The Skaliwags

The Skaliwags were one of the Ottawa Valley’s hottest garage bands throughout the better part of the ’60s, centred around singer Ed Mitchell, guitarists John Bacho and Gerry Fortier, Andre Cote on bass, and drummer Jules Leclair.

Making Gatineau, Quebec home base, they started gigging around the area as early as teens in ’61, and played the old Ottawa Coliseum a number of times over the next couple of years as part of the promotion, ‘The Big 12.’ It regularly featured a dozen of the area’s hottest up and coming groups, where each band would play a pair of sets from noon to midnight.

As many as 8,000 kids would show up to hear all the fresh new sounds, and several groups and individuals got their break through The Big 12, either as artists or somehow else in the field. John Brower became a production man, responsible for the Rock & Roll Revival Festival, where John Lennon & The Plastic Ono Band recorded the LIVE PEACE album. Al Pascal also became a staple of Ottawa radio for the better part of 30 years.

Childhood friend Paul Warman became their manager, who worked out a deal with Alex Sherman of Sherman’s Music, who also owned Excellent Records. He agreed to put up the money to have the band go into RCA’s Montreal studio to put down some tracks. To tailor to a more mainstream audience, some of the members adopted stage personas – Gerry Fortier became Gerry Foster, Jules Leclair became Gil Brooks, and Andre Cote became Andy Cody.

They recorded a couple of songs Warman wrote, and “Turn Him Down” b/w “365 Days a Year” was on the local airwaves in February, ’66. Reception of both songs was good, and “Turn Him Down” topped CFRE Ottawa’s chart. They continued playing all the dances and open stages they could around the area, but by that fall Bacho left to join The Townsmen , and Cody left to get married and lead a normal life.

The lineup was revamped with new guitarists ex-Slaves of Time members Ralph Leroux and Chris Saunders. Pete Christensen, ex of The Raphaels, also joined on bass. They went back to the studios and “Me Minus More” b/w “Broken Man Am I” (both again written by Warman) was released in the spring of ’67. Although reception was again good, the band eventually split up and everyone went on to other projects.

Mitchell initially left in October of ’67 to join another Gatineau group called Musical Fantasy who went nowhere. He then got out of the business all together, as did everyone else. Manager and songwriter Paul Warman passed away on Jan 23, 2011 at the age of 67.

A fifth Warman song that was recorded, “You Ain’t Pulling the Wool Over My Eyes Babe,” was never released, and the original acetate was destroyed in a house fire years later. However, over the decades, both sides of their first single – “365 Days A Year” and “Turn Him Down” found their way to a number of compilation albums and CDs.

  • With notes from Jean-Pierre Allard, Ivan Amirault, Chris Bishop, Ed Mitchell

the townsmen