“In memory everything seems to happen to music”, said Tennessee Williams. Such is my life and if my memory serves me well it went something like this....
In the early sixties I was still in school and had an R&B band called the 'Vandels'. The name was short for Vancouver/Delta: the mouth of the mighty Fraser River in British Columbia, Canada. Somebody told me there was a new R&B club that just opened called the 'Blues Palace', the renamed Alma Picture Theatre on Broadway and Alma St. I wanted to go and check it out; not knowing if they would even let me in as I was under age. I was excited by the notion of the music and scared by the prospect of getting caught. It was a more innocent time, destiny seemed to be calling and I was sure going to give it a try.
I entered the club with some trepidation. I was breaking the law but somehow I managed to scam my way in. Even from this vantage point in time I recall it was an amazing sight to behold for a young aspiring R&B singer. The seating had been removed leaving a large space for a dance floor. Just to the right of the stage in the corner stood a jukebox pumping out the likes of 'Fanny Mae' by Buster Brown and possibly 'Something You Got' by Chuck Jackson and Maxine Brown. The ambience was as intoxicating as your first stolen beer.
Eventually the house band, Little Daddy and The Bachelors, hit the stage and slipped into a groove I’ll never forget. My life was changed forever.
The band had various members over the years and eventually morphed into the Mowtown act, Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers. I'm not exactly sure who was playing that first time I saw them but I do remember that Tommy “Little Daddy” Melton was the singer, Wes Henderson the bass player and this funny Chinese/Scots/Irish guy, Tommy Chong was on guitar. Believe it or not, Tommy was a pretty damn hot guitarist.
I can't remember exactly how it came about but later I got to talking with Tommy. I mentioned I was a young aspiring R&B singer. Much to my surprise Tommy asked if I would like to get up and sing a song with the band. Well, for this teenage kid it was a really great honour to be able to get up on that stage and belt out versions of 'Oo-Poo-Pa-Doo' and ‘I Got A Woman’. It was like I had been struck by lightning.
Tommy with his father ‘Pops’ and brother Stan went on to run several more clubs in the Vancouver area during the sixties and seventies: “T’s Cabaret”, “The Elegant Parlour” and finally “The Parlour”. All of which I’m proud to say I frequented and got to sing. Tommy co- wrote the Billboard hit “Does your Mama Know About Me” for Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers and of course he went onto to join Cheech Marin in the Grammy award winning comedy duo, Cheech and Chong, but that’s another story….