Airdate – Jul 03, 2022
In July of 1963, an R&B group that was part of the ‘Toronto Sound’ made history by becoming the first Canadian band to have a #1 hit on the Canadian charts.
Unbeknownst to many, the recording was actually a cover of a song that was originally released by a Los Angeles group two years earlier in 1961 …
The ‘Toronto Sound’ is best described as a sound that was heavily influenced by the R&B being played south of the border in the United States. Musically, its components typically consisted of heavy electric bass, New Orleans-style drumming, a dominant Hammond organ, and soul singing.
You could find this sound in two locations in Toronto. The first was Yorkville, then a center for entertainment that initially started out with a plethora of coffee houses that catered to folk music. Yorkville was soon “electrified” in the early 60s by R&B bands that began playing in many of the local clubs including The Riverboat, The Purple Onion, and The Embassy Tavern.
The second area for this sound was on Toronto’s main drag, Yonge Street between King Street and Bloor Street. There you could find many of the bands playing at venues that have become legendary – Le Coq d’Or, The Colonial Tavern, The Club Blue Note and Club 888 to name a few.
Most bands performed full shows complete with choreography and matching wardrobes.
Some of the Canadian bands and performers from that magical era include Little Caesar & The Consuls, David Clayton Thomas (who would go on to front Blood, Sweat & Tears), Jack London & The Sparrows (which morphed into Steppenwolf), and Ronnie Hawkins & The Hawks (with The Hawks becoming The Band).
Rivaling them during that era was our featured band, which formed in 1959 and became extremely popular in the early 60s. Their big break came when they decided to cover a song about a girl, originally recorded by the Sevilles, an R&B quartet out of Los Angeles who reached the 84th position on the Billboard Charts in the winter of 1961.
The Toronto group, known as Richie Knight & The Mid-Nights, took the song to #1 in Canada in 1963. In 2013, a second wave of this band performed at a reunion show in celebration of the song’s 50th anniversary. No one knows if the person being sung about was real or not – her name was “Charlena,” this week’s Tom Locke moment in time.
YouTube video of this song: