The Rascals Hit #1

"Dad, can I borrow the car for the night?"

Only, in this case it was more like , "Dad, can I borrow the car and drive several hundred miles with The Staccatos to do a show, then go to Toronto to see The Beatles"  I should be home in a few days".

And he said yes.


The Ottawa based Staccatos were, many years later, to be known as Five Man Electrical Band and to have a #3 North American hit with "Signs". They had a gig, in Barrie, Ont,, about… miles west of Ottawa, the origin of the journey and…. miles north of Toronto. Part of the traveling party was Nelson Davis, one of if not THE top DJ in Ottawa at the time .


Barrie, a small town known for ….. nothing, that I can remember. Well, wait. Jump ahead to 2005 to Barrie's Park Place and it's the site of Live 8 starring Neil Young. The Tragically Hip and Deep Purple.  Other Live 8 locations and performers around the world included London (Coldplay, the final appearance of the classic Pink Floyd line up), Philadelphia (The Black Eyed Peas with Rita Marley and Stephen Marley, Sarah McLachlan - with Josh Groban), Berlin (Green Day), Rome, and Paris. 

I'dbeen there as a pre-teen when driving back to Ottawa with my family from seeing cousins in Windsor, just across from Detroit. I remember sweltering heat, no air conditioning while trying to sleep in a hotel and my dad actually getting the car up to about 60 miles an hour on the highway before my mom told him to slow down.   


This gig turned out to be an interesting show in several ways. The Staccatos were the opening act in a show seemingly featuring "stars of the future" but they all had experienced a level of success in the music world. The venue was what seemed like a kind of ski chalet…the crowd was on the floor and the bands were about two stories up from there. Well, that's how I remember it.


Another interesting point were the performers themselves. 

Well, let's see. There were The Staccatos as I mentioned, and they went on first. Then this guy came after them with a voice only a God could provide…BJ Thomas, years beforeraindrops kept falling on his head, but he'd hit the charts with his exceptional but pop version of a Hank Williams tune, "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry".  That got this Texan's career going and evidently got him on the road, now including Barrie. At the end of the day he was to turn to The Staccatos as he left the building saying, "See you in the big time". I guess he liked them.


Next, a band but really a singer with a back up band. I remember seeing them drive into the parking area before the gig….one very packed station wagon…the whole band and crew and instruments. In one station wagon. But I wanted to see this guy because I had enjoyed his great song " Solitary Man", a kind of folk-rock tune with just a beautiful feel. His name? Neil Diamond. And he wasn't the headliner. He barely had recorded any hits but "Solitary Man" got him going. And I have absolutely no memory of his performance.


And then the headliner. While we were in Barrie they were informed their latest release had gone #1 in the U.S. A song called "Groovin'" . I"m not sure if they had changed their name from The Young Rascals to The Rascals yet, but it didn't matter. Despite the fact their guitarist was Ottawa-born and New York raised, I, as a percussion freak from the age of five wanted to watch, not just listen to, but watch their drummer, Dino Donelli. Prior to his rock days he had played in lounge bands, mostly soft jazz and had performed in Ottawa at times. But now he was a rock drummer extraordinaire..a show drummer who not only drove the band with his solid approach to percussion but also moved in such a way you couldn't take your eyes off him.

Due to my status as…..driver, I guess…. for The Staccatos … I got a ring side seat, right off stage left and was able to observe Dino as up close as you can get without being out there with him. He had these moves, very sudden yet smooth, where he'd not only hit the drum, cymbal and back again but his head would follow on the beat. It was like he was conducting the band from behind with his head. 

Remarkable drumming and a great show by the band in general.


The next day, a bunch of us were out in the hotel parking lot after a rain storm and The Rascals' van was up to its axles in mud. It was a good thing we were on site at the time. The bunch of us kept pushing that thing until it finally got free and off went The Rascals to the next gig. But not before someone yelled from the hotel wind.."Stop!!!" Everybody stopped. " Groovin; : just went to #1 on the charts". 

Covered in mud we all cheered. I should have taken the hint there…covered in mud when they heard they were #1.

That's show biz. 


We left for Toronto in a rain storm, had a flat tire which Nelson and I changed while getting drenched and then made it to Toronto. I bought tickets the afternoon of the show to see The Beatles at Maple Leaf Gardens. 

Nice trip.