Suedes/Consuls

Sometime in the 1970's I received an inquiry from a person I can't remember ever having met in person who wanted to know about the Suedes, a group I had played drums with for the last 6 months of 1959 to the first days of 1960. The interest in this short-lived group whose name was buried under the names of so many other groups I'd drummed with amazed me; I thought that anyone interested in bands I had played in would surely have been more interested in the Consuls a group I'd played in since Christmas 1957 'till I became a Suede in the spring of 1959.

Strangely decades later there are still people trying to get information about musicians I had played with when dinosaurs walked the streets of Toronto. But since just before the Bravo video of Young Street Stories I have begun to notice a broadening of interest beyond the ephemeral Suedes to include awareness of the Consuls, a group that Gene McClellan was a founding member of and that Robbie Robertson performed with in its final days 'till Gene, Robbie, and me were joined by Scott, Peter (Robbie's old friend, Thumper, from Robbie and the Robots) and finally Johnny Rhythm.

Today what seems historically note worthy about the Consuls-Suedes transition was perhaps a kind of techno development in pop music, which appeared as an unnoticed transition from acoustic to electronic instruments. Guitars though primitively projected in little amplifiers had hollow bodies that resembled acoustic guitars like the one Elvis Presley strummed on the Dorsey show. The Consul's bass was the large acoustic bass fiddle that Len played like the one that backed Elvis or "Carl Perkins; the keyboard was an old fashioned upright piano available in whatever tuned condition we found it, again like the one behind Elvis. The Suedes, however, used an electric bass, and the Robbie guitar was a solid-bodied eclectic guitar that needed an amplifier to be heard, and within a few years portable electric organs, keyboards and even PA systems replaced stationary pianos; and house microphones and speakers.

And all of these changes in musicians and technology developed around me unnoticed, from Willie's and Harry's purchase of acoustic bodied guitars with tiny amps from Eaton's Catalogue to my metal snare drum shell with sand paper rough cow hide heads. Our first group included Willie with his Eaton's catalogue acoustic looking guitar, then Gibbie with his acoustic looking guitar performed at a Gem movie theatre matinee. Willie located Norm Parish/ Sherrat a sax player who helped make us sound like a real group when we again performed at the Gem movie matinee. And shortly after Norms arrival Willie located Gene McClellan who would become ours and the Consuls' permanent guitarist and singer. Then about 8 months after I'd purchased my drums, the Consuls formed almost by chance Christmas week of 1957 when Willie told me Gene and probably Norm who had been playing and rehearsing with me and Willie that we should go to a place, Playter's Hall, to meet some other musicians who with us, Willie, Norm, Gene and me immediately became the Consuls.

The Suedes

Young Street Stories

Toronto's Secret

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