Airdate – Mar 06, 2022
On February 3 this year, we lost one of Canada’s premier singers, a man who sang backup for recording artists such as Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Cher and Mavis Staples.
In 1971 he successfully auditioned for lead vocalist in a pop/rock band based in Vancouver, a band which would go on to have a Top Ten hit on the Billboard Hot 100 … a band who can thank rockabilly legend Ronnie Hawkins for their start …
Upset by his keyboardist lack of presence on stage, Ronnie Hawkins fired him after one of his concerts, pulling the lad aside and telling him, ‘Son, you play like Beethoven, but look like a cadaver on stage, so I’m gonna have to fire your ass.’
With that, the keyboardist and his wife at the time, B.J. Cook, moved back to the West coast of Canada, where they were both born.
Back in Vancouver, they began seeking out talent to form their own band, reconnecting with former Hawkins’ bandmate Steven Pugsley and with former members of a previous group B.J. Cook had been a part of.
One of B.J. Cook’s connections was the late Donny Gerrard whose baritone sound left an indelible impression on Cook’s husband and keyboardist, David Foster. Yes that David Foster … the formidable composer/arranger who would go on to produce studio albums with Quincy Jones, Celine Dion, Chicago, The Payolas, Kenny Rogers, Lionel Richie, Barbara Streisand and others.
Gerrard’s voice really stands out on the band’s 1972 self-titled album. Some say that the hit single that came from the album was made for him to sing.
That hit single made it to #9 position on the Billboard 100 in 1973, remaining on those charts for 21 weeks. The song earned additional royalties due to the fact that it was covered by Johnny Mathis, The O’Jays, Kenny Rogers, and Aaron Neville.
So who wrote the song? It was originally written as a poem by Saanich (Vancouver Island) rookie policeman, Dave Richardson, for his girlfriend after a tough shift she had endured as a nurse at Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria, BC. He passed it on to his friend, David Foster, who was looking for material for his new band, Skylark.
Sadly, the group disbanded in 1973 as it was unable to come to an agreement with Capitol Records to satisfy all its members.
A Top Ten one-hit wonder by Billboard standards, here’s Skylark with “Wildflower,” this week’s Tom Locke moment in time.
YouTube video of this song: