During the mid-‘60s, guitarist Stan Endersby was at the forefront of the Toronto music scene, playing with some of the city’s most experimental and musically inventive bands. As a member of The Tripp, Endersby worked alongside future singer-songwriter Neil Merryweather and pianist Rick Bell, who later played with Janis Joplin and The Band. Later, he travelled to England and led the Anglo-Canadian group Maple Oak, the band formed by ex-Kinks bass player Peter Quaife. The band issued a rare and now much sought after single for Decca and an album (recorded after Quaife’s departure) before the remaining members returned to Canada. Back home Endersby co-fronted Heaven & Earth, an interracial studio group that included former Paupers bass player Denny Gerrard and singer Rick James, who’d led The Mynah Birds during the mid-’60s and would later go on to become a superstar on Motown Records. The band released two rare singles for RCA Victor before splitting. From there, Endersby travelled to Los Angeles and worked on the New Wave scene for several years, before linking up with Bryan MacLean and Maria McKee. He was also involved in the Buffalo Springfield Revisited project for several years alongside original members Bruce Palmer and Dewey Martin. Since the late ’80s, he has continued to live and work in Toronto and is currently a member of the celebrated Ugly Ducklings who have just recorded a new album. This article is a culmination of an interview that took place in October 2000 and focuses on Stan’s early years in Toronto and London; we’ll try to pick up on the latter part of his career in a later issue.
PT: Stan, you come from an entertainment background. Can we start by looking at this period and how you first got involved in playing music?
Stan: My father was a dancer and an actor and originally came from England. He was in the RAF during the war and did ballroom dancing all through Europe. When he came to Canada he did a radio show for CBC about his dancing career, and that’s how my three brothers and I got on the show. There weren’t that many child actors in those days and there was a lot of live television in the early ’50s, so we all started doing TV shows. I’d be a boy scout in one and then do a car commercial or something like that. My brother Ralph went on to star in a series called the ‘Forest Rangers’ that was shown in about 43 countries. My other brothers went to England with my dad, but I stayed here. My dad also played the guitar and he taught me some Hawaiian slide guitar, and then when Elvis came along that really influenced me. I had a gold suit when I was about eight or nine and I used to imitate Elvis. Later on I ended up going to a garden fete in Rosedale and some older kids said I should go up on stage and sing an Elvis song. I went up and sang and the guy in the band said: "Hey, if you got a guitar and play a little bit you can join the band." The guy sold me his Harmony guitar and that’s how it all began.
PT: Your first group was The Omegas, which I believe featured future Toronto rock promoter John Brower. What sort of material were you playing with this group?
Stan: Yeah, it had John Brower, a drummer called Jeff Smith and Pat Godfrey on keyboards. We would go and play in Lake Simcoe and places like that. We basically did rock ‘n’ roll and some early R&B. We did a lot of Ray Charles and Chuck Berry stuff and also a lot of Jerry Lee Lewis material.
PT: You then went on to play with C J Feeney & The Spellbinders. I’ve heard that C J Feeney was quite a character. Could you tell us more about this group?
Stan: C J Feeney, or Lee Vanlear as he now calls himself, had one of the first Canadian records in Canada – ‘Candy Apple Rock’ or something like that, which came out around ’59. He was a keyboard player who played everything in C sharp. He was a lot older than us. We were all about 15 years old and he seemed ancient. He taught us some more R&B and we started doing things like ‘Monkey Time’ and the ‘Harlem Shuffle.’" (Feeney was also briefly involved with Jack London & The Sparrows, which later evolved into Steppenwolf – ed.)
PT: Your next group was Just Us, which contained some interesting local musicians. How did you become involved with this band and were any recordings made?
Stan: I was just joining the union at that time and they were already signed with the Big Land Agency. We did a lot of gigs around Toronto at high schools and we opened for a lot of visiting bands like The Byrds. We were essentially a pop/R&B band, we did everything a little bit fast (laughs) and we played all the R&B clubs in the Yorkville Village. At first we played mostly covers but we gradually brought in original material. Singer Jimmy Livingstone brought a song called ‘Scooby Doo’ from his previous band The Mynah Birds. (Rick James was joint lead singer in this band and future Buffalo Springfield members Bruce Palmer and Neil Young, and Goldie McJohn and Nick St Nicholas, who later played in Steppenwolf were also involved at one point or another – ed). ‘Scooby Doo’ was later used on Mandala’s album ‘Soul Crusade.’ In fact, we were all on that album doing hand claps. Jimmy also sang a cut on that album. Just Us did an album for Arc Records and it vanished with the producer. He went off to New York and we never saw that again. We also did some TV commercials at RCA. Nothing ever got released though.
Nick Didn’t Just Us release a single recorded before you and Jimmy joined the band?
Stan: Yeah, I think they did one as The Ouch-Picks and one as Just Us. (‘I Don’t Love You’ is currently available on the compilation CD ‘Nightmares From The Underworld.’)
PT: Could you tell us a bit about the Toronto scene at this time?
Stan: "It was a very interesting scene. It was just the end of the beatnik era, so there were still a couple of coffeehouses around and they started to have younger people play. People like (future Kensington Market members) Luke Gibson and Keith McKie were playing those places doing folk stuff. There was also the clubs in the Village like the Night Owl where we would play, as well as R&B venues like The Devil’s Den.
PT: Just Us was forced to change its name when an American group appeared on the scene in early ’66 with the same name.
Stan: Yeah, apparently the original producer, the guy who did the single on Quality, went to the States and thought the band had broken up and he used the name for this American group. They released this single called ‘I Can’t Grow Peaches On A Cherry Tree’ and everybody thought it was us. Our fans knew it wasn’t us but the radio stations didn’t, so we changed our name to Group Therapy when we opened for The Byrds at Toronto’s Varsity Arena on June 22nd. Then, some lawyer stopped us from using that name; I believe his kid was playing in some non-union band in Scarborough and they were called Group Therapy, so we changed it to The Tripp.
PT: That name sounds rather psychedelic. Was the music different to what you were playing in Just Us?
Stan: Definitely. It was very psychedelic. Our whole thing was, it wasn’t the drugs that got us high, it was the music. We helped to launch an updated version of a popular Canadian television news magazine program when it changed its name from ‘This Hour Has Seven Days’ to the ‘Sunday Show.’ They put a lot of money into filming our psychedelic numbers with lots of effects and lights and smoke machines. There was an article that said something like ‘the singer screams, howls like a chicken and never sings a word,’ I mean Jimmy Livingstone was very original, one of a kind. On the show Rick Bell would be inside his piano pulling at cables and I had a lipstick tube on the end of my guitar. It was all very bizarre.
PT: You never actually officially released any records, but presumably there must be some tucked away?
Stan: There wasn’t a lot of great recording equipment in Canada back then. There is a tape of us at the Devil’s Den when we were called Just Us. My brother Ralph also has a live tape of Livingstone’s Journey that he recorded at the Night Owl in early ‘68 and that is interesting. It’s got us doing original stuff like ‘Bull Feathers’ and ‘Inner Cities’, and an interesting cover of The Beatles’ ‘You Can’t Do That.’
PT: Can you describe the other guys in The Tripp?
Stan: In The Tripp you had Ed Roth, one of the original members of Just Us. He was and still is a talented musician, a great writer and arranger and excellent keyboard player. Of course there was also the singer Jimmy Livingstone, who has a few problems these days, but was a fantastic performer with great presence. I remember one time at the Night Owl, the band’s playing away and Jimmy disappears. We can’t see him and so we start getting softer and softer. In the meantime, there was this old PA system that hadn’t been used for ages and he had managed to get it to work. Suddenly he started doing these aeroplane reports and giving out arrival information and all this dust was coming off the speakers into people’s hot chocolate. It was really hilarious. He could really control an audience when he was up, before he started having problems. Bob Ablack, another original Just Us member, was a great drummer. He’s very successful now as a film colourist. Finally there was bass player Neil Merryweather who’s still down in the States doing his thing. He was a real character as well.
PT: I believe that Neil had been the original singer in Just Us before Jimmy came in?
Stan: At one point they were both front singers, just like in Jon and Lee and The Checkmates, but when bass player Wayne Davis left to join Bobby Kris & The Imperials, Neil moved over to the bass.
PT: When Neil left to join Bruce Cockburn’s band The Flying Circus and later to form his own group, you got Dennis Pendrith in and changed name to Livingstone’s Journey. Did you make any recordings with this band?
Stan: Our last night at the Night Owl, when we were breaking up, was recorded by my brother Ralph. He recorded our two sets. There was no studio stuff done. At that time, they wouldn’t play Canadian records on the radio so no one really bothered to record that much local talent. We did play quite a bit though. We played in Ottawa on Parliament Hill and we had windmills that said: ‘Livingstone’s Journey will turn you around.’
PT: There’s also a well reported case of where you were playing at the Esplanade in Toronto and the police turned up.
Stan: Yeah, there was this young promoter called Richard Flohill, who’s now a successful writer, and he hired us to play outside this plaza at the bottom of one of the city’s skyscrapers at lunchtime. So we set up our stuff and really freaked out the neighbourhood. There were traffic jams and the square was jam-packed. People were making so much noise that many businesses were sending their staff home and finally the police got us to stop. The band got a lot of press from that.
PT: Jimmy then left the group and you got Bobby Kris in as his replacement.
Stan: Yeah, Jimmy had a little mishap and vanished on us. We couldn’t find him and there were dates to honour. At first we approached David Clayton-Thomas, who was later in Blood, Sweat & Tears, but he couldn’t make it. A friend of mine called Neil Glen did a job for us at the Penny Farthing and then we got Bobby Kris.
PT: After the Night Owl show in early 1968 with Bobby Kris, you all went your separate ways.
Stan: It was time for a change and Dennis was first to go. He replaced Neil Merryweather (again) in Bruce Cockburn’s band, alongside two guys from Bobby Kris’ old band – Marty Fisher and Gordon MacBain. (By this point The Flying Circus had become Olivus – ed). Ed got back together with Neil and they decided to go down to Los Angeles and put a band together there. I decided to go to England and see my brother Clive who was doing some acting there at the time. I wanted to check out the English scene.
PT: Is it true that on your first night in London you were introduced to Kinks bass player Peter Quaife?
Stan: It was really amazing because I hadn’t seen my brother Clive in about six years and he sounded totally English. It was around eleven o’clock at night and I told him I was going out to see what was going on in town. He warned me that everything was closed but I went out anyway. I remember walking around Piccadilly Circus and I heard this music coming from this club called Hatchettes. I guess I looked a little weird, I had long hair and was wearing white bellbottoms, but I just walked in. The guy on the door said: ‘So where are you from in the States?’ I told him I was from Canada and he was very apologetic and offered to buy me a rum and coke. Anyway, there are all these Americans jumping around the rafters in shorts like morons (laughs) and this band’s playing. I asked if anyone ever sat in and the guy told me I could. It was really strange because when I finished, I was approached by this American guy, who I had met when I did the Sunday show back in Canada and he recognised me from that. He complemented my playing and suggested trying to join a British band. Then this other guy comes up to me and says: ‘My name’s Bill Fowler and I am from the Arthur Howes agency’. He said Peter Quaife of The Kinks was there and wanted to have a word with me. We were introduced and he asked me what I was doing in London. I told Peter that I had brought over the Livingstone Journey tape (the live recording at the Night Owl) and wanted to take it to Apple Records. Bill Fowler said he could fix up a meeting. Well, I told him that I had a problem with the tape recorder; the tape was recorded on cross-field heads and there weren’t that many tape recorders that could play it. To cut a long story short, he said he could get one from Chappel Music, and I later took that with me to Apple. Peter told me to meet him at his place the next day and I went up to Muswell Hill and we sat around and talked. He said he was unhappy with The Kinks and was thinking of leaving the band. He asked me if I would be his lead guitarist and singer in a new band. I didn’t really know if I was going to stay in England or go back to Canada and pointed out that it was a big decision to make, but that I was interested in the idea. Later on I went to Apple and when I played them The Beatles’ cover, the guy stopped the tape and said ‘I’ll be back in a minute’. He came back with Peter Asher and all these other people and they were very impressed. They asked me what I was doing and I said that I was thinking of forming a band and that I already had an offer (laughs). So, they asked me who it was and I said I couldn’t say because he hadn’t left his band and that it wasn’t definite. Nothing came out of the meeting and so I started gigging round London. I did a lot support work at Hatchettes for different people.
PT: Did you stay in England until Peter contacted you to form Maple Oak?
Stan: No, I went back to Canada in the summer of 1968 and did this TV show with Jim Henson. (Henson of course later created the hugely successful Muppets TV show – ed). This was a dramatic show called the Cube and I did music in it and a bit of acting. Also involved were Marty Fisher and Gordon MacBain from Bruce Cockburn’s old band Olivus. I then got a call from Peter saying he was leaving The Kinks and to come over. He sent my fare and I brought Marty (Fisher) with me. We rehearsed for a while and then went off to Denmark.
PT: Who else was in the band apart from you, Peter and Marty?
Stan: It was an English guy called Mick Cook, who ended up playing with Long John Baldry I think, I’m not sure. [more likely Mick Cook the drummer from Home - Ed]. He was a hell of a nice guy but not our style of drummer. The four of us went to Denmark. Later on we got Gordon (MacBain) over from Canada. It seemed an obvious choice because I had worked with both Marty and Gordon on the Cube.
PT: Any notable live dates during your time with Maple Oak?
Stan: Yeah, we used to play a place in Birmingham called the Factory and afterwards everyone would sit down and listen to us play like it was a real concert. In Denmark, we played a place called La Carousel and we met some great musicians there. We had a very fine time (laughs) and I have very fond memories of Copenhagen.
PT: We sort of material were you doing at this time?
Stan: We changed a lot. The material that we ended up doing on the album was a lot different to what we were doing early on. At that time, we were doing a lot of R&B, stuff like ‘Back Door Man’ and some Jimmy Reed stuff. We also did some early Bruce Cockburn songs and a few originals.
PT: You made one very obscure single for Decca. How did that recording come about?
Stan: At first we were going to record with Derek Varnells, who worked with The Moody Blues, but we didn’t get along with the engineer. Also there was this producer from Ready Steady Go and he wanted to change the lyrics to one of the Bruce Cockburn songs we were doing. It wasn’t our place to change the lyrics so we stood are ground and that didn’t make us very popular. I would be really embarrassed today if there was a Bruce Cockburn song on the album that had half his lyrics and half mine (laughs). Well, we weren’t happy with the way the recording was going so we went to Decca and told them we would do it independently and send them the bill. We ended up doing it at De Lane Lea studios. We also had management problems, they couldn’t book us as much as we wanted them to and we ended up breaking up. We all came back to Canada.
PT: How did the other Kinks feel about Peter leaving?
Stan: I don’t know what the whole thing with the group being revealed in the centre spread of NME was about. At that time The Kinks weren’t working that much. You would need to talk to Peter about that, but I think that was one of the issues. Peter wanted to play more and they weren’t really doing that much. He was pretty frustrated about not playing.
PT: Peter doesn’t appear on the album, only the single
Stan: Peter left in early 1970 and only appears on the single. Gordon wrote the a-side ‘Son of a Gun and I wrote the b-side ‘Hurt Me So Much’. We finished off the album as a trio. The album’s release was delayed by over a year and by that time we had returned to Toronto and broken up.
Stan Endersby was interviewed by Nick Warburton, © Ptolemaic Terrascope, 2001