A native of Winnipeg, Joey Gregorash grew up in a musical family, where his first interest was the violin, which his father played. But as he got older, his interests turned more to rock and roll and the drums, fuelled by seeing The Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
As the drummer and eventually the lead singer, he formed The Mongrels with childhood friend John Nykon in 1965. They became one of the province’s hottest bands, recording a string of singles for local label Franklin Records, including “My Woman” and “Sitting In The Station” written by Randy Bachman. Their first album followed a year later, which resulted in another pair of singles, and then one more for RCA/Victor in 1970, and they even got a mention for “Funny Day” (also penned by Bachman) by Dick Clark on “American Bandstand.”
1968 also saw Gregorash’s debut as a TV host. After seeing his performance on the weekday afternoon program “Music Hop,” Bob Burns of CJAY-TV in Winnipeg saw his potential, and offered him the job of hosting a show of his own called “Young As You Are.” This led to two other programs after its demise – “Teen Dance Party,” and then “Joey and the Hits.”
But looking for new musical direction, he left The Mongrels and formed the short-lived group Walrus, but by 1970 opted instead for a solo career. He signed with Polydor who released a pair of singles – “Stay” and “Tomorrow Tomorrow.” The flip-side to “Stay” – “I’m Easy Come Easy Go” was then released as a single on its own before the end of the year. All three combined to give him hits on the pop, country, and adult contemporary charts, with “I’m Easy Come Easy Go” peaking at #25 on the country chart, while “Tomorrow Tomorrow” reached the same plateau on the AC chart.
Seeing promise, they shipped him off to Memphis to do some studio work with producer Ron Capone at Stax Volt Studios. His debut album, NORTH COUNTRY FUNK, was released in the spring of ’71, and the lead-off first single, “Jodie,” shot up the pop charts, settling at #3. The single was also a hit in Japan, Australia, Germany, and along with the traditional marketing of releasing the 45, a Latin American-only 7″ 33 RPM was also released, which also contained the b-side “The Key,” as well as two tracks from The Mongrels, “Tomorrow Tomorrow” and “It Won’t Last Long.”
The follow-up, “Don’t Let Your Pride Get You Girl” didn’t fare as well as “Jodi,” but the third single, a shortened version of his five-minute cover of Neil Young‘s “Down By The River” (a song that almost didn’t get recorded and featured Bobby Manuel from Isaac Hayes’ band on lead guitar) became his first US hit. Although it failed to make the top 100 south of the border, it was a top 40 hit at home, and did time in the top 20 in pockets throughout the Maritimes. His cover of the song also earned him a Juno Award the following spring for Outstanding Male Performance. His trip to the podium made him the first native Manitoba solo act to win a Juno, and he was also nominated for Best Male Vocalist, but lost out to Gordon Lightfoot by a single vote.
Although nothing peaked as high as “Jodi,” his follow-up album a year later, TELL THE PEOPLE, still produced moderate cross-chart hits. “My Love Sings” peaked at #16 on the pop chart, while “Take the Blindness” and the title track both charted on both the pop and adult contempary charts. The album also contained a re-released version of “Down By The River.” He embarked on a cross-Canada tour that kept him on the road for the better part of the next year, making stops in the US, as well.
He continued recording for the next few years, releasing a string of singles – “Liza,” “You’ve Been Wrong,” and “I Know We’ll Make It Together,” although none made the top 40 on either the pop or AC charts. He left the music business later in the decade and became a radio commercial writer, winning 14 national and international awards for individual jingles and full-blown promotional campaigns in the first few years alone.
As the ’80s progressed, Gregorash turned his attention to other areas of broadcasting, hosting a pair of morning shows on local Winnipeg radio. In 1986 he hosted a family noon hour TV show called “S’Kiddle Bits,” which led to a kids’ album entitled S’KIDDLE BITS BOP N’ ROCK. A couple of years later he then hosted a new program called HI NOON, in which country living and music was the focus. Although it only ran for one year, he counted Jann Arden and Garth Brooks as his guests. Although he was in talks with The Nashville Network, this was during the emergence of CMT Canada, and a possible show that had been pitched to TNN ended up getting scrubbed…
He returned to music in ’86 after scoring a deal with Attic, releasing the TOGETHER album the next year. Ironically it was then that he finally received a gold record for the song “Together (The New Wedding Song).” It went down in the annals of history as a staple at weddings and is considered by critics to be one of the greatest wedding songs ever written. The song’s melody was actually taken from “Tomorrow Tomorrow” from 1968, and the lyrics weren’t written until the mid ’70s, and was also first released in 1983 as a fundraiser for a local charity. The single’s b-side was another ballad entitled “Love Will Keep It Together,” originally released in ’84 as a single on its own.
He spent the ’90s returning to commercial writing and promotions, where he continued to win national awards. He also remained on the stage, performing now and again. As a side project, he invented a Guess Who covers band called Sham Alien and The Dispersions for a tribute album, and also contributed to a local charity album with a knock-off of “Together,” called “I Just Want To Play Hockey,” written when the Winnipeg Jets announced they were leaving for Phoenix.
Continuing in the ’00s as a freelance performer and promotions/commercial writer, Gregorash also began studying Bel Canto voice stylings, winning rave reviews as a tenor with an impressive vocal range, in the styles of Pavarotti and Bocelli.