Origin: Vancouver, British Columbia
The Collectors were formed in Vancouver, Canada in 1961 and they were originally known as the C-Fun Classics. The C-Fun Classics released many local records and were initially a cover band. They adopted the name C-FUN Classics when they gigged to promote local Vancouver, British Columbia radio station CFUN-AM. The group were featured as the house band 'The Classics' on 'Let's Go', a weekly CBC TV show.
The intial group line-up consisted of Howie Vickers (vocals), Brian Russell (guitar), Claire Lawrence (sax), Glenn Miller (bass), Tom Baird (piano) and Gary Taylor (drums). It was this line-up that released two singles as the Classics - 'Aces High' b/w 'Comin' Home Baby' (Jaguar J2001) in 1963 and 'Till I Met You' b/w 'I Didn't Take Much' (Jaguar J2002) in 1964. Both singles were composed by Tom Baird and released in Canada on the Jaguar Records label. Both records were popular locally. The latter single was also released the US (Washington State, Oregon and California) by Jerden Records.
The Classics remained in Canada and were next heard on a single released by DJ Fred Latremouille called 'Latromotion'. With a slight name change to the Canadian Classics in 1966, they released a single on the Los Angeles based Vault record label called 'I Don't Know' b/w 'Gone Away'. This became a minor success for the band and started getting their name known in the US market.
However, despite the success of the single on the Vault record label, the Classics still remained in Vancouver. In September 1966, Howie helped out on an offshoot project called The Eternal Triangle with Susan Jacks and Tom Northcott. 'It's True' b/w 'Watch Me Go' was released on the newly formed New Syndrome record label and made number 16 on the local Canadian charts.
At this time in mid 1966, the Classics had a line-up of Howie Vickers (vocals), Terry Frewer (guitar), Claire Lawrence (sax), Brian Newcombe (bass), and Ross Turney (drums). However, by the time New Syndrome showed an interest in The Classics, there was a further change in the group's line-up with Bill Henderson joining on guitar instead of Terry Frewer and Glenn Miller rejoining on bass instead of Brian Newcombe.
With the line-up change, the band reinvented themselves as The Collectors (although unnamed at this stage) in 1966 with the following personnel :
Howie Vickers - Lead Vocals
Bill Henderson - Lead Guitar, Lead Vocals & Keyboards
Claire Lawrence - Saxophone, Flute, Keyboards, Harmonica & Vocals
Glenn Miller - Bass and Vocals
Ross Turney - Drums
In 1966, the band became the house band for the Torch Cabaret in Vancouver. In the beginning, they played R&B and many cover songs but gradually the cover songs got less and less as the band wrote their own material. The main writers were Howie Vickers, Bill Henderson and Claire Lawrence. However, at this time, the band did not have an official name.
With former horn player Howie Vickers handling the lead vocals, they cut 'Eyes' and 'Don't Feel Bad' - both of which later appeared on the History of Vancouver Rock and Roll, Volume 4 (VRCA 004; 1991). 'Eyes' is a great folk tune seasoned with tasty guitar and just a dash of psychedelia.
Soon, the band was signed to the Los Angeles label Valiant Records after Jack Hirschhorn saw the band in Vancouver and got money from Valiant owner Barry De Vorzon to cut a demo in Vancouver. The demo led to a recording session in L.A. that yielded the debut single 'Looking at a Baby'. After recording the single, the band still did not have a name. Barry de Vorzon needed a name to put on the single and according to Bill Henderson, the band were given the choice between The Collectors or The Collection. After some deliberation amongst the band members, they choose The Collectors.
Released in February 1967, 'Looking at a Baby' b/w 'Old Man' (New Syndrome 16, subsequently reissued on the History of Vancouver Rock, Volume 3 VRCA 001, 1983) became a smash hit in Vancouver. With vibrant harmonies and dazzling use of woodwind, the single was an enormous success throughout Canada's West Coast ('Looking at a Baby' reached #4 on Toronto's CHUM-AM on April 24th, 1967) and was also a national hit in Canada where The Collectors performed it on various TV shows. At the time when 'Looking at a Baby' was released, the band were signed to the Valiant record label for the US release of the single but back in Cananda, the band was with Tom Northcott's New Syndrome record label.
The next Collectors single was 'Fisherwoman' b/w 'Listen to the Words' which was released in August 1967. This single was an even bigger hit and relased number 15 on the Canadian Top 100. On 27th August 1967, The Collectors appeared on the Canadian TV music programme called '12 For Summer'. The success of the single prompted American interest in the band and so the band started spending more time in San Francisco and Los Angeles. They played at the Fillmore (with Buffalo Springfield) and the Avalon Ballroom (with Iron Butterfly). The Collectors were drawn towards US west coast venues where they established a positive reputation for their complex arrangements, soaring harmonies and extended improvisations. With their US record label, Valient Records and its publishing company being sold to Warner Brothers, The Collectors now had an outlet which were able to support the group with the required promotion.
Soon after being signed to Warner Brothers, The Collectors were soon recording their first album with producer Dave Hassinger, who had recently engineered some classic records by the Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane and the Electric Prunes. However, before completing their own LP, at the tail-end of 1967, the Collectors's producer, Dave Hassinger, secured their help (mainly Howie Vickers & Bill Henderson) to assist on the Electric Prunes's 'Mass in F Minor' sessions. Both Dave Hassinger and David Axelrod needed to complete the project on time and hence, enlisted the help of Howie & Bill from The Collectors to complete the tracks on side 2 of the LP.
But although ready and willing to be session performers, The Collectors had already established themselves as Canada's hottest group with their original material and didn't really want to divert from their own artistic awesomeness. This paved the way for The Collectors to release their first album in 1968. The LP was called 'The Collectors aka New Vibrations From Canada' and the LP was released on the New Syndrome label in Canada and on the Warner Bros. label in the US. The LP certainly captured the group at its best and translated the engergy of their live shows onto vinyl. Side 2 of the LP was just one whole track - the mesmerising 'What Love (Suite). This song was the result of a 24-hour session in a motel room and was used by the National Film Board for Canada for the coundtrack of 'Don't Let the Angels Fall' which was a Cannes Film Festival entry.
With the release of the LP, the next single to be released in June 1968 was 'Lydia Purple' which was one of the tracks on the LP. However, it was the only song on the album neither written nor selected by The Collectors themselves (it was written by Don Dunn & Tony McCashen), as well as the only one to use session musicians (with Larry Knechtel on piano and harpsichord, Norm Jeffries on vibes and Jesse Erlich on cello). A video promo exists for 'Lydia Purple' where The Collectors were filmed in part on top of the then-brand new Pacific Palisades Hotel in Vancouver. Additionally, The Collectors also appeared on the TV show 'Playboy After Dark' in July 1968 performing 'One Act Play' & 'Lydia Purple'.
The Collectors continued to work in California and intermittantly returned to Vancouver where they remained very popular.
The next Collectors release was a collaboration with poet / playwrite George Ryga. The result was an album release called 'Grass and Wild Strawberries'. The music supported Ryga's stage play of the same name. The plot and some of the text of the play was included in the inner gatefold sleeve of the LP. 'Grass and Wild Strawberries' opened on April 10th 1969 at the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre and ended on May 3rd 1969. The play was produced by Joy Coghill, directed by Don Ecclestone and starred National Theatre School students Thomas Hauff as Allan and Nicola Lipman as Susan. The production was full of glitter, with film clips, slides, dance, recorded sounds and voices and, of course, the live music of The Collectors. The play attracted the largest mainstage audience of the Playhouse's 1968-1969 season. The play had a 3 week run at the Playhouse and The Collectors played live every single night!
The only single released from the 'Grass and Wild Strawberries' LP was 'Early Morning'. This single was the final release on the Warner Bros. record label in June 1969.
During this period, The Collectors also provided the soundtrack music to three Canadian based films - 'Don't Let the Angels Fall' (1968) along with David Hassinger, 'Canada the Land / Canada, pays vaste' (1969) and The Land (1969). Further information regarding these films can be obtained from The Collectors's entry at the National Film Board of Canada's web site.
In the latter half of 1969, Howie Vickers left the group to work as a broadcaster at Vancouver's Studio 3. The remaining four members - Bill Henderson, Claire Lawrence, Glenn Miller and Ross Turney - continued as a four piece band with each sharing the vocals. The group signed a record deal with London Records which released their final two singles. The first of the two singles was 'I Must Have Been Blind' b/w 'Beginning Part 1'. Interestingly, this was the first and only single release by The Collectors in the UK. The final Collectors release was a single called 'Sometimes We're Up' b/w 'Beginning Part 2'.
After the band's final release on the London record label, the quartet changed their name and emerged as Chilliwack in 1970 with Bill Henderson taking over lead vocals.
However, although The Collectors finished in 1970, their music has lived on over the years through re-releases of the LPs. First to be released in 1987 was Seventeenth Summer on the UK based Edsel label. This LP included highlights from the two Collectors LPs plus single releases like 'Fisherwoman', 'Looking at a Baby' 'Fat Bird' and 'Old Man'. In 1991, Linea Records (a division of Line Music) from Germany released The Collectors and Grass & Wild Strawberries on CD for the first time. In 2004, Collectors Choice Music released The Collectors and Grass & Wild Strawberries on CD.
Chilliwack are still together after several hit singles and LP releases. Bill Henderson is the only founding member left in Chilliwack but there have been a few reunions of both the original line-up of The Collectors and Chilliwack.
As Chilliwack were formed in 1970, to celebrate the occasion, a fortieth anniversary concert was held on 21st and 22nd May 2010 at the River Rock Show Theatre in Richmond, British Columbia. Bill was joined on stage with Howie and Claire to play a terrific set of Collectors songs which included 'Looking at a Baby' and 'She (Will-O'-The Wind)'.
Check out Bill's website called www.gonegonegone.com for further infomation and latest news!