Chieftones squared for mocm

Chieftones (Canada's All Indian Band)

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Origin: Kispiox, British Columbia - Edmonton, Alberta, 🇨🇦 - Sheboygan, Wisconsin, 🇺🇸

“We were like Coca Cola, we were the real things.”
-Albert Canadien

Billed as “Canada’s All Indian Band,” the Tsimshian Nation garage band The Chieftones stormed the U.S. in the mid-’60s with their own brand of native rock n’ roll. Led by guitarists Billy Thunderkloud and Albert Canadien, the band was filled out with Jack Wolf on lead guitar, Barry Clifford on bass, and Richard Douse on drums. Their repertoire was a heady mix of guitar instrumentals; Chet Atkins, Les Paul, Duane Eddy, and Brazil’s Los Indios Tabajaras, but through the lens of the American sock hop.

After a brief stint at Edmonton’s Alberta College, The Chieftones hit the road, eventually setting up a home base in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, where they reportedly worked as ranch hands in between tours. “From Sheboygan we made our way to Madison, Wisconsin, La Crosse, Cedar Rapids and on over to down south, like that. Indianapolis, Peoria, Illinois, Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, South Bend, Indiana back to Chicago,” Canadien told Pat Braden. “We had a circuit like that. We played two weeks here, one week there, like that. And finally after a year of doing that, we weren’t going anywhere.” It was in this nascent state that they tracked a single and an album’s worth of material with Jim Kirchstein.

More Buddy Holly than Link Wray, The Chieftones lone Cuca single—1966’s “Do Lord” b/w “I Shouldn’t Have Did What I Done”—expressed the group’s radio-friendly ambitions. The rest of their Cuca recordings, however, explore their indigenous roots. Tribal drums keep time under a wash of surf-y guitars. Ceremonial dance numbers are reimagined for the Elvis generation. When the single failed to light up the phones, the album was shelved, discovered only recently by Numero’s crack team of magnetic tape sleuths.

The New Smooth and Different Sound collects 12 unreleased demos and their sought after Cuca single, all recorded at the Sauk City recording mecca. The group’s time in the Dairy State was short-lived—they set off on a decade-long road run shortly after. Performing in their traditional regalia—white buckskin outfits and head gear—The Chieftones dumbed nothing down for The Beach Boys’ screaming fans at various sports arenas on the east coast. “After a while we got to speak in our own language, like when we started the show,” Canadien said. “I would just speak to them in Slavey and then we’d start our playing. The boys I had talked in Gitsan and Nisgaa, they spoke these languages from northern B.C., that’s what they spoke. They introduced themselves in their own language so that people understood that we were for real.”

Pre-order: Release date October 13, 2023.

South Slavey musician Albert Canadien is from Zhahti Kue, Fort Providence, Northwest Territories. He played guitar for his first fiddle dance when he was 14 years old. In 1964, Albert went to school in Alberta where he joined a band of other young, indigenous musicians. Through many opportunities and misfortunes, they became “The Chieftones”, Canada’s all Indian Band, who went on to tour the US with the Beach Boys, Jerry Lee Lewis, Diana Ross and many other iconic pop stars in the 1960s.

It was the mid-1960s, and Canadien was touring the Edmonton music scene with a band of former students from a residential school in St. Albert, Alta.

In those days, the local musicians union demanded that a band have a booking agent.

The Chieftones billed themselves as 'Canada's All Indian Band' while touring the American Midwest. Top, from left, Jack Cecil, Richard Douse, Vince Clifford; bottom, from left, Albert Canadien, Barry Clifford. (Submitted by Pat Braden). "We met a guy, he said he was from Milwaukee or someplace," said Canadien. The agent, who called himself Larry Bartelli, said he'd need $7,000 to get them started touring cross-country.

"We gave him the money and then we took off to Toronto," said Canadien. "We got to Toronto and there was no Larry. Larry, he was gone. Nobody knew him."

The band he joined at school would go on to become The Chieftones, "Canada's All-Indian Band." Together with the Beach Boys and other iconic acts of the '60s and '70s, they would tour the United States and play venues like Madison Square Garden for crowds of thousands.

"Canada's All Indian Band", founded in 1964 at St. Albert Residential School in Edmonton, Alberta. Later known as Billy Thunderkloud And The Chieftones.

Vincent Clifford, and his brother Barry Clifford, both from Kispiox/Kitwanga, British Columbia
Jack Cecil from Ayanish, British Columbia
Richard Douse, from Kitmancool, British Columbia
Albert Canadien, from Zhahti Kue, Fort Providence, Northwest Territories, joined them a few months after forming

Albert Canadien departed in 1969. At some point after his departure, the remaining members adopted stage names and the group changed it's name to Billy Thunderkloud And The Chieftones.

Relocating first to Toronto, then the tiny town of Boaz, Wisconsin, then Nashville, and eventually booking out of Boston, the band's recordings dated from 1966-75. According to Gary Myers' excellent '60s Wisconsin discography "Do You Hear That Beat," four members of this band were members of the Tsimshian Indian Nation of Northwest British Columbia, Canada. Two of the members discovered in an Edmonton Indian school that they were long-separated brothers; they formed the Chieftones and moved to southwest Wisconsin in the 1960s. The Chieftones had five entries on the country charts in 1975-76.



The chieftones

Chieftones (Canada's All Indian Band)


Chieftones (Canada's All Indian Band)

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Chieftones (Canada's All Indian Band)

Albert canadien with the chieftones

Chieftones (Canada's All Indian Band)


Chieftones (Canada's All Indian Band)

Chieftones squared for mocm

Chieftones (Canada's All Indian Band)