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Going the Rock Route

Going the Rock Route

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Published by Norm Richards
This story was previously published in North Roots Magazine in December 2009 / January 2010 issue.
This story was previously published in North Roots Magazine in December 2009 / January 2010 issue.

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Published by: Norm Richards on Jul 19, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Going the Rock Route
By Norman M. RichardsWhen they started out they called themselves
The Venturas
. Their name was derived from thewell known American instrumental group called The Ventures from Tacoma, Washington. For their time they played an easy to listen to style of guitar based songs. They became major contributors toward the surf sound that largely emanated out of California. The Ventures had anationwide hit in 1960 titled “Walk Don’t Run.” That song and many others were a major influence on scores of upstart guitar players. Lead parts were fed whole to guys tuned into it.Charles Nabess was one of them. American rock and roll was taking shape. Elvis Presley hit the biggest. Gene Vincent, Eddy Cockran, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard had big radio hits.Buddy Holly, Bill Haley and The Comets, even Cliff Richard and The Shadows were aninfluence on Charles. Near the end of high school he began to imagine being in a band of hisown. He met Larry Haynes who had the same thoughts. Jim Moran heard them talk and showedinterest. Jim bought a basic drum kit. The boys acquired their first electric guitars.Their first practice was in the Anglican Church Hall down by the river. They learned “Perfidia,Walk Don’t Run, Pipeline, Apache” and Jim had to learn “Wipeout” once other songs wereironed out by the guitar players.
The Beatles
appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. That was ahome run measured by the influence felt by every kid in town. No one moved unless a Beatlesong played somewhere. It gave repertoire for The Venturas. Charles’ younger brother Donaldwas invited to join the band. I was interested in drumming too. But, I started as a non- instrument playing member of the band and helped with equipment setups and sound adjustments at dances.Donald brought another side to the band’s performance. He did an uncanny imitation of ElvisPresley. Mom told me their Uncle, Simon Nabess was good at impressions too. Indeed,something felt essential about what they did on stage. The idea came to change their name to
The Essentials
. Along the way, the band had girlfriends who handled the door and band business. In passing, one gal, attached to a local skating coach said he might help the band if theywere interested. He had a keen interest in music and knew performance well.The band was introduced to Mel Metzner. He began to assist the band with rehearsals first andsoon took over business affairs as manager. He encouraged them and became close confidant notunlike Brian Epstein was for The Beatles. Mel was friendly but was all business around localkids. Mel had a stutter like country star Mel Tillis. That endeared him to band members who’dgrown close to him. Larry Haynes more than the others, took pains to finish Mel’s sentences. Akind of short hand took place between Mel and the boys. He helped with costuming and adviceon everything. Charles bought a Mosrite guitar like The Ventures played. Fender amplifiers were purchased and Jim ordered a white pearl Ludwig drum kit. Their style and sound improved. Jimadopted a top hat most thought he slept in. He always had it on. Since The Beatles set trends,everyone wanted Beatle haircuts. British and American rock groups joined in. Again, time and
circumstance was ripe for change.
Three Hairs and a Hat
 became their new moniker. They played dances out of town more often. It helped them improve. Another step in the band’sevolution was to write songs and record. Being a recording act meant larger purses and bigger venues. They knew it and wanted more. One day they went south to record.On return, it was clear something had changed in the hair and hat camp. It was an uneasy timefor the band. Not long before, they did a triumphant show on the Lido Theatre stage. The townwas excited. Jim was at his best. He had energy never before displayed. The band shone at thismoment in their lives. Yet, not long after returning from recording, the band and drummer JimMoran parted ways. Jim felt let down over the recording experience. I was surprised. Jim’sshowmanship gave the band personality and even credibility. The band had to reorganize andfind a new drummer. Everyone else in town was playing with somebody so they went without adrummer while improving their own chops. Their age, experience and time spent in their hometown matured. The band outgrew younger audiences. They changed their name to
TheFallen Angels
and scooped drummer Bill Allard from the other leading group in town.That year I came back from Alberta where I had broken my arm working on an oil rig. Onsubstantial compensation and in recovery I could now afford to buy those drums I had beendreaming about. I catalogue ordered the best professional drum kit available from Wagner’sJewellers. Not long after, word got out I had drums. Jack Hebert and Garry Wenger called toform a group. To complete the sound we asked Patrick ‘Paddy’ McLaughlin to join us onkeyboards. I felt wanted and they needed me since Bill had joined the rivals. We learned topforty dance hits. Our first time out we played on a CBC Radio program recorded live on stage atthe MBCI auditorium. Our first song was “Light My Fire” by The Doors. It went over well. Wesoon began playing dances under the new name
Symbols of Sound
. Things were simple then.We hung posters up at popular spots each week and the kids came in droves to our dances onweekends. On long weekends we did midnight dances just as the other band did.After playing for more than a year, we developed a good following. Since the angels left townoften it made room for us. There was an unwritten agreement between bands not to hold a dancethe same night. One day, over chips and gravy at Bob’s Restaurant someone said let’s playFriday. The kids in the next booth pressed us on. We decided, no posters, no nothing to play.Three hundred kids showed up. Someone said the angels were playing in the other hall. Welooked at each other surprised. No one knew. There were four loyal couples dancing over there.Our hall was full. It felt so good we went for late night burgers at the A&W Drive In. We drovearound town in the grey goose (dad’s 52 Pontiac) till five AM wondering about our future while patting ourselves on the back for being good musicians. Bands broke up over incidences like this but the angels stuck it out. Soon after, they started playing bars and night clubs. For them, itwasn’t about pleasing a younger audience, for us it was an imperative.In the fall of sixty eight I moved to Winnipeg to join a band. The angels became better known as
Three Penny Opera.
Bill stayed with the angels for a year. Eventually a handsome blonde guy

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