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Five Man Electrical Band

Best known for their 1971 anti-establishment hit "Signs," Ottawa, Canada's Five Man Electrical Band featured guitarist/vocalist Les Emmerson, bassist Brian Rading, keyboardist Ted Gerow, and drummers Rick "Bell" Belanger and Mike "Bell" Belanger.

Five Man Electrical Band had their roots in an Ottawa band called the Staccatos. Rading and Rick Belanger formed the Staccatos in 1963 with Dean Hagopian and Vern Craig. After a year, Hagopian departed the group and was replaced by Emmerson, who wound up sharing singing duties with Rick Belanger. The Staccatos released an independent single in 1965 and then moved to Capitol Canada, who put out "Small Town Girl" that year. "Small Town Girl," "Move to California," It's a Long Way Home," and "C'Mon Everybody" all hovered in the twenties on the Canadian charts in 1965 and 1966 but their big break happened with the 1967 hit "Half Past Midnight"; their first attempt at stateside success came that year when they recorded A Wild Pair with the Guess Who. The album sold well and "Half Past Midnight" was released as a single in the U.S., but the group was dismissed as sounding too much like the Beach Boys.

Adding keyboardist Ted Gerow and leaving behind Vern Craig, the Staccatos released their second album, Five Man Electrical Band, in 1968, and renamed themselves after it the following year, partially at the suggestion of Rading. They continued to record for Capitol Records, traveling to L.A. to record singles such as "It Never Rains on Maple Lane." After switching to MGM and relocating permanently to L.A., the group released several other singles that received very little chart action. One of those singles, "Hello Melinda Goodbye," featured "Signs" as its B-side, which was inspired by the proliferation of billboards on America's freeways; though it garnered some airplay in L.A., it failed to do much when it was reissued on its own.

By 1971, the group was close to splitting when their new label, Jimmy Webb and Dallas Smith's Lion Records, reissued "Signs" as a teaser for Five Man Electrical Band's full-length debut, Goodbyes & Butterflies. This time, "Signs" reached number three in the U.S. and number four in Canada, and sold more than two million copies internationally. The follow-up single, "Absolutely Right," also did well, reaching number three in Canada and the Top 20 in the U.S. However, their later albums didn't receive much attention outside of Canada; "Julianna" and "Money Back Guarantee" both reached 17 in 1972, while "I'm a Stranger in Here" made it to two that year.

In 1973, after struggling to get another American hit, the original Five Man Electrical Band finally packed it in; Emmerson recorded using the group's name for another two years. Subsequently, he tried his hand at running a label, Perfect Records, played with the Cooper Brothers, and began a solo career upon his return to Ottawa. The original lineup re-formed in 1986 for a benefit concert and for occasional tours of Eastern Canada. Emmerson bought the rights to the group's material and released the best-of Absolutely Right in 1995. ~ Heather Phares
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Half Past Midnight: The Staccatos And Beyond

1. Five Man Electrical Band

2. Last Time I Saw Memphis

3. Private Train

4. Half Past Midnight

5. You're Gonna Lose That Girl

6. Maple Lane

7. Black Sheep Of The Family

8. Fancy Dancin' Man

9. We Go Together Well

10. Didn't Know The Time

11. Running Back

12. Catch The Love Parade

13. Whisper Words

14. Let's Run Away

15. Face To Face (With Love)

16. Walker Street

17. Super Girl

18. She Fancies Herself A Lady

19. Weather Man

20. Half Past Midnight

x

Track List: Absolutely Right

1. Signs

2. Dance Of The Swamp Woman

3. Hello Melinda, Goodbye

4. Moonshine (Friend Of Mine)

5. The Man With The Horse And Wagon

6. Absolutely Right

8. Country Girl Suite

9. Julianna

10. I'm A Stranger Here

11. We Play Rock 'n Roll

12. Money Back Guarantee

13. Werewolf

Comments

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SIGNS THIS SONG STILL HAS SO MUCH MEANING EVEN NOW FOR TODAYS DAY AND AGE ;-)
Report as inappropriate
joyfull this song lead me to jesus
Report as inappropriate
joyfull403
In 1971 I did a 5 concert tour with the Five Man Electrical Band. I was their opening act. My name is Joy Brady. (Maiden name) Really had a good time, and the guys were very nice. I remember before a concert at a College in Oregon, we all went into the shower area of a locker room and sang a song acapella... wow...we really sounded good.
Report as inappropriate
Had the 45 rpm for Signs, and side B was Absolutely Right, which was a great song also.
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I like 'Signs' for the truth of it's message but, honestly, I'm more into their 60s music, the late 60s.
Report as inappropriate
msample50
yes
Report as inappropriate
Ohhhhh. So these are the guys who released that song. 'Signs' was a megahit and one of the most well-known songs from that era, but the group is hardly known at all.
Actually, Signs is a song commonly and wrongly credited to some other artist. Example, "Signs? Oh yeah, that was one of Styx's best songs." I wonder what the caliber of their other material is??

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