Formed in the early 1960s as Jay Smith and The Majestics, Smith shared lead vocals with Shawne Jackson (ex of The Silhouettes), and they soon became one of the leading big band groups around the Toronto area. Smith’s stay was short, but they managed one single on Aragon Records in 1965 entitled “Driven From Home,” b/w “Howlin’ For My Baby.”
After a few more personnel changes, they became Shawne & Jay Jackson and The Majestics, when her younger brother (real name Eugene) left The Pharaohs and came on board. Many of the other members had also left other promising groups of the day, all which featured a full-blown horn-based sound. Guitarist Fred Keelor came in from The Shays, John Crone and Bill Cudmore brought their saxophones when they left Bobby Kris & The Imperials and Robbie Lane & The Disciples respectively, and drummer Wes Morris left the drumkit with Jon & Lee and The Checkmates.
They became a regular fixture at The Bluenote Cafe, one of the hottest clubs on the strip, by incorporating a complete horn section and adopting a R&B/soul feel to the music. They caught the attention of reps from ARC Records and were signed to the label in ’66, and after shortening their name to simply The Majestics, they released a pair of singles that year, a cover of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” and Big Al Anderson’s “No Good To Cry.”
Response was good so the label released the band’s debut album, INSTRUMENTAL R&B the following spring. With keyboardist Eric Robertson serving as musical director, it contained nearly 40 minutes of Motown and British blues styled covers with the full-blown brass treatment, including “Respect,” Vanilla Fudge’s “Keep Me Hangin’ On,” and Wilson Pickett’s “Midnight Hour” and “Land of 1000 Dances.” Their cover of Arthur Conley’s “Sweet Soul Music” later appeared on the compilation album put out by CTV called “After Four” (an after-school variety program the network ran for a couple of years). The album was re-released in the US that same year on Paragon Records, but with an altered tracklisting.
Before the year was up, they released their second album for Arc, FUNKY BROADWAY, which featured the cover of Joe South’s “Hey Joe” (Deep Purple and Jimi Hendrix covered it earlier, so why not?), and since Janis Joplin was riding the charts with “Piece of My Heart,” they decided to cover that song as well.
While still playing mainly the greater Toronto area, they released another pair of albums in ’68. THE SOUL KING OTIS REDDING – A TRIBUTE featured the band’s renditions of such classics as “Dock Of The Bay,” “Mr Pitiful,” and “Ol’ Man Trouble,” as well as a re-released version of “Respect.”
Later that year saw HERE COME DA JUDGE on the store shelves. The name was taken from Sammy Davis Jr’s catch-phrase that never really caught on for very long when he appeared on “Laugh In” (although Pigmeat Markham said it first). Like the other albums, it was recorded at Bay Studios in Toronto with Robertson acting as musical arranger/director. As well as re-releases of “Dock Of The Bay,” “Soul Serenade,” and “Mr Pitiful” from the previous record, it also featured up and coming vocalist Jackie Gabriel, who won critical praise for her stylings on the cover of Sonny & Cher’s “I Got You Babe” and the blues standard “It Should Have Been Me.”
Following the demise of the original Majestics, Shawne Jackson formed the short-lived Stone Soul Children, before moving to the US, where she worked as a secretary and a model while trying to re-establish her music career. She signed with Playboy Records, eventually marrying Domenic Troiano, and released one album and a string of singles throughout the ’70s, including the top 10 hit “Just As Bad As You,” which earned her a Juno Award nomination. During the ’80s, she worked on TV and radio commercials and in musicals, did some session work, and landed a role on the TV show “Night Heat.” By the early ’90s she’d removed herself from the spotlight and became a fashion designer, but eventually resurfaced in music, playing mostly lounge dates and church services.
Jay meanwhile formed ???? with the bulk of the remainder of The Majestics, releasing one record on the Goodgroove label in 1970, THE SUBTLE ART OF SELF DESTRUCTION. But before the year was up, that ‘soul meets acid rock’ experiment ran its course. With trumpet player Brian Lucrow, he reformed The Majestics with a cast that included future Bearfoot bassist Chris Vickery and Arnie Chycoski on horns (later of Boss Brass), and Russ Strathdee on saxophone. They continued touring for a few years under the Majestics name, but called it quits, only to reform again in the late 1990s for the occasional gig around the Toronto area.
Robertson became a top session player, working over the next couple of decades with the likes of Murray McLauchlan, Klaatu, and the CBC. Chycoski died of natural causes in 2008.
FUNKY BROADWAY was re-released in the mid ’00s as a double CD package, containing the original release, the debut album, and an extended remixed version of “Hey Joe.”