me if I wanted to go back into the band... but of course I was just so much into my schooling that I just couldn't do it. So there was basically the one call, but personally as far as the vibes, I feel that there was that standing -- how can I say it -- I don't want to compliment myself, but I felt there was a bit of a standing invitation if I wanted to re-enter the band at some point in time -- which would require a lot of readjustments and stuff. I did feel that - true or not.
But the fact being, is it became a different band than I was accustomed to -- you see, don't forget in the original Silvertones and Reflections I was originally booking the band -- we were all helping as much as we could, but I was the official booking agent at one time anyway. Money wasn't a big factor with the band and it was a good tight friendly band at the time and then later on it got into heavier scenes when the money entered the scene and we got different management. It just wasn't the same band that I was used to and there were different priorities in the band. It just wasn't the same so I wasn't that interested in going back.
Q: What was the name of the trio you formed?
CHAD: Oh, a very creative name, the Chad Allan Trio. Later on I had a very happy little trio and we did a lot of clubs in Winnipeg... it seems as though we did every venue in Winnipeg. It was called Chad Allan and the Sticks and Strings with two very good players, Johnny Kafler on electric bass and Billy McDougal on drums. Incidentally, Billy was from the musical McDougal family, a brother of Donnie McDougal who is also in the Guess Who. But a very happy trio, and I was very pleased to be able to play at night and go home, in my own bed as it were, and I think that's one of the things I was very much interested in.
Q: I don't understand. This was right after the Guess Who. How were you resting your voice if you were singing?
CHAD: Oh there was a point in time where I didn't do any clubs at all. But what really happened was that I had to earn a living with singing and playing. I guess when I felt that my throat was ready I went back. But in reality, I guess it's a matter of degree because in the band there was fairly loud guitars, and loud music and what really happened was we didn't have proper monitors to really hear our voices. One big reason I blew my throat was that I didn't have the monitor to listen to and I kept singing louder and louder in order to hear what I was singing. But I did take some time off and I think the low volume situations really helped me. In other words, it was like nothing later on to sing under low volume situations. So I gradually sort of crept into it. I started doing CBC where the very first work I did was backup chorus which was only once or twice a week. One factor was that I just couldn't wait to get back singing.
Q: What about the decision to go back with Randy again in Brave Belt?
CHAD: It was kind of interesting because of the educational aspect. I had gotten my Bachelor of Science in '66 or '67 and I was almost into teaching. I had a job opportunity teaching English -- ironically after studying science -- so I was all ready to teach English when I had a call from CBC. Since the teaching job was out of town that was the end of my teaching career. And then I got into psychology later on with a Bachelor of Arts Honours in Psychology and then I was all ready to be a school psychologist in Winnipeg, had the whole thing ready to go, when I got a call from Randy Bachman to see if I wanted to be in Brave Belt. So that was the end of my school psychologist career at that time. And so it was a fairly recurring situation -- I would have this teaching or other academic situation when I would get this call. I took it obviously, and that was my preference really. I always seem to get back to the music. I think it was kind of with mixed feelings, because on the one hand I didn't really want to get into heavy travelling -- I prefer being in the studio of course and writing. Don't get the idea that I intensely dislike travelling, though. I think it's a case of "at your own pace." And right now when I do travelling it's at a more leisurely pace. I think that's probably a good thing to remember.
So on the one hand I wasn't looking forward to certain travelling situations but on the other hand I liked the musical situations with Randy, so I joined anyway. We did two Brave Belt albums: Randy Bachman of course, Robbie Bachman on drums, myself, and Fred Turner later on came in on bass and vocals. I think inevitably what happens, it's not just the throat, it's not just the road, it's basically I wanted a chance to do my own stuff. I was writing tunes and I just wanted a chance to showcase my own material. Actually what happened, I had material for Brave Belt, some of the heavier stuff, whatever, but I was also writing other material, R & B, middle of the road, classic tunes, and I felt I just didn't have the vehicle, a complete and full vehicle for the material I was writing.
In all respect to the band, it was a good band, there's no doubt about it, there seemed to be this friction as far as material was concerned. I just wanted a broader perspective and opportunity for my material. And that's what I'm still trying to do to this day. I released a solo album in 1973 on GRT Canada which did moderately well. I had my own, believe it or not, a country tinge, sort of a pop country with things like Dunrobin's Gone. And I'm now working on another solo album which I probably consider to be more definitive.
Q: Who is Dunrobin? It's a rather unusual name. Was there someone who inspired that song?
CHAD: Barry Erickson, a friend of mine, originally from Winnipeg and now living in BC, came to me with this tune. It must have been early '70s. He had the core nucleus of the tune, and I helped him fix up the melody - basically I wrote the last verse and just tried to shape up the tune, a thing I really enjoy. After we had it shaped into a viable tune we presented it to Randy Bachman. It was probably called She's Gone, She Won't Be Back. We showed it to Randy while choosing tunes for the Brave Belt II album and Randy suggested that we simplify it, which was good advice. We had too many things, lines and words. He suggested that we choose only one or two lines and go with them. Since we didn't have a real title we were still looking at titles. This was around the time of So Long Bannatyne with Burton Cummings and the Guess Who and that kind of inspired us to look at Winnipeg street names. Which is kind of funny when I look back at it, but we went into the street names. I lived on Melbourne Avenue... and Melbourne's Gone wouldn't have made it. The next street over was Sidney and that wouldn't have made it either, so we simply went through some of the street names. There was more to it than that of course but that's basically what happened.
We went over to the street that Wayne Russell lived on which was Dunrobin Avenue, just about four or five streets down from where I lived, and that was it: Dunrobin's Gone. But later on it's an interesting study how people can overanalyze or post analyze these things. I had things thrown at me like, did I have an old girlfriend who lived on Dunrobin that we were kind of crying about in the song. And that really hit home with me later on. I'm talking about the ivory tower analysis of poems and songs, and I really got a chuckle out of that, because I really could have gotten into the whole trip analyzing the thing and getting heavy but it was as simple as that. I think it's something to remember for people who get too heavily into analysis of creative material.
Q: Could you tell us briefly how Beowolf album project got started. Obviously there was some money behind it.
CHAD: Oh yes, there was some big money behind that. Basically the project was initiated, as far as I know, by Victor Davies, who was a good friend of mine and an excellent composer, arranger, conductor. Victor Davies did the music on the Beowolf project and Betty Jean Wylie did the lyrics libretto. Now what actually happened was that Victor did a lot of pounding the pavement. He went around Winnipeg... I guess between Winnipeg and Toronto... simply going around by himself trying to raise money for the project and he had help from an accountant friend of his. So basically, the two of them got the whole thing going, by just literally phoning and walking around contacting doctors, lawyers and just anyone who had money to invest. So it was largely by Victor's initiation.
They formed the Beowolf company in investment monies and it was an interesting situation because you could have put in anywhere from one dollar to a thousand dollars... whatever you wanted to put into it. Beowolf of course being based on the old Anglo Saxon legend and the book was taught in junior high or high school. It was when I was going to school anyway, I don't know what they're doing with it now. But I really admire Victor's fortitude in doing all that. Actually there was originally another singer hired to do the part but for some reason that situation didn't work out and I was called in for an audition. I was out East as a matter of fact, somewhere around Kingston or Toronto at that time and I was called in to Winnipeg to audition for the part... and of course I got the part and I became Beowolf for that project. I think initially the budget was about $100,000 plus. At that time that was big money. Originally it was a three album set but it was whittled down to two because it would have been just quite a lot to listen to in one . There were interesting vibes happening. I was in the vocal booth singing Beowolf parts for maybe three weeks or so and it was a lot of work. And there was a lot of good work put in by people from Winnipeg and Toronto. Actually Victor is trying to revive that project and I hope he does well. Hopefully he should have that re-released soon if all goes well and I really do think it's worth trying again. There's not only the mainstream pop area to hit but there's the whole educational area and I think it's a very valid project.
Q: Some words on the songwriting you're doing now and your finally getting that opportunity to teach that you never got to do back in the 1970s.
CHAD: I'm teaching now and it's in the songwriting area and I'm quite comfortable with it. I'm teaching at Kwantlen College here in Surrey. I started teaching the course in October '82 -- a basic course in songwriting called Inside a Song and it's an eight week course for two hours on Saturdays. It's going pretty good - from a class of around eight people we've gone to about 25 people. There's still a lot of work to do but we're gradually building. In the middle of this September I hope to be starting the basic Inside a Song class again plus a new advanced course and also we're planning a songwriter's tour to Los Angeles sometime in November. It's really a lot of fun.
One of the main reasons I started doing this sort of thing was to help budding amateur songwriters because I think to bridge that gap I find there is very little in our culture to sort of foster the development of the creative person in general, and especially in particular, the budding songwriter. And I'm trying to do my part to help those people out. You know there are great songwriters out there and I don't want to see them having to pump gas -- I have nothing against pumping gas but I really don't want to see them having to do things they really shouldn't be doing when they have the talents. Each of us have our part in life... some are meant to pump gas, some are meant to be doctors and lawyers, but when I see people with amazing talent in the songwriting area I try to help them along because I've seen too many people just go down the tube as a direct result of their economic situation plus lack of proper guidance. The universities aren't giving pop writers the guidance they should have so I'm trying to do my part.
Jim Kale ~ Chad Allan ~ Garry Peterson ~ Randy Bachman ~ Bob Ashley
Photo courtesy Steis's Guess Who Site
|CHAD ALLAN:||1. Anecdotes||2. Interview||3. Discography||4. Reflections||5. Clipping|
|PHOTOS/SCRAPS:||6. Photos I||7. Photos II||8. Photos III||9. GW Bios Clips||10. GW Degrees|
|ORIGINALS:||11. Jim Kale||12. Kale/Peterson||13 Mosaics/Discs||14. Press 1||15. Photos IV|
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