Rockin’ Blues by the Legendary Cameos.
The original band consisted of Omar Tunnock (Fathead) bass, and Billy Bryans (Parachute Club) drums and Hock Walsh (Downchild Blues Band): vocalist. Hock moved on and was replaced by Fraser Finlayson (Cueball). Fraser lasted a few months and was followed by Tony Flaim (Downchild and the Dukes). Flaim then quit and went back on the road with Downchild and Chuck Jackson (currently with Downchild) was hired to front the band. By then the line-up of the band was: John Bride (guitar), Omar Tunnock (bass), Paul Armstrong (drums), Wayne Mills (tenor sax) and Ray Harrison on Hammond B3 and piano.
Anyone who can attest to seeing this band holding musical court in the cramped smokey confines of the Cameo Lounge at the ‘Izzy’ truly really got their money’s worth. Besides hearing and seeing the band, which in my opinion was as good as it got, you might have also seen and heard the likes of Georgie Fame, Spencer Davis, Huey Lewis, Sting, Dan Ackroyd and Kelly Jay, to name a few.
Heady times these, and not easily forgotten. As the band moved around to other locals, different singers came and went with Malcolm Tomlinson being the first to replace Chuck. This was in the early eighties. ” During the 80’s and 90’s we were known as the ‘cameo appearance’ band.” Says Ray. Other singers included Walter Zwol (Brutus) and myself John Dickie (Mondo Combo, Prima Donnas). With the addition of Michael Sloski (Bruce Cockburn) and Tom Griffiths (Colin Linden) from this era we have the nucleus of the great rhythm section heard here. ” Everyone would bring something different to the table so the audience never quite knew what to expect, just that it was going to be good.” Says Ray.
And that?s the nut, it was good. The band, always anchored by Ray’s grumpy left hand on piano and his solo dexterity combined with John Bride’s absolutely stunning ability to play the guitar made this band a rootsy masterpiece. Blues, R&B or Rock ?n Roll, ” It don?t get no bedder than ‘dis Ray” (anon.).
By John Dickie from conversation with Ray Harrison.
The Making of this Record (Lance Anderson):
A friend first brought me to the Cameo Lounge at the Hotel Isabella in 1979. He wanted me to hear this great piano and B3 player he had discovered. I was knocked out then as I still am by Ray Harrison’s incessant and driving left hand and idiosyncratic right hand figures. I feel it is shameful that the Cameos never recorded a studio album, and set about to rectify this omission in Toronto’s recorded Blues history.
The performance of Linda Lu says it all for me and is a classic Cameo cut. As in all these recordings Ray was playing and singing at the same time and all tracks went down together, in the same room. Only Ray can sing a line such as … “all because of that Chick…” with such relish and get away with it.
With the CDs I produce, I like to capture some drama. In this case, we decided to invite three other Cameo singers to represent a little of the lineage of the band and to add to what quickly became a celebration. Special guests were added. Freddie Keeler (The Shays) is one of Ray Harrison’s favourite guitar players. Michael Fonfara jumped at the chance to record with Ray as they had never played together. Terry Blersh was on hand and sat in with the band as the spirit caught him. I left the false start to the beginning of John’s ‘Why Can’t You be Happy’ as an example of how spontaneous these unrehearsed sessions were. That was about as much as was said about any of these tunes and most of the keeper takes were the first, or even the run-throughs. Listen to Mike Sloski’s drums on ‘Kind Hearted Woman’ and that unbelievably slow tempo he sets. The tuba was one of the few overdubs on the record, as that feel seemed to cry out for tuba after we had recorded the track.
I love all of J.B.‘s guitar solos but the ones in ‘Rockin’ My Life’ and ’Chicago’ are vintage Bride. Surely he is one of the country’s finest blues guitar players.
Thanks for your support of Indie music production.
Lance Anderson – the instigator
Cameo Blues Band: All Play and No Work (Physical CD).
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