Following the very successful Lac Leamy shows, the next stop for the band was a few days later for three mid-week shows in Brockville, Ontario. They took their Chicago Transit and Rod Stewart shows in for one afternoon and two evening shows in the gorgeous Brockville Arts Centre Theatre.Situated in the very scenic Thousand Islands area along the St. Lawrence River, it was a pleasant two-day stay.The present Brockville Arts Centre building has a long and colourful history. The building was built in the year 1858 and served over the years as a Town Hall (with a clerk’s room, Council room and a “lock-up” cell room), the market building (with butcher stands) and as fire engine house No. 1 until gradually more space was needed for these purposes. Two of the original date stones engraved in 1858 still exist today and are placed high on the outside walls.Executive Director and General Manager, Peter Dunn (seated, to the left), has been instrumental in helping raise funds for the many recent renovations that have been done on the theatre and stage area.'The arts centre is known for its outstanding acoustics,' Peter said in an interview. 'Blue Rodeo said it was one of the best sounding buildings they've played in Canada.' It's a feature that has helped attract big acts here, including the Tragically Hip and Harry Connick Jr., who performed at the arts centre in 2004."Peter is also close friends with the band's trumpet player, Carlo DiBattista, so following our Lac Leamy shows of a few days ago, Carlo headed straight to Brockville to spend a few days with his friend of over 30 years.
The theatre holds 800 people and the crowds for all three shows were excellent. And with the beauty of the area around Brockville, it would have been nice to stay a little longer. But the band packed up quickly and headed back home, for the next shows were just two days and over a thousand miles away. Hopefully, the band will play the Brockville Arts Centre again.
It was one night at home after the Brockville shows, then off again the next day -- this time, to perform the Chicago Transit and Rod Stewart shows at the Mystique Casino in Dubuque, Iowa. It was a long drive, about 14 hours, but considering the band had performed these two shows five times in the last few days, it promised to be an enjoyable Saturday night in Iowa.Situated on an island in the middle of the Mississippi River, the casino was very impressive. Besides rather large casino floorspace, there were spaceous foyers and assembly areas, indoor sauna, pool and exercise room, a full dog/horse racing track out back, pristine landscaping everywhere and two separate areas for the performing acts. The one that the band was in more resembled a theatre than just another room in a casino.
It was an early rise and pack up the trucks to make the long drive home. We arrived home sometime after midnight and had a week to rest before next weekend's show in Peterborough.
It’s not often you’ll find us focusing on another local band very similar to our own on our website, but the weekend after we got home from Iowa was a very special weekend for two of the original three Powerhouse members. Back in the late 60’s, John Willett and Don Berryman were part of the local Hamilton/Burlington band, Brass Union – as well as the original Powerhouse sound tech, Brad Stone. The band was very similar to Powerhouse with four horns and full rhythm section – the only difference being that the Brass Union carried lead and rhythm guitar players. With Powerhouse, we make Phil do it all.About a year ago, Don from Powerhouse decided to put a bit on his own website about a band he was once in. As he tracked down the different Brass Union band members, some going back 40 years, the story grew as the guys contributed to the story. Soon, the project grew rather large and the band’s original road manager/sound tech, now Dr. Bill Hughes, decided that a reunion was in order. Bill now lived in a very spacious and picturesque area near Peterborough Ontario and he organized a rather large three-day weekend reunion at his farm. And in the middle of the weekend on Saturday night, Powerhouse was booked in town to play their R&B and Chicago Transit shows at the Little Lake Musicfest in Del Crary Park.The following is the story (condensed) of the three-day weekend.
Down By the River -- Brass UnionRecorded live: Summer 1971 McMaster UniversityHamilton, Ontario, Canada
Day One – Friday
The band members and their families started arriving at Bill’s farm on Friday afternoon, some from as far away as British Columbia and New Brunswick. Everyone stayed the weekend, some at the farm, but most, Bill arranged to stay at the Holiday Inn in Peterborough, a block from Del Crary Park where Powerhouse would be playing on Saturday night. Bill and his wife Jennifer had thought of everything. There were ample facilities outside for what would grow to be a rather large crowd. Food was catered and prepared in his country kitchen. Under the tent outside he’d set up guitar amps, a small P.A. system, keyboards, guitars and drums – what else would you have for a group of musicians?As with most things nostalgic, faces and events mean a great deal to those personally involved, but maybe not so much to others – like most folks who might be reading this story on the Powerhouse website. Let's just say that of the 19 musicians, 5 road crew and 2 manager/agents that were a part of the band's six-year history, when most were brought together after 40 years in one place for a weekend reunion, it made for a large crowd.
Dr. Bill Hughes
After a dinner feast, the musicians spent the rest of the evening doing what musicians do.Below: Manager Dick Citroen behind the kit for the first time in over 40 years.
Brad Stone (above left) was also sound tech for Powerhouse during it's first two decades. Bruce Wilson (above right) continues to play in the Southern Ontario area with the Duncan Guy Band
Mike Thornton (above left) and Bruce Ley (above right) continue to play -- Mike with a Hamilton-based jazz quintet and Bruce with the Toronto-based blues band, 'Trouble and Strife'.
It's my party and I'll play if I want to.
Len Blum (above left) went on to a career as a screenwriter, penning such gems as: 'Meatballs', 'Stripes', Steve Martin's 'Pink Panther' and Howard Stern's 'Private Parts'. John and Don (above centre and right) took the night off as they had a show to do in the park tomorrow night.
Dave Balan (above) has stayed in the business as well, working at RCA for years and jamming locally every week.
As the locals napped centre stage, the party eventually wore down and the farmhouse went dark. It was time to rest. Tomorrow would be a big day.
Day Two – Saturday
The second day was much the same as the first, except that the crowd grew considerably larger. Those that didn't make it on Friday all showed up on Saturday. The day went by quickly, as a large crowd that had once shared a stage, traded stories of the era, plus what life has been like since as doctors, lawyers, businessmen, movie writers, stock market gurus, industry VP's of all types and, of course, those who've lived 40+ years in the music business. By late afternoon, John and Don had to leave the farm for a while. It was time to link up with the Powerhouse boys in the park for set-up and soundcheck for tonight's show.
Peterborough really has done a terrific job with Del Crary Park. It is, essentially, a jut of land out into the scenic Trent Waterway. The stage is 'open air' with the large grassed field in front sloping up away from the stage -- giving excellent visibility from anywhere in the park. The sound crew were excellent, as well. There was a minor delay while a summer monsoon came in over the park, but the crew had everything tarped with plenty of time. After a short drenching, the sky cleared, the band finished set-up, ran through a couple of tunes, then it was time for the Powerhouse boys to join the party at Bill's farm. There was dinner and ribs waiting.
Not surprisingly, the meeting of the guys from Brass Union and Powerhouse was a rather emotional time, as musicians resumed links -- some going back 40 years. The crowd at Bill's farm on Saturday afternoon was now pushing 100 people.
Stopping by for dinner at the home of his personal cardiologist is Canada's own Ronnie Hawkins -- who was only too happy to agree to 'photo ops' with the ladies in his lap.
Bill "Buddy" HughesWith Love and Gratitude for gettingus together againYour band, THE BRASS UNION
On top of the weekend at his farm, Bill had also arranged a video/sound recording of the evening. To view the video below, be sure to go to the top right corner of this page and turn off the mp3 player – if the music is still playing.
(L to R): Tony, Mike, John, Phil, Steve, Don, and down front, Carlo and Nick
By showtime, the park had filled up nicely. And the Brass Union folks (above) seemed to be enjoying themselves -- which would probably be expected as many of the songs on the Powerhouse show were on the Brass Union songlist from 40 years ago.
Our two keyboard players for the evening: Tony (right) and above, Bruce Ley, from the Brass Union. To the left, another Brass Union alumnus, Terry Bramhall, sits in on bass guitar.
Brad (Woody) Stone back behind the board taking care of things after a few years away.
After a terrific night in Del Crary Park, both bands got together back at the hotel for a while after the gig to trade more stories and memories.
The afternoon wound down with another feast, followed by a couple of very nice presentations. Bill Hughes (below), for his part and all the hard work for putting together such a terrific weekend, received a plaque from the band (pictured below). Don (far left), for his website story that got the ball rolling, received an original oil painting from Brass Union's most 'far away' member, lead singer/front man Dave Thrasher. Dave, now an artist/teacher who lived in Thailand with his family couldn't attend the event, but he was able to contribute what now hangs' in Don's livingroom.After dinner, John and Don left to get ready for their show in Del Crary Park. Bill's 'bus' waited in the driveway to take everyone at his farm to the park for the evening show.
Day Three – Sunday
For the Brass Union folks, the last day was a quick early-morning drive around the Peterborough area -- which really is a gorgeous town, back to Bill's farm for another breakfast feast, a few more tunes, a few more stories and a lot of good-byes as everyone prepared to make their way back home.
Then it was time for the group shots -- below, everyone that was there on Sunday morning, and above, the boys in the band in attendance.Back row (below), left to right: Bruce Ley (Hammond organ),Paul Goodrow (trombone), Len Blum (lead guitar),Dick Citroen (manager), Bill Hughes (sound, light, road manager), George Hamor (sound, light)Middle row (seated), left to right: Mike Thornton (bass guitar),Don Berryman (trombone), Darrell Nameth (saxophone),Dave Balan (drums), Herb Locke (agent), Cliff Hunt (trumpet),John Willett (trumpet)Front row (seated on the grass), left to right: Terry Bramhall (bass guitar), Brad Stone (sound, light),Rick Moses (sound, light), Bruce Wilson (rhythm guitar) -- Note: All band members sang to varying degrees
All that remained of the weekend were the good-byes and the trip back home.For anyone who is interested in more info on this band, the original web story that initiated this weekend can be found at: http://brassunion.caAnd it goes without saying that Powerhouse was very honoured to have been part of this reunion.
John, Terry Bramhall, who flew in from B.C., and Doctor Bill