Stan Endersby

  • courtesy of Nick Warburton

    Stan EndersbyCanadian guitarist Stan Endersby remains an unsung hero in rock music circles. Over the last forty years, he has played a supportive role for some of rock’s most respected artists, including Motown funkmeister Rick James and Love’s Bryan MacLean. Endersby has also worked with former Kinks bass player Peter Quaife and been a member of the Buffalo Springfield tribute band, Buffalo Springfield Revisited. He is currently a distinguished member of Toronto garage legends The Ugly Ducklings. Formerly a child actor, Endersby (b. July 17, 1947, Lachine, Quebec), began his career in the early ’60s with The Omegas, best known for containing future Toronto rock promoter John Brower. Endersby’s tenure was short-lived and he quickly moved on to join C J Feeney & The Spellbinders, a local rock ‘n’ roll band led by former Jack London & The Sparrows keyboard player C J Feeney. (The Sparrows, after numerous personnel changes, ultimately evolved into heavy rockers Steppenwolf).

    In late 1965, Endersby and bass player Wayne Davis accepted an offer to join the promising rock outfit, Just Us, led by singer/bass player Neil Merryweather. Merryweather (real name Neil Lilley) had hatched the band a year earlier with keyboard player Ed Roth and drummer Bob Ablack, and the original line-up recorded a lone single “I Don’t Love You/I Can Tell” for the Quality label. Though no recordings were made as such, The Tripp did appear in the first episode of CBC TV’s “Sunday Show” and continued to be a regular fixture on the Toronto club scene. In early 1967, former Richie Knight & The Mid-Knights pianist Richard Bell briefly augmented the group but he soon moved on to play with Ronnie Hawkins (and later Janis Joplin’s Full Tilt Boogie Band). Around the same time, Jimmy Livingston made a guest appearance on local rivals Mandala’s album, “Soul Crusade”.

    During the summer, Neil Merryweather dropped out to briefly join Ottawa singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn‘s new psychedelic outfit The Flying Circus, before launching his own group later in the year. The remaining members soldiered on, recruiting former Luke & The Apostles and Simon Caine & The Catch bass player Dennis Pendrith, and changed name to Livingston’s Journey.

    Though rather short-lived, the Journey were undoubtedly one of Toronto’s most colourful and experimental groups. No studio recordings were ever made, although group originals like “Inner City” and “Bull Feathers”, and a heavy version of The Beatles’ “You Can’t Do That” were later captured live and only hint at the potential of this unique group. The group also attracted a great a deal of media attention – disrupting business in downtown Toronto in August 1967 while entertaining fans at the city’s Esplanade (a plaza on the ground floor of the Richmond-Adelaide Centre), and through appearances at Ottawa’s Mall and Parliament Hill the following month. Soon afterwards, however, the band began to unravel – Ted Sherrill came in on drums from The Vendettas and former The Imperials frontman Bobby Kris was drafted in to replace Livingston, who had become increasingly unreliable. The final line-up struggled on for a few months and in the spring of 1968 played its final date at Toronto’s Night Owl (which was recorded on tape by Endersby’s brother but never released). Pendrith was first to jump ship, replacing Neil Merryweather (again) in Bruce Cockburn’s new project, Olivus. While Roth, headed to L.A. to join the ranks of Merryweather’s new band, Endersby traveled to England to visit one of his brothers, and on his first evening was introduced to Kinks bass player Peter Quaife at the club, Hatchettes. Sitting in with the house band, Endersby’s guitar playing impressed many of the club’s regulars, including Quaife who told Endersby that he was thinking about leaving The Kinks and forming a new group. Over the next few days, Endersby and Quaife made tentative plans to forge a musical partnership, but the project was put on hold when Quaife decided to postpone his departure from The Kinks. Over the next six months, Endersby jobbed around London with various local groups, including Horace Faith’s soul band before heading back to Toronto in the autumn of 1968.

    Back in Canada, he provided the music to an American TV show called “The Cube”, which was produced by Jim Henson (later of the Muppets’ fame). The studio band incidentally, also included former Bobby Kris & The Imperials members Marty Fisher and Gordon MacBain, both of whom had also worked with Bruce Cockburn in his recent bands The Flying Circus and Olivus. With the recordings complete, Endersby briefly hooked up with the house band at Toronto’s famous rock venue, the Rock Pile, but in early 1969 received a phone call from Quaife who was now ready to put the promised band together.

    On April fool’s day, Endersby (and Marty Fisher) arrived in London to join Quaife and English drummer Mick Cook in a new unnamed group. Quaife’s outfit was revealed to the world in the centre spread of Britain’s NME magazine 2 days’ later in a move that reportedly surprised the other Kinks members who were unaware of Quaife’s extra curricular activities. After adopting the name Maple Oak (a combination of the two countries’ national emblems – the Canadian maple leaf and the English oak), the quartet quickly rehearsed at London’s Marquee before embarking on a month-long tour of Denmark. Returning to the UK, Cook dropped out and Fisher’s mate Gordon MacBain flew over from Toronto to fill the drum stool.

    Maple Oak signed a deal with Decca Records soon afterwards and began recording in earnest at West Hampstead studios. Musical differences with a studio engineer however, resulted in the group taking the recordings to De Lane Lea studios where sessions were completed for a debut single coupling MacBain’s “Son of a Gun” with Endersby’s “Hurt Me So Much”. Any musical aspirations that may have existed were soon dashed when Decca delayed the release of the single for over six months. Dismayed by the public’s response, the lack of gigs and record company support, Quaife lost interest in the project and dropped out before the single’s release. Reduced to a trio, and with Fisher providing the bass parts on the keyboards, Maple Oak returned to De Lane Lea studios to record a new batch of songs that bore little resemblance to the gritty blues-rock featured on the single. Without a hit single to promote the album (neither side of the single was included on the record), Decca decided to postpone the release of “Maple Oak” until early 1971, by which point the group had returned to Toronto and the members had gone their separate ways. Despite its rarity and unevenness, the album is probably one of the first country rock-influenced records to be made in England (it even bares a slight resemblance to fellow Canadians The Band) and contains a number of early Bruce Cockburn songs, which the writer never recorded himself.

    Back in Toronto, Endersby briefly entertained thoughts of a solo career but decided instead to launch a new band. During his stint in England, he had befriended producer John Stewart, who had worked with the likes of The Bee Gees, Deep Purple and Lulu among others. Endersby had encouraged Stewart to move to Toronto and when the producer followed his advice and found work at Eastern Sound studios, Endersby approached him to produce a new band he had recently put together, later to be dubbed Heaven and Earth.

    The studio-bound outfit also included ex-Paupers bass player Denny Gerrard, former Luke & The Apostles drummer Pat Little and Endersby’s old Livingston Journey colleague Ed Roth (keyboards). As sessions proceeded, former Mynah Birds singer and future Motown soul star, Rick James turned up in the studio and took over the project. With James at the helm, Heaven and Earth proceeded to cut about an album’s worth of material, but ultimately only two singles finally emerged – “Big Show Down/Don’t You Worry” and “You Make The Magic/Rip Off 1500”, issued on RCA Victor in late 1971/early 1972. The band fell apart soon afterwards when James took off with the tapes and re-recorded some of the tracks with his next project Great White Cane.

    Endersby meanwhile moved on to join a number of local outfits including Buckwheat Noodle, Diamondback and the Village (the latter alongside former Kensington Market singer/songwriter and guitarist Keith McKie and ex-Buffalo Springfield bass player Bruce Palmer). No recordings were made, but the group attracted a modicum of media attention for its live dates in Toronto’s Yorkville area.

    Relocating to Los Angeles in the late ’70s he became fully immersed in the new wave scene, and it was during this period that he teamed up with former Love singer/songwriter and guitarist Bryan MacLean in the Bryan MacLean Band alongside Maria McKee. A number of recordings were reportedly captured on tape, but none have so far seen the light of day.

    Endersby subsequently toured with original members Bruce Palmer and Dewey Martin in the Buffalo Springfield tribute band, Buffalo Springfield Revisited during the mid-’80s, appearing on a cover of Neil Young’s “Down To The Wire”. After several years on the nostalgia circuit, he returned to Toronto and briefly dropped out of performing. Taking up bass for the garage legends, The Ugly Ducklings in the late ’90s, Endersby made his debut at the Toronto Rock Revival concert, held at the Warehouse on May 2, 1999. Besides gigging sporadically with the band, he has recently played on the group’s first studio recordings since 1980’s “Off The Wall”.

    While Endersby’s profile in recent years is arguably greater than it has ever been, interest in his early career has grown steadily. Last year, the Maple Oak album was finally issued on CD, complete with the non-album single. A recent article on Maple Oak in the British magazine Ptolemaic Terrascope has also sparked interest in his early career and will hopefully lead aficionados of that period to discover Endersby’s recordings with Livingston Journey, Heaven and Earth and Bryan MacLean.

  • With notes from Stan Endersby