Sunday, March 29, 2009

Grant Smith and the Power, debut 45, a soul version of The Spencer Davis Group’s ‘Keep on Running’

 Organist Val Stevens, guitarist Les Morris, bassist Mike Harrison, Jerry Mann on saxophone, and drummer Charlie Miller and his brother Ralph Miller (trumpet) had been playing together in the rock-soul group, Eddie Spencer & The Power since October 1966 when a decision was made on 1 January 1967 to introduce a new frontman, singer Ellis Grant Smith, together with guitarist Jim Pauley to replace Les Morris, from rival band E G Smith & The Express. At the same time, Brian “Otis” Ayers, who had previously played with Ralph Miller in The Beau Keys, replaced Jerry Mann on sax. Two weeks later, another former Express member and second drummer, Wayne “Stoney” Stone joined.

During its first year of existence, the group established a solid fan base on the Toronto live circuit, billed either as E G Smith & The Power or as Grant Smith & The Power. Shortly after a show at the Broom and Stone in neighbouring Scarborough, on June 27, 1967, Charlie Miller left the band. Reduced to a single drummer, Grant Smith & The Power headed to the United States for the next two months for live work. On returning to Toronto in early September, Jim Pauley left and was replaced by guitarist Jon Palma.

In New York, the band were offered a deal by Tony Orlando, and promptly recorded their debut single, a soul version of “Keep on Running”, previously a hit for The Spencer Davis Group, coupled with Smith and Stevens’ “Her Own Life”, came out in January 1968 and featured the revised line up (as did a second single on MGM). Both singles were recorded with guest sax player, Steve Kennedy, at Toronto music mogul Art Snider’s Sound Canada studios.

Soon afterwards, Palma left and new guitarist Kenny Marco, who had played with Ayres and Ralph Miller in The Beau Keys during the mid-‘60s (and in the interim, The Upset), was recruited. Around this time, Grant Smith & The Power opened for The Hollies and Spanky & Our Gang at Toronto’s O’Keefe Centre on March 17, 1968. The following month, the band headed off for another US trip, supporting the likes of Janis Joplin, Traffic and Rare Earth.

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