Segarini: The Story of The Segarini Band – Chapter One

After 15 years of playing in bands, I finally decided to put my name on one…This is the story of what it took to get to the band you see above.

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Someone once asked me if Bob Segarini is my real name. How could it not be? Who would make up a name like Segarini?

The Segarini Band actually started in Montreal after the band I had put together previously, (All the Young Dudes), dissolved on the heels of the only record I have ever recorded that was, quite frankly, an embarrassment.

The Dudes live, were amazing. Ask anyone who ever saw them and they’ll tell you. David and Ritchie Henman, founding fathers of April Wine, Brian Greenway, a future Winer, but at the time, “The Kid”, a wunderkind guitarist and singer we found slugging it out in cover bands in the West Island, Wayne Cullen, another youngster brought up from the minors, (a band called ‘Bacchus’), to replace Ernie Earnshaw in The Wackers, and one of the great bass players. William ‘Kootch’ Trochim, who had been in The Family Tree and The Wackers with me. A formidable group live, reduced to a thin sounding hiccup in the studio by a New York ‘producer’ and his engineer who would have been better utilized as door stops or garden gnomes.

The Dudes album, We’re No Angels, had some great material on it, but if you want to hear the band as it should have been, pick up All the Young Dudes…All the Old Demos, have a couple of beers and crank it up. I think Bullseye Records still have a few copies available.

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Getting back on the horse…

So I’m sitting in Montreal with an itch to play music and no band, licking my wounds from the Dudes debacle, and wondering what to do next, when I have an epiphany. Why not, I ask myself, put together some crackerjack musicians, write some songs that are more intimate and subtle, and experiment with some musical elements I had not yet tackled. I had always included my R&B and country roots in my music, but I had never pushed the envelope in the areas of ballads and jazz. Something more personal. Something I would be totally responsible for. Something I would put my name on…Bob Segarini and the Silver Bulletini Band. No. That sounds too familiar. Let’s just go with the last name. It was good enough for my dad and the supermarkets…and it’s good enough for me.

I talked David Henman into one more kick at the can, and through him, found Mike Root, an overly talented drummer with jazz leanings who was more than capable of adding a different flavour to the proceedings, but was in constant motion, like a kitten with a ball of yarn. Sometimes, even when he was just sitting there, he seemed to blur, vibrating on his drum throne like a hummingbird. Another musician from the West Island came onboard as our bass player. Still a good friend and a really fine player, he has the single most Canadian name I have ever heard.

Gordy Byrd.

Just say it a few times out loud…Gordy Byrd. “In goal for the Canadiens, number 17…Gordy Byrd”.

Oh yeah…Makes me want to drink a case of stubbies and head down to the St. Lawrence Pool Hall for a couple of steamies.

To add to the jazz element that Root brought to the band, we found a keyboard player whose virtuosity made the rest of us feel humbled to even be in the same room with him. Fred Henke. Good God, what a player!

I would show him the chord changes to a new song and he would instantly learn them, and add the greatest passing chords and nuances, elevating the tune from okay, to oh wow. Every single time. The guy was, (and probably still is), uncanny.

We were complete now. Or so I thought at the time. Foolish me…but we had the name right.

The Segarini Band.

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Get your elbow out of my eye…

We started a period of rehearsals that went on for months. I do not like to rehearse. I get a rash. I get bored. My mind sometimes wanders so far away, I forget to sing or doze off. For me, rehearsing is like standing in line for a rollercoaster…an eternity of shuffling forward, the only thing keeping you on your feet is the anticipation of the ride. Ask anyone who has ever played in a band with me and they will tell you. I would rather sit on a hot plate and be forced to watch a Murder, She Wrote marathon than rehearse…but the music demanded it, and I reluctantly submitted to the tortuous procedure.

Armed with a case of beer per session, cartons of cigarettes, and an unlimited supply of bad jokes and gas, we dove into the task at hand.

Adding to the crap factor of rehearsing was where we rehearsed. I couldn’t tell you whose house it was in, but it was the smallest room ever built.

Seriously, it couldn’t have been any larger than 8 x 8, with one window and no ventilation. We were stuffed in there like a pimento in an olive. You literally could not move more than a few inches in any direction without stabbing someone with the neck of your guitar, or taking a drumstick to the eye. If you dropped your pick and bent over to pick it up, you either hit your head on an amp, or cracked it against someone’s knee. I’ve seen cupboards with more room in them.

The worst part was the gas. There were farts cut during those rehearsals that I am willing to bet are still in that room. Pale green, mostly dormant, but still lethal all these years later.

But this was about the music. So we sucked it up and rehearsed, fueled by beer, pot, smokes, and the desire to get out of this friggin’ box as soon as possible, and eventually, armed with songs like Love Story, Keep Me Strong, and Self Abuse, we did…almost.

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David bails…and is replaced by ‘whatsizname’…

Now that we were ready to play, (we may have even played a gig, come to think of it), and ready to conquer the world with our decidedly different sound, (Gordy Byrd still insists we were ahead of our time), the inevitable spanner in the works occurred, David Henman, who loves to rehearse, came to the conclusion that he wanted to pursue a different path and resigned first chair guitar. Oh dear…now what?

This is odd for me, because I draw a complete blank.

We replaced David, but…

I have absolutely no idea where we got the new guitar player. I do not remember what he looked like. I cannot remember his name. I cannot recall a single note he played.

I do remember that he was a really good player, which leads me to believe that Fred, our resident Genius, must have brought him into the fold.

Regardless of where he came from, it meant going back into that midget rehearsal room and doing some more rehearsing.

Oh Goody…

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A week at the Elmo…downstairs.

I think we played a couple of gigs to less than enthusiastic audiences in Montreal before I got the great idea of taking the band out of town to get some seasoning.

We got a weeklong gig at the prestigious El Mocambo in Toronto. A legend even then, it was the place to play in The Big Smoke.

At least the upstairs was.

We were booked into the downstairs bar. A dim, sullen room where fine local bands honed their skills, but people went mostly to drink and forget, and drink to remember, and just drink. I was completely unknown in Toronto, and the people who packed our nightly shows disguised as empty chairs will attest to that. It was one of those gigs from hell as far as response goes, (upon hearing a smattering of applause one night, Gordy leaned over to me and whispered, “Oh look. We woke a couple of them up”), but at the end of that week we were tight as hell and sounding absolutely great. But we never broke through to the audience.

It wasn’t that we were bad, on the contrary, we were one of the most musical and adventurous bands I had ever been in. With the jazz underpinnings, Gordy and my own rock and pop sensibilities, and Fred’s Mensa quality playing, we were cutting edge, entertaining, and sadly, out of step with every other band out there. If you looked hard enough, you could see the question marks over our audience’s heads…like a Felix the Cat cartoon.

When we would launch into the jazz/funk groove of the instrumental, Self Abuse, there they would be, eyes glazed over, beer halfway to their lips, and that question mark hovering above them like a halo,

It wasn’t pop, rock, or metal…it was…The Segarini Band. And playing to a group of people who were there to hear Satisfaction, Smoke on the Water, or Brown Eyed Girl, we were a fucking mystery.

When we got back to Montreal, I made the decision to pull the plug and rethink what it was I was going to do. I had learned some valuable lessons through all this, though. One was that I could write for and carry a band on my own as long as there were guys that shared the vision and were great players. And the other was clear as a bell.

Whoever, and whatever it was, it was going to be called The Segarini Band…and I would only rehearse at gunpoint.

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From Montreal to Toronto. La délocalisation en raison de le Douche Levesque…

After the unsuccessful, (though musically rewarding), attempt to form The Segarini Band, I took some time to rethink my goals and allowed myself to be swept up in the joy of the 1976 Olympics. As incredible as Montreal already was, the summer of 1976 elevated the city to magic. The weather was perfect, the city was full of revelers from all over the world, and our stomping grounds, rue de la Montagne and Crescent Street, were an all day, all night party. It was one of the best summers of my life.

A lot of local musicians got to “work” on the music for the Olympics thanks to Andre Perry, who hired French and English alike to “perform” the music, and paid handsomely for our services. And the perks! I don’t know what some of the other guys got, but thanks to Andre giving me a raft of tickets to the gymnastics events at The Forum, I was fortunate enough to see every one of Nadia Comaneci’s seven perfect 10’s with a cigarette in one hand, and a drink in the other.

Even though the summer was as outstanding as a summer could be, I still couldn’t stop thinking about putting together a band bearing my name and taking another run at recording and making music. As Montreal’s perfect bacchanalia of a summer turned into fall, a series of events transpired that would lead me to accomplish all the things I had been hoping to do.

The ‘series of events’ actually started in April of ’76, when Amy Mercedes Segarini was born. I hadn’t had much work since The Dudes and the short lived Segarini project had folded, but thanks to my patient, understanding, supportive, and long-suffering wife being an adult with a job, we squeaked by with her income and help from my folks. We had a great little flat in N.D.G on Marcil Street that cost a whopping $140 dollars a month, a brand new daughter to raise, and of course, my idiotic lifestyle to support. It was, in retrospect, a period of my life I am not too proud of. On top of that, in November of ‘76, Rene Levesque became Premier of Quebec, and like the weather, the vibe in Montreal grew cold and grey for most Anglos, and work for English performers pretty much dried up downtown, with only the West Island bars still booking English speaking bands regularly. Even the Musician’s Union vowed that I would have trouble working in Montreal, and accused me, and the bands I had been a part of, of taking work away from French speaking bands. It wasn’t true, of course, but that attitude certainly put a damper on things. Property values started to plummet in English speaking areas of the Island, corporations like Sun Life began to move out of the Province, and the city that had once welcomed The Wackers with open arms, turned cold and distant as the snow started to fall.

On the plus side, thanks to Levesque’s 1200 cigarettes a day habit, you could smoke in elevators, nurseries, and hospitals.

To many in Quebec, Rene Levesque was, and is, a hero. You can see what he accomplished here.

A tragic accident in February of ’77, (Rene struck and killed a pedestrian with his car while, (allegedly), intoxicated and with a woman other than his wife at his side. The incident, (and resulting divorce), failed to slow him and his territorial imperative down, and at one point, after we left Montreal, he wanted to put a big red “A”, (for Anglais), sticker on the mailboxes of English speaking residents, but cooler heads in his government prevailed.

As a result of the jingoistic, Francophone climate attendant to Levesque’s election, living in Montreal became increasingly uncomfortable for my little family, and as much as we loved the city and our friends there, we began contemplating moving back to Northern California.

A great friend named Marty Melhuish offered an alternative solution.

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Marty, Marsden, and maybe Moses…

Martin Melhuish and I have been friends for a long time, and we remain friends to this day. A gifted writer, and a wonderfully dry Wit, Martin has been there and done that countless times. Check out some of his work here.

He is also a fine producer and writer of radio, television and DVD documentaries.

If it wasn’t for Martin, there would have been no phase two of The Segarini Band. Not remembering how we met, I emailed Marty last night and asked him if he could recall the circumstances, This was his response:

I remember I moved to Montreal in 1976 but just prior to that I used to crash at your place on Marcil when I came to town. That was before I had the house of legend at 7 Burton that a couple of years ago rated a two page spread in the Gazette with the stories of the artists and other eccentrics that came to stay or play during that period between 1977 and 1984. Simon Fuller (Spice Girls, American Idol etc.) lived there on and off for about a year around 1981. We enjoyed a few musical adventures together both here and in England. He had showed up in town with a group called the Teen Beats from Hastings, England, his hometown, and was having trouble keeping the band at the Crescent Street Hotel. He was in Thursdays talking to a couple of the waitresses and they had suggested he call me and gave him my number. The band ended up staying at the house for a month or two and Simon used it as his pied a terre over here as he plotted his takeover of the North American music market. Ah the dreams of youth… but didn’t he just go and bloody well pull it off! I don’t remember doubting that he’d make some sort of an impact. He had a passion for pop music like few people I knew at the time… and you couldn’t argue with him about it. He was very definite about what he thought would work or not work. Sass Jordan was there at that point but her gig on Idol many years later had nothing to do with knowing Simon back then. He was surprised when he heard she got the gig

I had met Doug Pringle at CHOM in Montreal in 1976 when Ritchie Yorke, who had the Zeppelin book, and I, with the BTO book, did his radio show. Pringle and I hit it off immediately. Shortly after that we started doing some radio stuff together, including the nationally-syndicated Pringle Program, some management, concert promotion, radio marketing etc. Pringle had done that record with Randy (Don’t You Worry). It occurs to me that we probably met around ’76 through Pringle… and I think Crescent Street (the Wrong Number, Thursday’s etc.) was prominent in both our lives at that point. I know that Billboard’s Canadian office, which I was overseeing during that period, was at the back of Thursdays next to the jukebox.

I think our Costly Productions escapade was around 1977, perhaps 1978, because I was commuting back and forth from Montreal to record the Pringle Program at CKFM’s studios at Yonge & St. Clair (the Standard syndication division owned the show) and had Toronto digs at a house owned by the lovely Lori McGoran, Greg Godovitz’s ex-wife and now married to Michael Cohl. I remember Thunder Sound and David Marsden. I don’t remember meeting Moses at that point. I think that the studio had been sold and had new owners who didn’t know better than to let us loose in the place. But we did your EP there, which we convinced Gerry Lacoursiere to take a shot with, God bless him! Remember it was that era of punk and New Wave and you were getting out in front of that. There was also the stuff you produced for Costly with Thundermug and Jane Moulton. She didn’t do a bad job on Oh How We Used To Dance, one of your songs that I always believed deserved a better fate… but hey, it’s still alive. I think B.B. Gabor may have actually played on her version. Can’t forget one of our greatest allies during the Costly days… Bernie the Attorney. He gave us more breaks than we probably deserved. 

Those were fun days and there are so many more stories but you asked how we met and I think I’ve already taken a circuitous route to basically say, I’m not sure… but, in the end, a hell of a good time was had by all!

Marty

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Marty and I had hit it off when we first met, and he was ping-ponging back and forth between Montreal and Toronto. We raised a little hell in both cities from time to time. Martin’s house in Montreal became a haven for musicians and musos. both local and touring, and a crash pad for the lazy, stoned, or destitute players that had a friend and fellow music lover in Marty, who took in everyone that needed a place to hang. Even a teenaged Erica Ehm spent time there before moving to Toronto and a still flourishing career in the entertainment business.

One evening, I mentioned to Martin that I needed to put a band together and record again and he suggested I come down to Toronto with him and meet some people he knew there that had just bought a recording studio. He said he thought they might volunteer some studio time if he introduced me and put in a good word. That is when the weekly Turbo trips started and my love affair with Toronto began. Martin and I formed a little company called Co$tly Productions and went to work…if you want to call it that. It was the spring of 1977 when we made the first trip.

The studio was called Thunder Sound, and it was located in a building that was called the Stone Church…which was…a Church!..at least until the studio went in, then it became a temple.

Marty and I arrived in Toronto around 10:00 pm that first night, and went directly to the studio. We were buzzed in and led to the basement, where we were met by the two guys in charge.

David Marsden, and I think, Moses Znaimer.

Moses, on his way to being a media and television giant, and David (Dave Mickie) Marsden, the only Canadian DJ in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.

I had no idea who they were at the time. If I had known, I would have been more nervous than I already was.

We hunkered down in the basement lounge and Martin took the floor…

I do not recall exactly how it came about, (if I get any of this wrong, Marty will correct me), but by the end of the meeting I had the use of their little 8-track demo studio and a young engineer, (18), named Brian Fitzgerald.

Faith from strangers, and a fresh start in a new city, thanks to Martin Melhuish.

Now to find some musicians…

Next: The Second Incarnation of the Segarini Band

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Segarini’s regular column appears here every Monday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

Bob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now publishes, edits, and writes for DBAWIS, continues to write music, make music, and record.

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