#26: Carry Me by the Stampeders

City: Calgary, Alberta
Radio Station: CKXL
Peak Month: March 1971
Peak Position in Calgary ~ #4
Peak position in Vancouver ~ did not chart
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ did not chart
YouTube.com: “Carry Me
Lyrics: “Carry Me

The Stampeders are a rock trio from Calgary named after that city’s football team, The Calgary Stampeders. Although, it could be argued that the yearly Calgary Stampede was also an inspiration for their name. During the band’s most successful chart run from 1968 to 1976, it was made up of guitarist Rich Dodson, bass player Ronnie King (born Cornelius Van Sprang) and drummer Kim Berly (born Kim Meyer). All three provided vocals. Originally, the band was a group of five formed in 1964 called The Rebounds. The Rebounds had five members: Rich Dodson, Len Roemer, Brendan Lyttle, Kim Berly, and Race Holiday. They renamed themselves The Stampeders in 1965 and Len Roemer was replaced with Ronnie King and Van Louis, making them a band of six for a few years. The band released a number of non-album singles, “House of Shake” (1965), and the minor Top 30 hit on the RPM Canadian Singles chart “Morning Magic” (1967). The band moved to Toronto in 1966. But by 1968, the Stampeders had just three members, Rich Dodson, Ronnie King and Kim Berly. Between 1967 and 1976 The Stampeders charted 15 singles into the Canadian RPM Top 40.

They were originally outfitted with cowboy hats, T-kay denim pants, shirts and jackets and cowboy boots. By the early 70’s the Stampeders kept only cowboy boots as mandatory attire. Their first single as a trio was called “Carry Me.”

Carry Me by the Stampeders

“Carry Me” is a song about a man serving in the military. He is from Birmingham, Alabama. He wants to go back home from the warfront to Sarah-Ann, and her “homemade jam.” He wishes the war would end. He wants the “old wind” to carry him back home to his “red mountain land.” Red Mountain is part of the Ridge-and-Valley region of the Appalachian Mountains overlooking Birmingham.

Carry Me by the Stampeders

A view of Birmingham, Alabama from Vulcan’s observation deck, Red Mountain, on a fall afternoon.

Carry Me by the Stampeders

View of Red Mountain, with Birmingham, Alabama, in the background.

At the time of the release of “Carry Me”, the Vietnam War was into its sixth year of being ramped up under President Lyndon Johnston, after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Of course, some listeners may have thought not of the Vietnam War, but of the Civil War, where many soldiers from the Confederate states were away from home fighting the Union soldiers from north of the Mason-Dixon Line in the 1860’s.

“Carry Me” peaked at #4 in Calgary, #5 in Saskatoon (SK), #7 in Toronto, #14 in Hamilton (ON) and Sudbury (ON), and #16 in Salinas (CA).

While the song got some air play in Vancouver, it did not chart here. However, it climbed to #2 nationally. Their cache only increased with the release of their debut album and a #1 hit across Canada called “Sweet City Woman.” It also made the Top Ten in the USA. The band won four Juno Awards for “Best Composer,” “Best Producer,” “Best Single” and “Best Vocal Instrumental Group.”

On the strength of their success, their UK label, EMI, sponsored a tour to the UK and continental Europe. While on tour in 1972 they found themselves booked at the same hotel in Amsterdam overlapping with The Eagles. Back in North America, The Stampeders flew to Los Angeles where they performed at the iconic Whisky A-Go-Go, and were guests on the TV shows Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert and The Dating Game. It was in Hollywood that the band met The Who’s drummer, Keith Moon, who invited them to attend his birthday party at the Beverly Hills’ Wiltshire Hotel. In addition The Stampeders toured extensively in the early 70’s and on either side of the Canada-U.S. border found themselves variously sharing the billing with Black Oak Arkansas, Santana, Joe Cocker, Steve Miller, The James Gang, Robin Trower, Steely Dan, Sonny & Cher, The Beach Boys, ZZ Top, The Eagles, Earth, Wind And Fire, Mountain, America, Tower Of Power, Blood, Sweat and Tears and Genesis. The Stampeders also traveled to Brazil to perform at a song festival in Rio in front of 90 million TV viewers.

Among the singles that charted well in Vancouver were “Monday Morning Choo Choo”. The Stampeders next single release was “Wild Eyes“. In early 1973 the Stampeders released “Oh My Lady“. Another release from The Stampeders third album, “Minstrel Gypsy”, made the Top Ten in many radio markets across Canada, but failed to chart in Vancouver. In 1975 the band released their fifth album featuring the rocker, “Ramona”.

Another studio album followed with two covers. One was the old Ray Charles hit, “Hit The Road Jack”, while the other was a former hit for Gary U.S. Bonds, “New Orleans”. The former cover by The Stampeders featured the DJ of American Graffiti fame, Wolfman Jack. The single won The Stampeders another Juno. And the band came to the PNE Garden Auditorium on October 11, 1975.

But the days were numbered for The Stampeders as a hit-making machine. They had some modest success again in 1976 with several singles off their Hit The Road album. One of these was “Playin’ In The Band”. To support the album, the Stampeders brought a tour to Vancouver with a concert at the PNE Garden Auditorium on July 28, 1976.

After 1976, in most Canadian radio markets the Stampeders were off the radar. The disco onslaught on Top 40 AM radio was pervasive and the Stampeders weren’t doing disco. By degrees the band was breaking up as Rich Dodson left, followed by Kim Berly. They were replaced by numerous other musicians, with King the only original Stampeder. The larger line-up of Stampeders made the cost of touring impractical and the reformed band finally split up in 1980.

On June 7, 2009, the Stampeders performed in concert in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby at the Rockwood.

August 18, 2017, the Stampeders were one of a number of recording acts performing at Ambleside Park in West Vancouver, BC. In 2019, The Stampeders trio of King, Berly and Dodson began a tour in April of 33 concert dates across British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. The tour lasted into September 2019.

September 1, 2023
Ray McGinnis

References:
The Stampeders – About, Stampeders.net.
Rich Dodson and Ronnie King, “The Stampeders,” Canadian Bands.com.

For more song reviews visit the Countdown.

Carry Me by the Stampeders
CKXL 1140 AM, Calgary, Alberta, March 4, 1971


2 responses to “Carry Me by the Stampeders”

  1. Richard Skelly says:

    Carry Me was every bit as well produced and engineered as followup Sweet City Woman. A real head scratcher why Polydor Records, which released Carry Me south of the border, didn’t market the single well enough for it to have at least modestly charted on the Billboard Hot 100.

    At any rate, the Stampeders producer/manager Mel Shaw quickly moved on from Polydor and struck a stateside distribution deal with Bell Records which did a crackerjack job breaking Sweet City Woman right across America. In Canada, the band released on Shaw-owned MWC which was distributed by Quality Records.

  2. Richard Skelly says:

    An impressive amount of Canadian content on that CKXL Top 10 from March 4/1971 at the end of the article. Topping the Calgary station’s chart—Woodstock a Matthews’ Southern Comfort cover of Joni Mitchell’s song.

    Also qualifying:

    • #4 Carry Me by The Stampeders;

    • #5 Where Evil Grows/I was Wondering by The Poppy Family;

    • #9 She’s A Lady—Tom Jones’ interpretation of a Paul Anka song;

    • #10 Put Your Hand in the Hand by Ocean;

    Though not qualifying as Canadian Content, Me and Bobby McGee by Janis Joplin did feature her Stratford, Ontario backup band Full Tilt Boogie on the recording.

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