Segarini: The Story of The Segarini Band- Chapter Two

Chapter One can be found HERE

Okay, where do I find musicians in this Burg?

Thanks to Martin Melhuish, I have access to a small, 8-track studio in the basement of Thunder Sound in Toronto.

Armed with a couple of songs I had written in the first version of The Segarini Band, and the beginnings of a couple more, I started spending time in Toronto looking for musicians and finish writing the new tunes. Money was tight. When I couldn’t afford a room, I had met a woman, (a friend of a friend), who had an apartment not far from the studio, who let me sleep on her couch if I babysat her kid while she ‘worked’, so I had a place to stay. Eating was another problem. Most of the time it was baloney or ham sandwiches or the kindness of friends, but on Saturdays I usually ate like a King…and drank like a fish.

How, you ask?

Like this…

=0=

Necessity is the mother of audacity…and cake!

I had a suit left over from The Dudes. A beautifully tailored 3 piece, light beige number that was, at the time, a classy looking outfit that made me look a lot more affluent than I was. I kept it in Toronto so I had something nice to wear when I was looking for managers, labels, and having meetings with potential investors. It didn’t get worn much…except on Saturdays.

Don’t ask me how I first arrived at this brilliant, (and slightly larcenous), stroke of genius, because I cannot remember what sparked it. More than likely I was at the Royal York Hotel one Saturday to meet with someone and after the, (probably unsuccessful), conclave, wandered into the bathroom on the mezzanine…the floor where the ballrooms are located.

There were a bunch of similarly suited men in the bathroom, all talking amongst themselves at the urinals. I found an empty stall.

Around mid-flush, I smelled the pungent aroma of what turned out to be some pretty good weed. When I stepped out of the stall into the large, marble bathroom, it was into a circle of guys passing a joint around, and I was next in line. I took a toke, passed it along and said thanks to no one in particular. The guy next to me cracked a joke. I cracked a funnier one. Somebody topped that one as the joint came back around. I’m bonding with strangers in a bathroom.

“Hey, man”, the guy to my right says, “where are you sitting?”

“Nowhere yet”, I manage, “I just got here”, wondering exactly where ‘here’ was.

“Cool! You have to sit with us, man”, says my new best friend.

“Sounds good”, I answer, hoping I’m not on my way to a Young Druids of Canada goat sacrifice. I march out of the bathroom with my new pals…straight into a wedding reception.

Bingo!

We ate, we drank, I got up and sang a song with the band and toasted the bride and groom. At the end of the party I stuffed my suit pockets with rolls and an assortment of cold cuts, and was handed a container of wedding cake by a faced bridesmaid that explained she didn’t want it to ‘go to waste’.

It didn’t.

After that, The Royal York became my destination every Saturday, where I would sit in a stall in the can until another set of new best friends came in to smoke a joint, or comb their hair and rate the bridesmaids. Almost every Saturday resulted in a great meal of steak, prime rib, or chicken,, an open bar, and a suit full of rolls and cold cuts.

=0=

Oh yeah…back to The Segarini Band…

I think it was a relocated friend from Montreal, David Bendeth who turned me on to a young drummer named Mark Bronson. Mark volunteered his services for recording and brought along a bass player he liked, a good looking kid named Keir Brownstone.

I had a rhythm section…and what a great section they turned out to be.

Rounding out the band in the studio were guitar wunderkind David Bendeth and a killer singer/songwriter and guitar player named Gabor Hegedus, who later changed his name to B.B Gabor. I had come across Gabor playing jazz with Don Francks, at a little club upstairs from George’s Spaghetti House. We were also joined on one track by Ritchie Blackmore’s keyboardist, David Stone, and one track, (Don’t believe a word I say), was recorded by Greg Godovitz and Doug Ingles from Goddo and myself, after a drunken night of toasting the recently deceased King of Rock and Roll, arguing about who the best Elvis was: Early Elvis, Army Elvis, Movie Star Elvis, Vegas Elvis, or Lard Ass Elvis.

We were so loaded when we cut that track that I forgot we had done it until weeks later, when the engineer, (Brian), and I stumbled across it looking for room on a tape to cut another tune.

Two of the songs we recorded, Livin’ in the Movies, and Don’t believe a word I say, ended up on the Gotta Have Pop album. The other four, I Want You to Stay, I’m Not Your Fool. Wanna Get to Know You Better, and Starlight, became the first Segarini release. Thanks to Marty Melhuish, (again!), and Gerry Lacoursiere, the then president of A&M Records Canada, we released the first EP of the modern rock era in Canada. I remember having to explain what an EP, (Extended Play), record was. Basically, a 4 song 45. Not unusual in England, and a staple in the US during the late ‘50’s, they were practically unheard of in Canada in the ‘70’s. Gerry was not only taking a chance on my music, but the very format that it was being released on.

Taking a cue from the bubbling-under New Wave and Punk scenes, we shot a couple of Polaroid’s for the cover, Xeroxed them with a couple of paper clips, and I just scrawled my name across the top of the Xerox. I sent the cover and credits in to A&M and waited for the EP to be released. Six weeks later it still wasn’t out, so I called A&M and asked them what the delay was.

“We’re waiting for the cover art”, they tell me.

“You have the cover art”, I respond, “you’ve had it for over a month”.

“Nope”, the voice says, “all we have is a crappy Xerox copy.”

“That IS the cover!” I bellow into the phone.

“Oh. Okay…”

Two weeks later we had the EP in our hands…

=0=

Okay, we’re a band! Wait!…What? We’re not?

So now we have an EP out and The Segarini Band is at last, a living breathing thing.

Until David Bendeth informs me that he has other obligations.

Until Gabor rightfully decides to pursue his solo career and begins writing and recording some of the best music to come out of Toronto before or since.

Until Keir Brownstone leaves as well, and eventually surfaces as the bass player in Lorraine Segato’s wonderful Parachute Club

So now, armed with a new release on a Major Label (back when that was a good thing) and ready to start playing live to support it, The Segarini Band is a singing rhythm guitar player and a drummer. We could work strip clubs, or, with the addition of a monkey, a carnival midway.

=0=

Now what?

If not for the loyalty of drummer Mark Bronson, I don’t think I would have pursued this idea any further. Mark was all youthful optimism and energy, and he had a point: “We got a fucking record man, let’s DO IT!”

Who can argue with that?

I turned my attention to Montreal. My next trip home, I found myself in the West Island rock club The Edgewater, a damp, smokey basement that had been home to both The Wackers and The Dudes in the past, and was the club that featured nothing but good local bands downstairs, while high end bands from Jamaica and the other Islands plied the beautiful upstairs showroom. It was at The Edgewater  that I had first heard Brian Greenway and invited him to join the Dudes, and it was also to be the place where I would first hear the singer/guitarist that replaced Brian on the West Island as a local hero. His name is Michael St. Denis.

=0=

Mikey, Phil, Coffee, hash, and beans in the basement…

I forget the name of the band he was in, but they were dazzling the West Island with dead-on covers of un-coverable songs. The focus in the band wasn’t the cute blonde guy, (Brad?), that seemed to think he was, but Mikey, the unassuming guitar player that played his axe upside down and left handed. He was a killer player. Not only that, he had a high, clear, voice and could easily handle background harmonies as well as lead. The first time I saw the band they did a version of Bohemian Rhapsody including the hard to do accapella part that even Queen couldn’t duplicate live.

Very impressive.

I asked him to join The Segarini Band, and he asked if he could bring his favourite bass player and best friend into the fold. He could…and soon afterwards, I had a guitar player and bassist living in my basement in Toronto.

How did I get a basement in Toronto?

After the EP came out, A&M said to go ahead and finish an album, so I began work on what eventually became Gotta Have Pop. While working on the record, my wife and our newly hatched daughter came down to Toronto and, with my Mom in tow, we rented a suite at the Town and Country Inn across the street from the legendary late night eatery Dirty Louie’s, and with me in the studio and mom babysitting the baby, Cheryl went house hunting.

One afternoon in the studio I got a phone call from Chuck, (Cheryl’s nickname), informing me that she had found a great little house that was affordable, only a block away from the Bloor Street Subway line, and she loved it. I said, “Fine…sounds good to me.”

When I hung up, the engineer asked me where the house was, and I told him what she had told me, “Edabuhcoke.” He stared at me, a completely blank look on his face, then, he started laughing so hard, I thought he’d break a blood vessel.

“Okay, what’s so funny?”, I asked, wondering if Chuck had found us a house next to a tire fire or an airport runway.

He just kept laughing. I waited.

Finally, through the tears and catching his breath, he stammered, “It’s…not…Eda…buh…coke…it’s eh…toe…bah…coe”.

Then he picked up a pen and wrote it down.

Etobicoke

Looks like eda…buh…coke to me

=0=

We moved in shortly thereafter, and a couple of months later, Mikey and Phil took up residence in the basement until they could afford to get a place of their own. Cheryl and I hardly ever saw them.

We would work on the album, but when Mike and Phil were in the house, they rarely left the basement. I could hear them playing down there, getting the parts and jamming on favourite rock tunes, and even though we invited them up for dinner almost every night, they seldom joined us.

One afternoon I asked Phil, (Angers, pronounced “Ahn-shay”, how they were getting by, and he told me he cooked canned beans or stew on a 150 watt lightbulb in a lamp with a jury-rigged coat hanger stand over it, and Mikey usually just made coffee, subsisting mainly on Players cigarettes, and fine Montreal hash, which he somehow had in abundance.

Rock and Roll.

=0=

One night we were all sitting on the couch watching Deliverance on TV and discussing the band and what, or who else, we needed to complete the lineup and get a fuller sound. By the time the end of the movie rolled around, we were sitting there in a cloud of hash smoke, surrounded by a couple of overflowing ashtrays, and Mikey was working on his 10th cup of coffee. The creepy scene at the end of the film where Burt Reynolds’ arm comes up out of the water had just gone by and I looked over at Mikey and saw that he was convulsing, eyes rolled back in his head, and turning as white as a hotel sheet. At first Phil and I thought he was making fun of the movie’s scary little epilogue, but then we both realized something was horribly wrong.

Were we calm? Phil was…but I went all Foghorn Leghorn.

After yelling his name a few times and getting no response, I started punching him in the chest, like on TV…nothing. I remembered there was a phone in the kitchen and as I leapt up to use it, instructed Phil to keep hitting him.

How rattled was I? I dialed ‘0’, and in a voice at least two octaves higher than usual, shouted at the operator, “What’s the number for 9-1-1!?”

Politically correct or not, there are times when I am retarded.

If Mikey lives, I thought, I’m going to kill him.

=0=

“What’s the number for 9-1-1?”

Fortunately, I am spared further humiliation at the hands of the laughing operator by Phil shouting from the living room that Mikey was starting to go from hotel sheet white to a healthier ashen pallor. By the time I hung up the phone and walked around the corner back into the living room, Mikey’s eyes were fluttering open and the ashen pallor gave way to what we in the music business call a ‘studio tan’. He started to look like good old Mikey.

“What happened?”, he said, reaching for a Player and his lighter.

“I don’t know”, Phil and I said in unison. “When was the last time you had something to eat?” I asked.

“Eat?”, says Mikey.

“You know…food, vittles, (victuals), munchies, snacks…food.”, I’m wondering if he hasn’t fully regained consciousness.

“He ate a bag of chips last week”, volunteers Phil.

Oh boy.

At this point, Mikey gets up off the couch and leaves the room.

“Where are you going?” I shout after him.

“To get a cup of coffee and roll a joint.”

I would have expected no less.

=0=

More cowbell?, Nah…let’s add another guitar and a piano player.

Thanks to Mikey staying on this side of the lawn, The Segarini Band is still intact, but not complete. What, I ask myself, is missing?

I had always been in 4 or 5 piece bands until The Dudes, which was pumped up by adding a second drummer. Wayne Cullen and Ritchie Henman were awesome, and as good a combination as Ringo and Jimmy Keltner. At one point, The Dudes had also had a keyboard player, Leon Holt, who quit as we were loading our gear into Café Campus in Montreal, for our first live gig. I forget why he packed it in, but I missed his contribution, having been a big fan of the fullness and texture that keys add to a band that treads in deeper waters than the traditional 3 chord pond most rock occupies.

I had also been spoiled by The Dudes’ 3 guitar lineup and being able to double and triple guitar lines live, something most bands could only do in the studio.

My quest now, with the solid core of Bronson, Angers, and St. Denis in place, was to find another guitarist and a good keyboard player. They had to be great players of course, but I also hoped to find guys that were easy to get along with, and liked the music I wrote.

I would find one in Thunder Bay, and the other back in Montreal.

=0=

If the Shew fits…

I cannot remember what, or who, dragged me down to The Ports of Call, a kind of Strip Mall of clubs located on Yonge Street north of Bloor in Toronto. We were there to see a band from Thunder Bay, specifically, their guitar player, Peter Kashur.

After one set, I knew Kash was the right guy. After the set, Pete sat down with us and I asked him if he would be interested in joining The Segarini Band. He was. We talked music, guitars, you know, the usual musician talk, and I found Pete to be a bright, intelligent, and focused person. Strange, for a young guitarist back then. Great player, easy going, and a good fit for the rest of the guys. He has remained one of my closest friends for over 30 years. Thanks to the CCR List, Kashur became Cashew, became Shew…and a nickname is born.

=0=

Drew Winters…from Debutante to Dwew…

After they left April Wine, David and his brother Ritchie, formed a band called Silver and later joined The Dudes. After that, Ritchie had a band called Cruiser, and David went on to form a couple of other bands, Sensible Shoes, and The Debutantes.

The Debs started out with David joining up with the Buckles Brothers, who were passionate players with an extraordinary amount of stage presence, but often crazier than a box of shit-house rats. Into this Animal House Meets David Bowie band, David inserted a young, clean cut, and very talented keyboard player named Drew Winters, whose playing and vocals added a dimension to The Debs that elevated them into the West Island’s party band, and the resident circus at a place north of Montreal called Tara Lodge, which, shortly after their residency started there one summer, became better known as Terror Lodge. I have stories…

It was because of my friendship with David that I became aware of young Mr. Winters, and when I realized The Segarini Band needed a keyboard, it was Drew that I thought of. I am glad I did. Drew, like Peter, has remained a great friend for over 30 years as well.

=0=

Meanwhile…

While all of the above is going on, I get 2 phone calls that, though completely unrelated, combine to change the course of the Segarini project, and alter the playing field on which we were happily trying to score.

Greg Shaw, the journalist and muso behind the fanzine Who Put the Bomp, and Bomp Records, who had been a friend ever since articles he’d written about my previous bands in Rolling Stone, Creem, and other music periodicals, as well as the over-the-top liner notes to The Dudes album, called me from L.A and asked me if I would produce a few tracks for him of a band from Detroit called The Romantics.

Seeing as how Bob Mackowycz and I were already nuts for the band after seeing them at The Colonial, in Toronto, I couldn’t say yes fast enough. How this figures into the history of The Segarini Band, will be explained shortly.

The other phone call was from A&M Records. They had decided to pull the plug on my deal with them.

I was crushed.

A class act all the way, A&M gave me all the tapes and rights to the tracks I had already recorded towards Gotta Have Pop, and cut me loose, not because they didn’t like the music, but because they, “don’t know what to do with this”.

We didn’t fit the current crop of popular music being played on the radio, and we didn’t have any proven ability live. Once again, I was either ahead of, or behind the times.

Unable to continue recording, I took the opportunity to go to Detroit and produce The Romantics. I took the train to Windsor, and their managers picked me up and drove me directly to the studio. We parked in a laneway behind the studio and entered through the back door. 10 seconds down the hall, I realized I’d left my smokes in my suitcase, and we went back out to the car to retrieve them. The trunk had been popped open and everything was gone. My suitcase, boombox, phone book…everything. In less than 20 seconds.

Welcome to Detroit, 1978.

=0=

Gotta Have Pop finds a home…

I get another phone call from Greg Shaw in Los Angeles. He asks me if I can ‘shop’ the Romantics tapes to some Canadian labels, or find him distribution in Canada. A couple of days later, the phone rings again, and it is Phase One Studio informing me that A&M have released the Segarini tapes to me, and would I like to come and pick them up. I would, indeed. I tell them I’ll pick them up when I go out to shop the Romantics tapes in a couple of days.

The major labels I had called hadn’t shown much interest in hearing a band from Detroit called The Romantics, but some of the new, independent labels had shown some interest. There was one I thought would be perfect for the Detroit band. They weren’t even launched yet, but had released some leased recordings from England. And the owners were our age, and had the hippest record import business in Toronto. I didn’t know what the label was going to be called, but the import/distribution/one-stop was called PJ Imports, and they supplied all the imported albums from Europe, Asia, and England to the coolest record stores in Canada.

I was upset that I had to put my album on hold, but thankful for having the Romantics project to keep me busy, and, with the addition of Pete and Drew, I finally had a real live band. A really good band. It was just a cryin’ shame we no longer had a label…

=0=

Next: The Story of The Segarini Band Chapter Three

Segarini’s regular column appears here every Monda

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.

2 Responses to “Segarini: The Story of The Segarini Band- Chapter Two”

  1. Great stuff! Thank you for sharing Bob. Looking forward to the next chapter.

  2. […] Segarini: Don't Believe a Word I Say Just another WordPress.com site « Segarini: The Story of The Segarini Band- Chapter Two […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: