Origin: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 🇨🇦
Joined MOCM Jan 15, 2024:
Sunband’s roots trace back to the vibrant city of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where lifelong friends Brian Will (bass), Wayne Rollack (drums), and Gerry Bowers (guitar) united in 1969 to create the musical entity known as Friendship. The trio embarked on a journey to craft their own unique sonic identity with a goal to perform original works of music.
Wayne Rollack reflects on his musical journey, starting in elementary school performing with his brother Rod (guitar) and Calvin Pool (guitar) in a group called The Night Owls. Progressing to high school, they were joined by Rod Salloum (keyboards) and Dave Dryden (bass) to establish The Inventions of Wellington. During this time, Brian Will, Curtis Beaumont, and Gerry Bowers were playing in a popular blues group called Fresh Blues. After these two groups disbanded, Wayne joined forces with Brian Will and Curtis Beaumont to form Friendship with the goal to write and perform original compositions. Later, Gerry Bowers joined them in this enterprise, and they became a four-piece group. After some time, Curtis left the group to pursue a career in education.
A pivotal moment unfolded in 1970 during a Variety Night performance at the local high school. This performance caught the attention of Randy Bachman's cousin who was in the audience. Impressed, he relayed the band's excellence to Randy Bachman, who at the time was between bands after the breakup of The Guess Who. Randy, known for producing various groups at the time, arrived at Brian's house in a Rolls Royce to hear the group, and later, over cheeseburgers and fries at McDonald's, agreed to become their producer. The band was pleasantly surprised by Randy's warmth, generosity, and kindness, with Wayne recalling him as "a prince of a guy." The trio ventured to Winnipeg, where they recorded demos at Century 21 Studios. Randy used these demos to pitch the band to Warner Bros. At this time, the group also changed their name to Sunband, drawing inspiration from a jar of East Indian Jam labelled 'Sunbrand.'
In 1971, Sunband secured their inaugural recording contract with Warner Bros, and travelled to RCA Studios in Toronto to record three 45’s which were released in 1971-72. During these collaborations, all three band members co-wrote the lyrics, giving life to their music through spontaneous jam sessions.
In the summer of 1972, Sunband experienced two transformative moments. The first was when Rod Salloum, a skilled keyboardist, joined the group, infusing valuable experience and introducing a fresh dimension to their sonic palette. Salloum, also a highly talented graphic artist, had previously played with Brian Will and Curtis Beaumont in elementary school. After leaving high school, Salloum played a significant role in the Toronto-based dramatic and almost operatic group Charlotte until their disbandment in 1970. Salloum's involvement with Charlotte's ambitious pursuit of success in the Toronto area, likely influenced Sunband’s approach to their own musical journey. Furthermore, Salloum had lent his musical talents to Gordie Brandt's jazz trio in Saskatoon and contributed to the well-regarded Saskatchewan act, Rik and the Ravens.
The second transformative moment came when Wayne’s brother Rod joined the group to become their live sound engineer, technical advisor, and road manager. It was at this time that Gerry Bowers and Rod Rollack designed and constructed a leading-edge sound system that featured a front of house mixing console. This was very rare at the time, and eventually became standard practice for all live music shows.
Throughout the early 1970s, Sunband exhibited unwavering dedication, gracing stages across the Mid-West provinces. Their engagements included opening performances for notable acts like Mashmakhan and The Collectors, emphasizing the belief that "if there ain't no audience, there ain't no show." A particularly memorable show took place at Regina's Dark Hall, where they served as the opening act for Painter. Following The Collectors' transformation into Chilliwack, Sunband embarked on a three-day tour with Chilliwack in Saskatchewan. During their live performances, and along with their original compositions, Sunband skillfully interpreted a diverse repertoire, including renditions of tracks by notable artists such as the Beach Boys (Sail On Sailor), and Steely Dan (My Old School).
Despite having a devoted fan base, achieving a breakthrough in the Canadian music scene proved elusive for Sunband. Warner Bros grew increasingly frustrated with the lack of further national exposure of the group. Additionally, before the CRTC rulings came into play, American music still dominated the Canadian airwaves. Disheartened by this lack of progress, Warner Brothers ultimately decided to terminate the contract in 1972.
In January of 1975, Sunband entered Tommy Banks Century II Studios in Edmonton to record four new compositions under the direction of recording engineer Les Bateman. Les, affectionately known as "Bates," was a celebrated musician and a world-class studio engineer. His contributions included playing organ with Witness Inc. and constructing some of the largest studios in North America. Bates was recognized as a pioneer facilitating the shift from analog to digital in the music industry. Sadly, Bates passed away last week on January 22, 2024.
Sunband proceeded to present the newly recorded demos to a number of record labels. Eight months after the demos were recorded, A&M Records showed some interest, and sent a letter to the band wishing to arrange for a live viewing. Unfortunately, by that time, the band had started to grow apart. Sunband was also becoming weary of the constant travelling that was mainly limited to the province of Saskatchewan. A growing lack of motivation resulted, and the group disbanded in October of 1975.
Following the dissolution of Sunband, Brian Will and Rod Salloum took the initiative to establish a new musical endeavor called Jabazz. Craig Kaleal, an exceptionally talented drummer, also joined Jabazz. Craig was known for his contributions to Witness Inc., Leigh Ashford, Wascana, Dianne Heatherington, Downchild Blues Band, Jacques Lussier Band, and The Upsetters. Notably, Craig Kaleal had previously been Wayne's drum teacher, and as Wayne fondly reminisces, "Craig's talent couldn't be taught - it's in his DNA - he was one of the most talented drummers I ever knew". Orest Patraschuk joined the group as lead guitarist, and Jabazz embarked on a fresh creative journey.
A few years later, Brian relocated to Edmonton and initiated the formation of the second incarnation of Sunband. Initially, this decision stirred some resentment within the original Sunband, but with time, those sentiments faded, and reconciliation ensued. The revamped group included Brian Will, Rod Salloum, Ray Garand (lead guitar), and Sherman Pearce (drums). In 1982, they recorded an LP under the Vera Cruz label, providing a snapshot of a distinct chapter in Sunband's musical odyssey.
Wayne Rollack continued with his drumming pursuits in Saskatoon, receiving a Bachelor of Music Education degree from the University of Saskatchewan. Initially, Wayne continued to play in bands in Saskatoon while employed as an elementary school music teacher with the Saskatoon Public School Board. In later years, he retired from live performances, and dedicated his time to his career as a music teacher. After retirement, Wayne directed an acapella group called HumSingers for 7 years. He now facilitates a monthly music devotional practice with The Dances of Universal Peace.
Rod Salloum went on to establish a highly successful dance band in Saskatoon known as The Press Gang. Later in his career, he assumed the role of Art Director at The Star Phoenix, a local Saskatoon newspaper. Rod now lives in Victoria BC, and currently plays the piano at the Fairmont Empress hotel on a regular basis.
Gerry Bowers worked in audio sales, sound reinforcement, and sound recording. Gerry also did some jingle writing before moving to Vancouver. Gerry now resides in Saskatoon once again.
Brian Will moved from Edmonton and made Vancouver his home for a number of years, before returning to Saskatoon. Brian now resides in the small town of Harris, Saskatchewan.
Thanks to Craig Jarvis, at Vital Transfers A/V, these previously unreleased tracks were digitized and remastered from original tape recordings and have now finally emerged for the public to hear on Feb 2, 2024, through citizenfreak.com. Wayne Rollack and Robert Williston are now presenting this music for the first time in 49 years since its recording. Notably, these tracks represent the only recordings of Sunband featuring Rod Salloum on keyboards, introducing a fresh dimension and greater sophistication compared to the Warner recordings. Wayne fondly reflects, stating, "Rod is an amazing keyboard player – he could hear anything once and then just play it."
-Robert Williston, Feb 2, 2024
Original line-up (3 Warner recordings):
Gerry Bowers: guitar (1969)
Brian Will: bass (1969)
Wayne Rollack (producer for Lorne Deason's 1980 killer album): drums (1969)
1975 line-up (6 Century II unreleased recordings):
Gerry Bowers: guitar (1969)
Brian Will: bass (1969)
Wayne Rollack (1969)
Rod Salloum: keyboards (1972)
Brian Will: lead vocals, acoustic guitar, bass
Ray Garand: lead guitar, backing vocals
Sherman Pearce: drums, backing vocals
Rod Salloum: keyboards
Gerry Dere: synthesizer