#1272: Baby Blue by Chilliwack
Bill Henderson was born in Vancouver in 1944. He learned guitar and became the guitarist for the Panarama Trio that performed at the Panarama Roof dance club on the 15th Floor of the Hotel Vancouver. He formed the psychedelic pop-rock Vancouver band, The Collectors, in 1966. After several local hits like “Looking At A Baby” and “Lydia Purple” the band disbanded by 1970. Henderson (vocals, guitar), Claire Lawrence (saxophone, keyboards), Ross Turney (drums) and Glenn Miller (bass) were all Collectors bandmates. After Howie Vickers left The Collectors, they changed their name to Chilliwack. The name was a Salish First Nations name that means “going back up” and is the name of a city in the Fraser Valley in British Columbia.
Chilliwack appeared in concert at the Agrodome in Vancouver on August 6, 1971. They had their first Top Ten hit in Vancouver with “Lonesome Mary” in 1971. In 1977 the band recorded their sixth studio album, Dreams, Dreams, Dreams. At the time the band members were all Scientologists and there was a dedication to the founder of the Church of Scientology, Ron L. Hubbard, on the back of the album. By 1977 the bands musicians consisted of Henderson, Turney, Miller and Howard Froese on guitar, vocals, solina and piano.
“Baby Blue” is about someone nicknamed Baby Blue who is shy to give voice to what they are feeling and have experienced in a relationship. There may be issues of trust, safety, of a person in a generally withdrawn state.
The singer takes on the role of one who wants to listen to Baby Blue, be present as her tears fall and discuss what has happened. As listeners to the song we find out that someone has been unkind and cruel to Baby Blue. In 2016 we can wonder at the possible dynamics: a bullying partner, anger management issues, being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t care about their partner. We may think of friends, relatives, neighbors, workmates who have been in relationships like that of Baby Blue.
On one level it is a simple plea for a shy, timid, person to open up, express themselves and let someone respond compassionately. The lyrics clarify the person talking with Baby Blue is unlikely someone who knows there circumstances or knows them very well. They clarify what Baby Blue has told them so far: someone has been cruel to you, someone had been unkind to you. Then they say: how about you tell me, tell me who? If the listener to Baby Blue was a good friend, they’d very likely know who.
For anyone who has been on the receiving end of being in a relationship where they are often reduced to tears from acts of unkindness and cruelty there is more here to consider with “Baby Blue.” This is a song that could speak to people who are, or have been, in extremely difficult relationships in need of the clarifying perspective that comes from a talk with a friend, compassionate stranger or counsellor. In the song, the person listening to what Baby Blue feels able to share with them is disturbed by what they are hearing: Who would want to treat you that way, who could stand to see you that way?
Sometimes when people are in unloving and/or neglectful relationships it is hard to get outside of the drama of tears, unkind words, cruel words and actions. The harsh behavior can seem normal to a person in a relationship who has grown reticent, nervous, even helpless in the face of routine unkindness.
“Baby Blue” climbed to #19 in Vancouver, #25 in Ottawa, and the Top 40 in Sydney, Nova Scotia, and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
In June 1978, Chilliwack released the studio album titled Lights From the Valley. The debut single from the album was “Arms Of Mary”.
At the end of 1978 the Chilliwack cracked the Top 20 in Vancouver with “Never Be The Same“. Chilliwack gave a concert at the Pacific Coliseum on December 27, 1978, and returned to perform again at the venue on May 23, 1981. In between these concerts, the band performed at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on March 4, 1980.
Chilliwack continued to release albums and singles over the next few years. But it was their ninth album, Wanna Be A Star, that definitely made them stars. They charted their only two Top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 with “My Girl (Gone, Gone, Gone)” and “I Believe”. In 1982 Bill Henderson won the Juno Award for Producer of the Year for the Chilliwack album Opus X. The band’s third single release from Opus X was “Secret Information”. In the summer of 1982 Chilliwack had another Top 20 single from Wanna Be A Star in Vancouver titled “(Don’t Wanna) Live For A Living“.
By the time the Opus X album was recorded, Chilliwack was now a trio of Ab Bryant, Bill Henderson and Brian MacLeod. Henderson wrote “Secret Information” and has continued to play in concert. On October 6, 1991, Chilliwack gave a concert at the 86th Street Music Hall in Vancouver. Brian MacLeod died in 1992 of cancer.
In the 2000s Chilliwack was a frequent performer in the Greater Vancouver area. This included dates in Vancouver at the Commodore Ballroom on January 8, 2000, and again on January 11, 2003; The PNE Amphitheatre on August 30, 2008; and the PNE Exhibition Bowl on August 29, 2009. Chilliwack also appeared in the Vancouver suburb of Coquitlam at the Red Robinson Show Theatre on March 27, 2009; And in the suburb of Richmond on May 21st and 22nd, 2010, at the River Rock Casino. They also appeared in the 2000s in White Rock and Surrey.
On August 19, 2014, Chilliwack performed at the PNE Amphitheatre in Vancouver. On September 7, 2015, Chilliwack gave a concert in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby at Swangard Stadium. And earlier in the year in the Fraser Valley town of Maple Ridge. In 2017 Chilliwack appeared in concert in the Vancouver suburb of Surrey, and in the Fraser Valley cities of Langley and Abbotsford.
On August 18, 2018, Chilliwack performed at the Rock Ambleside in West Vancouver. The set included vocals with Bill Henderson’s daughters Camille and Saffron. Chilliwack played at the Cosmo MusicFest & Expo in Richmond (BC) on June 1, 2019. Later that summer they appeared at the Rock The River Festival in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the weekend of August 16-18, 2019. Other performers on stage included Blue Oyster Cult, Colin James, Loverboy, Quiet Riot, Streetheart, the Headpins, the Romantics and Honeymoon Suite.
Richard Skelly, who was a regular columnist in the early 70s writing record reviews for the Richmond Review and the Kerrisdale Courier, and later had a radio show on CITR, has written this website to inform that “Howard Froese played the memorable acoustic guitar solo and actually nailed it in one take. Howard died way too young in the mid-1990s, only a couple of years after his Chilliwack successor–Brian MacLeod–passed from cancer.” Thanks Richard for providing this additional piece of background information.
Chilliwack bio ~ thecanadianencyclopedia.ca
Dreams, Dreams, Dreams ~ revolvy.com
Bill Henderson bio ~ gonegonegone.com.
“Vancouver’s Official Music Survey,” CKLG 730 AM, Vancouver, BC, December 7, 1977.
Richard Skelly ~ email to Ray McGinnis.
For more song reviews visit the Countdown.