Every once in a while you go to a dance that nobody else goes to, featuring a band that hardly anybody else has heard of. And usually, an occasion of this type is an exercise in total boredom. But if you've been good all week, and the good fairy decides to give you a weekend surprise, you might happen to stumble into such an obscure gathering and find that, lo and behold, the featured group, despite their relative anonymity, are better than many another famous group currently appearing in large money concerts throughout the land. Stallion Thumrock is such a group.
Their dance appearance, at the Pender Auditorium Saturday night drew all of seventy-five people. But I would be willing to bet that they were seventy-five of the happiest people in Vancouver on that particular evening.
Why? Because of the music. After all, Its pretty hard to dig an unknown group for anything other than their music because they haven't got an "image" or a "sound" or any of the other show biz type garbage. All they have is what they can put down in sound on the spot, in the way of talent and stage presence. In other words, what counts is if they can make you feel good. Stallion Thumrock can.
They are a very tight band of guitars and drums. They write imaginatively. They sing well as individuals and together. They can even spell harmony correctly. And most important they are totally natural.
They are the audience plus music. And that's exactly as it should be if you're a band who purports to play for the people. Maybe if I'm good for another week, I'll get to see them again.
-Brian Mcleod, Vancouver Sun - 1971
May of 1970 I was playing bass guitar with Ed Coppard (B3 organ) and Bill Ennis (drums) in a band called Trilogy in the Vancouver area. We were playing in local clubs, Oil Can Harry's, The Daisy and had recently opened, as a quartet with George Greenwell playing guitar, for Billy Preston at The Marco Polo.
George was not available to continue to play with us, so wanting to add a guitar to our trio; we answered an ad in the paper placed by Brett Wade and his friend Garry Bell. Brett and Garry met with us at Ed's well-padded garage, and we jammed for an hour or so. As they were leaving they asked me for my number. They called that evening and asked me to meet with them the next day to discuss the three of us putting a band together. Within a few days we had moved into a cabin on the shores of Cultus Lake in Chilliwack, BC, (which belonged to Brett's grandmother), where we began writing and rehearsing our material.
Garry Bell and Brett Wade grew up in Chilliwack, so we had an endless stream of friends dropping in to hear us play our latest songs (and party of course.) One of these friends was Red Hare. (Frank Hare was nicknamed Red for his long red hair and beard). He was always there with his congas and tape recorder. Red joined the group as our roady, and sometimes played conga with the band as an unofficial member.
All our energies were concentrated on writing, and elaborate harmonies, but after about 3 months we decided it was time to add a drummer. One evening we walked down the road to the Lyndale Beach phone booth and called Dick Whetstone, who lived in Colorado. Brett and Dick had recently played together the Electric Prunes and had recoded two albums together in Los Angles, CA. The two albums were released by Warner Bros./Reprise Records. He arrived in Vancouver a couple of weeks later driving a brand new 1970 Pontiac GTO. Could that car honk! Dick was one of the greatest drummer/singers I have ever worked with and has been considered in recent days to be one of the grandfathers of the hip-hop beat. Some of his grooves were sampled from those last few Electric Prunes albums and used on early N.Y. rap albums.
Now we had a band and moved to Vancouver - Stallion Thumrock let the gigs begin. Playing in local clubs like, the Pender Auditorium, Oil Can Harry's, the Parlour, and the Marco Polo, the group was getting very tight and a lot of attention, which led to playing as the opening band for many big name acts.
Our first tour, in our '63 Ford Econoline van, took us to Detroit and Saugatuck, Michigan, where we appeared for 4 weeks as The Electric Prunes. (One Prune tune and 30 originals, go figure). We morphed back into Stallion Thumrock and played Kansas and Colorado on the way back to Canada.
After about a year and a half the band decided we needed keyboards to complete our sound. As I also played keyboards, I switched to keyboards, and Joel Wade, (Brett's younger brother) joined us to play bass.
By early 1972, Stallion Thumrock was playing concerts and rock festivals, and had completed several recording sessions. We finally landed a record deal. Claire Lawrence, the keyboard/sax player for both the bands, Chilliwack and The Collectors was brought in to produce the album for Haida records - distributed by A&M Records. We recorded the album at A&M Studios in Hollywood in about a week (we had a low budget). Highlighting the event was the fact that Carol King in studio A, and Joni Mitchell and Steven Stills were on the porch in 1972 recording in studio B next to us.
In the fall of 1972, shortly after we recorded the album, I decided to leave the band. The band continued performing concerts as a four piece band, however six months later Dick, as well, left the band and returned to Colorado. A limited amount of album copies were distributed and consequently record collectors in North America and Europe are selling them for $50 to $60 U.S. on the internet. Oddly enough, a 60s & 70s Psychedelic label in Germany has also shown interest in some of songs from the '72 album.
After leaving the Electric Prunes in the summer of 1970 I had three choices of as to where I was going to live and work. Thank goodness I chose British Columbia, Canada - a georgous provence in western Canada. Brett Wade had moved back home to Canada after leaving the "Prunes." Months later he called and said he was living in a cabin on Cultus Lake near Chilliwack, BC with the foundation of a band composed of both great singers and song writers. I was immediately intrigued and flew to the western provence of Canada - British Columbia and ended up staying for almost three years. The group was truly a "musician's band."
We recorded our album at the A&M Hollywood studio in 1972 - spending less than a week in production. The album was produced by Claire Lawrence - (member of Chilliwack). Two coast-to-coast Canadian tours followed the albums release on the Heida Records (distributed by A&M Canada). The first tour culminated with a live performance on CBC in Montreal. One of my favorite theater shows was in Toronto (a favorite city of mine)...what an incredible performance and beautiful venue!
Unfortunately, the abundant amount of material and talent didn't guarantee success. Although the majority of my favorite musical experiences occurred while in this band, an incredible amount of music never made it past the taping process. Fortunately, I still have a tape of eleven songs that were favorites in concerts, but were never placed on an album.
Even though we had enough material to record several more albums, the opportunity would not present itself. I've yet to be in a band that had as much vocal harmony ability. Live shows were dynamic, musically inspired and exciting. Years later I continue to have countless late night, vivid dreams where I was performing with the band. Something deep in my psychic has never been able to let-go of those musicial days of youth and creativity, nor have I found a replacement that musically inspired me to the same degree.
I live in Colorado and keep the creative fires burning with photography and drumming on several of my restored 60's and early 70's drum kits. I keep one such set of black 1968 Ludwigs in Tulsa, for when I perform in Oklahoma with Little Joe McLerran. Additionally, I am a licensed real estate broker and currently involved in several entrepreneurial pursuits.
Garry Bell: rhythm guitar, vocals
Basil Watson: piano, organ, vocals
Brent Wade: lead guitar, vocals
Dick Whetstone: drums, vocals
Joel Wade: bass
Produced by Claire Lawrence
Engineered by Bernie Grundman
Mixed by Rick Porter and Tom Vicari
Cover Artwordk by Kerry Waghorn