Hailing from Calgary, vocalist Dennis Abbott and guitarist Dan Lowe started out performing together in the mid 1960s with their band The Real McCoys. The name was short-lived as they changed it to The Shades of Blond, with a lineup that was rounded out by guitarist Bob Carlson, Dave Petch on organ, bassist Mick Woodhouse, and Terry Bare on drums.
They covered the British hits of the day while writing their own material and developing a fuzz-guitar garage rock sound, when producer/manager Mel Shaw took an interest in the group. He included them on a record he was putting out on International Master Discovery Records, showcasing four up and coming Calgary bands. Their song “All Your Love” was added to a very early inception of The Stampeders, Jim Wheeler and the Spokes, and The New Brands, and was the only song Shaw hadn’t written himself.
By ’67 they’d changed their name to 49th Parallel, and had all but outgrown the local circuit. They played the prairies relentlessly for the next year or so, making over a dozen stops in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan at The Temple Gardens alone.
They signed with Don Grashley’s Gaeity Records and by the spring of ’68 had released a string of singles, which were also licensed to RCA Victor – “Labourer” b/w “You Do Things” (which also became its own single), “She Says” b/w “Citizen Freak,” and “Blue Bonnie Blue” (co-written by Delaney Bramlett about his wife Bonnie Bramlett) b/w “Missouri.” They all did relatively well but none broke the band with a larger audience.
Dave Downey replaced Woodhouse on bass, and Jack Velker became the new organist after Petch left, and they continued on the road while writing material. Now the shows were taking them throughout Canada and a few stops into the US, when they signed with Maverick Records. In between tours they managed to record another pair of singles – “Twilight Woman” b/w “Close The Barn Door” and “Now That I’m A Man.” The expanding tour stops were paying off, and both of the new singles got airplay in Toronto, with “Twilight Woman” even cracking the top 10 on CHUM’s playlist and getting some airplay in the US, albeit briefly.
“Citizen Freak,” “Labourer,” “You Do Things,” and “She Says” were included on a Birchmount Records compilation called THE BEST OF THE GREATEST in ’69, the same year Velker left to pursue his dreams of becoming an actor in Hollywood, making way for Dennis Mundy to become the new organist. That same year, Maverick slapped together enough material for a full length album, comprised of the singles and some studio throw-aways, crediting Grashley and Chuck Williams as co-producers. But it was barely on the shelves for a month when Abbott left, who was replaced by new frontman Dorn Beattie. Downey also left, replaced on bass by Alf Cook.
They continued to tour sporadically over the next six months while writing material for a follow-up album. But after the single “I Need You” came and went without a whimper on two separate occasions, the band packed it in by the spring of 1970.
Lowe and Beattie moved to Edmonton and formed Painter, which eventually morphed into Hammersmith. By then Beattie had moved on to a new project called All The Rage In Paris with Doug Johnson, which folded before it could record an album when Johnson moved to Vancouver to join Loverboy. Lowe’s later projects also included 451 Degrees and Prototype, then also became a production guru, working with the likes of Qwest, White Wolf, and George Fox, among others.
Pacemaker Records issued THE BEST OF 49TH PARALLEL in the mid ’90s, which featured the band’s lone album, along with singles and out-takes. Pacemaker came back in ’99 and included “Citizen Freak” on its compilation album, BEST OF GAIETY RECORDS.