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By the time the Brass Union returned home from their first Quebec City shows in the early part of 1970, the band had changed a great deal from those early days of searsucker jackets, white shirts and black ties.  They had their own trucks now – a black, 9-passenger, window van and a matching white equipment van.  The staging was all there, a full light show (complete with every kind of visual effect that was available back then), and a top-of-the-line sound system, board and road crew that traveled with them everywhere.  Their songlist which had started out as ‘cover tunes’, copying the originals as faithfully as possible, had been reworked and rearranged with the band’s imprint fully stamped on each number they did.  Many of the band’s members (myself included) had their musical roots in the more ethereal world of classical music and its effects showed up fully in the band’s songs – with things like a Mel Tormé song and an arrangement of Anton Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” included in their regular songlist.  The Brass Union were not the only rock band incorporating ‘classical’ elements into rock music during this time, but they were definitely one of them.  And their arrangements of cover tunes and their band original numbers showed this.  The band had changed a great deal in 3 years.  And as Cliff Hunt mentioned just recently:  “The suits were gone, the hair was longer, and the beards were growing. It was not just a visual transition but a musical and social one as well.”  By the time the two trucks rolled back into the Hamilton/Burlington area at the end of February 1970, they had been playing together every night for three weeks, practicing nearly every day and spending countless hours together on the road.  They were ready for the next step – releasing their own record.  And it took them no time at all to do so. The band recorded two numbers at the RCA studios in Toronto in, if memory serves me correctly, a one-day session:  “It Won’t Be Long” (side A of their 45 rpm record) and “Restaurant Encounter” (side B).  Both songs were written by the band’s lead guitarist, Len Blum and arranged by the band.  In truth, neither of these tunes were the band’s favourite originals (they had quite a few written by this time), but they were the ones that the record company felt would be the best pick for their first record.  And who were these young kids to argue with proven professionals?  The songs were recorded, mixed, produced and pressed rather quickly and by the end of April 1970, the song “It Won’t Be Long” was ‘chartbound’ on Hamilton, Canada’s CKOC 1150 Top 40 chart (see below).  The song stayed on the chart for a number of weeks, reaching as high as No. 7 locally, at one point.  As a young kid, still rather ‘green’ to the world of professional music, it was rather nice to turn on the radio at night and hear my own band playing.  And with the success of this record, by the end of the summer the Brass Union had secured a show at the biggest venue available in the Southern Ontario area at the time – the CNE Grandstand Show in Toronto.
BRASS UNION 45 rpm Side A -- It Won't Be Long Side B -- Restaurant Encounter both written by Len Blum Produced by J. Driscoll & R. Martin Executive Producer G. Salter
By 1970, the phenomenon of teen idols was everywhere.  It was another facet of the music industry, created in the corporate offices, that swept over everything it touched.  Posters, pin-ups were everywhere as teen magazines proudly displayed the latest teen idol each week to thousands of screaming and adoring fans.  The North American invasion of the British groups like the Beatles, the Hollies and the Stones probably set the tone for artists like David Cassidy, Davey Jones (of the Monkees), Donny Osmond and Michael Jackson (of the Jackson 5).  And right up in the mix was a California boy named Robert Cabot Sherman Jr. – a.k.a. Bobby Sherman.  Bobby had made his initial mark in 1964 as a regular on the television musical show Shindig!  In 1968, he was cast in the popular weekly series, “Here Come the Brides”.  By 1969, he had released a hit record and in August of 1970, he came to Canada to play at the Toronto CNE Grandstand show – one of the largest concert venues in Canada.  From his biography at bobbysherman.com, it states: “His first hit record, ‘Little Woman’ came in 1969, which led to concert tours on the weekend where Bobby was mobbed by adoring fans. His face began appearing on every teen magazine cover. Lunch boxes bore his picture, and love beads and ‘Bobby Sherman Chokers’ became the rage.”  And the band that opened his show for him that summer at the CNE Grandstand show in front of a sold out crowd of 22,500 people was the Brass Union.
The Burlington Gazette  BITS AND PIECES  -- The Brass Union, Burlington’s young rock group, appeared last week at the Ex with Bobby Sherman.  According to reports, the group did very well for itself.  Congratulations! -- Television Fall Previews are currently being aimed at us each night.  Two of Neil Simon’s plays form the basis for two upcoming series … The Odd Couple and Barefoot in the Park.  It’s doubtful if either will be able to maintain Simon’s humour for an entire season (assuming they last that long) but they should make for some interesting viewing.  Incidentally, Barefoot in the Park will have an all black cast. ·   Burlington’s popular modified rock group the Brass Union appeared last evening at the CNE grandstand show with Bobby Sherman.  The group has been working hard to prepare for the engagement and were received very well.  The Hamilton Spectator August 22, 1970
I, personally, remember that show very, very well.  Because of the nature of the ‘teen idol’ phenomenon, the band decided to add a new song to their set, specifically for this show.  It was a 1957 hit by the Diamonds called, “Little Darling”.  The song was back-up vocal dominant, with a Phil Spectre-like rhythm found in most of the teen idol/drive-in/Frankie and Annette types of music.  And, I suppose, because most of the band members were needed for the vocal back-up lines, it was decided that I would sing the song.  Make no mistake about it, I have never been known as a ‘singer’, but with me standing out front, creating my own parody of the teen idol image and the band backing with very strong vocal and instrumental lines, the song came off rather well.  The part that is most memorable for me is that, up until this time I had never sang anything on a microphone in public before.  We’d gone over the song in practice, but my first “singing on microphone in public” was at the CNE Grandstand show … geez !! The ‘Little Darling’ song was the fourth in a nine-song set – amazing how these memories stay with us – and I could barely play my horn during the first few songs.  Petrified would be an accurate word here.  I had heard that there were around 23,000 people in the crowd and that translated to 46,000 eyeballs and every one staring at me.  But when it was my turn and I walked to centre stage to take the microphone it was like someone had just pulled a plug in the bottom of my foot and all the nervousness and anticipation flowed out on the floor of the stage.  I’ll never forget that feeling.  The only problem I had that night was during the middle of the song, I had to go to my knees, reaching dramatically skyward and do a talking part over the band singing in the background.  I suppose I slid out toward the front of the stage a bit too far, because when I did, hundreds of young, screaming, girls' arms all reached up toward me.  It scared da ‘ell out of me, let me tell you.  I learned a lot about centre stage that night. The band went over great that night and were back at the Bandshell playing their own show a few nights later.  Obviously, the bulk of the crowd at the Grandstand show were there to hear Bobby, but to hear the applause as we left the stage was very nice, indeed.  Bobby’s show was quite amazing to watch, really … hundreds and hundreds of stuffed animals were thrown on the stage as he sang … 23,000 screaming young girls.  It was quite the thing to watch from off-stage.  When one of our band went to pick up one of the stuffed animals at the end of the show, one of his stage crew told us:  “I’m sorry, but Bobby keeps all the stuffed animals”, as he was being whisked out of the area by limousine.  I still wonder today what Bobby Sherman would do with (literally) hundreds of stuffed animals.
By Bill Dampier  Bobby Sherman, a young man of pleasant appearance and modest talent, walked on stage at the CNE grandstand last night and broke the place up.   There were close to 20,000 people in the grandstand, most of them waving Bobby Sherman posters purchased for $2 that same evening, most of them female, and almost all of them young – somewhere between baby-fat and high school.   The parents in the house were easy to recognize; they were the ones sitting around with bemused expressions while their daughters screamed and yelled and fainted at the sight of their hero – or even the mere mention of his name.      It’s hard to explain the adulation that a performer like Sherman inspires.  He appears regularly in a television THERE WAS MASS FRENZY at the CNE grandstand last night as singer Bobby Sherman (left) broke up the house.  Among the 20,000 spectators were the girls who screamed (right) and some who even fainted, or seemed to, but even police Sgt. Colin Pitts was caught up in the audience frenzy.  Many of those attending paid $2 for color posters of Sherman to hold up and show their hero. program called Here Come The Brides, and he’s made a couple of hit records – Nothing In This World Without You;  Easy Come, Easy Go – but that doesn’t prepare you for the kind of mass frenzy his CNE performance was calculated to induce.   The children got off on him in the same way their mothers get off on Tom Jones – different strokes for different folks, as the man remains invisible to an adult.   He’s not ugly, but his voice is only fair, and his stage personality consists mainly of  acknowledging the shrieks and screams.  His best line of the night – judging by the applause alone – was “Hiya, babe.”  There were cheers for that brilliant sally too.   You’d call it sex appeal, except most of the audience aren’t old enough to know what the phrase means.  Mark it down as an interesting subject for a specialist in mob psychology, and let it go at that.  Whatever else it is, Sherman’s appeal isn’t musical.  Most of the time he couldn’t even be heard.   His back-up band called Instant Joy, is competent and willing, but without Bobby Sherman you’d never hear of them and you wouldn’t miss much.  The other act on the bill, Brass Union, is a nine-man band from Hamilton that’s a little inclined to histrionics, but puts on a decent show.   They were definitely second banana to Sherman, but they show promise; most of them are extremely young and they should get better.   The people who count the money at the CNE should be delighted by the financial success of the Bobby Sherman show, but they should feel a little ashamed of the prices they were charging.
More from the 1970 Brass Union songlist
To the left: The Brass Union -- late 1970 (taken at the CNE grounds) From left to right:  John Willett, Bruce Wilson, Terry Bramhall, John Hannah, Darrell Nameth, Cliff Hunt (kneeling), Don Berryman, David Thrasher, and on top of the phone booths, Len Blum
By the time the band had finished at the CNE, they were back in Hamilton playing a week in the top club in the city, the Grange Tavern.  All the top acts that came through the area played here.  David Clayton Thomas was a regular.  It is rumoured that Conway Twitty wrote his hit:  “It’s Only Make Believe” in the dressing room of the Grange Tavern.  And the Brass Union began one of their many weeks playing here, the week following their show at the CNE.  The band had now secured their own booking agent, Herb Lock of Willock Enterprises.  They were now performing regularly and having their own full-time agent was necessary.  I remember living, at this time, in a house in what is now the trendy ‘Hess Village area’ of Hamilton, and I would be home for a week and gone for a week with the band.  Between traveling, playing local venues, special events, clubs, another trip to Quebec City, another northern tour, practicing, constantly reworking the show, adding original material … the band was a very busy band by the end of 1970.  It had come a long way since playing in the back of Archie Campbell’s pick-up truck, a few years ago.
To the left, is a write-up from another of the band's summer shows in 1970 -- this one, at Burlington Central Park.  Directly below is a ticket from the band's Christmas concert at Cambrian College in December of 1970. With the band's increased popularity, there was a great deal of press coverage.  I've closed out the year by including two of the write-ups about the band that have survived the 40 years since their last gig. With the trips to Quebec City, the release of their first record, their summer gigs at the Canadian National Exhibition, the addition of their own booking agent Herb Locke, increased exposure locally, club dates, another northern tour and the band's own continued work on their show, 1970 was a very busy year for the band.  And this continued full speed into 1971 -- another full year for the Brass Union.
A crowd of between 700 and 800 peo-ple turned out yesterday to hear an hour’s concert given by the Brass Union, a group of Burlington and Hamilton musicians.  The concert, held at Burlington’s Central Park, was arranged by the town’s recreation department.  “The swinger” (left) was one of many turned on by the free music.    A post mortem will be held here today into the financial death of a weekend rock show at Burlington’s Central Arena that has left a group of teenagers an estimated $3,000 in debt.   The show’s chief promoter, Steve Harrington, the son of Burlington Mayor George Harrington, refuses to make public the actual financial losses.   “We don’t need to reveal the losses because it was not supported by public funds, “ said Harry Miceli, the group’s treasurer.   HOWEVER, the event was sponsored jointly by the Burlington recreation department and a dozen teenager promoters were given the use of the arena.   Al Argent, program director for the recreation department, said the town is not committed to any financial losses.    “We sanctioned it but we did not agree to underwrite and financial aspect.  We did not sign any contracts.”   Mr. Argent said he would meet with agree to underwrite and financial aspect.  We did not sign any contracts.”   “Obviously some negotiations are going to have to take place.  It was a worthwhile cause that just didn’t work out,” Mr. Argent said.   THE PROMOTERS had hoped for a turnout of 3,000 people to hear nine bands play constantly from noon until midnight Saturday.  Bookings for the bands are reported to have cost in excess of $2,000.  While promoters refused to disclose their actual losses, one informed source said it would be extremely close to the $3,000 mark.   The profits from the event were to have gone to two coffee houses and the group of 12 youths were to have been paid for their time, Steve Harrington told The Spectator. THE POST, Wednesday, May 13, 1970    At last the warm weather has returned and everyone can laze outside in the sun on the weekends.  Picnics and baseball and other summer sports are taking over from the slower paced winter sports.   On May 15 there is a giant dance at Mountainside Arena.  The Brass Union is the featured group and the affair should go fairly close to being the biggest dance this season!  The doors will open at 8:30 with the music starting at 9:00 p.m.  Advance tickets will be $1.25 and the tickets at the door will be $1.50.   Advance tickets for the dance are available from band members and can be obtained by phoning one of the Brass Union.  I will probably have some tickets for sale also.  Mountainside Arena is located in the park complex at Mountainside Pool on Mount Forest Drive.  ... and from one of the later issues:    The hot and sticky weather continues and so does the sharpness of people’s tempers.  The best place to be is in an air-conditioned office and if possible to sleep there overnight because otherwise you’ll get next to no sleep.   Sunday is another musical day for  Burlington Youth.  In Central Park at the Burlington Bandshell, there is a free concert given by BRASS UNION.  Come and bring your lunch and your chairs – the festivities get underway at 3 p.m.  A feather for the band includes a Grandstand performance at the Canadian National Exhibition.  Quite a feat for anyone from our Town.  ... and from a later summer issue:    MUSICALLY?   The Brass Unions’ record has been released abroad and appears to be doing quite well. They seem to stand like zombies, wondering when they can dance again.  This leaves us wondering just what people want – do they simply want to dance and have fun or do they want to groove on the lights and noise coming from the stage?  Considering that most people either cannot or will not appreciate the musical talents of the performers, I tend to agree with the former.  FOTOS/ken macdonald --------------------------------------Thursday entertainment Aug. 27 – THE BRASS UNION, at the Grange Tavern.  David Thrasher, vocals; Darrell Nameth, tenor sex; Cliff Hunt Jr. and John Willett, trumpets; Don Berryman, trombone; Len Blum and Bruce Wilson, guitars; Terry Bramhall, bass; John Hannah, drums. --------------------------------------    Fresh from opening the Bobby Sherman show at the CNE Grandstand last week, the heavy sounds of The Brass Union – a nine-man rock band from Hamilton and Burlington – are keeping the customers awake at the Grange Tavern this week.   This is the second Grange engagement for the Union, a band that, 3 ½ years old, easily ranks as a veteran contingent in today’s easy-come, easy-go world of pop music.   Mind you, only three of the original members – leader Darrell Nameth, trumpeter Cliff Hunt and guitarist Bruce Wilson – are still with the band.  Nonetheless, it bespeaks something when a band sticks together that long.   Call it dedication.  The Brass Union has passed the first flush of tennybopper idolatry and managed to hang together.  It has weathered the disappointment of a high- hopes first record (It Won’t Be Long) that thudded on the charts.  Undaunted the band is now working at getting together material for its first LP.   I caught the band both downstairs for the hard-drinking customers and upstairs for the diners at the Grange last night.  There was quite a difference.  Downstairs, in front of the jovial Buddha, the emphasis was on power, in the manner of Blood, Swear and Tears and Chicago.  Power and light, I might add.  Flashing reds, greens and strobes worked overtime during the group’s last set on the Forbidden Lounge bandstand.   The lighting effects may well be a grabber for teenage concerts and dances, but it detracts in a tavern setting.   Put it this way:  whenever anybody goes overboard on the lights, I always assume they’re trying to cover up for a lack of talent.   With The Brass Union, it’s not necessary.  The guys are good musicians.  They have a magnetic – if calculatingly precious – front man in singer David Thrasher and they should try letting the music speak for itself.   In common with Chicago and B. S. and T, The Brass Union deals a lot in moods within a tune.  One moment it’s stops-out blaring; the next, it’s quiet introspection.  It’s thinking-man’s music combined with enough beat and volume to keep the masses interested.  But be warned:  it’s loud.  One point: the band should sell its introductions more strongly.   Upstairs last night it was a different matter.  Five of the group held forth with some tasty, lazy blues for the sweet-and-sour devourerers.  The set confirmed my hopes that The Brass Union – for all those lights and fortissimos – had musicianship at the heart of things.   Next week, one-time teenage idol Bobby Curtola takes the bandstand.  Coming in October:  Rompin’ Ronnie Hawkins.  Toronto’s Royal York Hotel has a heavyweight line-up for its Imperial Room this season.   Among the headliners are singers Ella Fitzgerald (Sept. 14-26), Peggy Lee (Oct. 22-31), Canadian Anne Murray (Nov. 30-Dec. 10), Jack Jones (Feb. 12-20), Al Martino (Mar. 15-27), Sarah Vaughn (April 16-24), The Mills Brothers (April 26-May 18) and Sandler and Young (May 21-29) and the bands of Buddy de Franco (Sept. 28-Oct. 8), Woody Herman (Nov. 2-12), Guy Lombardo (Nov. 23-28) and Count Basie (March 5-13).    With its 259th performance today, Hair breaks all long-run records for plays in Toronto.  The previous record was held by You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown … Hamilton Theatre Inc. auditions for Oklahoma on Saturday at HTI headquarters, Strathcona and Head Streets.  David Tibmar is directing … Tuesday Weld, Martha Raye, Tommy Sands and LBJ have birthdays today … Indiana University has opened a National Black Music Centre … Radio Music Hall has increased its cheapest seats 25 cents, from $1.50 to $1.75 … Got a spare $1,200 burning a hole in your pocket?  You can get rid of it Nov. 18 for a ringside seat at London, England’s Talk of the Town nitery where the Royal Family, Bob Hope and astronaut Neil Armstrong will appear at a benefit for the World Wildlife Fund. Thursday, November the fifth was the date.  The student ballroom at WLU was the place.  The Brass Union was the band.  Jack Pine was the entertainment and comedy act.  The Brass Union is, without a doubt, one of the cleanest sounds around.  They have a refreshing, inimitable style which gives the listener an amazing high that lasts for hours.  The band consists of nine men (or reasonable facsimile) who each have their own distinct musical talent.  Lenny Blum, Bruce Wilson, and Terry Bramhall play lead, rhythm, and bass guitar, in that order.  John Hannah is the Union’s drummer who sits high above the rest looking like a sun god.  David Thrasher plays no instrument, but he sings, with a voice that matches the mood of each song.  There are four pieces of brass in the band – two trumpets, manned by John Willett, and Cliff (Floyd) Hunt, a saxophone played by Darrell Nameth, and a slide trombone belonging to Don Berryman.  The Brass Union is full of little comedy acts and one-line jokes.  These vary to suit the age level of their audience.  For example, last Thursday night, the boys did a song called “Wheelchair”.  Lenny introduced this song as one about a man who has no genitals, and his wife who has no legs.  However, on Saturday, November the seventh, the band played for a Catholic high school in Hamilton, Ontario to an audience composed mostly of thirteen and fourteen year olds.  “Wheelchair” was played, but no mention was made of the sad couple spoken of in the previous sentence.  Much of their humour is based on slapstick comedy, and the masters in this department are Blum, Wilson, Berryman and Hannah.  But they are funny, and can joke their way around any technical difficulties they encounter, or a bad audience.  The band originated in Burlington, Ontario at Aldershot High School.  I imagine it started out to be a little high school band, and a bunch of the guys getting together etc.  Not too many of the original band members are left.  However, the nine musicians who play together now, and produce such a great sound, have been together for about two and a half to three years.  In those three years, the band has gone from a part time band to a full time band, they have purchased about $16,000 worth of sound and light equipment, they have bought two vans, and sold one to buy a huge truck in which to carry their equipment, (the other is expressly for riding in), they have a fantastic wardrobe, bright and and colourful, and yet as individual as they are, they have cut one 45 record in Hamilton, which sold well among the younger set, and they have established for themselves a name and an image.  They range in age from eighteen to twenty-two, Lenny and David are already married.  Darrell is engaged to be married on the second of January, and Terry, on the nineteenth of December.  The material the band does ranges from Chicago to Led Zeppelin.  They have a whole medley of Chicago songs in which the brass section plays the dominant part.  They do a beautiful job on Abbey Road by the Beatles, interjecting the Abbey Road songs with some of the Beatle’s older hits such as “Yesterday” and “Michelle”.  They also do some Blood, Sweat and Tears.  In all of those songs, they do not try to imitate the original composers.   They play the numbers in their own style, unpretentious and unassuming.  They do not claim to be as good as B.S.&T., and the comments on their arrangement of Chicago range from “they massacre it” to “a great similarity”.  They write quite a bit of their own material.  Lenny has written quite a few, Bruce has written some, and John Willett claims some of the songs as his.  Some of their own songs are “Too Old to Work and Too Young to Die”, “Wheelchair”, “It Won’t Be Long”, “It’s Over”, “Ship of Wings”,  and “The Gospel Song”.  The Brass Union plays a song to suit your every mood.  “Wheelchair” is a comedy, a light, airy tune with a quick pace.  But in the next breath, they can turn around and play something as soft and beautiful as “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know”, a Blood, Sweat and Tears production.  They play heavy music, such as “Abbey Road”, ad they play the folk music of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.  The Brass Union has a terrific stage appearance.  They are colourful and bright.  They stand at different levels in rows.  The back row is composed of rhythm guitar, drums, and bass guitar.  The second row is brass – two trumpets, then the organ and sax, then the trombone.  The front row is David on vocals, and Lenny on lead guitar.  They all have long, white vests with floor length fringe, that flows slowly in time to the music.  The vests were custom made in Toronto, and are made of a soft leatherette.  They wanted leather, but they couldn’t get the leather in pure white.  Each band member changes his outfit two or three times during the course of the dance.  They all dress fairly much alike – flared pants, boots, and vests, but they are all different and portray their individual personalities by the clothes they wear.  The lighting s beautiful.  They have soft, melting, colours, a harsh, eerie strobe, spotlights, and loud vibrant lights which enhance their performance.  I find it difficult to sit here and write an objective, non-biased review of the Brass Union.  I have been in love with the entire band for more than a year now.  It is so easy to feel close to them, because they are not idols, they are not pop heroes like the Beatles or the Stones, -- they are real.  Their music is beautiful, and so refreshing to listen to.  One cannot get bored listening to the Brass Union.  There are so many different facets to them.  I can identify with those of you who have heard them and like them, but to those who either dislike them or have not heard them, I can only feel sympathy.  Jack Pine provided a wonderful anti-climax to the clean sound of the Brass Union.  Formerly called Phase III, they consist of drums, a few strings, some vocals, and something that could be called an organ.  They thoroughly destroyed every song they did.  They might not have been bad had they not tried to imitate.  When they played McCartney, the lead singer tried to sound like Paul McCartney, when they did Blood, Sweat and Tears, he tried to capture David Clayton Thomas’ powerful voice, and worse still, when they played any Beatles numbers, he tried to do John Lennon..  They were confused and disorganized.  My only advice to them is that they get their heads together, because somewhere, buried under the mess, is a basically good sound.  Their lead singer has a good voice, with fine quality, but he should keep it and not try to replace it with John Lennon or anyone else.  Their instrumental section is blurry and indistinct.  I see this as a result of their efforts to be loud and heavy, rather than focusing on being clear and precise.  The potential is there, but it is very hard to seel.  Over all, the animal dance was a great success.  There was a good crowd which seemed to be enjoying itself greatly.  Soft drinks and food were available throughout the night, and the admission prices were not as exorbitant as they usually are.  The crowd did not dwindle towards the end, and everybody left in high spirits.  Some of them came in high spirits as well.  I hope to see the Brass Union at WLU again. I think they would be an instant ingredient for another successful dance.  Mary Nolan HOME BACK NEXT
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