Larry Evoy & Paul Weldon began jamming together in basements and garages amidst the Toronto musical revolution of the ’60’s. They were assaulted with a variety of influences, from psychadelia to folk to blues-based styles, and went through several incarnations of various groups. In ’66, with band members Craig Hemming on bass and drummer Dave Brown, they placed an ad for a guitarist, settling on Danny Marks. With Evoy handling vocal duties and Weldon on organ, they went through a variety of band names, as well as people behind the drum kit and bass guitar.
A year later they’d settled on their name (the actual name of the bear in a Winnipeg zoo that inspired ‘Winnie The Pooh’)and with Evoy taking on the drums. They were regulars of the Yorkville coffee house circuit and had also appeared at The Rock Pile, a major club gig at the time with the likes of Paul Butterfield and Led Zeppelin.
They were signed to Capitol Records in ’69 – which was uncharacteristic for the label as they were known to take on artists in the likes of Glen Campbell, Bobby Gentry and Wayne Newton. But the gamble paid off when BEARINGS was released the following spring. Considered by many to be one of Canadian rock’s best ‘first albums’, it was a mix of the blues and modern/pop influences. The first single, “You Me and Mexico” reached #3 on the Canadian charts and was certified gold.
Despite only a nominal marketing push, the xylophone & horns beat set to a pop tune also had a respectable showing of #68 Stateside. The album eventually struck gold, selling 50,000 copies in Canada, due in part to the versatility the banned exhibited, such as “The Woodwind Song” and Marks’ suggestions of including the remakes of the blues classics – Memphis Slim’s “Everyday I Have The Blues” and Freddie King’s “Hideaway”.
Their sophomore lp came in the form of ECLIPSE the following summer. Featuring a healthy dose of well-written tight folk-inspired pop, it was an obvious continuation of the first album. The first single “You Can’t Deny It” was issued amid high hopes. Also a graphic artist, Weldon designed a sleeve for the 45 that actually had something for the buyer to look at, one of rock’s first 45 sleeves to have some actual thought put into it. Again the group received a good critical response and decent airplay.
Next up was the single “Spirit Song” early in ’71. Other notes from the album included Weldon’s “40 Days Out of Africa” and “Chris’ Song” and “Picking Tower”, both penned by Evoy. The fact Marks had written 4 songs alone (mostly blues-derived) was also a testament to their diversity. Another tour followed, including a substantial amount more of American dates. Hastily put together, the tour was such a disaster that Marks left at the end of it. He would go on to play in several other groups including Jericho and Average White Band, and eventually became one of the most respected ‘hired guns’ in the business, working with Ken Tobias, Ronnie Hawkins, Rita Coolidge, Stephen Stills, Bo Diddley and even Tiny Tim.
They came back with their self-titled lp in the spring of 1971. With new guitarist Roger Ellis, it’s widely considered their best work – as well as one of the best that year. The first two singles “Fly Across The Sea” an organ predominant number – and “Masquerade” both did well, their laid-back feel each cracking the Top 40 both sides of the border. “Last Song” hit the airwaves and soon became what would be the group’s biggest-selling single. The Evoy-penned classic sold over a million copies, reaching #3 in the US and topped the charts here.
The #5 position in Australia was also not only a pleasant surprise, but prompted tour dates in Europe and Down Under. The American leg of the label re-issued “You Me And Mexico” as a single just prior to tour-end, this time cracking the Top 40. Other tracks included “Black Pete” – a half-spoken, half-sung anti-drug song with a hint of the blues, “Masquerade” and the edgey “Private School Girls”. “Last Song” earned the group Canada’s top honour during that year’s Juno Awards for best single.
CLOSE YOUR EYES hit the shelves the summer of ’73 amid much anticipation from fans and critics. Weldon had left the group prior to recording and his shoes were filled by Bob Kendall and featured Gene Martynec, who also served as producer and would later produce Rough Trade and Queen City Kids, among a million others. With the title-track as the lead single, the group again scored on both North American charts, peaking at #3 in Canada and again cracked the US Top 30.
The band hit the road again but differences in opinions during the recording of the album resulted in Barry Best replacing Kendall on keyboards for the tour, as well as a young Brian MacLeod, later with Chilliwack and The Headpins. But by tour’s end the toils of the road had Evoy wanting to go a more solo direction.
With the band’s fate not officially known, Capitol released three singles over the course of the next year and a half, but neither “Same Old Feeling” – complete with violin solo, “Freedom From The Stallion” or “On And On” managed to save Edward Bear from extinction. Evoy meanwhile ventured off to a moderately successful one-record solo career. Released on Attic Records, he scored biggest with his only single away from the zoo in 1978 with “Here I Go Again” from his self-titled solo debut.
Curiously, the song wound up on Edward Bear’s first compilation THE BEST OF THE BEAR in ’86. Speculation ran amuck a few years later when Evoy began rehearsing once again with Marks and Weldon. The original three were back. However a full-fledged reunion never took place. Instead Capitol released another ‘best of’ package in ’91. THE EDWARD BEAR COLLECTION was pretty much just that. Again rumours ran around later that decade that they were reforming, but again it never happened, as all the original members have gone on to other projects.