Mini Bio (1)
The Five Man Electrical Band had always been a bigger act in their native Canada than they were in the US. They formed in Ottawa in 1964 as The Staccatos, and its members were Les Emmerson, Rick Belanger, Brian Rading and Vern Craig. In 1967 they recorded an album for Quality Records called "A Wild Pair", along with The Guess Who. Later that year they released a single on Capitol Records called "Half Past Midnight", which was a minor success. By 1968 they had added Ted Gerow and Mike Belanger to the band and released an album called "Five Man Electrical Band", which also met with modest success. They traveled to Los Angeles to try to crack the American market, but the songs they released went nowhere and, since the band didn't have the proper work visas, they had a difficult time getting work. Capitol Records dropped them, and they dejectedly headed back to Canada.
Once back in Canada they decided to change their style, their direction and their name. Now calling themselves the Five Man Electrical Band--after their last album--they headed back to L.A. They were seen by famed producer Dallas Smith, who liked what he saw and heard. He cut three songs with them, though none were released. MGM Records got involved, and put one of the album's tracks, "Moonshine (Friend of Mine)", in a film it was producing, The Moonshine War (1970). Both the song and the film went nowhere. MGM then released a single called "Hello Melinda, Goodbye". The "B" side of that record was a song called "Signs", which band member Les Emmerson had written after taking a trip to California on the famous Route 66 and noticing how the proliferation of billboards along the highway blocked out the view in many places. Unfortunately, "Hello Melinda, Goodbye" didn't sell much, and MGM Records lost all interest in the band. They again returned to Ottawa, to figure out if they had a future in the music industry.
Producer Dallas Smith wanted to start his own label and got the backing of the Lionel Co.--makers of model railroad trains and equipment--to form Lionel Records. MGM Records assigned all rights it owned to the band--including its master recordings and production agreements--back to them. In May of 1971 Lionel Records released an album it had recorded with the band, "Goodbye and Butterflies", and included on the album the song "Signs" that the band had recorded for MGM. The label began giving the song and the band the kind of promotion that MGM Records didn't, and before long "Signs" was getting airplay in the US, especially in the South. The label notified the band of the record's momentum and, although they were on the verge of disbanding, they quickly regrouped and headed back to the US for some concert dates and promotional tours. Before long the song was a hit across the US, eventually reaching #3 on the Billboard charts and selling more than a million copies. The band went on a US tour for the next two years, playing with such acts as The Allman Brothers Band, Jefferson Airplane and Bachman-Turner Overdrive.
The band's next few albums sold well and yielded some respectable hits, but tensions began to build within the band itself. Les Emmerson didn't want to tour anymore, and Mike Belanger and Brian Rading left the group. Musicians were brought into the group to replace Belanger and Raiding and the group cut a few more singles, but by 1975 the writing was on the wall, and the group finally disbanded.
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