#874: Call Up The Man by The Shadracks

Peak Month: October 1966
8 weeks on Vancouver’s CFUN chart
Peak Position #7
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ did not chart

The Shadracks were a Kelowna, British Columbia based group who formed in 1962. Initially their membership consisted guitarist Craig McCaw, lead vocalist Rick Mussalem, backing vocalist and bassist Bob verge,  bass player Glen Chilow and drummer Warren Dunaway. In the following years Chilow and Dunaway left the band and were replaced by drummer Claudette Scritnik and guitar player Clive Spiller. The Shadracks song, “Call Up the Man,” peaked at #7 in Vancouver in the fall of 1966. They were compared to Australia’s Easybeats due to their up-tempo sound and harmonies. One of the places where The Shadracks performed in Kelowna was The Aquatic, the headquarters of the Kelowna Regatta.

In Kelowna, Craig McCaw was a classmate in high school of John Tanner. While still in his teens, Tanner had a late night slot at a local radio station in Kelowna. In 1964, Tanner went on to become a DJ on CFUN in Vancouver. This may have been fortuitous for The Shadracks as it was on CFUN that “Call Up The Man” was play listed on September 10, 1966. In a RadioWest.ca article titled, Peace, Love and Happiness: Former Hippies John Tanner and Craig McCaw Started with Nothing. But They Have Most of it Left, local Vancouver columnist John Mackie’s interview of Craig McCaw included reflections about the early days of the Shadracks. Mackie writes:

McCaw was in Kelowna’s top band, the Shadracks, and used to check out all the Vancouver bands when they came to the Okanagan. One of the best was Little Daddy and the Bachelors, featuring Tommy Chong on guitar. One night, they changed his outlook on life. “They were pals with Rick Mussellam, our singer, and we would drop by their motel afterwards to sort of hang out with them… And Tommy Chong said, ‘Here, smoke this.’ ”
Tommy Chong turned him on to pot?
“Yeah,” he (McCaw) laughs. “That would have been ’62, ’63. John was not imbibing, actually. John was sort of … straight in those days, I guess you could say.”

Call Up The Man by The Shadracks

Woke up early this morning,
found my baby was not there,
called my friends and asked about her,
no one seems to know or care.

If you leave me now, say, if you leave me now,
well, you can call up the man in the crazy house,
and take this crazy man away.

You said you liked the good times,
well, baby I did my best.
I tried everything I know,
but I guess I didn’t pass the test.

If you leave me now, say, if you leave me now,
well, you can call up the man in the crazy house,
and take this crazy man away.

Babe you know I’m crying,
babe you know I’m crying for you.
Babe you know I’m hurting when I see you flirting,
doing the things you do.

You said you liked the good times,
well, baby I did my best.
I tried everything I know,
but I guess I didn’t pass the test.

If you leave me now, say, if you leave me now,
well, you can call up the man in the crazy house,
and take this crazy man away.

Babe you know I’m crying,
babe you know I’m crying for you.
Babe you know I’m hurting when I see you flirting,
doing the things you do.

If you leave me now, say, if you leave me now,
well, you can call up the man in the crazy house,
and take this crazy man away,
and take this crazy man away.

“Call Up The Man” was co-written by three of the Shadracks bandmates, Rick Mussalem, Craig McCaw and Clive Spiller. The song is a standard complaint found in teen songs from the 60’s. Someone has been blindsided by the choice of their sweetheart to bail on the relationship. The guy in the song was doing his best to share in the good times and party scene his girlfriend preferred. However, she kept flirting with other guys in ways that were hurtful to her boyfriend. The upshot is that the ex-boyfriend is left in a crazed state and advances that it’s time for him to be taken away. The song was a tamer version of a man becoming psychologically fragile due to what unfolded in a relationship. At least, compared to Napoleon XIV’s “They’re Coming To Take Me Away,” which charted for two weeks peaking at #4 on July 30, 1966, before being removed from the playlist due to the songs’ mental health content.

Craig McCaw lived in the heart of the hippie-counterculture in the spring of 1967 when he moved down to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district. In a 2009 interview with Vancouver columnist, John Mackie, Craig McCaw says of that time, “The main thing I remember about the Haight-Ashbury was how clean it was. People talked about dirty hippies, but everybody’s house was like a shrine, with everything painted up psychedelically and incense and beads and Indian prints. Generally speaking, everyone was clean, and smelled of patchouli oil.” Once he returned to Vancouver, in 1967’s Summer of Love, McCaw and John Tanner became roommates which lasted ’til 1977. Their final place as roommates was a house at 1438 Arbutus Street. Craig McCaw remained there for 35 years until 2005 when the house was torn down.

The Shadracks split up by 1967 and Craig McCaw got to know Terry and Susan Jacks, a couple who had met on a local episode of the CBC pop music show, Let’s Go. The three decided to form a trio billed as The Powerline, named after a bar where they’d performed in Whistler. McCaw told John Mackie in his 2009 interview, “It was a little dirt trail to get up to that ski hill in those days… We used to play outside in the afternoon. I was a skier, so I’d ski right down. Terry and Susan would drag my amplifier up, so I’d come up, take off my skis, go to the deck outside the cafeteria, grab my guitar and play for an hour.” McCaw recalled how the trio changed their name from The Powerline to The Poppy Family. The occasion was when Terry Jacks was thumbing the pages of an encyclopedia while they were all drinking. Jacks saw a category in the encyclopedia under the Poppy Family. They liked the name so much they dropped The Powerline for The Poppy Family.

McCaw, was inspired from listening to sitar on the tunes, “Love To You” and “Tomorrow Never Knows” on the Beatles 1966 Revolver album. Craig subsequently sought out a young tabla player in Vancouver named Sawant Singh. Terry and Susan Jacks agreed to have Singh join The Poppy Family. The Poppy Family’s debut single, “Beyond The Clouds,” which featured the Singh playing the sitar, climbed to #2 on CKLG in Vancouver in the fall of 1968. The Poppy Family had an international hit in 1969-79 titled “Which Way You Goin’ Billy.” In 1970 group performed as part of the Canadian pavilion at Expo 70 in Osaka, Japan. However, the pressure of the international spotlight led both Craig McCaw and Sawant Singh to quit The Poppy Family that fall.

After he left The Poppy Family Craig McCaw played in other bands, including Sixty Six Six in the mid-70’s. Primarily, he kept occupied as a music teacher and worked at the planetarium. The latter venue was where John Tanner had ended up getting work. McCaw and Tanner worked for decades for Roundhouse Productions, creating  music and laser light shows at the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre and Planetarium in Kitsilano “Kits” Point. McCaw has also scored music for movies and TV shows. After 37 years, in 2012, McCaw left the Planetarium. Tanner left in 2015.

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