#1429: Let’s Run Away by The Staccatos
In 1963 the Staccatos, an Ottawa group was formed. It included lead singer and local disc jockey Dean Hagopian. Other bandmates were Vern Craig on guitar, Brian Rading on bass and Rick Bell on drums and backing vocals. Immediately, they began to get a regular gig as the house band at the Chaudiere Club in Alymer, Quebec. Hagopian left the band in 1964 and Les Emmerson (born in 1944) stepped in as lead vocalist. Rick Bell also took turns as lead vocalist on some of their emerging set when performing in concert. At the time Vern Craig recalls, “it was the British Invasion at the time. Nobody wanted to talk to anybody about a group unless they were from Jolly Old England.”
They had a #3 hit on CFRA in Ottawa in April of ’65 titled “It Isn’t Easy”. This got the attention of Capitol Records. They followed up in May with their first Capitol Records release, “Small Town Girl”, where they also got airplay in Montreal. In the fall of 1965, the Staccatos single “Move To California” imitated the surfing sound of the Beach Boys and Jan & Dean.
In 1966 they had a Top 40 hit on the Canadian RPM singles chart titled“Let’s Run Away”, which included vocals from new bandmate Mike Bell, brother of Rick Bell.
“Let’s Run Away” was written by Les Emmerson. The song was lyrically a cousin of “A World Of Our Own” by the Seekers. The lyrics propose that running away is a good Plan A. There won’t be anyone to make you conform and “do what all the others do… you won’t mother have to ask your mother, just run away.” Instead of sticking with the familiar, the lyrics offered “there’s so many new worlds to be found” and invited listeners to “take a look around.” The song lyrics also spoke to those tired of being told not to choose the road not travelled because they were “too young.” “Let’s Run Away” was one of a number of songs that spoke to radio listeners who were weighed down by conformity and the rules set down by parents and other authority figures. If the world created by the older generation wasn’t to your liking, you could go make a new world for yourself by running away.
“Let’s Run Away” peaked at #1 in Peace River, Alberta, and Saint John, New Brunswick. It climbed to #13 at CFCF in Montreal. While the song didn’t make the C-FUNTASTIC FIFTY, it peaked at #2 on the C-FUN ALL CANADIAN TOP TEN in November 1966. In the November 5, 1966, issue of Billboard, in the Pop Spotlight section “Let’s Run Away” was listed among the songs “predicted to reach the Hot 100 chart.” But the prediction didn’t come to pass.
In the spring of 1967 the Staccatos had a #1 hit in Ottawa and Belleville (ON) with “Half Past Midnight”. They climbed to #3 in Trois Rivieres, Quebec, and #10 on CHUM in Toronto. On Canada Day in 1967 the Staccatos performed for Queen Elizabeth II and a crowd of 24,000 fans at Lansdowne Park. The stage was low and the speakers were insufficient. The crowd was noisy and the band couldn’t hear each other.
Their follow up to “Half Past Midnight” was “Catch The Love Parade”. It got onto the Top 40 in the small Florida town of Starke, and made the playlist in Oxnard, California. In 1968 the group released “Didn’t Know The Time” which made the pop chart in Bakersfield, California, and Massena, New York.
Vern Craig left the Staccatos in 1969 to operate a booking and management agency. Craig recalls at the time he left, “I was disappointed because we had tried so hard. I was tired of being on the treadmill with very little happening outside our borders. We had tried, done just about everything.”
After failing to chart in the USA the Staccatos changed their sound and their name to the The Five Man Electrical Band. In 1969, they released a single titled “Sunrise To Sunset” which made it to #12 on CKLG in Vancouver. In 1971 the band got a Top Ten hit in Canada and the USA called “Signs” which 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. Several more singles were released including one of their 1973 single “I’m A Stranger Here“, an anthem to environmental awareness. However, by 1973 the group was spent from touring and they disbanded, although Les Emmerson kept recording material under the groups name. He also recorded several singles under his own name. The most successful release was “Control Of Me” which climbed to #5 on the Canadian RPM singles chart in early 1973. However, that single did not chart in Vancouver.
On November 11, 1972, Billboard magazine ran an article with the headline, “Emmerson Settles Suit.” The story concerned Emmerson’s 1971 lawsuit against 4-Star and its distribution of his catalogue of songs worldwide. Emmerson’s only appearance on the CKLG chart in Vancouver was later in the fall of ’73 with “Cry Your Eyes Out”. Meanwhile, the Five Man Electrical Band had Top 30 hit in Canada in 1974 titled “Werewolf“.
In 2009, a compilation of the Staccatos best tunes was released as First Sparks: The Anthology (1965-1969).
July 5, 2019
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.
Lynn Saxberg, “Clock Ticks Again for Ottawa’s Staccatos,” November 28, 2009.
“Pop Spotlight,” Billboard, November 5, 1966.
“ALL CANADIAN TOP TEN,” CFUN 1410 AM, Vancouver, BC, November 19, 1966.
For more song reviews on this website visit the Countdown.