Often considered one of the Godfathers of the Edmonton music scene, Wes Dakus was born in Mannville, Alberta in 1938, and moved to Edmonton and formed The Rebels in 1958. Venues to play were few and far between at that time, but they quickly became one of the most popular predominantly instrumental groups on the prairies, doing gigs wherever they could, including rural hotels and seniors drop-in centres. In the band’s infancy it was known as the CJCA Rebels, as it was the local radio station that pushed them, giving them air-time on its local talent features and helped them with the bookings.
They became one of the regular bands at The Commercial and The Rainbow Ballroom in Edmonton, with a lineup that often saw members of The Nomads come in and out, as well, as they’d also often shared the stage together.
By the time Dakus caught the attention of Quality Records’ VP Lloyd Dunn, he and The Rebels had gotten to know Alberta’s roads like the backs of their hands, while also making several stops throughout the rest of western Canada. The band was shipped off to Clovis, New Mexico where they recorded with famed producer Norman Petty (Buddy Holly, Fireballs). He ultimately became their manager, and two singles were released under the name of The Club 93 Rebels (named sort of after 930 CJCA) – “El Ringo” b/w “Creepy,” which wasn’t followed up on until the spring of ’64 with “Pink Canary” and its b-side “Road Block.”
That same year, Dot Records released another pair of singles after changing the band’s name to The Dundeeville Players without their knowledge. But neither “Wheels” b/w “Woodpecker” or “Replica” b/w “Sunday” made any motions on the charts. The name was changed back to The Rebels and they continued on the circuit after returning to Petty’s New Mexico studios. Those sessions not only churned out future singles for Dakus, but also for Barry Allen, Dennis Paul, and Stu Mitchell, but more often than not still billed as them with The Rebels.
A string of singles came out in ’64 – “Sidewinder” (which became a well known hit in the UK as the signature tune of Keith Hampshire for his Radio Caroline South program), “Pedro’s Pad,” “Las Vegas Scene,” “Surfs U Right” b/w “Dog Food” (which became an underground hit on several campus stations), and “Sour Biscuits.” The following spring, “Hoochi Coochi Coo” b/w “Feel Good” followed, peaking at #4 on the RPM singles chart. The positive reviews and attention got them a spot on the back of Buddy Knox’s North American tour, and their first full album was in the stores in the fall of 1965 – THE WES DAKUS ALBUM – WITH THE REBELS, which spawned tracks like “Honey Bun,” “Doo Wah Diddy Diddy,” and “Rattlesnake.” The same year, RPM Magazine voted Wes Dakus & The Rebels Canada’s top instrumental group for the second straight year.
The single “Wheels” was released under the title of The Dundeeville Players featuring George Tomsco on guitar, and another pair of singles followed in ’66 – “She Ain’t No Angel” and “We’ve Got A Groovy Thing Going,” prior to Kapp Records issuing the album WES DAKUS’ REBELS. Still with an emphasis on rockabilly and surf tunes, the album featured the singles “Big City Girl” and their renditions of “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” and “Mockingbird.” The album wasn’t released in Canada, instead being chopped into individual singles billed as solo efforts, including Dennis Paul’s “Peggy Sue.”
More singles continued throughout the ’60s as Dakus and company continued on the circuit, including – “Mama’s Boy” b/w “Midnight Hour” and “Shotgun” and its b-side “Lobo, The Ferocious Dog.” But by 1968 Dakus and The Rebels had parted company, and he released the single “Organized” b/w “The Chaser” using studio hired guns from Gary Paxton. They recorded the two instrumentals to fulfill his contract obligations to Quality.
Dakus packed it in as the new decade was ushered in, and opened an artist management company and his own studio in Edmonton called Sundown Recorders in the early ’70s. In the process he became one of western Canada’s most sought-after producers, working with Darkroom, One Horse Blue, Mavis McCauley, and Randy Bachman, among many others.
The Rebels carried on under Barry Allen, who eventually cut a couple of solo albums, then formed Southbound Freeway, Painter, and Privilege before hosting a television show with his new group The Cheyenne Winter. Allen still reunites with The Rebels from time to time, usually at auspicious benefit concerts, although guitarist Bob Clarke died on December 13, 1998.
In 2006, Minnesota based Super Oldies Records hosted several ‘oldies rock and roll reunions’ in Edmonton in the ’80s and ’90s, and released the definitive Wes Dakus collection, three individual discs that compiled all of his and The Rebels’ hits, as well as out-takes and alternate versions.