#1410: Dancer by Ken Tobias
In 1945 Ken Tobias was born in Saint John, New Brunswick. His family’s home was filled with music and young Ken was featured in a number of tap dancing performances. Though he dreamed of becoming a draftsman, out of high school he and his brother Tony formed the folk group The Ramblers. By the mid-60s Tobias lived in Halifax and was a staple in the roster of performers on CBC TV’s afternoon show, Music Hop. This led to his appearing several years later on Singalong Jubilee with other Canadian music stars Anne Murray, Gene MacLellan.
Though he played as a drummer in a Halifax band called The Badd Cedes, the experience led Ken Tobias to choose a solo path. After a time in Toronto and than Montreal, he moved to LA. When Tobias relocated to Los Angeles, he became a writer for Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers. By coincidence, Bill Medley had composed Ken Tobias’ first single in 1969, on Bell Records, called “You’re Not Even Going To The Fair”. It was a Top 30 hit in Fredericton, New Brunswick that year. Following this single release he received a BMI Award for Outstanding Airplay in Canada. Through Bill Medley word got spread around about his Canadian songwriter from New Brunswick. Tobias’ songs were subsequently recorded by The Beach Boys, The Everly Brothers, Anne Murray, Rick Nelson and The King Sisters.
He next released a record on Coburt Records called “I’d Like to Know” which charted in Sarasota, Florida. Ken Tobias also write the four million seller, “Stay Awhile”, for the Montreal group, The Bells. In 1971 the song climbed to #7 on Billboard Hot 100 and #1 in Vancouver and across Canada. With the buzz around “Stay Awhile”, Tobias got a record contract with MGM/Verve. His debut album, Dream #2, was recorded in Los Angeles. The title track became a Top Ten hit in Vancouver. It was followed by “I Just Want To Make Music“, a song that peaked at #8 in Vancouver in January 1973. During 1973-74, Ken Tobias found himself almost constantly on tour. across North America.
In 1973 Tobias was based in both Los Angeles and Montreal. He released an album called The Magic’s In The Music. The album was recorded in London, England at George Martin’s Air Studios. The album featured the track “Fly Me High” which became a Top 20 hit in Tobias’ home town of Saint John, New Brunswick.
In the mid-70s Ken Tobias relocated to Toronto and changed from MGM to Attic Records. His first album with Attic was “Every Bit Of Love“. The title track climbed into the Top 20 in Toronto and Vancouver and #8 in Peterborough, Ontario. His next single off the album,”Give A Little Love” also charted into the Top 20 in Toronto. Tobias released another single in 1977 titled “Dancer”, from his album Siren Spell.
Dance is a term broadly used to define a human behaviour characterized by movements of the body that are expressive rather than purely functional. Although, in some circumstances, functional movements such as walking, crawling, running and jumping are seen as dance activity when included in a dance sequence. Dance is always set in a context that may include a social, cultural, philosophical, spiritual, religious, emotional and intellectual motivation. This sets dance apart from purely functional movement. Because dance is a cultural expression, what constitutes dance is culturally relative, and diverse expressions of dance are found around the globe.
In the mid-70’s dance was captivating Canadian audiences at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Les Grand Ballets Canadiens in Montreal, the Alberta Ballet in Edmonton and the National Ballet of Canada based in Toronto. The form, discipline and aerial ballet movements inspired the public to appreciate what dancers could do, and in some cases inspired members in the audience to pursue dance themselves.
From 1970 on, dance departments began to emerge in a number of Canadian universities, bolstering performance training with studies in dance composition, history, theory, criticism, therapy and anthropology. The first of these, founded by Grant Strate at York University in Toronto, was influential in shaping the future development of Canadian dance. Many of its graduates moved on to important careers in the field. In addition to dance departments in Canadian universities and ballet companies, there also began to emerge modern dance troupes. These included the Anna Wyman Dancers based in Vancouver, the Danny Grossman Dance Theatre in Toronto and Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers. Funding from the Canada Council for the Arts was a major factor in the explosion of dance as a cultural form. Thanks to the grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, Canadians were able to enjoy their own home grown productions on stages in the towns and cities where they lived.
In addition to classical and modern dance, the mid-70’s was a time of a whole host of dances emerging from the disco craze. One of the most popular was The Hustle. A song by Van McCoy peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in July 1975. “The Hustle” featured these dance moves:
- Basic first step – similar to the basic from single-step swing, except rock step is at beginning
- Turn – 180° clockwise turn taken between 2 and 3 count, followed by a rock step
- Left Turn – 180° counterclockwise turn taken between 1 and 2 count, followed by a rock step
- Side Break – lead sends follow out still holding her left hand, then picks her back up
- Wheel – couple in double hand-hold, pumps arms like a bellows; couple as a whole rotates 180° clockwise
- Inside Turn or Loop Turn – similar to the loop turn from swing; follower twirls 360° counterclockwise
- Wrap – similar to wrap from the western swing but the footing is the same as a half turn for the hustle
- Two hand turn – uses 180° turn footing, before the step the lead takes the followers right hand in his, then proceeds as if completing a wrap but changes back to mirror two hand position halfway through the step.
In 1978 Ken Tobias travelled to Rome and became part of the crew for “Sella Argento” (Silver Saddle in English), one of many Western movies made in Italy. The movie was directed by Lucio Fulci who already had a couple of spaghetti Westerns in his resume. To promote the film, the theme song Ken Tobias wrote, “Silver Saddle”, was released in Europe. Awhile later, the tune became a hit in Kamloops, British Columbia.
Ken Tobias took the next five years off. In 1983 he wrote a song called “Here You Are Today” as a tribute to his birthplace, Saint John, New Brunswick, which was celebrating it’s bi-centennial. That same year he wrote and prodded a TV commercial for Tourism New Brunswick. In recognition of his effort, the Canadian Historical Society gave him an award.
The following year Tobias recorded a new album called Gallery, produced with the CBC. He also recorded a children’s album called Friends. The album included a teacher/parent guide to help spark conversations with children about some of the songs on the album, both in classroom settings and in family households.
In the mid-80s Ken Tobias began developing his talent as a painter. In time he had more than several hundred paintings on exhibit displayed at numbers of galleries across North America. Many private collectors purchased his paintings. In 1987 Tobias scored the soundtrack for Shelley Saywell’s award winning documentary Shahira. And in 1988 Tobias scored the documentary Toronto: Struggle For Neighbourhood. a year later. By the end of the 1990s Ken Tobias left Toronto and moved back to his native Saint John, New Brunswick. In 2011 he released his ninth album, Secrets.
July 16, 2017
Ken Tobias – Bio, Ken Tobias.ca.
Singalong Jubilee, Wikipedia.org.
The Bells, “Stay Awhile,” Polydor Records, 1971.
“Vancouver’s Official Music Survey,” CKLG 730 AM, Vancouver, BC, July 5, 1977.
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