Formed in Vancouver, Ptarmigan’s roots date back to late 1970 when singer Glen Dias was introduced to guitarist James Lithgow by mutual friend Michael Bieling one night after one of his shows. Dias and Lithgow began writing songs and decided to round out a performing band with Bieling on board on congas, then soon added Dennis Lelonde on alto sax and piano, Monte Nordstrom on guitar, and percussionist Shawn Mullins.
Developing a blend of folk and psychadelic rock, they played on Vancouver Island for a few months, but Lithgow and Bieling eventually left, leaving room for American percussionist Peter Wheeler to come on board. Dias and Nordstrom became the core of the band, and the branched out to play the Vancouver circuit, and then after deciding to simply be a duo, took up temporary residence in Winnipeg. After a couple of the months they then moved on to Toronto. Although they didn’t get the gigs they’d auditioned for at Grumble’s or The Riverboat, they ended up with an extended gig at Fiddler’s Green, appearing with the likes of Leon Redbone and The Downchild Blues Band.
After a brief trip back home to the West Coast, they returned to Toronto. But their plans of making it to Ottawa were kaybashed when they didn’t have enough for two bus tickets. A night at the YMCA was followed by a coin toss to decide who was hitch-hiking, and Dias lost. But once they were there, they became regulars at a hippy joint called The Kitchen Cinq, which in turn led to an extended stay at Le Hibou, where they opened for Lenny Breau, and also Syrinx.
As winter wore on, they auditioned unsuccessfully for Astra Records, and they eventually made their way back to Winnipeg. They recorded some demos and took the train to Edmonton, then hopped a bus back to Victoria. Musician/producer/manager Paul Horn liked what he heard, and signed them to his Samadhi Music, and they recorded the material at Canbase Studio (later re-named Mushroom) in Vancouver during the fall and winter of ’72. Rounding out the recording were some of the duo’s previous bandmates, including Peter Wheeler on percussion.
It took over a year for Horn to land them a deal, which finally happened when Columbia Records released the album and the single “Go Dancing” b/w “Vancouver” in early ’74. To a degree the music perplexed the critics, who couldn’t make heads or tails of the acoustic jazz/hippie acid rock blend. But with the album sitting on the shelf for an entire year led to the duo not being very musically active. But now that it was finally in the stores and the single getting some local airplay, they assembled a backup band, and played some smaller gigs for a few weeks. But when Nordstrom’s friend and band bassist David Aston was killed in a traffic collision, Nordstrom walked away from the project.
He eventually returned to writing and recording as a solo act, and also worked with a variety of other artists, including former Ptarmigan bandmates Michael Bieling and James Lithgow. He released eight albums, beginning with SILHOUETTE OF OUR INSANITY in 1978.
After extended stays in California and Arizona, Dias eventually moved to Stratford, Ontario, and went on to become an actor and singer in musical theatre, landing roles in “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Les Miserables,” and “Napolean.” In ’99 he released his first solo album entitled TIP OF THE ICEBERG, which also contained a new version of “Go Dancing.”
Ptarmigan’s sole album was picked up by American-based Lion Productions and re-released in 2006, with a slightly altered tracklisting.