#16: Hello Melinda Goodbye by the Five Man Electrical Band

City: Edmonton, AB
Radio Station: CHED
Peak Month: February 1971
Peak Position in Edmonton: #4
Peak position in Vancouver ~ did not chart
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ did not chart
YouTube: “Hello Melinda Goodbye
Lyrics: “Hello Melinda Goodbye

The Five Man Electrical Band was a Canadian mainstream rock band from Ottawa. They had an international hit in 1970 called “Signs.” Les Emmerson was born in 1944. In 1963 the Staccatos, an Ottawa group, was formed. It included lead singer and local disc jockey Dean Hagopian. After some local hits they got the attention of Capitol Records. When Dean Hagopian left around 1964, Les Emmerson stepped in as lead vocalist. One of their 1965 singles imitated the surfing sound with “Moved To California.” In 1966 their Top 40 hit on the Canadian RPM singles chart, “Let’s Run Away,” won the group the two Juno awards that year for Best Produced Single and Vocal Instrumental Group Of The Year.

Hagopian left the band before they released “Half Past Midnight.” The song peaked on the Canadian RPM singles chart at #8 in May 1967. It won them a JUNO award for Best Produced Single and got them gigs in the trendy music scene in the downtown Toronto neighborhood of Yorkville. Coca-Cola lined them up for some jingles and they shared one of two sides of an album in 1968 with The Guess Who called A Wild Pair.

After failing to chart in the USA the group changed their sound and their name to the The Five Man Electrical Band in 1969. At this point the band’s lineup consisted of Emmerson on vocals, Staccatos bass guitarist Brian Rading, Staccatos 2nd drummer and third vocalist Mike “Bell” Belanger, Staccatos singer and drummer Rick Bell (Belanger), and new bandmate – keyboard player Ted Gerow.

The band released a single called “It Never Rains On Maple Lane” which had regional success in Olympia, Washington, (#12), Kirkland Lake, Ontario, (#11) and Top 30 in San Francisco and Toronto. A second single, “Lovin’ Look” made it into the Top 100 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, with the band sounding similar to the Grass Roots. But it was their third single release that began to show signs of an emerging sound the Five Man Electrical Band became known for. The refrain, “the sun is up and I’m still down” in the last minute of “Sunrise to Sunset” got the band more attention. With that more mainstream rock sound their third single peaked at #13 in Ottawa, #12 in Victoria and #12 on CKLG in Vancouver.

Several more singles followed. In 1970 the band released an album called Good-byes and Butterflies. The cover of the album prominently displayed a marijuana plant. The ensuing controversy led to the album being withdrawn and given a different cover with a butterfly composed of neon lights. One of the tracks from the album was “Signs”. It was initially the b-side of “Hello Melinda, Goodbye”, which was the first side to get airplay in some radio markets.

Hello Melinda Goodbye by the Five Man Electrical Band
“Hello Melinda Goodbye” was written by Les Emerson. The song is about a relationship that is out of balance. Both the singer and Melinda love each other. But, the guy finds that Melinda is “running ’round on me every day.” She’s having other relationships and he complains that she’s “treating me unkind.” He can’t take the relationship any longer. Exasperated, he says “I hung around and waited for you. This time you’ve gone too far. You’ve closed the door.” He demanded that Melinda change her ways. But she keeps repeating her old patterns that makes him recognize that it is no use. She tells him she still loves him. That may be true. But the relationship isn’t working for him. Turning the other cheek, the guy promises “I’ll always think well of you.”

“Hello Melinda Goodbye” peaked at #4 in both Edmonton and Calgary. It also cracked the Top 30 in Bellingham (WA) and Hamilton (ON).

But by accident, the sides were reversed, making “Signs” the A-side, which radio listeners started began calling DJ’s for requests to hear it again. In 1971 “Signs” peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and in Vancouver. This was followed by “Absolutely Right” which peaked at #4 in Vancouver and reached the Top 20 in the USA.

The Five Man Electrical Band followed up with “Julianna”.

Several more singles were released including their 1973 single “I’m A Stranger Here,” an anthem to environmental awareness. When the single was recorded, the band was made up of Les Emmerson (vocals, guitar), Rick Bell (vocals, drums), Ted Gerow (keyboards), Mike Bell (vocals, drums) and Brian Rading (bass guitar). At the end of the albums production, Mike Bell and Brian Rading left the band, actually making the remaining members a “Three Man Electrical Band.”

The band had one more notable hit called “Werewolf” in 1974.

The Five Man Electrical Band split up in 1975. Les Emmerson based himself in California from the mid-70s until 1981. During this time he launched Perfect Records with the engineer for Bachman-Turner-Overdrive and Pure Prairie League, Mark Smith. When he moved back to Ottawa in 1981 he became associated with The Cooper Brothers, an Ottawa band with a southern rock sound. Emmerson also established  a recording studio in the nation’s capitol.

1986 was the year the Five Man Electrical Band got together to perform a benefit concert. However, the benefit concert led to yearly tours of Eastern Canada into the 2010’s. In 2000, at the age of 56, Les Emmerson suffered a heart attack. Thankfully, a stent procedure was successful. In 2008, The Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame inducted Les Emmerson, primarily for his composition of “Signs,” a song he was first inspired to write while driving down Route 66.

In 2015 Emmerson gave a concert as a fundraiser for the Ottawa Aphasia Center and Manotick United Church’s community outreach activities. Terry McGovern, organizer of the concert said of Les Emmerson: “He’s backed up Chuck Berry and he’s played around the pool at Linda Ronstadt’s house. The guy lived in Los Angeles for 10 years and he and his band were top musicians, so he’s seen everything twice. He has a genuine story to tell and a love of storytelling and is very great at telling stories.”

On June 8, 2016, the Five Man Electrical Band lost bass player, Brian Rading, who died weeks short of his 70th birthday.

Update: Les Emmerson died in December 2021 at the age of 77. See Ottawa Citizen article in reference section below for more details.

December 4, 2023
Ray McGinnis

Emmerson Settles Suit,” Billboard, November 11, 1972
The Staccatos, “Moved To California,”1965
The Staccatos, “Let’s Run Away,” 1966
The Staccatos, “Half Past Midnight,” 1967
Les Emmerson inductee: “Signs,” Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, 2008.
Five Man Electrical Band: Rock Band Formed in Ottawa as The Staccatos, The Canadian Encyclopedia.ca, December 16, 2013.
Proudly Canadian: The Five Man Electrical Band, Cashbox Canada, July 31, 2014.
Megan DeLaire, “Les Emmerson Returns to Manotick,” Hamilton Spectator, November 5, 2015.
Kelly Egan, “Egan: Five Man Electrical Loses Original Bass Player, Local Rock Pillar,” Ottawa Citizen, June 16, 2016.
Leanne Cusack, “Ottawa rock and roll royalty, songwriter of ‘Signs’ Les Emmerson dead at 77,” Ottawa Citizen, December 12, 2021.

Hello Melinda Goodbye by the Five Man Electrical Band

One response to “Hello Melinda Goodbye by the Five Man Electrical Band”

  1. Tom Locke says:

    Never heard this song before. It never made it on the charts in Toronto.

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