Canadian Nuggets - The records that deserve another listen.
Updated: Feb 4, 2021
Canadian bands produced some great records back in the 1960s, and some of them became big hits in the United States. Somehow, there are many that never made it south of the border, and these records certainly deserve a second chance. Let's take a look at some of these records.
49th Parallel: Laborer
Released on RCA Victor in Canada, this Alberta group scored a #1 hit on CKXL in Calgary in the summer of 1967, even beating out an album cut from The Beatles ("A Day In The Life"). The record was also a hit on stations in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, but it never charted nationally. With the exception of appearing on Orlando's WLOF Funderful 40 for one week, the record never made it south of the border.
When it comes to lamenting about the relentless slave driving employers, this record ranks up there with Cat Stevens' "Matthew & Son," Lee Dorsey's "Working In A Coal Mine," and The Move's "Ben Crawley Steel Company." The record gets spins on Jumpin' Joe's Basement Show.
Five Man Electrical Band: Private Train
Upon changing their name from The Staccatos, The Five Man Electrical Band released "It Never Rains on Maple Street" on Capitol Records. However, it's the flipside, "Private Train," that got spun on 1050 CHUM in Toronto reaching #27 on the CHUM Chart. Both sides of the record reached #11 on CJKL in Kirkland Lakes, Ontario and the B-side hit #37 nationally in Canada.
Featuring psychedelic vocal harmonics, the record wasn't heard outside of Ontario, and soon went into oblivion. If it wasn't for a February 1969 recording of the Jack Armstrong Show on 1050 CHUM, the record might still be lost and long forgotten about, but today it's on display down in the basement.
Though not a breakthrough hit, the Five Man Electrical Band would eventually find success across Canada and the United States in 1971 with "Signs." The follow-up did almost as well ("Absolutely Right").
Chessmen: Love Didn't Die
Released on Mercury Records in late 1965, "Love Didn't Die" was a hit in Vancouver reaching #6 on CFUN. Somehow, this great record never made it outside of British Columbia. The song was written and sung by Terry Jacks, who would later find fame with The Poppy Family.
The Poppy Family: Which Way You Going, Billy?
An outlier in this post because this song was a huge hit in both Canada and the U.S., but has since been lost in time. Released in September of 1969, The Poppy Family's "Which Way You Going, Billy?" quickly hit number 1 on radio stations all across Canada. The record would eventually make it's way onto the CKLW Big 30 in early 1970.
Thanks to their powerful daytime signal, CKLW was heard crystal clear in Cleveland, Toledo, most of Michigan, and northern Indiana. With that kind of reach, it would be a matter of time before the song got requested on Chicago's WLS, where it reached #3 in March of 1970. The song was also a big hit on Cleveland's WIXY 1260. The song just missed the #1 spot in the United States, but was a slam dunk #1 in Canada.
The Checkerlads - Shake Yourself Down
The word shake appears in the song title so you'd be correct in guessing that it's a movin' and groovin' foot stompin' garage rock floor shaker. The record moved it's way to #6 on hometown radio station CKCK in Regina, Saskatchewan in August of 1966. Somehow, this record didn't make it's way to stations in other Canadian provinces, let alone south of the border. The group disbanded not too long after it's release, but they've been immortalized on Canadian and other garage rock compilations. The original 45 sells for about $100.
David Clayton-Thomas - Brainwashed
Long before his days with Blood Sweat and Tears, David Clayton-Thomas released some killer records up in Canada that never made their way to the United States. With the Fabulous Shays, Clayton-Thomas released "Take Me Back" in July of 1965. It received airplay in western Canada and even made it to #39 on the CHUM Charts. The song was played in the mid-2000s when CHUM was still an oldies station.
It's the July 1966 release of "Brainwashed" that got the attention of listeners, especially in Alberta where the song hit #2 on CJCA in Edmonton. Nationally, the song reached #11 in Canada. "Brainwashed" is a hard and heavy Vietnam War protest song with some intentional (or unintentional?) censoring beeps. The content is perhaps the reason that this song, as big as it was in western Canada, never made it across the border. Gordon Lightfoot would have a similar issue in 1968.
Gordon Lightfoot - The Way I Feel / Black Day In July
Before having a #5 hit in the United States (#1 in Canada) with "If You Could Read My Mind," Lightfoot released several records up in Canada, including "The Way I Feel" in the spring of 1967. Much like Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence," the song, which appears on his debut album, was electrified for his second album and single release. The song reached #21 on CHUM, #11 on CFOS in Owen Sound, Ontario, and hit #2 on CFUN's All-Canadian Top 10 in June of 1967. The song never made it across the border.
In 1968, Lightfoot released "Black Day In July," a powerful (and highly underrated) song capturing the tension and trauma of the 1967 Detroit riots. The song reached the top 10 on radio stations all across Canada, but did not get played on American radio stations. Rumor has it that many American radio stations refused to play the song in fear of causing unrest as the song was released around the time of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Guess Who - Multiple Songs
Originally known as Chad Allen & The Reflections, and later The Expressions to prevent confusion with Detroit's Reflections, The Guess Who got their name thanks to a publicity stunt by Quality Records. With the release of "Shakin' All Over," the record company attempted to create mystique by labeling the band as "Guess Who?" Because the record was a smash hit in the United States, DJs continued to refer to the band as The Guess Who, and the name change became official.
The band wouldn't have another major American hit until the 1969 release of "These Eyes," a record propelled into the United States thanks to heavy airplay on CKLW. In-between, the Guess Who released some absolute killer rock & roll records that failed to cross the border. October of 1965 saw the release of "Hey Ho What You Do To Me," which hit #1 on CKPR in Thunder Bay, Ontario and #2 on hometown radio station CKY in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
In February of 1966, the band released "Believe Me," a foot stomper with a Zombie-esque keyboard solo that hit #8 on CKY, but somehow got ignored elsewhere. This record should have been a big hit, along with "It's My Pride," an absolute killer record that failed to get much airplay because it was released as a B-side, but has since been immortalized on the Nuggets II box set.
The moody and sour "Clock On The Wall" received airplay in Saskatchewan reaching #8 on CJME in Regina, and it got the attention of a Minnesota band called The Sounds Like Us, who released a cover of "Clock On The Wall" in 1967. The version from The Sounds Like Us was distributed nationally on Fontana, but failed to chart.
Eventually, The Guess Who struck gold with "These Eyes" (#1 on CHUM, #1 on WIXY, #3 on CKLW, #6 on the American charts and #7 on the Canadian charts) and their success continued in North America into the 1970s.
Jumpin' Joe's Basement Show is heard up in Canada on 106.9-FM in Kawartha Lakes, Ontario and worldwide at radiodowntown.ca on Sundays at 4:30pm (eastern).
Listen to the all-Canadian hour from show #089 that aired on January 30, 2021.