Rick Keene Music Scene – A Backstage Pass

Smoke is behind the curtain and mirrors are in front of it.

Any person involved in some capacity within the entertainment business is well aware – entertainment is not as magical as it appears. To keep the ‘spell’ alive in both the souls of the entertainers and the audience, humanity and the various sordid (and not so sordid) tales must rise above the dark and often murky business waters.

A Backstage Pass will allow some insights into the other side of midnight and shed light on the dark recesses of unused amplifiers and discarded condoms. During the Covid epidemic ( the proper definition of any disease that targets the aged and sick for a short period of time), A Backstage Pass is a portal. In many ways, it explains the media – promotion relationship so important to defining the smoke and mirrors which are essential to musicians and songwriters. It also is a magnifying glass into the relationships between musicians and the reason the closeness of the craft creates art perennially. Please enjoy.

Tom Cochrane

A Backstage Pass – The Ugly Ducklings Chapter One

Once upon a time in a Rock n Roll galaxy far, far away – there was a Canadian band with the moniker The Ugly Ducklings. The group was formed in 1965 with Dave Bingham (lead vocals, harmonica), Glynn Bell (Rythym), Roger Mayne (lead guitar), John Read (bass), and Robin Boers (drums). Their sound was reminiscent of bands such as The Kinks, The Rolling Stones and The Who. Unlike The Beatles and The Beach Boys’ sound that every teenager in the world was desperately attempting to capture – The Ugly Ducklings preferred the raw choppy sound instantly labelled as ‘Garage Rock’ . The very sounds that were a precursor to The Ramones and The Clash. A pre – cursor to Punk Rock.

The Ugly Ducklings

The Toronto- based group released six singles in 1966 and 1967 and one album; Somewhere Outside in 1967. In the summer and fall of 1967, the band’s song “Gaslight” became a Top Forty Hit across Canada, peaking at #17 on the RPM Chart and reaching #1 on CHUM 1050 in Toronto. Gaslight shoved The Rolling Stones aside from the charts and displaced The Stones’ “Dandelion” and the B Side “We Love You”. The Ugly Ducklings left their mark by also having three of their singles on the local 1050 CHUM AM charts in Toronto.

Like many tales in the naked city of Rock n Roll, success does not guarantee anything. In a world where one soap detergent quickly replaces another – The Ugly Ducklings were never able to duplicate or grow upon their initial success. Life goes on. Band members toss away their dreams (and groupies) and settle in. Jobs replace dreams and families interrupt the creative garage jams with rattles, homework and tons of bills. Music evolves into a pastime rather than a growing concern.

Lead Singer Dave Bingham

Sleight of Hand Chapter Two

Once upon a time in a Rock n Roll galaxy closer than the earlier one, there was a Canadian band with the moniker Sleight of Hand. The group was based out of Peterborough, Ontario, yet in true Rock n Roll nature – the five headed monster lived more of a gypsy-like existence. The band was co founded by Gary Hornbeck, a well known session guitar player in Eastern, Southern, Western and Northern Ontario. The middle of the conservative Province? Sure … why not? Gary had a cup of coffee in the show opening up for Molly Hatchett in Florida before returning to Ontario.

Sleight of Hand

Sleight of Hand were a Bluesy, Chunky, Southern blend of Rock n Roll and riffs. Within the band lay a chemistry that is essential to any type of success and / or relationship. A musical balancing of atoms and ions and electrons and any word that ended in ‘ons’. Onstage, creating monumental openings and closings with classic covers from the likes of Grand Funk Railroad and Bad Company. In between – their own musings were introduced , tried out and perfected with the energy of the crowd dictating the twerking of the content later in studio. The Rock songs were authentic, crisp and sound. The ballads were heartfelt. Perfectly placed solos created crevasses in which a tear could fall.

Sleight of Hand consisted of Marty Hepburn – Les Paul & bkg. vox ,Whitey Somers – Bass & bkg. vox, Gary Hornbeck – Fender Stratocaster, Dave “Stix” Bourque – Drums and the former singer songwriter of The Ugly DucklingsDave Bingham on lead vocals.

Bingham and Hornbeck were friends and after years of working ‘day jobs’ – Bingham, once again, poised to hit the big time as Sleight of Hand won radio station Q107’s Homegrown Contest in Toronto and several other contests in Ontario. Confabbing Bingham’s uncanny ability to write catchy and pure Rock songs and with a cast of characters as solid as Mark Messier as the captain of a hockey team, Sleight of Hand were rising and rising fast. Marty and Gary’s weaving, interchanging chords and leads. Whitey’s rock solid way of keeping the balloon from floating away and Bourque’s metronome pounding all complimented Bingham’s legacy and prowess on vocals.

With Bingham and Hornbeck leading the way – the group was penciled in as an opener for The Jeff Healey Band. A shot at recognition for Bingham he never had with The Ugly Ducklings – a shot in his home country with a profound Canadian star.

Once upon a time in Rock n Roll galaxies far, far away – there were two Canadian bands with the monikers The Ugly Ducklings and Sleight of Hand. Two entities with one common denominator; Dave Bingham. A music every-man representing the millions of musicians and songwriters who have never received the accolades they deserve.

Raise a glass to the hard working musician.

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