Maraca Media-John O'Mara

Freelance copywriter and blogger, shakin' and rockin' it

Tag: Lee Aaron

Rockin’ at The Knob

For anyone who hasn’t lived in Toronto, Scarborough (or as it has been slagged, for decades, Scarberia) is part of the Greater Toronto Area and has been either a suburb of T-O or a city in its own right.

Back in the early ’80s Toronto’s Best Rock, Q107, posed this question:

“What’s the definition of a cultural event in Scarborough?”

Answer…Goddo at the Knob.

Toronto’s hard rockers Goddo played the Knob Hill Hotel dozens of times. I saw them once at that suburban venue and to this day, two memories remain. As I and my friends Gord Howard and Alfie Petitti were paying the cover charge in the lobby, one patron staggered out of the showroom and vomited at our feet.

Welcome to The Knob.

The other memory? Even though it was the early ’80s, Greg Godovitz introduced Goddo’s tune ‘Under My Hat” as such…

“This is a song you all should know because we’ve been playing it for so fucking long.”

I’ll cut Greg, Gino and Doug some slack. Maybe an off night. Maybe Greg had a shitty day.

But the Knob was my rock club during my days at Centennial College, when I aspired to be a writer for Rolling Stone, sitting in Stevie Nicks’s living room and starting my profile of Stevie with colourful descriptions of the decor, the surrounding area or whatever pets Stevie may have owned at the time.

I did arrange for an interview with Canada’s Metal Queen, Lee Aaron, and got to know Karen (real name Karen Greening) and hang out with her and the band in their suite at the Knob between sets. Guitarist George Bernhardt was surprised that I wanted to chat with him as well.

“Everyone wants to talk to Lee…no one wants to talk to us.”

Ahhh, but the dear old Knobbie will always bring back memories of one band, Scarborough’s own Santers. AKA, the Rick Santers Band, who made it on to Q107’s Homegrown album in the early ’80s. A few years later, their version of Free’s “Allright Now” went to #13 on 1050 CHUM’s top 30 chart and got plenty of airplay on the Mighty Q.

Take a look at this cute couple.

Santers bass player Rick Lazaroff and the lady he’s been married to for over 20 years or so, Darlene Watters.

In 2007, I moved to Wasaga Beach and found a tourism website run by Darlene called Wasaga Dot Com. Near the bottom I saw an adverting link. Contact Rick Lazaroff. I did, and told Rick all about my Knob/Scarborough history with the band.

WELCOME TO WASAGA BEACH

We connected and became tennis buddies. As for Darlene, I had seen her band Shattered Heart play at the Harbour Inn, in Owen Sound in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

But it all began in that concert room at The Knob. Watching Laz kicking his left leg out and attacking his bass through many Santers tunes and Zep songs (though their best covers were of Mississippi Queen and White Room) and Rick/Ralph Santers/Santer and his brother Mark shaking the foundations as we pounded several Molson Canadian tall boys.

It wasn’t as legendary as The Gasworks (where I also caught Aaron, Santers and Anvil) but The Knob Hill Hotel will forever be in my rock and roll heart as the place where I rocked my weekends away at McCowan and Eglinton.

THE DARDANELLA IS NOW WHAT?

One of my greatest disappointments in moving to Wasaga Beach 11 years ago was finding out the storied rock venue, The Dardanella, had become a dance club. Fuck off! Fuck you and the SeaDoo you rode in on. No one has rocked the Dard in over a decade but if I could have one wish…on what will be the 100th birthday this summer of the grand old lady of the beach…which due to mismanagement and neglect, was only open a grand total of 7 days last summer…

Let The Dard Rock again, and whether you hail from Scarberia, Brampton, Oshawa or wherever, we can feel that bass drum in our gut and raise our glasses to the venues that shaped our lives.

Go back to 1976 and I’m sitting in the Elaine Theatre, across the road from The Knob, and watching what went on to become one of my all time favourite movies, The Bad News Bears.

In the words of Bears shortstop Tanner Boyle, “”I’ll drink to that.”

On the cover of the Rolling Stone

Rolling Stone magazine is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and it’s up for sale.

When I was a journalism student in the early ‘80s, I aspired to be a writer for Rolling Stone. My dream job. My instructors at Centennial College gave me the skills to be newspaper reporter and while I may have also seen myself as a small market Woodward or Bernstein what I really wanted was…

Access.

I’ve been listening to the Volume channel on Sirius/XM and longtime RS writer Alan Light participated in a radio roundtable with Brian Hiatt and Dave Marsh on the magazine’s history, legacy and influence.

What Rolling Stone had was access. To Janis, Jimi, John Lennon, Fleetwood Mac, U2, Springsteen, Taylor Swift and the Rolling Stones. Not just a 20-minute phone interview or a media scrum but hours and even days alone with famous people and, had I been able to interview Stevie Nicks in her home, I would have been in heaven. I had a huge crush on Stevie.

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Stevie Nicks, and a cockatoo (I have a cockatiel named Ringo).

I did start down that path.

At 22, I volunteered at a weekly hometown newspaper called the Scarborough Mirror and ended up writing the Pub Crawl feature. Compiling the weekly bar listings and letting readers know what acts were playing at Tony’s East or the Knob Hill Hotel. Santers, Teenage Head, Goddo and Lee Aaron.

The Metal Queen.

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The Metal Queen. Still rockin’. John Albani runs a studio in Nashville.

During this period I also set up an interview with Aaron. Wherever you are, Ray VanDoorn (Aaron’s road manager and former keyboard player in her high school band), thanks!

Ray and Lee agreed to meet me in manager Bob Connolly’s office at Jarvis and Wellesley, (Bob was out of town) with the idea of using Aaron as the subject of an article for my college magazine writing class, and having the feature run in the Centennial College newspaper. The latter never happened because the editor was a fan of new wave rock and thought metal was for idiots.

The Scarborough  Mirror nearly derailed my journalism career. Apparently, while I was providing my services for free, and riding two buses and the subway to get to their office in the northern part of Scarberia, the editor felt I wasn’t gung-ho enough to be a reporter. Too quiet, didn’t beg and plead for assignments.

And yet…

This guy agreed to my co-op placement at the Mirror, with reservations, and cut me loose after two weeks. To this day, I blame my program coordinator. Why send me there when I had two strikes against me?

YOU’RE GOING TO THE JUNOS

Thank heavens for David Farrell at The Record.

I contacted The Record on my own, no help from the college, and David agreed to let me spend the semester at what was, at the time, Canada’s version of Billboard. News about the music trade, free records and concert tickets (thanks Nick Krewen for passing along the Jethro Tull tix way back when, great show!).

David also bought me a ticket for that year’s Juno Awards where I ran into Lee Aaron and nodded at the likes of Carole Pope, Gil Moore of Triumph, Luba and Kim Mitchell.

After graduation, I found employment at a nationally distributed arts and collectables magazine called Insight on Collectables. In Durham, Ontario. When I answered the ad in the Globe & Mail, I thought it meant Durham Region…Oshawa, Whitby…but no, the Durham that’s 30 miles south of Owen Sound, where I settled.

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One of Insight’s contributors was Howard Ferguson, who had obviously read Rolling Stone because he fancied himself as the Canadian collectables industry version of RS legend Hunter S. Thompson. Howard would write profiles of artists and devote the bulk of his pieces to the journey, in a nod to Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and gonzo style of journalism.

In the radio roundtable I mentioned earlier, Light spoke with pride about Rolling Stone’s tireless efforts to fact check every piece (yes, they ran embarrassing articles that turned out to be bogus but those were the exceptions) and paraphrased Thompson in saying if you’re going to call someone a pig fucker, you’d better produce the pig.

Thank you, Rolling Stone. For Hunter, P.J. O’Rourke, William Greider, Dave Marsh, Matt Taibbi and scores of journalists that continue to inspire me.

By the way, I fell into radio by accident and, due to my association with 97.7 the Beach, I’ve become friends and tennis buddies with Santers bass player Rick Lazaroff and, at the Wasaga Blues Festival a few years back, I chatted with Kim Mitchell (we have a mutual friend here in the beach).

Rolling Stone Founder Jann Wenner has said it’s time for younger folks to take the reins, hence the magazine being up for sale.

I still read Rolling Stone on my Flipboard app and hope it continues to publish for many years to come, in whatever form. I’ll be reading, and hey, if my byline can ever appear in the magazine, Jann and the editors know where to find me.

 

Quality Records, Birchmount Road

I went to school at Immaculate Heart of Mary on Birchmount Road in Scarbrough, then a suburb of Toronto but now part of the GTA.

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And, a short drive north, just over the bridge, was the pressing plant for Quality Records. I rode my bike over the bridge just to the east of Mack Avenue, but never imagined that decades later, what came out of that plant would end up on my radio show (not in the original 45 vinyl version but on a CD compliaton).

Birchmount was actually a subsidiary of Quality Records, though I didn’t find that out until recently.

I was born in 1962. The year many of the artists on this collection cut their tunes and Any Day Now includes early numbers by Glen Campbell and Dobie Gray, and follow-up records to hits by Danny and the Juniors and The Beau-Marks (Clap Your Hands, they hailed from Montreal).

Back in the ’70s and ’80s Quality Records meant nothing to me. What did? This hotel.

Where I caught many performances, and drank many beers, as Lee Aaron, Santers and Goddo shook the foundations. The Knob. It didn’t reek of rock like the Gasworks but I spent many a night watching Aaron and (Santers bass player and current tennis buddy) Rick Lazaroff kicking their way through originals and Zep covers.

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Flash forward to 2017.

I’m at BJ’s Records in downtown Barrie, where Bill brings in very cool collections. The  Rock and Roll Riot has spun many a tune from discs that came from BJ’s (and Rasputin and Amoeba Records in San Francisco and Berkeley).

And, for $9.99, the Quality Records 3-disc set is mine. It’s $13.99 on Amazon (love Amazon, and the Prime deal is a steal with free 2-day shipping and streaming of shows like Mozart in the Jungle).

As a new ball season begins…and this soon to be 55-year-old comes out of retirement after 3 years to play in the Wasaga league…I will always treasure my final year of hardball, pitching at Highview Park.

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Not sure who the Scarborough Stingers were, or are, but if they played at the park where I pitched my final game of hardball, real baseball, cheers.

Highview Park was a short bike ride from Quality Records.

It’s the circle of life, Johnny Maraca style.

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