Lords of London sample success
By Ritchie Yorke
Have you ever experienced one of those days which felt more like a month than a mere 24 hours ?
That's how it was when I flew to Cleveland, Ohio with Canada's top pop group, The Lords of London, to cover their first appearance on a syndicated American pop television show.
The Lords of London had been booked for a guest spot on Upbeat, America's most popular rock show, which is produced at the WEWS studios in Cleveland and syndicated to more than 50 cities in the U.S.
The Lords created quite a stir at the Cleveland Airport, as their attire was decidedly original. Sebastian Agnello, for example, was decked out in a flame-red clown outfit complete with lace frills. Not to be outdone, group leader Greg Fitzpatrick had selected a bright yellow night shirt for the occasion. He also hung a small bell around his neck, which he periodically rang, much to the surprise of many people at the airport.
After dinner, which was highlighted by Hughie Leggat announcing that his grandmother had turned 75 that day and he had kissed her for the first time in living memory (he's a shy boy), we headed down-town for an interview with one of Cleveland's leading dee jays, Doc Nemo of Radio WZAK.
Next morning the boys paid a short visit to a nearby record store, bought some albums and headed for the television studios. They were greeted by Upbeat host Don Webster, a fellow Canadian who made good south of the border.
Rehearsals quickly got under way after the Lords met the other stars of this edition of Upbeat. They included Booker T and the MG's, the O'Jays, Brenda Holloway, Brian Hyland, Wayne Cochrane, and the Robbs. The Lords were given the honor of opening the show.
Rehearsals over, the group streamed off to their dressing rooms and the make-up department.
They caused a sensation when they returned in their off-beat stage cloths; according to host Don Webster, Up-beat has never featured such a colourful and original-looking act as the Lords of London. Sebastian was attired in a Donald Duck outfit, Danny played the sailor-role, John was wearing pyjamas and monster feet, Greg had on his nightshirt, and Hughie looked like Tom Sawyer !
Sounds unbelievable but it was real. They were the hit of the show and drew the greatest response from the teeny-bopper audience. Later they spent half-an-hour signing autographs.
This Saturday the Lords will be featured coast-to-coast in Canada on the CTV's After Four at 4 p.m. on Channel 9. They sing four numbers on the show, including their new release, The Popcorn Man, which is surely destined to follow Cornflakes and Ice Cream to the top of the Canadian charts.
The Up-beat show on which the Lords appeared will be seen in Toronto on Nov. 11 at 1 P.m. on channel 2. It also will be watched by millions of Americans in New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago, Memphis, Seattle, Philadelphia, Baltimore, St. Louis, Dallas and Miami.
The Lords have come a long way in 1967. After watching them play together in Ontario for two years, Manager Brian Pombiere finally decided that the group had sufficient experience to go into the recording studios. The result was Cornflakes and Ice Cream, written and produced by Greg Fitzpatrick, 16, which topped the charts and is the biggest-selling locally- produced rock record ever.
Because of the disc's huge success here, Decca Records decided to issue Cornflakes and Ice Cream in the U.S. market. They backed up the release with a large-scale promotional campaign, including a full page ad in the bible of the record business, Billboard.
As in Canada, Cornflakes has been a slow starter. The industry calls this type of disc a "sleeper". It doesn't hit the charts immediately, but takes a little time to gather momentum. At present Cornflakes is receiving radio exposure in Boston, Hartford, Cleveland, Toledo and Detroit. The Upbeat show could well swing it into the national picture and put it with the top 100 best sellers.
Group leader Greg Fitzpatrick is regarded as the youngest record producer in North America, if not the world. In my own 25,000 miles of travelling the pop world I have never encountered such a multi-talented 16-year old.
Surprisingly enough, the Lords' success has not gone to their heads. Usually young rock groups who hit the big time have a great deal of trouble keeping rein on their expanding egos. This is certainly not so with the Lords of London. They are five of the nicest young guys any-one could hope to meet in the pop world. They don't drink, smoke or get high. Brian Pombiere keeps strict check on their activities, and because of this discipline the group has a healthy respect for him, as well as a great deal of admiration at what he has achieved for them.
Canada can feel proud at having discovered the Lords of London . Already they are closer to international success than any other Canadian group on the scene today. The Paupers may have been signed by eccentric Al Grossman, but they are virtually unknown outside of New York . The Lords are all Canadian, their manager is Torontonian, and they are known in a number of American cities. In Cleveland, they haven't even heard of the Paupers - but in that same city , as a result of a recent 24 hours , the Lords of London have quite a following.
In the States, it only needs one or two cities to make a national hit record. I know a lot of Canadians are hoping that will happen to the Lords of London, and there is a strong probability that it will. If not with this record, then with the next one or the next one. Sooner or later, their talent will win through.