Origin: Thunder Bay, Ontario, 🇨🇦
From Left: Larry Breiland, Bruce Anderson, Ron Specht, Dave Verrill, Greg Dahl (from an original photo by Greg Cheadle)
Formerly the Vandals, or Vandells (and eventually ending up as NRG) they became Merriday Park in 1968, largely on the advice of their record producers. At about that same time, original bassist and founding member Rick Baran left, to be replaced by Greg Dahl (from The Mindfeel).
The band worked regularly in the dance and concert scene in NW Ontario, out of Thunder Bay. Their early reputation (as the Vandals) was based largely on their Beatles' covers and tight harmonies, although the band included original material from their earliest days.
Don Grashey, the Canadian Ed Cobb (Standells, Chocolate Watch Band, etc.), not only produced the cream of the mid-sixties crop of Canadian garage, punk, psych and pop artists (The Plague, 49th Parallel, Checkerlads, White Knights, Dewline, Lexington Avenue (who became Jarvis Street Revue), Tomorrow's Keepsake, Jerry Palmer, NRG, Merriday Park, Portland Street South, Souls of Inspyration, Lyn McEachern, to name a few), he also discovered top international country singers Loretta Lynn, Myrna Lorrie and Carroll Baker. He also ran several of his own labels including Zero, Gaiety and Golden Eagle, as well as leasing masters to everyone from Abbott to Venture, including majors like RCA Victor, Sparton, etc.
I was born in the Port Arthur General Hospital on October 21 1949 in Port Arthur, which was amalgamated with Fort William as Thunder Bay (not sure what year) in the 70’s. I think I grew up in a musical environment, my mother Ellen played piano and my father Osborne played guitar and wrote some songs. My dad owned Excel Heating and Sheet Metal company which was a successful business so my younger years were fruitful with expectations of a rather good life. When Elvis came out my mother used to listen to the radio especially to listen to his latest hits. And my uncle John used to come over to play our piano and he taught me some useful skills In both composing and singing harmony. I have two brothers Wayne, and Randy. Wayne is 3 years my junior and he is one of the best drummers in the “Lakehead Area” also he plays Steel Guitar as well as regular 6 string. He recorded and toured with Rodney Brown who has had a very successful career.
My younger brother Randy is a guitar player also and has played in many successful Bands eg; Crosstown Blues Band, and Midnight Blues band to name a couple. You could say that as a family we have been blessed with music and it has been very enjoyable. I started to play piano at about three years old and at about 7, or so I started to learn guitar because I just loved Jonny Cash. I played my first public “show” in a grade 4 Christmas party in front of the class My friend Steve Hawkins mother recorded it on super 8 but I’ve not been able to ever obtain the tape but I’m told it exists. I played Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer. I discovered that I wanted to do more of this type of entertaining right then. Then of course there were the Everly Brothers and Elvis etc. so I started working on that kind of thing. In 1964 the Beatles took North America by storm.
I had a friend Rick Baran and he and I started to practice Beatles and Stones stuff as a duo. He was a really great bassist and vocalist. He found another guitar player and singer and song writer Orville Santa so we formed the Vandals with my buddy Dave Verrill on drums and Aldon Norhaugen on keyboards. This was the first real attempt at music as a vocation. We did teen dances and high school gigs and played the Fort William Gardens on a fairly regular basis. One day Orville came over to my house for a practice and he had the skeleton of an original song, we sat on the basement stairs and penned “The Bird Collector” Then not too long after that we met Don Grashey & Chuck Williams who were world class Record Producers who wanted to move their operations from California to Thunder Bay which was their home also Don had discovered Loretta Lyn and also Myrna Lorrie, and had written many top ten country hit songs.
Don Recorded myself, Orve and Rick and Dave when we performed about five or 6 original tunes. Later he used our songs on a recording session in California and we thought we were going to be Stars. Our band had incredible vibe and communication. It was a joy when we worked together. Don signed us to a record and publishing contract and we changed the name to Merriday Park, which was Chucks idea. It was around this time when Rick decided he wasn’t ready to take on the rigours of being in a recording band quit and we picked up my school buddy Greg Dahl on Bass. Also Orville decided that he wanted to take a different direction so he started his own band “Ticket” who also recorded.
Then we changed up our lineup a bit more by adding Ron Specht as a lead vocalist and changed up our keyboards with Bruce Andersen This became the final evolution of Merriday Park and we later changed our name to NRG and continued writing and recording for another year or two. We had a band house. Later had a farm we rented where we produced the original Summer Soltice concerts Finally the band disbanded. I think we put out about 7- 45’s Don Grashey had us signed to RCA to do an Album but we didn’t quite meet the deadline so they canned the project. We also had releases on Gaiety Records. We opened many times for bands like The Guess Who and Paul Revere and the Raiders. We did Canadian Bandstand live in the early days.
After the band was no longer, I started working with Tommy Horricks as we were neighbours, and had collaborated on many musical projects over many years. We did 2 years worth of CKPR Television shows called 'That’s Variety' and also we put together a couple of bands and toured extensively in Canada with CoolChange we toured to Dubai. Later “Fish on the Wall” also the “Rocker Brothers” I’ve been 1/2 way around the World performing it’s been a nice ride. This stuff is on YouTube if your interested live performances etc. I’ve probably played in about 10 bands every one of them was a success. My career spanned about 50 years but I’ve more, or less retired now.
Larry Breiland: lead guitar, vocals
Greg Dahl: bass, vocals, brass
Aldon Norhaugen: keyboards, vocals, brass
Orville Santa: guitar, harmonica, vocals
Dave Verrill: drums, percussion