Cameron Carpenter: Rock’n’Roll Rewind – Crazy Talk With Bill Henderson

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This week we rewind to the winter of 1978. On top of writing for a few magazines I would occasionally be commissioned to write a band biography for a record company. It’s pretty scary that the money for doing so is still about the same as back in the seventies. A&M Records in Canada used to print their own newsprint paper “Prime Cuts” that they would distribute in record stores across the country. To the unaware it looked like another rock magazine but the only artists they featured were on their label. There was nothing wrong with this as it was clearly stated in the masthead and their rooster was diverse enough to make it an interesting read. Most of the pieces were pretty light-weight (hey, they were trying to sell albums) and this is one that I wrote about the band Chilliwack. Thanks to Jim Monaco for giving me the gig so many years ago.

Collectors

  1. You’re a hippie in Vancouver. Sitting in a seedy east-side bar called “The Torch”, digging a band called The Collectors, led by some dude calling himself Bill Henderson. 1978. Your hair is in a neat perm and you have your own dental practice in Toronto. Last Christmas your thirteen year old daughter asked for an album by a band called Chilliwack. You thought nothing of it until you started to wrap it up, when you read the back credits you noticed it was recorded in Vancouver. Looking more closely you saw that some dude calling himself Bill Henderson was the singer and guitarist. It couldn’t be! It is!

SUN0513 ChilliwackFrom the ashes of THE COLLECTORS emerged BILL HENDERSON and CHILLIWACK in 1970. The band rose to fame with hit singles Lonesome Mary and Groundhog, it seemed that they might make it but they fell as quickly as they rose. A few years after this the reformed band released an obscure single called Crazy Talk. It went top ten all over Canada, but once again the band didn’t get the follow-up support they so desperately needed. In the summer of ’77 an album called DREAMS, DREAMS, DREAMS was released. Suddenly the single Fly at Night exploded onto the Canadian and American charts. This single was followed by the beautiful ballad Baby Blue and again the band had a hit.

CHILLIWACK had made it to the top again. More important the band knew what they had to do to stay there, and fortunately for them they had a record company that was new and willing to provide the band with whatever they needed. DREAMS went gold in Canada after three months, and platinum some time later. The album has sold over 100,000 copies in the United States which is unheard of for all but a handful of Canadian acts.

For their next album, LIGHTS FROM THE VALLEY, the band took its time and got everything done right. The album went gold in twelve days, and platinum in just under three months. It was well received in the States and has sold over 100,000 copies, and this is before the band toured there. They also had a hit single with Arms of Mary and a single on the charts now with Never Be The Same.

Chilliwack realizes that now they will have to work harder than ever. This summer the band went on a cross-country Canadian tour in support of LIGHTS. In the early fall they played some dates in Southern Ontario and Quebec at colleges and opened for bands like HEART in Montreal. In October and November the band will be hard at work in the States doing dates with major acts such as STYX. If the band is as well received in the States as they were in Canada this summer, this  will undoubtedly be their last tour as an opening act. When the tour is over, they will head back to Vancouver and into MUSHROOM STUDIOS to record their third album for MUSHROOM RECORDS.

Mushroom Records

Recently I had the pleasure of talking with the group’s leader and founder BILL HENDERSON. Henderson is responsible for writing some of the band’s material, including Baby Blue, Never Be The Same and co-writing Fly at Night, as well as being the lead vocalist and guitarist.

Bill

Me – Does “Dreams, Dreams, Dreams” represent a new Chilliwack?

Bill- “I guess you could say that. You can probably define it by going back one album. Ahead of ‘Dreams’, ‘Rockerbox’ was an album we went to New York to record. We had decided to hand the controls over to someone else. Well things didn’t turn out as well as we expected so when it came time to do ‘Dreams’ we adopted a different philosophy. We decided we were going to record in our own town, with a studio we know (Mushroom), with people we know, and we would do music that just happened to feel right to us”.

Was “Fly At Night” the song that really broke you?

“In the States it’s what broke us period. That was the first song that really hit in the States for us”.

“Crazy Talk” never made it down there?

“No, ‘Crazy Talk’ got played in a few places but that was about it. It goes back even further to ‘Lonesome Mary’. ‘Lonesome Mary’ went to number four in Boston and was a big hit in Philadelphia but we really didn’t have any support. We weren’t touring down there and the whole machine wasn’t really together. I believed in both of those songs, we had the record, but we didn’t have the machine behind it”.

Do you feel you have “the machine” behind you now?

“I think so, Mushroom is the best thing that has ever happened to us in the way of record companies. Mushroom is a smaller label so obviously they can devote more time to us. They also have energy to devote to each of their artists. They’re really balls of fire. They’re hot!”

Now that Canada and the United States have been exposed to the music of Chilliwack are there any plans to expose the band to European audiences?

“We haven’t signed record deal for Europe yet but we are working on it. There are some of our albums available over there on import and I know that some of our songs get played over there in Germany. I can’t wait to get over there and play, and that’s in the planning stages too”.

ZZZ009360-PP

Have you and the band reached the point where you can say you’ve made it?

“Well certain things have been achieved. Every night when we are playing live is a new challenge to me. If we don’t make it that night then I don’t feel very good. If I feel that I did make it, if I really got off and I really communicated to the people and they got off too, than that’s a real charge to me. That’s my whole reason for doing it, and every night is important. So as far as making it goes, that’s a tough one to measure. When I first started out all I wanted to do was make a record”.

Have the last twelve years been worth it?

“Oh yeah, I’m still doing what I want to do”.

How long do you think you can keep going?

“I think we can keep on going forever, there’s no reason to stop. The main thing with rock has always been the energy in it. It’s very direct and it’s very fierce and it’s not covered up with a lot of frills. It’s really there and that’s the whole core of it. As long as you’ve got that, you’ve got it all and you don’t have to be young in years to have it”.

Brian and Bill

Chilliwack has still got it. On stage their show is brimming over with energy. It’s not a show that is full of flash but rather one of direct and fierce energy. It’s no frills, but it’s good enough that it doesn’t need them.

BrianThroughout the years CHILLIWACK has been presented in many different forms, as it stands now the band is; BILL HENDERSON on lead vocals and guitar, BRIAN MACLEOD guitar and keyboards, AB BRYANT on bass, and BUCKY BERGER on percussion. The only soft spot for the band right now is the position of acoustic guitarist/back-up vocalist. This key member should be announced just prior to the band’s tour of the States.

The group’s next album should be available some time early next year and will contain a lot of material in the LIGHTS vein and a few surprises. The band will follow the release of the album with a tour of Canada.

After eight long years the fragmented pieces of CHILLIWACK seem to have finally come together into one solid unit. The band is progressing musically at an astonishing pace and by the end of next year they could be one of North America’s biggest acts.

Gone Gone Gone

=CC=

Hear Cam spin every Wednesday night beginning at 5 PM at The Kensington Lodge in Toronto.

Cam’s column appears every Thursday.

Follow Cam on Twitter @CC59.

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonCameron Carpenter has written for The New Music Magazine, Music Express, The Asylum, The Varsity, The Eye Opener, The New Edition, Shades, Bomp!, Driven Magazine, FYI Music News, The Daily XY, New Canadian Music

3 Responses to “Cameron Carpenter: Rock’n’Roll Rewind – Crazy Talk With Bill Henderson”

  1. Love this band…then and now. Terrific article.

  2. Hey, it was good to be a part of A&M’s diverse “rooster” (sic) way back when. 🙂 Thanks for the article guys. Very nice to see and I hope you’re all doing well. And thanks for your comment Sandra. Tonight we play for the folks in Halifax at the casino there. Just like Pat Boone and Elvis did in the 70s. Ha haa. It’s great work and I’m glad to have it for as long as I do. Best to all, Bill.

  3. I’m looking for Clair Lawerence ,if he is still around.

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