Billed as ‘Canada’s oldest rock & roll dance band,’ the basis of The Consuls revolved around school chums Bruce Morshead (vocals and keyboards), drummer Peter Deremegis, guitarist Ken Pernokis, and Norm Sherrat on sax. They started playing the Toronto halls in 1956 and became staples at The Palladium. Over the next few years some noteable future stars came through the doors, but by ’58, Deremgis had broken off with Robbie Roberton to form the short-lived The Suedes.
With new drummer Wayne Connors, the reformed Consuls meanwhile released their first single in ’59 on Abel Records – “I’m Happy” b/w “Runaway” (both written by Morshead). Over the next few years they continued playing the clubs and halls. Morshead adopted the ‘Little Caesar’ monikor, supposedly after some fans noted he looked like Edward G Robinson’s portrayal of the dictator in the 1931 film, “Little Caesar.” During this period Connors left and was replaced with Gary Wright (not the Dream Weaver guy), and Tom Wilson was added on bass.
Recorded in New York, four singles were released in less than two years starting in 1963. “If I Found A New Girl,” “Something’s Funny, Something’s Wrong,” “Sea Cruise,” and “Heartaches” were all pop/doo wop covers, and all made the top 40 in Canada.
But it was with the release of their self-titled debut album on Red Leaf in ’65 that broke the band big. A cover of The Vibrations’ “My Girl Sloopy” peaked that November at #3 at home, and spent eight weeks on Billboard’s chart, peaking at #50 – their only time on the US chart. Their cover of Smokey Robinson’s “You Really Got Ahold On Me” a month later became only the second Canadian single to top the RPM chart (Chad Allan & The Expressions‘ “Shakin’ All Over” was first).
Produced by Stan Klees (Jack London & The Sparrows, The British Modbeats, Robbie Lane & The Disciples), the majority of the rest of the album was also covers, including standards like “Poison Ivy,” “Shout!” and “Just Like Romeo & Juliet.”
They toured throughout Canada and in the east-central US for the next couple of years, including dates with The Rolling Stones, Sonny and Cher and The Dave Clark Five. They released two more singles from the album, starting with “You Laugh Too Much,” which peaked at #9, while “1,000 Miles Away” stalled outside the top 40.
A cover of Lloyd Price’s “Personality” did nothing on the charts before the end of the year, but “Mercy Mr Percy” made it to #38. “My Love For You” debuted and exited the RPM chart at #88 in the spring of ’67 was followed by founding member Little Caesar himself Bruce Morshead leaving the group.
With Stever Macko taking over on vocals and keyboards, Sherrat and Pernokis carried on with various members for the next few years, most noteably Gene MacLellan, who was there for a year and a half starting in ’67. Shows were fewer and farther in between, but the band carried on in the lounge circuit and by ’76 Macko had taken the band over. They released a cover of “Hang On Sloopy” that year, but it went nowhere and the band again for the most part folded again.
For the next couple of decades, they reformed now and again with this lineup or that one, and in ’93 Sherratt reformed the band for a series of gigs with Macko, Wright, and Wilson, and Tony Crivaro on guitars. They released the album, STILL HOLDIN’ ON that year, which featured all the one-time hits and a few new covers.
They again disbanded for a period and everyone again went on to do their own thing, but still pop up now and again.