EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Thursday, October 7, 2010

'Phoenix in the Morning' title song in album produced by Chapleau band in the Sixties with a special tribute to Peter Simpson as recalled by Sean Henry and Andre Renaud

Peter Simpson with Sean (John) Henry
Although there were many versions of the evolving band that graced Chapleau in the sixties. The main ingredient was the Hammond B3 organ, and the musician that brought it all together: Peter Simpson.
"Peter was a very special player, an individual with perfect pitch, who could hum any note from the tuner in his head, without reference to an instrument," Sean (John) Henry, told me in an email when I asked him to share his memories of the band. "A musician who could play virtually any song, after a quick listen. This is something you are born with, not something you learn. It was a pleasure to be in the same band with Peter, to marvel at his talent."

"My role was that of rhythm guitar, songwriter, and singer. We had some great singers, notably Frank Bignucolo, Mary Whitney, and of course, Peter, who excelled at harmony. I enjoyed songwriting, the experimentation with new chords, playing with themes (usually leaving)," Sean wrote.

Andre Renaud
He added: "The sixties in Chapleau was a special time - a time before the Internet ended the cozy isolation that nurtured local talent. A time before the DJ's recorded music undermined the liveband, and helped bring an end to much of the real music in the town. But before the music died, a self-titled album was released: Phoenix - In the Morning.

CBC described the title song, written by Sean (John) Henry as "haunting", and gave it airplay. The recording studio was in Toronto, and the album was completed over a series of days in that city.

Sean added that at this stage of the band's life the drummer was Mario Martel, and he provided the beat for the album. The music consisted of two original songs (by Sean Henry) and covers culled from the work of Gordon Lightfoot and James Taylor.

"Names ranging from the Impacts to Reprisals to Phoenix, rising from the ashes of prior bands. Individuals like Bill Fox (rhythm & lead guitar), Jim Anderson (vocals, lead and rhythm), Bob Parnell (rhythm guitar), Andre Renaud (drums and president of the students council), Mario Martel (drums), and Steve Alexander (lead guitar extraordinaire and vocals).

Steve was another gifted musician, with a flair for blues and jazz. He poured himself into the guitar, and it was a good match."

Andre Renaud shared how he became involved with the band, and his memories of the experience.

"One day in the summer of 1964 I was walking near the old Town Hall and music was coming from the basement...I went down and the band was practising..They were taking a break so I asked to sit behind the drums and they said okay..I started fooling around and it the beat came to me easily," he recalled.

"Peter Simpson asked if I played..I said, 'No I didn't but I would sure like too.'..Peter replied that the band was losing its drummer so he replaced him.

" I ordered a set of drums from Sears or my mother did.LOL..I still remember the name, they were Stewart's..I can remember myself and Peter going down to the C.P.R. station and checking at the freight office everyday to see if they were coming in.

"We practised and played in the basement of the Old Town Hall, in the basement of the Hublit Hotel, at The Legion and in peoples homes if they asked us..One of the places I remembered was at the house of Karen Smith's for a Christmas party..Her father (Cecil Mith) owned the Fox Theatre..She paid us $5.00 each I think. We thought we were rich believe we charged .50 or .75 cents at dances.

"Most of the money would go to buy more equipment and pay off the equipment we had. Billy Fox was the oldest guy in the band so he was able to sign for the equipment we bought because we were too young..

"The band was called the Impacts at first then changed to the Reprisals I don't know where that idea came from? I was in the band from 1964 till sometime in the late part of 1966 or early part of 1967.I remember playing in White River, I think we went to Timmins also and played for some T.V. show called Focus?.

Andre shared the story of how he became president of the Chapleau High School Student Council.

"We wanted to play for the high school dances so the fellows got the bright idea that I should run for President of the Student Council . Believe it or not I got in ..Not because I was smart or a great politician but the band was popular with the kids and we ran a great campaign..It was a real fun time and probably one of the most exciting campaigns ever run for President of the Student Council ever. I don't think I was one of the teachers favourite choices because we were a little wild for their standards at the time because of the way we dressed, talked and played in a rock band..God Forbid. That was grade 12 by the way 1966."

Peter Simpson with Steve Alexander
"One funny thing happened to me..we were playing on the back of a float on main steet and my drum stool collapsed and I fell off the back of the float.. nearly killed myself."

Andre added: "Just a side note..I also played with an adult band from time to time..Yen Hong was the main drummer in that band..I was asked now and then to cover for him..It was funny because I was under age and they were playing in drinking establishments. We would play for dances at the Hublit, The Legion and the Curling Rink. When the liquor inspector was around they would hide me in the back room somewhere..When he was gone I would come out..

" It was funny as half way through the night I was the only sober one in the place and the music was starting to sound a little weird."

Thanks so much to Sean and Andre for sharing their memories of the band. It all started with a Facebook discussion about the possibility of a CHS reunion in 2012. Although the band was popular in the Sixties, "a long time ago" he added that "it was a very exciting time in our lives."

They are exploring the possibility of band reunion to play at the CHS celebration of 90 years of its history should it proceed. Andre wrote that whe Sean asked him, he replied that he "was game for anything... .I bet Peter would like that..I can see him from the other side laughing his head off. Imagine that a get together in 2012 in memory of Peter..Jzzz that would be nice." We will keep you posted. My email is mj.morris@live.ca

NOTE: Sean and Andre ar looking for former band members. If you are one of them or know where any are. pleaser email me.

No comments:

Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
MJ with Buckwheat (1989-2009) Photo by Leo Ouimet


click on image


Following the American Dream from Chapleau. CLICK ON IMAGE