Garage bands were as common in the 1960s in Canada as they were anywhere else, with each region of the country developing their own styles and musical experimentations. Among the cream of the Sault Ste Marie crop were The Amen. Formed by Tim Ryan on vocals and Ed Schreyer on guitars, the high school friends rounded out the group with Nick Scali on rhythm guitar, Dave Wilson on bass and drummer Bob Clarke. Like virtually the rest of all garage bands, they mimicked the British sounds and wrote their own material as well, playing at the local teen centre and eventually graduating to school dances.
By the time they’d all graduated from high school, they’d also outgrown The Soo, and they took their gear to Toronto in January of 1966. After playing some of the local hot spots for a few months, they hooked up with manager Bernie Finklestein, who was also handling The Paupers and Kensington Market at the time. They recruited producer John Holt and released a 45 on the local Algoma Productions label the next year. Written by Ryan, “Carnivals and Cotton Candy” was ripe with a sweet, yet simple pop feel. With its psychadelic tones mixed with bongo drums and tambourines, Ryan and Clarke’s b-side “Peter Zeus” showcased a budding musical dexterity in the band.
They continued touring the Toronto area and became favourites on the Yorkville strip, and Clarke’s 10 to 15 minute drum solos became nearly legendary. The band even had several rather long term engagements at some of the more trendy clubs opening for The Tripp, The Rabble, The Paupers, Kensington Market, fellow Sault Ste Marie band The Vendettas, and The Guess Who.
But by the summer of ’67, Scali was gone and Bob Yeomans and Bob Yukich, both alumni from The Vendettas, were in. The band continued to write their own material and shop the demos around, but called it quits before the end of the year. Everyone went their separate ways, and Ryan would try and on again, off again solo career. He also hooked up with Yeomans and Clarke again when they formed Hero after the turn of the new decade, which evolved into Jackson Hawke.
To honour the multitude of garage bands that came from Sault Ste Marie during the 60s, The Amen were one of several groups to reform in December of 2007 for The Soo’s “18 Forever Festival.”