In the fall of 1959 or 1960, Mike Christian, Dave Kissinger and Larry Chamberlain met at Dave’s house on Vancouver St and started learning songs like Tall Cool One, Mule Skinner Blues & Walk Don’t Run. Soon Mike Hortie joined the group. We played for the first time at the Club Soho--- all instrumentals. We were all 12 or 13 years old. We wore sport jackets and ties!!
In 1961 Vince Cownden replaced Mike Christian on keyboard and the Trojans continued to play dances for schools, youth groups etc. We had drums, 2 electric guitars and piano. All the halls had pianos, so we would hang a mic inside and run it to one of the amps.
Later in 1961, the name of the band was changed to the Regents, since Trojans was found to have an unwelcome association with it. Regent or Regents came about one noon hour as Mike, Dave and Larry were walking back to school from Wellburn’s Market, throwing out some possible band names. Larry noticed a Dodge parked at the curb and noted that it was the model “Regent”. Thus the name of the band was selected
The early Regents
In 1961, no one in the group was old enough to drive to the dances, so we would always have to find rides. One memorable weekend we did a dance at the Youbou hall on Cowichan Lake for the loggers. It turned into a brawl with some pretty huge guys squaring off. Larry’s older brother Ron Chamberlain had driven us there and at the end of the night we loaded our stuff into his car and got out of there.
We learnt all our material from records or the radio. We tried every new song that came out. The weekend we played that Youbou dance, Wild Weekend had just come out…we did it that night with Ron playing the sax.
So we now we needed a sax……….In 1962 Brian Jackson joined, playing alto sax. We started playing at more school and teen dances. With Brian we were able to add songs like Tequila and material by Johnny and the Hurricanes. Still all instrumental, but now had a small Bogen amp and some column speakers and a mic. Vince had moved up to a Thomas organ and a very heavy Leslie unit
The later Regents
By 1963, Larry and Mike had moved on to other bands. Rick Johnston answered an ad for a drummer and joined us. We were hearing more and more about an English group called the Beatles that was big in Europe and coming to North America. This is when we first met Raymond Peter May. He had an English accent, had longer hair and wore Beatle boots……….and he could sing. We started trying vocals. . This was also a time of protest and folk songs. We were asked to back up the singers for a hootenanny at St Ann’s Auditorium. At the end of the show, after several hours of folk music, we were introduced as “….and now we bring you the Beatles”. The reaction from the crowd was like what we’d seen on the Ed Sullivan Show. We played Kansas City and Twist & Shout but could barely hear ourselves because of the screaming. We started switching to vocals right away. Ray was really into Little Richard, the Animals & The Beatles. He was also a natural showman/character. He had us doing steps. Vince turned out to be a very good singer as well. Steve Pugsley had joined us on bass guitar by this time and Brian had moved on. Within a short time all our songs were vocals except our break songs. .
We were now using University CLC horns on stands for the vocals………..and matching Astatic mics! Vince had switched to a much lighter Farfisa organ, shortly after Steve and Dave had tried to cut down his heavy Thomas organ to make it more portable.
We played a lot of dances in those years. Practices were Tuesday and Thursday nites and Saturday afternoons and we played most Friday and Saturday nights. One Friday night we played a school prom dance…finished there, went straight to the Golden Slipper and played from 12-3 am, and then played an after grad dance.
In 1965, Brian Jaundrew joined the group on tenor sax. He had a deep voice and was the one who would do “Why’s everybody always picking on me” The group played throughout the Island, at the PNE and some Interior gigs. On one trip, on our way to Armstrong we stopped at a restaurant in Princeton and ran into Bobby and the Strangers.
There were many places to play……….and many highlights:
-playing the Crystal when there was water…us at one end and the Pharaohs at the other end—watching people get thrown in the pool
-stranded at Cowichan Lake for 4 days after playing New Years Eve at Honeymoon Bay
-Battle of the Bands in Armstrong
-playing under the clock at Mayfair
-the shows at St Ann’s Auditorium
-watching Gordie Gordienko control the crowd at the Golden Slipper
There were many bands in Victoria by 1965. Ian Diment had moved his Club Tango from the Oak Bay location to the old Club Sirocco building. Teen dances were popular and he took a chance with Peter Chapman and created “The Scope”. It was a great place for musicians to see each other and many new friendships were formed.
Because there was already a group called the Regents (Barbara Ann), we had to change our name just in case any of our originals caught on. We wore black top hats and tails. It was now 1966, we had finished high school. Jobs and families were beginning. Rick Johnston had to move to Vancouver and was replaced on drums by Rick Brown who was multitalented and worked in right away. Inger Heglund joined us on vocals. She was also very talented and had an amazing voice. The first time she sang with us was at the Golden Slipper. The crowd, who we knew well, actually fell silent, stopped dancing and just watched as she sang the 2 songs we’d rehearsed. Despite all this, within a few months the band folded. Some went to other bands…….some to jobs or other obligations.
It was a great time that we’d all do again.