Once The Electric Prunes were history, Brett Wade, a UBC School of Music grad, moved back to Vancouver from Los Angeles in early 1970. He teamed up with fellow guitarist and friend Garry Bell, and that May, placed an ad in the local newspaper looking to form a new band. Answering it was Basil Watson, a piano and organ player who was playing with Trilogy, one of the Vancouver area’s hottest tickets. Prior to Trilogy, Watson also played in The Coastmen, and had written his first song at only five years old – a tune called “My Dog Has Fleas” written on his father’s ukulele.
Within days they’d moved into Wade’s grandparents’ cabin at Cultus Lake, near Chilliwack in BC’s Fraser Valley, and began writing some material, with Watson now on bass. A broken bronze horse statue sitting on the mantle piece gave the group their name, and looking to round out the group, Wade called upon fellow ex-Prune and Kansas native drummer Richard (Dick) Whetstone. The only member not to originally hail from BC, he was living in Colorado at the time, and had an impressive resume. He’d served as a percussionist for the Denver City Symphony in the early ’60s, as well as the Colorado All-State Symphony while still in high school, on top of playing on the last two Electric Prunes albums (considered by many to be highly influential in the hip hop world today) to close out the decade. Within a week of being asked, he was in the cabin and adding the backbeat to their all night jams.
By that summer they moved to Vancouver and became regulars at the popular night clubs, and soon ventured off in their van, a road trip that took them to Detroit and the area for a month. They were billing themselves as The Electric Prunes, but it didn’t take long for the other members of the now defunct band to put a stop to that. Switching back to Stallion Thumrock, they carried on their American adventure, playing as far away as Kansas. Upon their return to Vancouver, they added Wade’s younger brother Joel on bass, only 16 at the time. This meant Watson could switch back to piano and organ.
In the spring of ’71, they were approached by manager Keith Lawrence, and agreed to let him manage them. Soon after they earned a record deal with A&M Records, who shipped them off to their studios in Hollywood to record their material with Lawrence’s brother Claire, a mainstay of The Collectors and Chilliwack as producer. The entire recording sessions, including touch-ups, overdubs, and mixes were done in a week.
Released by Haida Records, their eponymous debut album was in the stores later that year. Along with the band’s only single “Mayday,” tracks like the lead-off “Ocean Stretches,” “Going Back To The Mountains,” and “Burnin’ Dem Pots” were indications of the dozen tracks beaming with a fresh pop rock attitude, with a slight psychadelic funk groove. The fact all the members were accomplished singers in their own right filled the record with vocal harmonies that made it a critic’s delight.
They set out back on the road for the next couple of months, including some dates opening for The Kinks, Joan Baez, and Ten Years After. But before the end of the year Watson left due to personal reasons, and was followed by Whetstone not long after that, which effectively spelled the band’s demise.
The Wade brothers eventually signed a deal with Epic and released two records (sort of, it was basically one record released twice) in 1979 as, coincidentally, The Wade Brothers. Following that band’s demise, they both went on to production and studio work, and Joel released a solo album in 2005 called DON’T LOOK BACK. Once he left Stallion Thumrock, Watson meanwhile continued writing for other artists, including Susan Jacks, Powder Blues, Lynne Taylor Donovan, Hoovercraft, and Long John Baldry, among others. He was also instrumental in the recording and production of the Roy Orbison tribute album THIS LONELY HEART by Larry Branson. Bell eventually moved to England and became involved in writing TV and radio jingles, as well as other production work, working with Jack Bruce of Cream fame for awhile.