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Five Man Electrical Band

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Biography

Best-known for their 1971 anti-establishment hit "Signs," Ottawa, Canada's Five Man Electrical Band featured guitarist/vocalist Les Emmerson, bassist Brian Rading, keyboardist Ted Gerow, and drummers Rick "Bell" Belanger and Mike "Bell" Belanger. Originally known as the Staccatos, the group formed in the mid-'60s and earned their first big break with the 1967 hit "Half Past Midnight"; their first attempt at stateside success came that year when they recorded A Wild Pair with the Guess Who. The album sold well and "Half Past Midnight" was released as a single in the U.S., but the group was dismissed as sounding too much like the Beach Boys. The Staccatos released their second album, Five Man Electrical Band, in 1968, and renamed themselves after it the following year. They continued to record for Capitol Records, traveling to L.A. to record singles such as "It Never Rains on Maple Lane." After switching to MGM and relocating permanently to L.A., the group released several other singles that received very little chart action. One of those singles, "Hello Melinda Goodbye," featured "Signs" as its B-side, which was inspired by the proliferation of billboards on America's freeways; though it garnered some airplay in L.A., it failed to do much when it was reissued on its own. By 1971, the group was close to splitting when their new label, Jimmy Webb and Dallas Smith's Lion Records, reissued "Signs" as a teaser for the Five Man Electrical Band's full-length debut, Goodbyes & Butterflies. This time, "Signs" reached number three in the U.S., number four in Canada, and sold more than two million copies internationally. The follow-up single, "Absolutely Right," also did well, reaching number three in Canada and the Top 20 in the U.S. However, their later albums didn't receive much attention, and in 1973 after so many ups and downs, the original Five Man Electrical Band finally packed it in; Emmerson recorded using the group's name for another two years. Subsequently, he tried his hand at running a label, Perfect Records, played with the Cooper Brothers, and began a solo career upon his return to Ottawa. The original lineup re-formed in 1986 for a benefit concert and for occasional tours of eastern Canada. Emmerson bought the rights to the group's material and released the best-of, Absolutely Right, in 1996.