#13: Diamonds And Gold by Willie And The Walkers
City: Edmonton, AB
Radio Station: CJCA
Peak Month: May 1967
Peak Position in Edmonton: #4
Peak position in Vancouver ~ did not chart
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ did not chart
YouTube: “Diamonds And Gold”
Will MacCalder was born in Victoria, British Columbia, in 1947. His family moved to Edmonton, Alberta, while he was an infant. In his teens he began to follow the CFRN hit parade in Edmonton. At the age of 13 he began to learn to play the saxophone. He formed a band called the Barons, and subsequently the Casuals and in the mid-60s, the Tempests. Another bandmate with the Tempests was drummer Rolie Hardie. MacCalder recalls, “I thank him from the bottom of my heart. He taught me what it was to play in time! And he caught me on numerous occasions playing out of time! He just had the knack.” Rolie Hardie was born in Kelowna, British Columbia, in 1949. His older brother, Bill – born in 1947 in Kelowna – learned to play Hawaiian steel guitar. Bill Hardie was part of a band called the Nobles, and later the Vacqueros who had a guitarist named Dennis Petruk. Before they split up, the Vacqueros recruited Rolie Hardie from the Tempests to join their band.
In his blog, Steve Boddington wrote about the Vacqueros appearance at his high school.
It wasn’t until Jr. High school that I saw my first live band. “The Vaqueros” played Ottewell school. This was momentous because the drummer was Rolie Hardie who went to our school. They had matching blazers and had big time professional gear – Fender amps and guitars, and Rolie’s blue sparkle Slingerland drums. Denis Petruk played guitar and Bill Hardie was the bass player.
Once the Vacqueros were getting noticed, the bandmates looked around and recruited Will MacCalder from the Tempests. Now that there was this fusion of bandmates from two different bands, they decided to come up with a new name. MacCalder recalls what happened next.
Dennis [Petruk] and I were driving on 76th Avenue, heading east through the Mill Creek Ravine. Jr. Walker and the All Stars were on the radio. Dennis said “We should call ourselves the Walkers”…I said “Yeh we could, but how about Willie & the Walkers?” And he said “that sounds pretty good.” They wanted me to be the focal point. I was ecstatic that I had this support from the band, and they were encouraging me to go ahead and sing and play the organ.
Willie and the Walkers shared the stage with some top recording acts. These include Dino, Desi and Billy, the Guess Who, the Box Tops, The Who, Blues Magoos, Herman’s Hermits, Paul Revere & the Raiders, Roy Head, Cream, and local Edmonton sensation Barry Allan. In January 1967, the band added guitarist Bob Dann to the lineup. Dann had been part of the Pharaohs, James & the Bondsmen, and the Time Machine.
The debut single by Willie & the Walkers was “Diamonds and Gold”.
Bill MacCalder wrote “Diamonds And Gold”. The singer is confident that even if another suitor tries to shower his love interest with “diamonds and gold,” that the singer’s love for her will win her love.
“Diamonds And Gold” peaked at #4 in Edmonton (AB) and #12 in Lloydminster (AB).
The lineup shuffled when Dennis Petruk quit the band, and was replaced by Lethbridge guitarist Byron Nelson. A second single, “My Friend”, was released in June 1967. It peaked at #9 in Edmonton in July ’67. Nelson left the band in October due to an ulcer. He was replaced by Thyme Five musician Ron Rault.
August 25, 1967 Salute to Youth Show in Edmonton
The third single released by the band was “(Alone) In My Room“. “(Alone) In My Room” peaked at #2 in Calgary. It also made the Top 40 in Bathurst, New Brunswick.
The lineup for Willie and the Walkers in 1968:
Clockwise from left Will MacCalder, Ron Rault, Bob Dann, Vern Wills, and Roland Hardie
Summer 1968 photo by B.J.W. Graphics, courtesy W. MacCalder
The band toured in the U.S.A., including to Seaside Heights, New Jersey, where they performed at the Trade Winds Restaurant. The sign outside advertised “Go-Go Girls.”
The band fell apart in mid-1969. Rolie Hardie joined a band called Patch. However the band had a reunion concert in October 1969. There was a brief reformation under the billing of the Walkers in 1971. In early 1972, they opened a concert for Fleetwood Mac and Savoy Brown. And they released a single titled “All About You”. By this time the Walkers were playing country-rock.
MacCalder began work with the Seeds of Time as recording engineer on that band’s new album. As a result, MacCalder moved to Vancouver and the Walkers split up for good. Later on, Willie MacCalder became a founding member of Powder Blues who won a Juno Award, released ten LPs and sported hits such as “Doin’ It Right” and “Thirsty Ears.” Vern Wills joined the band Fosterchild which put out three albums and made it on to the radio with “I Need Somebody Tonight” and “Until We Meet Again.” Ron Rault played bass guitar behind such legends as John Lee Hooker and Johnny Shines.
In December 1988, Willie & the Walkers had a reunion on New Year’s Eve at the Edmonton Kinsmen Field House.
December 8, 2023
CJCA 930-AM Edmonton (AB) Top Ten | May 14, 1967