Not to be confused with the group from North Carolina with the same name before them (or the many groups long after their demise), The Romeos were among the first doo-wop groups on the Toronto scene when the genre was just getting started.
They were formed around first tenor and accordianist Alex Ticknowich from Port Colourne, Ontario, Vancouver native Rick Stainsby as second tenor/bass/trumpet, drummer Vern Kennedy from Amherstburg, Ontario, and John Garden on guitars and vocals. Originally from Scotland, Garden initially worked as a photographer before becoming an engineer, and then a performer at CBC.
All four members were extra hands at the CBC studios, filling in on whatever projects the producers told them to. The members were originally handpicked by arranger Gino Silvi in 1958 for a summer radio show called “Sing Sing Sing,” as The Gino Silvi Singers. When the show ran its course, Silvi called them into his office and asked them if they wanted to audition for “The Juliette Show.” As part of an octet (four women, four men), they won the gig that lasted five years after he redubbed them ‘The Romeos.’ The women half of the octet became The Silvi Girls.
Under Silvi’s direction, The Romeos released an album in 1963 under the Canadian Talent Library Trust, an organization that distributed Canadian records to subscribing radio stations pre-CanCon regulations. It contained Canadian ‘little big band’ tracks including “The Wheel of the Wagon is Broken” – the tale of three British settlers of the prairies, “Old Polina” – the saga of the downed Newfoundland whaling ship in 1884, the spiritual “A Time For Joy,” and the Von Tilzer’s baseball classic that the Americans stole, “Take Me Out To The Ball Game.”
They also appeared on other CBC series, including “The Wayne & Shuster Show” and “Parade.” During their time on TV, they began moonlighting, playing in night clubs, conventions, trade shows, and the dinner club scene, quickly becoming one of the hottest tickets around Ontario.
They released RENDEZVOUS WITH THE ROMEOS in ’64 on Columbia Records. Trying to find a mainstream audience, it featured the band doing more pop-sounding recordings hand-picked for them, including the swinging “Stella By Starlight,” the lead-off “I’m Glad There Is You,” and the ballads “But Beautiful” and “Love Is Here To Stay.”
They followed it up with LISTEN HERE! a year later, which included “In My Private World,” which came about during a break in rehearsal for “The Juliette Show” when conductor Bill Isbister was toying with a new song he was writing. Other noteable tracks included the wistful “Ontario Autum,” the inspiring reverence of “A Time For Joy,” and the ballad, “Think of Her.” “Sorry Baby” was improvised during a a break between sets by Moe Koffman, with lyrics written by Kennedy.
“The Juliette Show” ran its course after a six-year run, and tried to make a go of it as performers full-time. But within a couple of years in the actual musical environment, they quietly called it quits, and eventually all retired from the business all together.