The Dead Beats Story So Far...
It was the early 80's, the 70's were over, the recession was on, and high school was starting to be a memory.
In Bel Ayr Park, Dartmouth, Roger "Buf" Darrow was still driving his parents crazy, banging the drums and jamming with musical friends he met in high school. Roger started playing with Pat “Cass" Cassidy, who he met in 1977 and played in their first band “November" together. Cass with some formal musical training, switched from lead guitar to bass, and with friend Bill “Billager" Sanderson, on guitar, jammed the tunes of the day, influenced by music supplied by Roger's audiophile brother Dennis “Big Den" Darrow. “Somebody Take Something for Christ Sake". Dave “Shake" Boymook would come by listen to tunes and see the boys jamming. Roger got to meet Shake back in junior high through a mutual friend Dave “Pussy" Hayes, who eventually became a long time consultant for the band. Shake would come over and watched Roger bang on the drums and prepare for a Kiss lip sync concert, with Dave, to raise money for a grade 9 class trip. Around that time Shake starting learning guitar in Mark “Billy Hammer" Cameron's basement. Together they would jam with others such as Jimmy Mc Pherson, Woopi Meisner, Jamie Bruce and Dave Goyetche who played in another high school band with Roger. Mark would later say it was Dave who taught him guitar. Dave would go on to have a successful career in the local music scene and would eventually cross paths with the crew many years later. Roger would drop by to see the boys play, who all knew each other from junior high school. Most of the gang were unemployed at the time and during one visit Billy Hammer's father, local TV and Radio personality Frank Cameron, came down to one of the smoke filled session and said “You Boys Need to Get a Job", your nothing but a bunch of “Dead Beats". The name stuck and soon thereafter, Shake joined Roger and Cass to jam and eventually Billy Hammer would come by to play and the “Dead Beats" were officially born.
Roger then called on friend Rick “Swoon" Spriggs, who played in bands in high school to do lead vocals. The band jammed and did their first gigs at devotee, Rick “Sticky" Eddy's, Club 2710 parties. By the mid 80's Rick Spriggs went on to play in other bands. Billy Hammer was finally working and met a guy who sings and wrights his own tunes, Glen “Harpo" Pulsifer. Glen was a pastry chef that worked with Billy Hammer, who had knack for singing, writing and playing the harmonica. Harpo would jam and record at Billy's with the gang. Billy then introduced Harpo to the Dead Beats, who would become their new front man, starting a new era. The band would play Rockin Rhythm and Blues, Rolling Stones, and original tunes. The crew would travel to Herb's Music on Gottingen Street and rent guitars for $2.00 a week and some gear, and started jamming away. Herb and his assistant Gaston would fix the guys up with gear, on their meager budget, so the boys were “Ready to Rock." Never wanting to be mainstream, the Dead Beats would play private parties and special events known as “Socials". The idea of hall socials were introduced to Roger when he spent a summer in Winnipeg, where he hung with people who would rent a hall, hire bands and have there own private “club type" parties, known as Socials. Allot of local bands got their start that way. Roger took the idea and used it as an avenue for the band to play to a more select private audience. One of the first of these hall parties was a benefit for friends, John “J Wog" Carney and Janice Heiman, at St. John's Hall, in Westphal, for their upcoming wedding. Roger was in the wedding party, and could not pass up the opportunity to showcase the band. Bringing in friends and local musicians Brain “The Wrecking Ball" Wesley on saxophone and Scott “Scart" Hodgson, to do the sound. They played in a high school band “Silverstar" with Rick Spriggs. The bands used to trade gear together with November in early days, playing at the YMCA. This much talked about event was the start of the core of people who made up the gig's audience, and paved the road for future Dead Beat shows. Next was a series of events in the mid 80's at the 19th Hole at Lake Loon, before it became a bar. This small venue gave a personal connection with the band and audience. The “I'm Invited and Your Not" gigs put on by long time supporter Pat “Meglo" Holmes were memorable times. Braving ice storms and the odd power failure, the 19th hole proved to be an important steeping stone for the band. “What's the deal with the Fork in Harpo's lapel?" After some time Cass headed for the bright lights and decided to pursue a career in Toronto. There was a void to be filled and in stepped “Soul Man" Jimmy Mac Person on bass. Jimmy was of course part of the crew that jammed together at Billy Hammer's. One of the first gigs they played was the wedding of Jamie Bruce, another collaborator of Billy and Jimmy's, at Brightwood golf course. Although a wedding was a little out of their realm, it was an eventful gig, with lots of crazy things happening. I think they are still looking for some silver service. Jamie would say later that the “Wedding Cake" fight started by the band would cost him $ 11,000.00 in damages but said it was well worth it! The Dead Beat mystique was starting to emerge. The gang would jam anywhere they could and relied on friends for a place to practice such as Phil Horner's, Rick “Relic" Giles, Dave “Mines" Mansfield, and Roger's sister Linda's, under more than interesting situations. After a couple of more 19th hole gigs the band were starting to get the tunes down especially the original music. The songwriting talents of Harpo with arrangements by Billy Hammer were starting to be a showcase of the band's gigs. The audiences were getting to know the songs and starting to request them. Roger decided to enter the band in the local radio station Q104's “Homegrown Competition". The quality of the demo was not great, and they did not get far. One of the biggest regrets the band has been is not formally recording their music. Tunes like “Spell on Me", “What's the Good", “Can't Kick the Habit", “Romance" and others, were quality songs that certainly could have found a broader audience through recording.
Next for the band was a three-night engagement at Curly Portables in Enfield. Although a little out of the comfort zone of hall socials, the combination of local people along with bringing the usual Entourage proved to be an exciting weekend, which is still talked about today. The packed house resulted in the record for the most bottle beer sold at Curly's. Lots of interesting antics back stage in the panel van! The band's next gig was another hall social at St. John's Hall. The band was there years earlier and decided to produce the show. With the help of back up band the “Wanna Bee's" with Rick Spriggs, Douggie Graves, Donnie “Harve" Crowell and Roger. The show was another memorable evening. By the early 90's Billy and Jimmy were working hard in the bars in Halifax and could not put the time into the band, so they decided to put the band on hold. Roger called on a friend Bernie Ouellette to play bass and for the first time Scott Hodgson stepped from behind the soundboard and played lead guitar. They played Roger's sister Linda's “Lydia" wedding at Brightwood. Lydia was another long time supporter, head of the “Dead Beat Dancers" and “Stylist to the Stars". She would always ensure the “girls" would dance at the gigs and would continue over the years to keep things going. This would prove to be the last gig for the Dead Beats for a while. By the mid 90's it was time for a break so the band went on hiatus for a while. Fast forward to 2000 and tragedy strikes the Dead Beats family. Funky bass man extraordinaire Jimmy Mac Pherson passes away at age 38. Jimmy was the soul of the Dead Beats through the enlightened years. Jimmy's sister Lil as a tribute to her brother, organizes the first “Jimmy Jam", a musical tribute and fund raiser to Jimmy's cause, the homeless, at the Dirty “O" in Halifax. Roger talks to Shake and they decide as a Dead Beats tribute to call on the old band to get back together and play the tribute concert in Jimmy's honor. With Billy Hammer, Shake, Harpo, and Roger in, they needed a bass player. They call on Scott Hodgson for the second time, to do bass duties, got in touch with Brian, now living in the Valley, and the gang started to jam the old and some new tunes. They never got quite ready to do justice for the Jimmy Jam, but at practice, as the picture and spirit of Jimmy looked down, the boys enjoyed playing again.
For years the band played an annual street party on the back road at Roger's house, where they boys practiced, as an informal way to thank the neighbors and showcase the Dead Beats again. They also played Mike Wright's annual “Lobster Stock" party in Eastern Passage. After five years Harpo, somewhat discouraged by the band's direction, decided to call it a day. Roger called on the band's old friend Rick Spriggs to do lead vocals. Now playing a broader “classic rock" selection of tunes, the band wanted to play more formal shows and venues. The first official larger reunion show, took place at the Mic Mac AAC boat club, to a more than packed house. And of course, in true Dead Beat style, set yet another record beer sale night for the club, that night. Which is saying allot based on the amount of shows hosted by the Mic Mac over the years. With people like long time supporters Dave “Rabbi" Abbott, Glen “Twinkle Toes" Wilson, Ken “Stud" Sutherland, and the gang, the old entourage from Club 2710 and the BDA crew, family members and new found friends, made for a memorable evening. The band then went back to an old haunt the 19th Hole to play for long time supporter Pat Holmes, sponsored by another long time patron Rick Giles and “Relic's Auto Body". It was a very busy year, with yet another gig at the Mic Mac AAC, and again the annual street party.
2007 will mark the 25th Anniversary of the Dead Beats. Still setting up and tearing down week after week, just to get a couple of hours of jamming in, for the love of the music and spend time laughing and sharing past stories. The band is practicing hard these days, working on new material for a couple of shows to mark the occasion in early spring. One of the first gigs of the New Year was a fantastic show at the Dirty 'O'. The old two story dance hall, a venue revered by musicians, was the scene for a benefit concert held for local motorcycle icon Mike “Toad" Roach, who had passed away of cancer. Thanks to long time supporters, event promoters and of course first class “Home Girls", Janice Gould and Lil MacPherson, for the opportunity to play this “Dream Event". Sharing the stage with local icons Sam Moon, Pam Marsh, Paul Lawson, and other popular local bands, it was a memorable experience for the band. Thanks to excellent production from sound man Bernie Smiley and legendary light man Richard Bonner, this show stopping performance by the Dead Beats will go down as one of their best gigs in recent memory. Comments from the packed house like “Who are the Dead Beats and where have they been?" And “These guys are Wicked" were all inspiring. The professionally done show was just what the band needed to continue the hunger to play. Still practicing faithfully and learning new tunes Jan Gould had got the boys a gig at “Big Leagues" bar in Cole Harbour, as a thank you for doing the Toad's benefit. Although the band has not played a bar in along time, the faithful came out and the new faces continued to make for another successful night. After another successful street party at Roger's in August, next for the band was to plan and concentrate on the 25th anniversary show at the Mic Mac for November. The 25th anniversary show would start a series of gigs that brought the Dead Beat Mystique back into focus. The November show ended up on the day of a hurricane. Although the weather was not the best, the long time supporters and new faces packed the Mic Mac club, thanks mainly to Shake and his marketing of “Corporate" tickets and bringing in shirts and hats to sell. Yet another huge bar take and everyone was happy, a very successful 25th anniversary show in spite of the weather.
A very busy 2007 came to a close and 2008 was here with lots to look forward to. The winter saw the gang continuing to jam and learning more tunes as with more shows came the need for more material, especially for the faithful that would come to every show. Jan Gould asked the band to play the Toad's benefit again at the Dirty “O" and due to the reaction the band received the previous year she was not taking “no" for an answer and with the same production crew it was hard to pass up. This show saw a huge snow storm and saw the large crowd from the previous year dwindle a bit. The band showed much improvement from the previous year as stated by the production crew. So another successful show for the band in spite of the weather and the boys were pumped! Next up the band were approached by long time supporter Pat Holmes to do a 50th birthday party for him, Roger's brother Den and a couple others from the “Old Neighborhood". The venue of choice was Mic Mac AAC as by now the mutual respect of the band and the club for past gigs, made the venue the best choice for the private function. This show would be the third gig in a row to be victim of the Dead Beat mystique with yet another act of God. On this day there was a huge forest fire in the outlying community of Porter's Lake and prevented allot of folks and nearly bass player Scott Hodgson, to miss the show. The 50th birthday for the gang brought allot of old faces from the past including Peter Hendrickson and girlfriend Vicky, who grew up with a few of the band mates. Peter was owner of the local world class concert production company “Tour Tech East". He thought the band was great and that would sew the seeds for a very significant event yet to come. Pat was extremely happy with the event and the folks that showed up that he wanted to make it an annual event. The Dead Beat shows would always bring old friends back together and was a way to stay in contact with everyone. The universal draw of music would keep old friends in touch, which was a big reason the band continued to do shows. The fact that people are still friends after all these years and the Dead Beats remained together for over 25 years is precious, and not likely to happen without the music and the special people around it.
In the summer of 2008 Roger was asked by an acquaintance to do a benefit for local musician Gary Hunt at Montes Show Bar. Gary recently passed away and use to organize Saturday jams at Montes. Montes was just down the Waverley Road from Roger's where the band practices and he and friends would go to Montes from time to time to see bands. The bar was recently taken over by new management including long time local musician Bruce Nelson from bands such as “Titan", “Screaming Trees" and more recently “Blueberry Grunt", doing sound duties. Bruce is the sales manager at Tour Tech East with Peter and brought first class production to the bar. Bands like April Wine, Dr. Hook, The Box and all the major local acts play there. The idea to play there was important to Roger and the band so he agreed to do the benefit for friend, musician and Montes supporter, Barry Brundage, who Roger watched as a teenager at the old Hub Tavern in a band called “Southside". Southside was also the band of long time supporter Relic Giles brother Gibbs, whom recently passed away. The connection with Tour Tech was important but only one problem, no lead guitar player. Billy Hammer was out of town and could not do the gig. What to do? Well of all things Billy suggested a guy from the past, local musician Dave Goyetche who played with the gang when they first started out. Dave had never seen the Dead Beats and was keen on playing with the boys. The benefit gig was a success and the management of Montes asked the band to play a night. Giving back when you can, always produces positive results. After some back and forth the date was set for Halloween. The Dead Beats for Halloween at Montes sounded great. In August with one of the better nights of the summer and better sound equipment, the annual street party produced the best sound the outdoor event ever had. Lots of friends, neighbors and family enjoyed the outdoor festival atmosphere. The Dead Beats were on a roll.
The 2008 Halloween show at Montes was a huge success for the band and Montes. For the first time Montes saw the crowd that follows the band, and were happy with the results. Everyone including the band were dressed up and made for a fun and interesting night and showcased the Dead Beats on the stage that they shared with legends in Canadian music. It was a great night for the band and its supporters as most have not been to a good Halloween party in allot of years. Of course Montes wanted the Dead Beats and their following back soon. As fate would have it just a few weeks later the band played Montes again for the 50th birthday of long time friend Mike Schmid. The crew shared the stage with Dave Goyetche blues band. Like Pat's and Den's 50th at the Mic Mac, it brought out allot of old familiar faces. Mike would come on stage with the Dead Beats to declare it was the best night of his life to have all these long time friends together with a special neighborhood band. It was a very heart warming experience for everyone there. Peter Hendrickson was at the last three shows and Roger had been lobbying him for a couple of years to play the prestigious annual Tour Tech party in January. Roger made sure Peter made the shows and the long time connection with his girlfriend Vicky helped them secure the Tour Tech show.
Roger was the only Dead Beat to attend past Tour Tech parties and dreamed of being able to play there. The annual benefit for Aids Research would bring in legendary Canadian and local act at the company's sound stages. This was a first class affair and the excitement was building. For this show the posse called on Dave Goyetche to join them, who played there years earlier along with long time keyboard player Mike “Jack" Jackson. The keyboard would prove to fill out the Rockin' Rhythm and Blues style of the Dead Beats. With a full 8 piece band the boys opened up the show with enormous success. It was the most professional show the band has ever done. Peter was appreciative of the band bringing people early to the show that helped in its overall success. The first class organization, VIP treatment and back stage excitement was the highlight of all the hard work over the years. Scott got to share the stage with one of his long time idols Richey Oakley, also Matt Minglewood and The Box were on the bill. The musical community is filled with connections and networking and this show was a prime example of the steps it took to get this far. It was truly a memorable experience, one that would be hard to top. The Dead Beats finally had the respect of the musical community, of course the private functions over the years kept them out of the mainstream spotlight.
A little while after Tour Tech, Dave asked the boys to play a benefit for yet another fallen friend Scott “Bully" Barry, who had recently passed away with cancer. The show took place at the Dead Beats old stomping grounds, the 19th Hole. The bass player Scott had to work so Dave filled in marvelously. Everyone had a great time and Bully's family was much appreciative. A couple weeks later Roger went down to Montes to see local blues musician Garrett Mason he spoke with Nancy and talked about another winter blow out with the Dead Beats. In the mean time the band were asked to do the Toad's benefit in March now being held at The Fleet Club in Halifax. At first the guys passed on it because Shake was going to Hawaii that week. Dave convinced Billy to do the gig as we had been at part of it since the start and it's important to give back when you can. So since Shake could not make that gig, Roger made arrangement to play Montes in early March before the Toad's gig so Shake could play. 2009 was starting to be the busiest year in recent Dead Beats memory, but the quality of the gigs were too hard to pass up. Bruce Nelson was glad to see the gang again and enjoyed working with the Band. The band appreciated his talent to make them sound great. After set up around 9:30 it looked like the bar was pretty empty but by the time the first set was done the Dead Beat faithful did not let down and the bar and dance floor was packed with old and new supporters. An excellent night all around and Bruce wondered when they will be back. The cheerfulness and professionalism shown by Bruce and the Montes crew makes it easy for the band to come back to their local bar. New friendships in the name of music were solidified.
The next weekend was the Toad's memorial and Biker's Down Society show at The Fleet Club in Halifax. This was the first time the Dead Beats played this venue. They would share the stage with 5 other bands anchored by Myles Hatt and the Lowrider band. Although due to the last minute confirmation and short set, it was a great time. Most of the gang hung around and enjoyed the night. On this night the “Wrecking Ball" was certainly swinging. A full house and a great cause made for a fun filled night. After this show the band decided to take some time off while some of the guys went down south for some well deserved rest. After a little time off next for the band will be a show at Montes in June for the BDA crew and July brings a big show at the Westin Hotel for the Harley's Owners Group convention. The band is looking forward to working with Bernie Smiley again from the Toad's shows to do production. A few other things on the horizon will make for a busy fun summer. So Keep on Rockin and hopefully help the “Story of the Dead Beats"