With little doubt, The Stampeders could arguably be considered one of Canada’s most valuable contributors to music. There are probably few people who don’t know the band’s infectious 1971 track Sweet City Woman, a bonafide number one hit in Canada that also helped to elevate them on an international level as well.
The Stampeders make their return to Moncton tomorrow evening, performing at Casino New Brunswick. Doors for the show open at 7 p.m.
From his Toronto home, Stampeders guitarist-vocalist Rich Dodson recalls the band having made the pilgrimage from its Calgary home to the bright city lights of Toronto in 1964 with the unspoken hopes of hitting it big.
The move was precipitated by an invitation from the band’s booking agent, Ron Scribner, who was confident that the group would find have little trouble finding an audience in Toronto.
“We loaded up our old Cadillac limo and a U-Haul trailer and ended up playing our way from Calgary through to Toronto,” Dodson says. “Our booking agent Ron got us started with a few club dates that kind of got us into that end of the world.”
Having arrived in Toronto as a six-piece band, Dodson says that within a month, three of the band’s members decided to quit the band, leaving Dodson and band mates Ronnie King and Kim Berly to fend for themselves as a trio.
“At that point, we had to sit down and decide to make a decision whether we carried on or whether we threw in the towel. Obviously, we decided to press ahead with the next big decision being who was going to become the bass player. Ron and I did a coin toss to see which one of the two of us would become the bass player.
“He won, and we then carried on as a trio,” Dodson laughs.
“The departure of half of the band sort of forced us in a corner and pumped up our songwriting skills. When we got into the studio, we really surprised ourselves and found that we had written some tracks that really worked.”
One of those tracks, Carry Me, would be the group’s first single from their debut record Against The Grain.
It would be the second single from their debut that would help make The Stampeders a household name right across the country.
In the seeming blink of an eye, Sweet City Woman vaulted to the top of the Canadian music charts. The song became a hit south of the border as well where the track climbed Billboard’s singles chart despite heavy competition at the time from the likes of Paul McCartney and James Taylor.
Although the band’s success would never quite reach the heights that it did in Canada, Dodson says the group still finds the time to play the odd show in the United States.
“We still get down there every once in awhile but the truth is, our calendar can get booked up in Canada rather quickly so we don’t necessarily have a lot of opportunities to do a full-fledged run of shows.”
In 1976, the winds of change would blow through The Stampeders camp. Feeling that the group was starting to tread water, Dodson quit the group, leaving Berly and King to continue on.
“There were no hard feelings when it came to me leaving the band,” Dodson says.
“It was my opinion at the time that I wanted to try something a little different. I had always been interested in the idea of record production and felt that since we had been performing for 13 years at that point, it was time to try something different.”
The Stampeders minus Dodson would continue until 1982.
At that point, Dodson says that Berly became an acclaimed actor in Toronto while Ronnie King returned to Calgary to play music.
In 1992, The Stampeders received an invite from talk show host Dini Petty to participate in a “where are they now” type of episode. The reunion would get the wheels rolling on getting the trio back together.
“Sure enough, after that Dini Petty episode the phone started ringing with show offers. And here we are today,” Dodson says.
Asked if the 16 years the band spent apart turned out to be a good thing for all concerned parties, Dodson is adamant that the break was a smart move.
“I think that the time apart helped each of us appreciate being in The Stampeders,” he admits. “You end up forgetting how much you love playing live and connecting with the fans. There is a great buzz we get from playing together and still get along great and all love being on the road.”
Although the band’s most recent studio effort Sure Beats Working dates back to 1998, Dodson says that the group is constantly working on new material for release.
“As long as we are on this planet, I don’t think there is any reason why we shouldn’t make another record.”
In the meantime, the band is promoting a new live record, Live At The Mae Wilson, which is available via the band’s website at www.thestampeders.net and will also be available for purchase at the band’s show tomorrow.
It has been a couple of years since their last show in Moncton however Dodson says the band has always enjoyed their time in the Hub City.
“We really enjoy meeting our fans and seeing the old pictures they bring in. It will be a real pleasure to be back in Moncton for the evening.”
Article published in April 8, 2011 edition of the Times & Transcript