Following some musical work in the US, and the completion of his formal education at the University of Montana, Bruce Innes finally returned to Calgary, and began performing in a small renowned coffee house called The Pig's Eye at the same time as undiscovered performers like Joni Anderson (later to be Joni Mitchell) and David Wiffen. Using this as a performance base, he formed The North Country Singers with Graham Bruce (bass) and Joseph Cavender (drums). Innes saw Dixie Lee Stone performing there as well and soon asked her to join the ensemble. The group headed out on a cross Canada tour, swinging down into the US where they picked up Portland, Oregon native Bliss Mackie as second guitarist eventually landing in Los Angeles and changing their name to "The Original Caste".
Through Innes's former label, Dot Records, they recorded two singles including "I Can't Make It Anymore" (1968) which was less than a blip on the music industry radar. However, after signing with TA Records, a label distributed by Bell Records (Columbia), in 1969, Innes met writers Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter, who would produce The Original Caste’s first album.
They struck pay dirt after releasing the duo's "One Tin Soldier" that same year. The song made No. 6 on RPM Weekly chart and No. 34 on the Billboard Top-40 and went to #1 on the CHUM Chart.
They charted even higher with "Mr. Monday" which hit No. 4 on RPM Weekly's chart and No. 3 on the CHUM Chart in Canada. The two singles combined, worldwide, sold over three million copies. Despite the failure of "Mr. Monday" to chart in the US, they landed opening slots for the likes of BB King and Glen Campbell south of the border and made numerous TV appearances.
"One Tin Soldier" had a revival of sorts in 1972 when it was featured in the movie 'Billy Jack', however it was not the Original Caste on the soundtrack but rather American band Coven featuring singer Jinx Dawson. The singles made another round at radio and had significant sales after being re-issued.
The husband and wife team of Dixie Lee and Bruce Innes would record together and as solo artists as a continued extension of their Original Caste recording contract through Bell.
With switch to Century II Records out of Canada, the new four-piece version of the group (now with Gary Carlson on bass and Tom Doran on drums) released the 'Back Home' album in 1974.
The new version of Original Caste toured into the late 1970's. When the band made its final split in 1980 so did the Innes'; Dixie remarried and became a social worker; Bruce began jingle and film score work, remarried and moved to Washington. He currently lives in Idaho. In 2000 Bruce Innes produced country artist Brenn Hill utilizing the help of veteran country/folk singer Ian Tyson; Mackie died in 2004; Joe Cavender now resides in Seattle, Washington; Carlson now resides in Bellevue, Idaho; Coats now resides in Sandpoint, Idaho.
With the release of 'The Best Of The Original Caste' in Japan in 2005, another revival of the act returned with a line-up headed by Bruce Innes and Cheryl Morrel on vocals.
In 2008 Innes, with new vocalist Jilla Web, a featured artist with Las Vegas show "Superstars Live In Concert," re-recorded "One Tin Soldier" with the Nashville Children’s Choir. A new CD is planned. Innes and Web) can be seen in concert in theaters across the US performing their highly acclaimed traveling show 'One Tin Soldier Rides Again'.
with notes from Bruce Innes.
Dixie Lee Innes: vocals
Bruce Innes: lead guitar
Bliss Mackie: rhythm guitar, vocals
Graham Bruce: bass
Peter Brown: drums
Joseph Cavender: drums (replaced Brown 1970)
Gary Carlson: bass (replaced Bruce 1972)
Dennis Coats: rhythm guitar (replaced Mackie 1972)
Tom Doran: drums (replaced Cavender)
Museum of Canadian Music