The King Beezz

Memories from Mike Grant

I decided to Google 'King-Beezz' the other day. To my delight I found the King-Beezz homepage and quite a few interesting links and other sites about the group.

One in particular stood out as a contributor to the 'Who did the best Gloria' site named the King-Beezz version of that song as their favorite. Garage Punk I think it was called. I should take offence to that statement because, at the time, it was nearly 'state-of-the-art' as far as recordings went. But I would never be offended. People are still listening to something that I was part of some forty years ago and that in itself makes me quite proud.

If you have a copy of the Quality release you'll see it was a C.G.C.M.G. production I'm the 'M.G.'. My name is Mike Grant.

Chuck Camroux was the C.G.C. (he was older, wiser and pushier so he got the extra initial). Chuck was the group's manager (through Amroux Enterprises) at the time. I was their road manager due mostly, I suspect, to the fact that I had a car (a green 1959 Riley). I took the infamous road trip with them up to Northern Alberta/British Columbia playing Dawson Creek and High Prairie. I noticed on their website that this momentous tour was dated '1964'. I'm remembering that it was in 1965 but these were the sixties and as they say 'If you remember them...'.

Actually I'm having trouble with the time-line during the year and-a-half or so that I spent with the King-Beezz and some of the events are not easily brought back to mind. I would suggest that it's traumatic repression but I'm sure they would counter with "it's merely symptomatic of my old age".

At any rate these are some of the events as I remember them. If anyone reads this and notices any errors please feel free to initiate corrections.

I was fortunate to be in the radio industry (CJCA) in Edmonton at that time. The local entertainers were among the best in the country and I got to know most of them.

Wes Dakus and the Rebels with Barry Allen, Andy Krawchuk, Mel Degan, Stu Mitchell, Gary McDonall and The Nomads with Lennie Richards, Dennis Ferbey and the Pharoahs, Willie and the Walkers, Mary Saxton... the list goes on.

Edmonton was a hot spot for rock and roll bands and the King-Beezz were a big part of that scene although they were always quick to point out that they were NOT a band, they were a group.

I met them when they came in to CJCA to meet Chuck (on-air as Bob Stagg in those days) and they told me a bit about themselves. They were trying to get some dances together so I contacted an old acquaintance of mine and lined up their first concert at my old school, Griesbach Number One, on the military base in Edmonton.

The Griesbach teens were not unlike those we met at any of the later performances. Initially they stood up against the stage and just stared. No Edmonton group had long hair at that time. Carl Peterson, Ron McLachlin, Bob Richardson and Ray Carson would have been considered 'shaggy' in those days but it was Alan Cramsie's thick shoulder length curls that commanded the attention.

He grew used to, but never totally accepted the 'I wish my daughter had hair like yours' comment that he heard now and then.

The King-Beezz were a rag-tag, raw and rough group back then. They were Edmonton's answer to the Stones or the Who and they played blues-rock with the kind of emotion and enthusiasm that overshadowed their musical roughness. But after playing most of the local schools and clubs they quickly gelled into a concise and compatible group. With every dance or concert they tightened up and their stage presence improved dramatically.

In November of 1965 they played at Victoria Composite High School in Edmonton. Their first record had just been released and an unheard of 1,200 students packed the gym to watch the guys play, by far their largest crowd to that time.

They did a few out-of-town concerts with the performance in the small farming town of Dapp, Alberta standing out clearly in my mind.

By this time we had expected that people would know what the group was all about but we got the usual reaction with a twist.

The term 'Tough Room' hadn't been invented at the time but it surely would have applied. The girls from small-town Alberta loved the King-Beezz. Their boyfriends... not so much.

The group started the set with the girls crowding the front of the stage, staring and the guys standing back with their arms crossed, glaring.

As the music took over the staring and glaring stopped and everyone seemed to be having a great time. But the short-haired Dapp boys weren't going to make the night easy for the King-Beezz. They continually made scissor-cutting gestures with their fingers to whichever member of the group happened to glance at them.

At the end of the dance we each grabbed something heavy and/or sharp to carry with us while we packed up the trailer but it turned out to be unnecessary.

Four or five of the toughest looking locals approached us but before our hearts reached our throats they hollered 'Nice show guys, thanks!' and walked away.

We appreciated that although we still held our breath until we were safely on the highway heading home.

I'm not sure whether it was fear or just due course but the King-Beezz were really on that night in Dapp. Whatever they felt during the performance didn't show in the music. They played hard and smooth despite the distraction. Perhaps this is what won the guys in the crowd over.

The King-Beezz had a knack for winning over a crowd.

This was evident in December of 1965 when they performed with five other groups at a concert called 'Hullabaloo-A-Go-Go' at the Jubilee Auditorium in Edmonton. No group on the bill was a headliner at the start of the evening but when the final notes faded into the curtains it was clear who had dominated the concert. Over 2,700 'Edmonteens' declared the King-Beezz their favorite group.

From that point on they performed with the kind of confidence that only audience affirmation can inspire.

The still rag-tag, raw but professional King-Beezz had arrived.

The infamous northern road trip had taken place just prior to the 'Hullabaloo'. Perhaps it was only infamous in our own minds but it was a good example of what these guys went through to make it in the music business.

It was a two-day 735 mile round trip to play at two community halls, one in High Prairie, Alberta and the other in Dawson Creek, British Columbia.

We loaded the gear in the U-Haul, hopped into the two cars and hit Highway 2 north. At some point we came to gas station at a fork in the road and, of course, half of us turned the wrong way. No one would claim responsibility but I suspect it was my fault. That's part of the job-description of a road manager/roadie/ticket seller... take the blame.

Our first designated stop was only an hour from the fork. After driving for two hours and seeing four farmhouses and no gas stations we began to suspect something was amiss so we looked at the map again. This time we turned it the right way up and headed back from whence we had come.

I mentioned the lack of gas stations, a point that was not missed by my Riley as it chugged to the edge of the ditch. We hadn't seen a car since we did the U-turn so our prospects were bleak.

I believe it was Ron who spied a farmhouse down the road. Beside it was a large fuel tank. Hoping it wasn't diesel we grabbed any pop bottles or containers we could find and walked up the long drive into the yard. We called to the house but heard only big dog barks from behind the building. We tiptoed to the fuel tank and filled the bottles with purple gas and ran as quietly as we could back to the car, dodging bovine residue all the way.

On the road again... briefly. The right rear tire went flat. No problem, the spare was good so a quick change and we headed toward the fork in the road.

Just as the fork and the gas station came into view another tire blew out. We wobbled up to the antique gravity-feed fuel pump and turned off the engine.

The old fella came out of the station, looked at the car, then at Ron then at me. "Ya gotta flat don't cha know?" he grinned.

We finally caught up to the rest of the group at our pre-determined location about three and-a-half hours late which meant we had to bend a few speed limits in order to get to Dawson Creek in time for the show.

We didn't see an RCMP car all the way into town. They were all at the Community Hall waiting for this long-haired hippie rock and roll group to arrive. They knew what to expect, as did the teen-agers lined up waiting to get in.

We had blanketed the town with posters and radio ads so the sight of the bedraggled forms falling out of the cars wasn't as much of a curiosity as it had been in other places. I don't remember the usual standing around at this performance. The crowd was in it from the first number.

Everything was smooth until I took the initiative to create a light show. Initiative is a drug that messes with your mind. While the Beezz were doing one of their more pounding songs I went to the back of the room and found a bank of five light switches and tried to flick them on and off in rotation to the beat of the music.

Everybody thought there had been a power failure.

Carl walked over to me during the break and said; "We're you tryin' to sync that with the music?"

I sheepishly nodded.

He put his arm across my shoulder and grinned, "Aye, you'll never be a drummer lad."

But for that minor incident the Dawson Creek performance went without a hitch.

High Prairie was a different situation.

Most of the people there didn't know what was going on. They'd stumbled from the bar down the street and heard the noise and decided to check it out. Most of these big guys looked like they'd just come in from the lumber camps or backwoods. They dropped their dollar on my table and stood at the back of the room. If looks could have killed the King-Beezz would never have made it through 'Not Fade Away'. But the group eventually worked their magic and the mass of humanity at the back of the room started tapping their feet and shaking their hips... almost in time to the music.

Then halfway through a song the place emptied. The crowd had headed to the exit so we followed. Down the street a house was fully engulfed in flames.

Photo-op! The King-Beezz posed as High Prairie burned.

The fire truck arrived and we all wandered back to the hall. From that point on the evening was great. The crowd got into the group and the guys got into the crowd.

I considered my one and only road trip with the guys to be successful if not a little stressful.

Then there was Gloria.

Just that opening bass line brings back so many memories.

Gloria was a cover of the Them hit. I think every rock and roll band starting out learned 'Gloria' because it was one of the easiest songs to pick up. Doing a cover of the tune was logical. It was the song that got the crowd involved at the dances. Everybody would join in the refrain so making a record of this favorite made sense. We could sell them at the dances and concerts and get rich. Such is the stuff that dreams are made of.

Along with Bob Dylan's 'She Belongs To Me' as the 'B' side (which eventually became the 'A' side), 'Gloria' was recorded during one very long evening in Studio 'C' at CJCA radio in Edmonton. Actually in all my years working there I never did find a Studio 'A' or a Studio 'B' for that matter.

The actual recording date escapes me but I know the first Pace record was released about November 10, 1965. According to an old CJCA Fabulous 40 Survey I still have 'She Belongs To Me' hit the Top Forty on the week of November 21. Unfortunately I don't have any of the following surveys but I'm remembering it did make it to the top 20 in a very short time. The Quality Records release hit the charts again on February 14th of 1966. For any group to have a chart listing with the same song twice in four months is a pretty rare occurrence. I suppose the equipment used to record the songs would be considered as 'Garage Band' by today's standards. They were recorded on a full track Ampex at 15 ips through an old mono board (I believe it was a Raytheon). All instruments were microphone pick-up so each amp had to be isolated as well as the drums. This was done with piano covers, coats, cardboard boxes... whatever was lying around at the time.

Even though recorded at the 'professional' speed, overdubbing was out of the question as far as quality was concerned so the group had to be tight all round because it had to be right in one take.

I don't remember how many times we recorded each song. I do recall that 'She Belongs To Me' went together fairly easily.

'Gloria' on the other hand took most of the evening. It quickly went way beyond a labour of love. Getting all five guys to hit everything spot-on was tough for some reason. I think it was Alan who came into the control room after the second last 'final' take and said; "That's it... that better be it... it is it, isn't it?"

We listened to the playback and it was one of those things that nobody could pick out but everyone knew that something was wrong. Tempers flared a touch and they went back into the studio for one more 'final' take. I think Carl was probably the most upset because he had been pretty well on the money all night with the vocals and he wasn't too thrilled about yet another performance. The session had been hard on his throat but this ended up being the final 'final' take. I think it was the anger and determination of Ron pummeling on the drums that picked up the beat and got everybody fired up. The frustration and roughness in Carl's voice as he pushed the lyrics out one last time is evident in the final recording. The air was thick with smoke and emotions before we finally got the take that everyone agreed on.

They came into the control room with that look of frustration. Carl asked, "Well?" I just played it back and by the end of the song smiles had crossed all their faces. "I guess ya gotta play pissed-off," was Bob's comment.

As I said the songs were first pressed on Pace, a local Edmonton label. There is some question as to which was the 'A' side of this record. The record side/number is clearly printed on the Pace label. 'Gloria' is A-27965 and 'She Belongs To Me" is B-27965 ('65' being the year).

'Gloria' was always the intended 'A' side although it was 'She Belongs To Me' that got the airplay, due to the release of the Shadows of Knight version around the same time.

Chuck sent the tapes to Toronto and convinced Quality records execs to release the work nationally. This time everyone decided to flip the disc and officially release 'She Belongs To Me' as the 'A' side (the sides are clearly marked 1 & 2 on the label). As was the fickle finger of fate in those days Bob Dylan released 'She Belongs To Me' as the 'B' side of 'Subterranean Homesick Blues' a short time later.

But nationally the record did well. It reached #14 in February, 1966 on the RPM 'Chart Action' survey.

About that time the group appeared on a Canadian show called 'It's Happening'. I remember they did a cover of 'Good Lovin' by the Rascals. Carl looked more uncomfortable than I'd ever seen him. This just wasn't their music but the exposure was what counted.

Then came 'Can't Explain' and 'Gotta Move'. Here is another area where things get a bit fuzzy. It is believed that these songs had been recorded 'down east' but I recall sitting in on a recording session at Ray-Al Studios in Edmonton. The engineer was Ray Short. As 'She Belongs To Me/Gloria' had already been pressed I assumed that the second single had been recorded at Ray-Al. I also had a fairly beaten tape box from a 7 1/2" dub of the songs with a Ray-Al label. The tape (along with hundreds of others) suffered water damage in a flooded basement during the tornado in Edmonton and was well and truly destroyed.

But it really doesn't matter where it was recorded as the second single was far better technically than the first. It was recorded on 8 track equipment which was pretty sophisticated at the time. Most importantly it demonstrated how far the King-Beezz had progressed between releases.

In was somewhere in around this time that Ray Carson left the group. Don McLean took over the bass duties and added his own sound and look to the King-Beezz. Then Bob Richardson left and the guys welcomed Derry Stuart to the fold. Each change was to be part of the evolution of the group.

That's where my involvement ended.

Originally I had thought they were splitting up and going home but they continued touring and recorded two more singles. One is my favorite King-Beezz track, 'The Wine Is Fine'. If there ever was a song that suited Carl's vocal work back then it was this one.

I understand their third single was comprised of a couple of Ron's songs.

This is good. I remember him hunched over the counter at the 'Groove Spot', a record shop where he worked in Edmonton, scratching out lyrics on a notepad. Across from the record shop was a small teen club where the group often played.

When I sat down to write this I anticipated a page... maybe a page and a half. But as I sit now, with 'Gloria' on repeat mode on the old turntable behind me I realize that the short time I spent with the King-Beezz in my various support roles was filled with some of the best, if not most interesting, experiences of my life.

I have a couple of Carl's LP's and I've read on his website how he's doing but the other members of the group... I don't know.

Whatever they're doing I certainly wish them well and I thank them for the music and the memories.

They are part of my past and I'm pleased to have been associated with each of them.


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