The Collectors

The Collectors were a Canadian psychedelic rock band that released seven singles and the 1968–69 albums The Collectors and Grass and Wild Strawberries on Warner Bros.-Seven Arts. After the departure of single Howie Vickers, the others carried on as Chilliwack.

Members: Ross Turney (drums), Howie Vickers (vocals), Claire Lawrence (saxophone, flute, keyboards), Glenn Miller (bass), Bill Henderson (guitar, vocals)


Background

The Collectors had their roots in the C-FUN Classics, a house band assembled in 1961 for Vancouver’s CFUN radio station (1410 AM). The six-piece band featured trombonist–singer Howie Vickers, reedist–keyboardist Claire Lawrence, bassist Glenn Miller, and keyboardist Tom Baird.> They made regular appearances on the CBC variety show Let’s Go and issued two 1964 singles on Jaguar Records.>

In April 1965, The Classics linked with GNP Crescendo for their third single: “Why Don’t You Love Me” backed with “Goodbye My Love,” both written and arranged by Baird. As the Canadian Classics, they signed with the US Valiant Records label for their fourth single: “I Don’t Know,” a fuzz-tinged orchestral-pop number backed with the ballad “Gone Away,” both Vickers–Lawrence originals.

In 1966, Vickers and Lawrence assembled a house band for Vancouver’s Torch Cabaret nightclub. They retained Miller and hired drummer Ross Turney and (future Spring) guitarist Terry Frewer, who soon cleared for UBC student Bill Henderson.

The new five-piece Classics gigged up and down the West Coast and shed their R&B roots with folk-inspired originals. With multiple demos on hand, they signed with New Syndrome Records in Canada and retained their Valiant deal in the states. Valiant execs demanded a new name and gave the band two choices: The Connection or The Collectors.


First Three Singles

In February 1967, The Collectors debuted with the Valiant–New Syndrome single “Looking at a Baby,” a Vickers–Lawrence original backed with “Old Man,” a joint-write with Henderson.

A. “Looking at a Baby” (2:05)
B. “Old Man” (2:31)

“Looking at a Baby” reached No. 4 on the chart tabulated by station CHUM-AM in Toronto. For this and the next two singles, Vickers uses the alias Howard Vickberg. Valiant folded into Warner Bros., which issued subsequent Collectors material in the US and Germany on its Seven Arts imprint.

In August 1967, The Collectors released their first Seven Arts single: “Fisherwoman” backed witth “Listen to the Words,” both three-way credited to Vickberg, Lawrence, and Henderson.

A. “Fisherwoman” (2:53)
B. “Listen to the Words” (2:10)

“Fisherwoman” reached No. 15 in Canada. Meanwhile, The Collectors linked with Hollywood soundman Dave Hassinger, who engineered sporadic LA-based sessions by the Rolling Stones. Hassinger employed The Collectors as a stand-in for his main client, The Electric Prunes, whose garage-rock musicianship was insufficient for their upcoming album, Mass in F Minor, a Latin–Greek psychedelic mass composed and arranged by David Axelrod. In the process, Hassinger took interest in The Collectors’ original material.

In January 1968, The Collectors released their first Hassinger-produced single: “We Can Make It,” a Vickberg–Henderson song backed with “Fat Bird,” and Henderson lone-write.

A. “We Can Make It”
B. “Fat Bird” (2:30)


The Collectors

The Collectors released their self-titled debut album in May 1968 on New Syndrome (Canada) and Warner–Seven Arts (US, Germany).

The album features a Lawrence–Vickers co-write (“Howard Christman’s Older”), a Henderson joint-write (“One Act Play”), and three group-written numbers: “What Is Love,” “She (Will-O-the-Wind),” and the side-long “What Love (Suite).”

Side A contains their only non-original, “Lydia Purple,” written by the team of Don Dunn and Tony McCashen. Claire Lawrence plays tenor sax, organ, and flute in addition to recorder (also played by guitarist Bill Henderson).

A1. “What Is Love” (3:45)
A2. “She (Will-O-The-Wind)” (3:45)
A3. “Howard Christman’s Older” (5:10)
A4. “Lydia Purple” (2:45) is the first-recorded version of this Dunn–McCashen song; also recorded in 1968–69 by Giant Crab, Tanya Falan, and the writers themselves (on their 1969 duo album Mobius)>. This version features three guests: cellist Jesse Erlich, vibist Norm Jeffries, and keyboardist Larry Knechtel (piano, harpsichord).
A5. “One Act Play” (3:40)
B. “What Love (Suite)” (19:15)

Sessions took place in the winter of 1967–68 at the American Recording Company Studio in North Hollywood, where Dave Hassinger produced The Collectors in sequence with Mass in F Minor and titles by the Grateful Dead, Sweetwater, and the Mojo Men.

Vancouver illustrator Bob Masse designed the album cover, which shows a band photo ensnared in the locks of a golden-haired angel. Masse’s colorful psych visuals also appear on the covers of 1968–69 albums by the Sunshine Company, Harper & Rowe, Michele O’Malley, and Alexander’s Timeless Bloozband.

“Lydia Purple” became the album’s only single (b/w “She (Will-O’-the Wind)”).


Grass and Wild Strawberries

The Collectors released their second album, Grass and Wild Strawberries, in February 1969 on New Syndrome and Warner–Seven Arts.

The album features twelve group-credited compositions with lyrics by Canadian poet and playwright George Ryga (1932–1987), who recently gained national renown with The Ecstasy of Rita Joe, a postmodern drama about indigenous people.

A1. “Prelude” (4:49)
A2. “Grass & Wild Strawberries” (2:01)
A3. “Things I Remember” (2:46)
A4. “Don’t Turn Away (From Me)” (3:10)
A5. “Teletype Click” (2:55)
A6. “Seventeenth Summer” (3:29)
B1. “The Long Rain” (2:27)
B2. “My Love Delights Me” (2:23)
B3. “Dream of Desolation” (2:30)
B4. “Rainbow On Fire” (2:52)
B5. “Early Morning” (3:28)
B6. “Sheep On the Hillside” (4:17)

Grass and Wild Strawberries is housed in a gatefold with outdoor group photos by James Fortune. The inner-gates present Ryga’s lyrics and story sequences with additional liner notes by Hank Zevallos.

“Early Morning” appeared as a single (b/w “My Love Delights Me”).


Later Activity

The Collectors performed collaborated further with Hassinger on music for the 1969 Canadian drama Don’t Let The Angels Fall, starring Arthur Hill and Sharon Acker. They also composed music for the short docu-film Canada The Land (aka The Land) by directors Jean-Claude Labrecque and Rex Tasker.

In late 1969, Howard Vickers left The Collectors for a solo career. The remaining band moved from Warner Brothers to London Records while Bill Henderson assumed the lead vocalist slot.

The two post-Vickers a-sides (“I Must Have Been Blind,” “Sometimes We’re Up”) appeared in January and April, respectively, on London (Canada, UK, Germany, Sweden), backed with parts one and two of “The Beggining” — all group-credited numbers.

A. “I Must Have Been Blind”
B. “The Beginning”

A. “Sometimes We’re Up”
B. “Beginning – Pt. 2”

Despite plans for a third Collectors album (a purported grand-scale concept work), they retired the name and reconstituted as Chilliwack, named after the city in British Columbia (50 miles east of Vancouver). As they entered this new phase, they rejected an offer to write music for the Canada Pavilion at EXPO 1970 in Osaka, Japan.

Chilliwack released a self-titled album in late 1970 on Parrot, a division of London. They ultimately released eleven albums through 1984 and scored multiple hits on the Canadian charts, including “My Girl (Gone, Gone, Gone),” “I Believe,” “Whatcha Gonna Do,” and “Fly at Night.”


Discography:

  • The Collectors (1968)
  • Grass and Wild Strawberries (1969)

Sources:

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