#607: Lonesome Mary by Chilliwack

Peak Month: November 1971
9 weeks on Vancouver’s CKLG chart
Peak Position #4 on CKVN
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ did not chart
YouTube.com: “Lonesome Mary
Lyrics: “Lonesome Mary”

Bill Henderson was born in Vancouver in 1944. He learned guitar and became the guitarist for the Panarama Trio that performed at the Panarama Roof dance club on the 15th Floor of the Hotel Vancouver. He formed the psychedelic pop-rock Vancouver band, The Collectors, in 1966.

The Vancouver rock band The Collectors, was formerly named The Classics who were a Vancouver group led by Howie Vickers in the mid-60s. The Classics were part of the regular line-up on Let’s Go, a show on CBC TV. Though the Classics released several singles the group needed room to grow and reformed as The Collectors. They would become one of the most innovative of Vancouver’s recording acts through the rest 60s. In the spring of 1967, Vickers was asked to put together a house band at the Torch Cabaret in Vancouver. Along with Claire Lawrence on horns, they recruited guitarist Terry Frewer, drummer Ross Turney and Brian Newcombe on bass. Within a couple of months, fellow Classics member Glenn Miller replaced Newcombe on bass and Bill Henderson, a student at UBC, replaced Frewer on guitars. With Vickers now handling vocals, their sound changed from doing covers of R&B tunes to psychedelic rock. This led them to gigs along the Canadian and US west coast. Their strongest fan base in America was in California.

After a half dozen local hits including “Fisherwoman” and “Lydia Purple” the Collectors name was ditched in 1970. Henderson (vocals, guitar), Claire Lawrence (saxophone, keyboards), Ross Turney (drums) and Glenn Miller (bass) were all Collectors bandmates. After Howie Vickers left The Collectors, they changed their name to Chilliwack. The name was a Salish First Nations name that means “going back up” and is the name of a city in the Fraser Valley in British Columbia.

Chilliwack had their first Top Ten hit in Vancouver with “Lonesome Mary” in 1971.

Lonesome Mary by Chilliwack

“Lonesome Mary” peaked at #4 in Vancouver, #6 in Boise (ID), #10 in Boston, #19 in Washington D.C. and #20 in Ottawa and Fort Lauderdale (FL). The song is about a person nicknamed ‘Lonesome Mary’ who spends everyday weeping and wailing in her home, all alone. Her contrary nature seems to have driven everyone in her social circle away from her. Consequently, she has made a “desert of her home.” The desolation of her living space is oppressive. She concludes “I must be the most contrary hard-to-get-along-with person in this world.” The narrator of the song is someone who decides to pay Lonesome Mary a visit, and asks her how can she live the way she’s living. She says “I don’t know, it must be in my soul.”

In an article by Marc Chernoff titled “12 Toxic Behaviors that Push People Away From You,” he points out that our behaviors make a significant difference and can either draw people toward us or push them away. One observation he makes is “People are toxic to be around when they believe that everything happening around them is a direct assault on them or is in some way all about them.  The truth is that what people say and do to you is much more about them, than you.  People’s reactions to you are about their perspectives, wounds and experiences.  Whether people think you’re amazing, or believe you’re the worst, again, is more about them.  I’m not suggesting we should be narcissists and ignore all feedback.  I am saying that so much hurt, disappointment and sadness in our lives comes from our taking things personally.  In most cases it’s far more productive and healthy to let go of other people’s good or bad opinion of you, and to operate with your own intuition and wisdom as your guide.”

Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, has this to say about people who are obsessively contrary, “A person with oppositional conversational style is a person who, in conversation, disagrees with and corrects whatever you say. He or she may do this in a friendly way, or a belligerent way, but this person frames remarks in opposition to whatever you venture. I noticed this for the first time in a conversation with a guy a few months ago. We were talking about social media, and before long, I realized that whatever I’d say, he’d disagree with me. If I said, ‘X is important,’ he’d say, ‘No, actually, Y is important.’ For two hours. And I could tell that if I’d said, “Y is important,’ he would’ve argued for X. I saw this style again, in a chat with friend’s wife who, no matter what casual remark I made, would disagree. ‘That sounds fun,’ I observed. ‘No, not at all,’ she answered. ‘That must have been really difficult,’ I said. ‘No, for someone like me, it’s no problem,’ she answered.”

It may be that Lonesome Mary is like some of these people described above. She may be unconsciously contrary and her conversational habit drives people to distraction and they pull away from her. She may also have a surplus of negative thinking to add into the mix. Whatever the case, if you are someone who is weeping and wailing on a daily basis, it is important to seek professional help. Lonesome Mary believes that her contrariness is  in her soul. Listeners of the song may have been able to identify with aspects of their own character that potentially could drive (had driven) others away too. What can any of us do to prevent ending up like Lonesome Mary in this song?

Subsequent albums by Chilliwack were Riding High and Rockerbox. They resulted in few successful singles. The most successful single during this chapter of Chilliwack was the haunting “Crazy Talk” from the Riding High album. The single peaked in the Canadian RPM singles Top Ten in the winter of 1974-75, and made #6 in Hamilton, Ontario, and the Top 20 in Toronto and Peterborough, Ontario. In Vancouver it reached #11 in January 1975.

In 1977 Chilliwack recorded their sixth studio album, Dreams, Dreams, Dreams. At the time the band members were all Scientologists, according to Bill Henderson’s liner notes on a 2013 reissue of the album. And in 1977 there was a dedication to the founder of the Church of Scientology, Ron L. Hubbard, on the back of Dreams, Dreams, Dreams. By 1977 the bands musicians consisted of Henderson, Turney, Miller and Howard Froese on guitar, vocals, solina and piano. The album contained a series of successful singles including “California Girl”, “Baby Blue“, “Something Better” and “Fly At Night”. That summer Chilliwack had a local Top Ten hit with “Arms Of Mary”. At the end of 1978 the band cracked the Top 20 in Vancouver with “Never Be The Same“.

Chilliwack continued to release albums and singles over the next few years. But it was their ninth album, Wanna Be A Star, that definitely made them stars. They charted their only two Top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 with “My Girl (Gone, Gone, Gone)” and “I Believe”. In 1982 Bill Henderson won the Juno Award for Producer of the Year for the Chilliwack album Opus X. The band’s third single release from Opus X was “Secret Information”. In the summer of 1982 Chilliwack had another Top 20 single from Wanna Be A Star in Vancouver titled “(Don’t Wanna) Live For A Living“.

By the time the Opus X album was recorded, Chilliwack was now a trio of Ab Bryant, Bill Henderson and Brian MacLeod. Henderson wrote “Secret Information” and has continued to play in concert. Brian MacLeod died in 1992 of cancer. Chilliwack is playing at the Rock The River Festival in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the weekend of August 16-18, 2019. Other performers on stage include Blue Oyster Cult, Colin James, Loverboy, Quiet Riot, Streetheart, the Headpins, the Romantics and Honeymoon Suite.

August 14, 2019
Ray McGinnis

Bill Henderson, The Collectors, Canadian Bands.com.
Chilliwack bio ~ thecanadianencyclopedia.ca.
Bill Henderson biogonegonegone.com.
Claire Lawrence bio, Rate Your Music.com
Bill Henderson bio ~ gonegonegone.com
Dylan S. Keating, Chilliwack, BeatRoute Magazine, November 3, 2013
Marc Chernoff, “12 Toxic Behaviors that Push People Away From You,” marcandangel.com, May 2015.
Mark Frauenfelder, “WTF is the deal with people who are contrary conversationalists?,” boingboing.net, July 2, 2012.
West Coast Music Survey,” CKVN 1410 AM, Vancouver, BC, November 12, 1971.

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