Canadian 60’s In Full Swing

Before the implementation of Canadian content regulations, homegrown music was naturally very much segregated by region without radio to expand a group’s listening audience. The 1960s saw the dawning of a new day in the Canadian music frontier. We boasted a number of artists and groups to score big in the American market. Each region of the country had pioneers that would carve their names in the name of the world’s musical history book throughout the decade.
Toronto was a hotbed of eclectic new sounds in the mid-’60s, from a ‘bleached-soul groove’ influenced by Montreal to the folk emergence, of American-influenced progressive pop. Ironically, many of the leaders of the new soul-jazz fusion were actually immigrants from various parts of Europe, bringing a wide array of foreign spices to the mix.
l-r = Richard Manuel, Garth Hudson, Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Robbie RobertsonAfter leaving Ronnie Hawkins in ’63, his backup band also earned success on their own, first with Bob Dylan. But after Dylan’s near-fatal motorcycle accident, they ventured out on their own – first as Levon Helms’ Sextet, The Canadian Esquires, Levon & The Hawks, and then The Crackers – before settling on simply The Band in 1966.

Levon Helm, who came up to Toronto in the late ’50s from Arkansas with Hawkins, Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson and Richard Manuel mixed their folk roots with blues influences and an innovative Dixie beat and wrote some of rock’s most original and time-enduring music, including the classics “The Night They Drove Ol’ Dixie Down”, “Up On Cripple Creek”, “The Shape I’m In” and “The Weight”.

After The Band’s original breakup in 1976, all the members went on to various solo career projects. Robertson would gain the most critical and commercial success with songs such as “Showdown At Big Sky” and “American Roulette”. He’s also contributed to a number of projects highlighting his Native roots. Helm meanwhile would cut a number of albums, tour with Ringo Starr’s All-Star Band, and appear in a number of movies, including “Carny” along with Robertson. Richard Manuel committed suicide in 1986, two years before The Band received recognition for their contributions to rock in 1988 when they were inducted into The Canadian Music Hall Of Fame. Rick Danko died in his sleep of natural causes in 1999.

john kay & steppenwolfIt’s ironic that the group most associated with shaping the American music scene for an entire generation actually hailed from Canada. The son of a serviceman, Joachim Krauledat was born in East Prussia and grew up listening to the armed forces radio network while growing up in Germany. His family moved to Toronto in 1965, and after changing his name to John Kay, he formed a band with some Yorkville friends called The Sparrow. They released their self-titled debut with Columbia Records the next year as Jack London and The Sparrows and had the single “Hard Time With The Law”.

Less than a year later London’s name was replaced by Kay’s on the marquee and another self-titled record hit the stores. A fairly loyal following developed after the group moved to the New York area and had three singles on the airwaves over the course of a year. Disputes with the record company however spelled the end of the group less than a year and a half after the album’s release.
Kay, along with Jerry Edmonton, his brother Dennis (who went by the name of Mars Bonfire), Goldy McJohn and Nick St. Nicholas re-emerged in late ’67 in San Francisco as Steppenwolf. Their self-titled debut came out in ’68 on MCA in the middle of flower power and is one of the most important records in rock history. Backed by the instant classic “Born To Be Wild”, the overall psychedelic sound blended with a hard-driving road beat to instantly make Steppenwolf the spokesmen for North America’s attitude during the late 60s through to the mid 70s. Other classics such as the Willie Dixon blues classic “Hoochie Koochie Man”, “Sookie Sookie” and the Hoyt Axton-penned tune about the life of a drug dealer called “The Pusher” quickly turned the album gold.

david clayton thomas Born David Thomsett, David Clayton Thomas, an immigrant from England, had already established himself in the 60’s Toronto music scene fronting local sensations The Shays, The Bossmen, and The Combine. A string of singles ensued between them when he was recruited as frontman for Blood Sweat & Tears’ self-titled second lp in 1969.

Their fusion of modern jazz and blues with the day’s rock and roll came louder than life with horn sections and was both eclectic and innovative, spawning such hits as “Hi De Ho”, “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy” the sombre “When I Die,” and “Spinning Wheel”, which peaked at #1 on Billboard in ’69, holding the position for 7 non-consecutive weeks.

His recording career wove in and out of BS&T and solo efforts into the next century, and Thomas was also honoured in 1993 with a special Juno for his outstanding contributions to the Canadian music industry.

The Mandala’s origins began in 1965. Italian-born Domenic Troiano had already played with Robbie Lane & The Disciples and Ronnie Hawkins when he formed The Five Rogues. Along with vocalist George Oliver, they basically assimilated The Belltones, another Toronto group. Previously known as Whitey and The Roulettes, they were Finnish-born Pentti ‘Whitey’ Glan on drums, bassist Don Elliot and German-born Josef Chirowski on keyboards. They quickly became a popular local draw and worked with David Clayton-Thomas, then landed the gig as the regular house band at Toronto’s Club Bluenote.

They recorded the demo ‘I Can’t Hold Out No Longer” b/w “I’ll Make It Up To You” but were unable to make anything of it. Deciding an image change was in order, they started wearing gangster-style pinstripe suits and shortened their name to The Rogues. In 1966 their ‘white funk’ sound caught the attention of execs at Chess Records. On the advice of their manager, Randy Martin (real name Rafael Markowitz – a former TV clown) they changed their name to Mandala (a circle within a circle within a circle used by Buddhist monks as an aid to contemplation). Troiano would go on to front Mandala itself and enjoyed a bit of a revival in 1986 when WEA released MANDALA CLASSICS. A nicely-rounded collection of excerpts from SOUL CRUSADE, it also contained the 2 singles with Chess and unreleased tracks.

Originally known as The Spats, The Paulpers formed in Toronto in 1964 when drummer Skip Prokop left Riverside Three and got together with former Last Words guitarist/vocalist Bill Misener (Bill Marion), a fellow Hamiltonian. Scarborough natives Chuck Beal on guitars and bassist Denny Gerrard rounded out the original group. Within a short time, they’d become one of the area’s hottest local acts, combining an infectious jazz beat with a British-invasion look & sound.

After a name change in ’65, the group attracted the attention of local manager Duff Roman. They were signed to his Red Leaf Records label and that March issued “Never Send You Flowers” as the group’s debut single. Written by Marion & Prokop, it soon became a modest local hit, as did the follow-up “If I Told My Baby”.

By the end of the year Roman signed them to his new label, Roman Records, releasing “For What I Am” as their next single that summer. A cover of “Long Tall Sally” followed in the spring of 1966, by which point the group had parted with Roman and signed with Bernie Finkelstein. While Roman would later go on to a successful career as program director for one of the area’s biggest radio stations, Finkelstein’s later accomplishments included handling Bruce Cockburn’s career a few years later. Finkelstein arranged a one-record deal for The Paupers with the Canadian arm of Columbia Records, which resulted in the single “Heart Walking Blues”.

lighthouse After two albums, Skip Prokop left The Paupers to form Lighthouse. His rock drum style melded with Paul Hoffert’s jazz piano, mixed with a full horn section in sort of a rounded-out big band rock band, emerging as arguably the first ‘rock orchestra’. They were the first band to have a record-certified platinum, 1972’s LIGHTHOUSE LIVE. “One Fine Morning”, their first gold single, along with other AM classics such as “You Girl” and “Sunny Days” which epitomized summer fun in the ’70s, establishing Lighthouse as one of Canada’s true rock pioneers. After a chance meeting in New York with Paul Hoffert, who was actually trained in more classical stylings and already an established sessions player joined the band, followed by  Ralph Cole wh0 joined soon after. Originally a native of Kalamazoo, Michigan, Cole knew Prokop when he was in Thyme, and had actually performed on many bills with The Paupers during the latter half of the decade.

Their sound was as diverse as their listening audience and contained cellos, violas, an array of horns and a full percussion section. The band was doing their first gig outdoors by May of that year and were signed to a deal with RCA shortly thereafter. They went to Toronto’s Eastern Sound Studios in the spring of ’69 and released their self-titled debut that same year. Produced by Prokop and Hoffert, it was met with critics’ praises, following the success of such tracks as “Mountain Man” and the cover of the Byrds’ “Eight Miles High”. Next up was SUITE FEELINGS and also recorded at Eastern Sound, which featured a cover of The Beatles’ “A Day In The Life”.

Their third and final album with RCA was released before year-end. The label insisted on having an outside voice in the production, so Mike Lipskin was brought in. Peqcing it altogether, recorded in RCA’s New York studios followed the natural evolution Lighthouse was going through, evidenced by the single “The Chant”. Click for more…

bob segariniBorn in 1945 in California, Bob Segarini is one of Canada’s most prolific ‘names’ in music. He got his start in the mid ’60s when he formed Ratz while still living in Los Angeles. The group went nowhere, but Gary Duncan later formed Quicksilver Messenger Service. He moved to Vancouver and formed The Family Tree. After the group’s eponymous debut, they folded and he moved back to LA and formed Roxy with Randy Bishop. Again after only one lp, he moved to Montreal and formed The Wackers. After releasing three albums over five years he moved on to The Dudes with ex-April Wine members Ritchie and David Henman and future Winer Brian Greenway.

After moving to Toronto, he ventured on to a successful solo career that extended into the early ’80svv and spanned four albums, which have all been reissued. From there he became a valuable studio man, doing session and production work for a number of acts, as well as work on a number of film scores. In the 90s he also began a successful radio career as “The Iceman,” working for several local stations and then branching off to do a show with Sirius Radio. Click for more…

fluddAfter toiling away in various local bands in the Toronto area, brothers Brian and Ed Pilling packed their bags and headed to England where they formed Wages Of Sin in 1969. Less than a year later they’d caught the eye of Cat Stevens who took them under his paw, renaming them Zeus and using them as his backup band. But at odds with Stevens over music direction, the 2 brothers quit and returned to Canada before the end of the year. They recruited bassist Greg Godovitz, who they played with a few years earlier in a band called The Pretty Ones. Add drummer Jorn Andersen and guitarist Mick Walsh, and the first incarnation of Fludd was born.

They became mainstays of the Toronto club scene and soon landed a contract with Warner Bros. Released in ’71, the self-titled debut featured the Canadian top 20 hit “Turned 21”. Work on the second record began the next spring in Toronto with a few changes in personnel. While still working on the final touches of the album, they released the single “Get Up, Get Out, Move On” that April. After being dropped by Warner Brothers, and sensing a change was in need, Fludd continued on their next project. With the classic “Cousin Mary”, they employed an ‘uptempo folk feel’ to a hard-driving backbeat. The group enjoyed a strong following in southern Ontario behind the success of other singles such as “Brother and Me” and “Always Be Thinking Of You”, but broke up after Brian Pilling succumbed to cancer in 1978.

Possibly better known for the number of the stars to play in the band at one time or another, Fludd’s roster at one time or another included Steve Negus and Jim Crichton, who went on to form Saga, Doni Underhill, later of Trooper fame, and Greg Godovitz, who formed Goddo. Click for more…


Yorkville, Ontario was Canada’s San Fransisco during the 70’sThe period also saw Toronto’s folk scene flourish, serving as the melting pot for artists from across the country. ……

valdyValdy, Canada’s first travelling poet, learned the craft of Canadian folk from practically all four corners of the country. Born Valdemar Horsdal in Ottawa, he had already studied guitar and piano while learning orchestration at a private music school in Victoria. By the mid 60’s he was a member of the London Town Criers and then moved to Montreal to play with The Prodigal Sons. He also gained a taste for country while playing backup for Blake Emmons.

His solo career began in ’72, with his first single “Rock and Roll Song” going gold. By ’76 he’d already recorded five albums and was second only to Lightfoot in sales by a Canadian folk artist. He’s played folk fests as far away as Poland and has released an incredible 22 singles over his career, 10 alone during the 1970s. Recognized around the world as one of folk music’s true legends, Valdy has received countless awards, including a ’73 Juno for Canadian folk artist of the year.

bruce cockburnAnother Ottawa native Bruce Cockburn had fronted such local acts as The Esquires and The Children before going solo. From his debut in 1970, he helped shape the sound of the day with such hits as “Musical Friends” and “All The Diamonds”. His tastes would shift to a more pop-oriented rhythm by the early ’80s, culminating in more gold, such as “Wondering Where The Lions Are” in ’79.

He also wrote the soundtrack to the Canadian film Going Down The Road in 1970 and has had a huge impact on today’s stars, highlighted by his music covered by the likes of The Skydiggers and The Bare Naked Ladies. He has lent his name and time to various charities and non-profit organizations, with these influences the topics of some of his most potent lyrics, including the scathing political commentary “If I Had A Rocket Launcher” in 1984.

Cockburn’s countless contributions to the Canadian music scene were recognized in 2001 when he was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

buffy ste. marieMeanwhile, Buffy St. Marie, a native of a Cree Nation near Craven, Saskatchewan, had by this time made Toronto her home, whereby in the early 60’s she’d gained notoriety as Canada’s first aboriginal star. By age 24 she’d toured throughout North America, Europe, Australia and Asia. She’s widely recognized as a direct influence on the good fortunes of such stars of today as Lawrence Martin, Tom Jackson and Susan Aglukark. Her biggest commercial hit was writing “Universal Soldier” for Donovan in 1965, but her career has also included writing for Elvis, Barbara Streisand, and Cher.

Her outspoken public views had her music officially suppressed during the USA’s Lyndon Johnson years. As part of a blacklist, her name was included on White House stationery as among those whose music “deserved to be suppressed”. In Indian country and abroad, however, her fame only grew. Undeterred, she continued to appear at countless grassroots concerts and other activist benefits. She made 17 albums of her music, three of her own television specials, appeared for five seasons on Sesame Street, scored movies, helped to found an Aboriginal category in the Juno Awards, earned a Ph.D. in Fine Arts, has taught Digital Music at several colleges, and won an Academy Award Oscar for the song “Up Where We Belong,” performed by Joe Cocker and Dianne Warren. Her contributions to the Canadian music scene, in general, were recognized with her induction into The Hall of Fame in 1995.

joni mitchellBorn in Fort MacLeod, Alberta.  Joan Anderson moved from Saskatoon back to Alberta in 1964 to attend music school in Calgary. After only one year, she followed her destiny to the Toronto area and the folk scene which encompassed it. After marrying fellow folk singer Chuck Mitchell, the two moved to Detroit in ’65.

From her first lp in ’68, the critics and fellow musicians, including the likes of Graham Nash and David Crosby, knew she had something special to offer. Joni Mitchell’s first single was the monster hit from 1970, “Big Yellow Taxi” – covered later by BB Gabor, and has had her material recorded by such artists as Tom Rush and Tom Scott. She’s been the recipient of countless Junos and Grammys and was inducted into The Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1981.


The Montreal music scene of the day meanwhile was also emerging as a cultural entity all its own. …. ………..

andy kimBy the mid-’60s Andy Kim had already released a number of singles after making New York home. He began a string of huge solo records that saw a number of singles, including “How’d We Ever Get This Way”, “Shoot ‘Em Up Baby” (banned by some US radio stations), “Rainbow Ride” and his cover of Johnny Cash’s “If I Were A Carpenter” and The Ronettes “Be My Baby.”

But it was the 1974 hit “Rock Me Gently” that helped define Canada’s entry in the ’70s World Bubblegum Parade. He also made a career of writing for others and as a session man, including writing The Archies’ “Sugar Sugar”. Andy Kim dropped out of sight before returning in the early ’80s as Baron Longfellow, a gimmick that only lasted for 2 records and fooled even fewer people around the world.

While going into seclusion off and on throughout the decades, Kim resurfaced in 2004, and has sold over 30 million records worldwide throughout his career, and brought home the Juno for Male Vocalist of The Year in ’68 and ’69. Click for more…

Another Montreal native, Leonard Cohen was born in 1936 and was the true innovator of merging poetry with music. A well-respected and published poet by the mid ’60s, he moved to Nashville and pursued music full-time, eventually writing for the likes of Judy Collins and countless others. His first album was released in 1968 and served as the backdrop for a unique style of folk-country-easy listening. His hits included “Suzanne,” “First We Take Manhattan” and the much-covered “Hallelujah.”

He’s worked with some of the industry’s top performers and inspired even more while winning countless awards for both his music and written works. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.


With nearly 200 years of history all its own, the East Coast’s culture helped breed some of the ’60s most influential musicians, merging Celtic, folk and country. ………..

anne murrayBy this time Anne Murray, born in 1945 in Springhill, NS, spent a year following high school at Mount Saint Vincent University, a women’s college in Halifax. After dropping out, she went to the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, NB, where she studied Physical Education but was encouraged by a classmate to audition for the CBC TV’s weekly “Singalong Jubilee”. Although the cast was full at the time, she was exposed to the nation for the first time two years later after getting a call from the show’s producers.

After a summer of singing, Anne finished her degree and taught Phys Ed in Summerside, PEI’s high school. But in ’64 she returned to television after being offered a regular spot on the CBC’s newest after-school show,  “Let’s Go” and returned to “Singalong Jubilee.” A “Singalong Jubilee” soundtrack was released by Arc Records, one of Canada’s first record labels. The show’s musical director, Brian Ahern, advised Anne that she should record a solo album. WHAT ABOUT ME was released in 1968. The lead single was the title track and was her first hit.

She had a string of other hits throughout the decade, and into just about every other since. “Snowbird”, written by Gene McClelland from her second lp, reached number one in Canada, as well as atop Billboard’s Hot 100 Singles chart in 1970. The song led her into the mainstream American market, where she furthered her talents on the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour. She covered The Monkees “Daydream Believer,” “I Just Fall In Love Again,” a cover of Kenny Loggins’ “Danny’s Song,” “Could I Have This Dance?”, “A Love Song” and dozens of others throughout the years solidified her as one of Canada’s most respected and revered artists. She’s hosted a number of CBC musical specials, and Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote a theatre soprano entitled Anne Murray Duets – Friends and Legends, which was certified platinum in 2008 in Canada. She’s received countless awards and recognitions, including an amazing 26 Junos here at home and was inducted into The Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1993, making her quite simply Canada’s greatest female artist of all time.

An immigrant from the age of 5, Scottish-born Murray McLauchlan was playing the Maritime coffee houses by the mid ’60s, making his first festival appearance at The Mariposa Folk Festival in 1966. After relocating to Greenwich Village he made frequent tours around the New York, Toronto and Montreal circuits before releasing his debut lp in 1972.

He would go on to work with many of the industry’s top artists and producers as well as contributing to several movie soundtracks and the background music to an entire generation.

Several of the ‘flowers and beads’ roots stemmed from Canadian Maritime soil.


Maritimers Zal Yanovsky and Denny Doherty were at the core of a wave of Canadian pop music in the early ’60s with The Mugwumps, which also featured American-born Cass Elliott. But by 1965 group’s core was making a splash in the California sun, in different groups.

zal yanovsky

Yanovsky had joined The Lovin’ Spoonful, topping the charts in ’66 with “Summer In The City.” Other classics included “Do You Believe In Magic”, “Rain On The Roof” and “Six O’Clock”.

Yanovsky was deported back to Canada in 1973 after a drugs charge, where he became a top sessions-man and producer/engineer. His chief writing partner in the group was John Sebastian, who’d go on to solo success with the theme to “Welcome Back Kotter.”

The Lovin’ Spoonful was inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. Zanovsky died of a heart attack in 2002.

Doherty meanwhile had already toured the majority of the continent and been part of several fairly successful groups. But hooking up with Mugwumps alumni Cass Elliot would lead him to his most prominent notoriety. After forming The Mamas & Papas with John & Michelle Phillips they would eventually become cemented in the annals of the San Fransisco sound with classics like “Monday Monday” and “California Dreaming”.

Following the band’s demise following Elliott’s death, Doherty would go on to record several solo albums, as well as work with a variety of other artists, television and film work. Along with fellow surviving member Michelle Phillips, he accepted The Mamas and Papas’ induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006. He died of complications from surgery in January the next year.

The prairies were an integral part of the formations of Canadian rock as we know it today. The late 60’s still posed geographical isolation. Though away from the mainstream, artists still had access to what was going on in the mega-centers of North America, but found roots in everything from British influences to folk and country, shaping the landscape for today’s artists to build on today.

neil youngNeil Young had fronted the Winnipeg group The Squires before heading to Yorkton, ON. After a brief stint with the pre-funk group The Mynah Byrds, he followed his folk roots to international acclaim. He was a mainstay with Buffalo Springfield when, along with Steven Stills, they left the band to form half of Crosby Stills Nash & Young. It was there that Young would collaborate with some of the era’s most powerful music, including the hit “Ohio”.

His recordings with Crazy Horse and his solo ventures are often composed of social and political commentaries, such as the timeless classics “Southern Man”, “The Killing of Valdez” “Heart of Gold” and “Old Man’ from 1972’s HARVEST album. Never to be held to a label or limited to any specific genre Young strays from his folk roots long enough to pen such rock anthems as “Cinnamon Girl” and “My My Hey Hey”. Still at the top of his game today, Young has inspired countless others and was inducted into The Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1982.

the guess whoDespite being one of the hottest commodities on the Winnipeg scene in the mid-’60s, Chad Allan & The Expressions were without a frontman after Allan’s departure. Enter teenage sensation Burton Cummings, ex of the Deverons … and The Guess Who was born. The team of Cummings/Bachman wrote the majority of the band’s material, and some of the era’s most dominant music, including “These Eyes” in 1969, the first single by a Canadian group to top Billboard’s Top 100, “No Time”, “No Sugar Tonight” and arguably one of rock and roll’s greatest anthems, “American Woman” in 1970.

Following Bachman’s departure in ’71, the group still struck gold repeatedly with a revolving door full of band members. “Running Back To Saskatoon”, “Rain Dance”, “Albert Flasher” and “Clap For The Wolfman” all helped cement the band’s name into the annals of Canadian rock history. The group’s contributions to the music world were formally recognized in 1987 with their induction into The Hall of Fame.

Cummings meanwhile would also enjoy tremendous success following his leaving the band in 1976. “Stand Tall,” his first of dozens of hits came his way throughout the ’80s, and tried his hand at acting with the Canadian indie film, “Melanie,” as well as the first of several Guess Who reunions.

masqueradesMel Shaw, who was the first artist from Calgary to record an album and had come back from a successful tour of the US in the early 60s, when he’d begin his legacy as the first true pioneer of Alberta’s entry into the rock scene.

Along with putting out a regular music scene publication as ‘The Baron’, he was instrumental in the direction of two of the city’s first groups. The Masquerades began as The Rockin’ Royals. But under Shaw’s guidance, they transformed themselves into one of Canada’s first ‘gimmick groups’, wearing black masks and becoming all the rage at live events.

Their mostly instrumental sets served alongside two singles, and the four songs from ’61 and ’62 were the first from a Calgary group to make any splash. The band broke up by the middle of the decade, as members went on to other projects, including Roger Vickers playing with Buddy Knox (Party Doll), and Tony Allbury would enjoy several years with Roy Orbison.


Originally a six-piece outfit out of Calgary, The Stampeders earned their fame after moving to Toronto in 1968. Comprised of Ronnie King, Rich Dodson and Kim Berly, the band took their brand of country-flavoured pop to the charts with a string of hits during the ’70s, including “Carry Me”, “Wild Eyes” and “Devil You” . 1971 saw them walk out with 3 Junos, including one for top single of the year for “Sweet City Woman” which peaked that year at #8 on Billboard. They experimented with a variety of sounds during the rest of the ’70s, even after Dodson left in 1977 to embark on a solo career and head-up Marigold Records.

Around the same time, Canada’s west coast sound was developing its own counter-culture in the ‘feel good’ movement of the day.

poppy familyIn 1968, two Vancouver musicians would meet and form Canada’s most successful group of the ‘flowers and beads’ genre. Terry Jacks would soon marry Susan Pesklevits, and together they formed The Poppy Family, whose biggest chart success was “Which Way You Going Billy?”, which went gold here and peaked at #2 on Billboard in 1970. Terry struck big with the ’74 classic which defined the era “Seasons In The Sun”. The song won countless awards worldwide, topped Billboard’s chart and was the first Canadian single to sell 100,000 copies. Both Jacks would go on to successful solo careers before Terry got into producing other acts.

The Origins of the Canadian Sound | Canadian 60’s In Full Swing | Classic Canadian 70’s Rock
Canada’s Entry into the 80’s  | Canada in the 90’s | The Canadian Scene Today