Roxanne Tellier – Grant Fullerton … King of the Road
In 1967, the Song of the Year was “Canada” by The Young Canada Singers. I was a geeky, gawky Montreal teen with cats eye glasses and a bad perm. My season’s pass to Expo 67 made me feel like a citizen of the world.
But in Toronto, another kind of world was coming together; one of young, talented musicians who’d flocked to Yorkville to find fame, if not fortune.
Grant Fullerton was one of them.
Stitch in Tyme – Grant Fullerton is seated on the far Right
He and his band,the Untouchables, had been making waves in Halifax, Nova Scotia, before being signed to Yorkville Records and changing their name to Stitch in Tyme. They soon became one of the hottest bands on the Yorkville scene, and the release of their Beatle’s cover, “Got To Get You Into My Life,” made its way up the charts, ending in 36th position of top songs of 1967.
And then, the band broke up, as bands often do under pressure. That fall, Fullerton got a call from Skip Prokop, who wanted Fullerton to play bass in a venture he was putting together called Lighthouse. Fullerton, along with former bandmate Pinky Dauvin, joined Prokop and Paul Hoffert in their new 13-piece rock group that added instruments considered more classical, such as cellos, violins and horns, to the rock triumvirate of guitar, bass and drums.
The band debuted at The Rockpile in Toronto on May 14, 1969, and then went on to a slew of high profile gigs, including a concert at Carnegie Hall, before playing the Fillmore East and West, the Atlantic City Pop Festival, the Boston, Monterey, and Newport Jazz Festivals, and a free summer concert at Toronto City Hall, that reportedly drew 25,000 fans.
Fullerton stayed with Lighthouse long enough to record on their first three albums – including Lighthouse, Suite Feeling, and Peacing It All Together – and to ride the final days of the 60’s pop festival phenom, playing with the likes of Led Zeppelin, Santana, Cream, The Doors, Chicago, Miles Davis, The Who, and The Band.
Fullerton then made a decision he would eventually regret, leaving Lighthouse to follow his own dreams. A succession of other bands followed, including Mudflat and Friends, and Fullerton Dam (with drummer Steve Negus of later Saga fame,) releasing one album, Breaks, before disbanding.
He then went solo as Grant Fullerton, releasing the single “Lenny,” from the 1981 EP Killers The success of the single lead to yet more touring, with yet another band.
And then ..stuff happened. Well, actually, in the biz, it’s when nothing happens that stuff happens. And in due time, my stuff stopped happening as well, and I wound up bartending in a joint on the Danforth called Quinns… And that’s when I met Grant.
In the early 80’s, Quinns had a rocking downstairs bar, and a smaller, faux British,trad pub upstairs. I’d work the downstairs room on the weekends, and spend the early part of the week polishing the brassrails and pulling pints upstairs. Hey … it was a living. And it meant I got to meet a lot of very cool musicians who were working the singles market during the quieter days.
One of those was Grant.
We clicked right away. He and I have that same open, laughy, kissy, instant friend kind of vibe, so it was a done deal immediately. And when he’d be our feature for the week, I knew I’d spend a lot of time on stage with him, and it was all good … to this day, the minute he lays eyes on me, he starts singing this song we’d often do together …
I lost track of Grant in the mid 80’s, but the next thing I heard was that he was on the other side of the bar; he’d bought a restaurant up in Stouffville, ON. After 25 hard years on the road, it seemed like the time to settle down, and so Fullerton’s was born. In no time, he’d organized regular jam nights that pulled in players that kept the audience in awe, guys like Danny Marks and Mike McKenna, and including Klaatu’sTerry Draper and Dee Long, Rich Washbrook, Dough Pypher, John Dickie and Brad MacDonald. In 1994, a celebrity session was taped, recorded by Bobcast buddy Alec Fraser, and Fullerton’s Celebrity Jam: Volume One was released.
Fullerton’s (the restaurant) closed in 2003 and once again, Grant was in the wind. We Facebook friended each other, and I’d occasionally hear of sightings, of fun gigs on boats, and in far flung places, of winters spent in warmer climes, but I couldn’t seem to connect with the man. Still, he seemed well and healthy, as charismatic as ever, and still playing .
That changed a few weeks ago, when we heard that Grant would be playing a club just a few miles from us, in Pickering, at the Stone Corner Pub. The place was packed with long-time Fullerton fans, and Grant was in fine form, greeting every one as he setup his gear, setting the tone for an evening where the audience could experience his dynamic one-man show of classic covers, all done in his own inimitable, powerful, and unparalleled style.
And, post-set, Grant spoke to each and every one of those fans, greeting them by name, and sharing a joke, making his way through the crowd like the rock star he was born to be. We had a lovely chat, with lots of hugs and laughter, and he gave me a copy of his 2009 indie release, Lotta Miles on Me, on which he’s joined by stellar players; Penti Glan on drums, Omar Tunnoch on bass, Michael Fonfara on keys, Steve Kennedy on sax, (Rick Morrison – sax on The Mangler) with Betty Richardson and Gail Berry on background vocals. You can hear the entire CD here:
Grant’s summer is filled primarily with private parties, but you can catch him at the Queens Hotel in Barrie on Friday, June 3, from 5:30-9:30 pm, and at the Cove Inn in Westport, ON, on Friday, June 24,starting at 7pm.
For more information, check out his web page (http://grantfullerton.weebly.com)
Roxanne’s column appears here every Sunday
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Roxanne Tellier has been singing since she was 10 months old … no, really. Not like she’s telling anyone else how to live their lives, because she’s not judgmental, and most 10 month olds need a little more time to figure out how to hold a microphone. She has also been a vocalist with many acts, including Tangents, Lady, Performer, Mambo Jimi, and Delta Tango. In 2013 she co-hosted Bob Segarini’s podcast, The Bobcast, and, along with Bobert, will continue to seek out and destroy the people who cancelled ‘Bunheads’.