The band’s roots stem from the demise of The Staccatos. Guitarist/singer Les Emmerson began his musical partnership with Rick Belanger in the early 60’s while in the group and after signing with Capitol Records, were heralded as Canada’s ‘other’ supergroup – The Guess Who being the other. But after failing at 2 cracks at breaking the US market, despite having moved from Ottawa to California, Capitol sent the band packing back to Canada.
The band regrouped and in the summer of ’69, changed their name (named after the last Staccatos record). Along with Belanger’s fellow-drumming brother Mike, Brian Rading on bass and Ted Gerow on keyboards, they got back in the groove on the Ottawa circuit and decided to give it another go in LA. The band’s first big break came when “Moonshine (Friend Of Mine)” was featured on the soundtrack to MGM’s film MOONSHINE WARS starring Alan Alda. Unfortunately – both bombed. The single “Hello Melinda Goodbye” was released with “Signs” the ‘b’ side. Again results were less than spectacular and the boys again retreated back to Ottawa.
But Dallas Smith, the man who landed the group any success they did have the last couple years, acquired the rights to everything they’d done their second try in LA and released the album GOODBYES AND BUTTERFLIES on his newly-formed Lion Records in May of ’71. The band meanwhile was on the verge of breaking up for good this time when they received word “Signs”, upon Smith’s urging, was released as the first single. The quintessential anti-establishment song was beginning to get some major airplay in the States, and they were doing shows in the US literally only days later. By the time their jaunt was over by the end of the year, “Signs” had sold over 2 million copies internationally and reached #3 on Billboard in the US and #4 at home. The debut also featured “Moonshine” and “Hello Melinda Goodbye” from their earlier attempts with Smith, “Swamp Woman” and “Goodbye”.
COMING OF AGE was released in January of ’72, technically only in between concert schedules. Again they quickly hit the road and watched while the first single “Absolutely Right” cracked the top 30 both sides of the border, selling 3/4 of a million copies. The band’s versatility shone through on the record – from the psychadelic title track to the folksy “Country Girl” to the biker anthem “Me & Harley Davidson”, giving them their second straight gold album, peaking at #2 in Canada.
Not taking any serious time off following the tour, they immediately returned to the studios, the end product being SWEET PARADISE in 1973. But even before it’s release that spring, cracks within the group’s foundations began to show, prompting Mike Belanger to leave before the album was finished and Rading to follow suit as soon as it was. Emmerson recruited various people over the next couple of years while on the road. The first single “Money Back Guarantee” did only slightly better at home than in the US, which wasn’t saying much. The lead-track “I’m A Stranger Here” was put out as the second single while the band was touring the States, but faired not much better.
Emmerson was taking time off from the band when the single “Werewolf” was released in the spring of ’74, then “Johnny Get A Gun”. By that summer Polydor had released THE POWER OF THE 5 MAN ELECTRICAL BAND, a ‘best-of’ collection and again they hit the road to promote it. But constant touring for the better part of a decade and a half took it’s toll and the group disbanded by the summer of 1975.
They drifted off to do their own thing, including Emmerson staying in LA and starting up the ill-fated Perfect Records. Following it’s demise he returned to Ottawa and worked on solo projects as well as a brief stint in The Cooper Brothers. In 1986, what was supposed to be a one-time thing for a benefit concert turned into a series of shows across the Eastern half of the country. The next year it was announced the band had reformed and again began touring the continent, concentrating on the outdoor festival season during the summers.
In 1990, Tesla, one of the last ‘hair metal bands’ covered “Signs” and saw it on the charts again for the first time in 20 years. Now owning the rights to the material himself, Emmerson issued ABSOLUTELY RIGHT, a true greatest hits package in 1995. 5 Man’s first appearance on compact disc contained both the radio single and the album versions of their biggest hits.
Emmerson led various incarnations of the band on the road for the next decade or so, usually performing only at outdoor classic rock festivals. The UK label Cherry Red Records released the definitive collection in 2008, HALF PAST MIDNIGHT – THE STACCATOS AND BEYOND.