#379: Ramona by Stampeders
The Stampeders are a rock trio from Calgary named after that city’s football team, The Calgary Stampeders. Although, it could be argued that the yearly Calgary Stampede was also an inspiration for their name. During the band’s most successful chart run from 1968 to 1976, it was made up of guitarist Rich Dodson, bass player Ronnie King (born Cornelius Van Sprang) and drummer Kim Berly (born Kim Meyer). All three provided vocals. Originally, the band was a group of five formed in 1964 called The Rebounds. The Rebounds had five members: Rich Dodson, Len Roemer, Brendan Lyttle, Kim Berly, and Race Holiday. They renamed themselves The Stampeders in 1965 and Len Roemer was replaced with Ronnie King and Van Louis, making them a band of six for a few years. But after a temporary move to Toronto in 1966 the band was down to three members, Dodson, King and Berly by 1968. Between 1967 and 1976 The Stampeders charted 15 singles into the Canadian RPM Top 40.
They were originally outfitted with cowboy hats, T-kay denim pants, shirts and jackets and cowboy boots. By the early 70’s the Stampeders kept only cowboy boots as mandatory attire. Their first single as a trio was called “Carry Me.” While the song got some air play in Vancouver, it did not chart here. However, it climbed to #2 nationally. Their cache only increased with the release of their debut album and a #1 hit across Canada called “Sweet City Woman.” It also made the Top Ten in the USA. The band won four Juno Awards for “Best Composer,” “Best Producer,” “Best Single” and “Best Vocal Instrumental Group.”
On the strength of their success, their UK label, EMI, sponsored a tour to the UK and continental Europe. While on tour in 1972 they found themselves booked at the same hotel in Amsterdam overlapping with The Eagles. Back in North America, The Stampeders flew to Los Angeles where they performed at the iconic Whisky A-Go-Go, and were guests on the TV shows Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert and The Dating Game. It was in Hollywood that the band met The Who’s drummer, Keith Moon, who invited them to attend his birthday party at the Beverly Hills’ Wiltshire Hotel. In addition The Stampeders toured extensively in the early 70’s and on either side of the Canada-U.S. border found themselves variously sharing the billing with Black Oak Arkansas, Santana, Joe Cocker, Steve Miller, The James Gang, Robin Trower, Steely Dan, Sonny & Cher, The Beach Boys, ZZ Top, The Eagles, Earth, Wind And Fire, Mountain, America, Tower Of Power, Blood, Sweat and Tears and Genesis. The Stampeders also traveled to Brazil to perform at a song festival in Rio in front of 90 million TV viewers.
Among the singles that charted well in Vancouver were “Monday Morning Choo Choo”. The Stampeders next single release was “Wild Eyes“. In early 1973 the Stampeders released “Oh My Lady“. Another release from The Stampeders third album, “Minstrel Gypsy”, made the Top Ten in many radio markets across Canada, but failed to chart in Vancouver. In 1975 the band released their fifth album featuring the rocker, “Ramona”.
Rich Dodson wrote “Ramona” in 1974. The song concerns a guy and his woman, Ramona. When it’s time to love – to be free, to rock and roll – he chooses to visit Ramona and “get it all tonight.” Then, as the sunset fades on a summer night, the guy has to say goodbye (as he and Ramona don’t live together). The moment they have to say goodbye is a “time to die.” This is due to the ache of not being able to stay together any longer – at least ’cause they aren’t at a stage in life where they can spend the night together. In this way “Ramona” recalls a similar longing in the Beach Boys “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” where the couple dreams of a time when, “after having spent the day together, [they can] hold each other close the whole night through.”
“Ramona” peaked at #4 in Vancouver (BC), #10 in Kelowna (BC) and #16 in Toronto.
Another studio album followed with two covers. One was the old Ray Charles hit, “Hit The Road Jack”, while the other was a former hit for Gary U.S. Bonds, “New Orleans”. The former cover by The Stampeders featured the DJ of American Graffiti fame, Wolfman Jack. The single won The Stampeders another Juno.
But the days were numbered for The Stampeders as a hit-making machine. They had some modest success again in 1976 with several singles off their Hit The Road album. One of these was “Playin’ In The Band”.
After 1976, in most Canadian radio markets the Stampeders were off the radar. The disco onslaught on Top 40 AM radio was pervasive and the Stampeders weren’t doing disco. By degrees the band was breaking up as Rich Dodson left, followed by Kim Berly. They were replaced by numerous other musicians, with King the only original Stampeder. The larger line-up of Stampeders made the cost of touring impractical and the reformed band finally split up in 1980.
August 18-20, 2017, the Stampeders were one of a number of recording acts performing at Ambleside Park in West Vancouver, BC. In 2019, The Stampeders trio of King, Berly and Dodson began a tour in April of 33 concert dates across British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. The tour lasted into September 2019.
November 9, 2020
The Stampeders – About, Stampeders.net.
Rich Dodson and Ronnie King, “The Stampeders,” Canadian Bands.com.
Raj Halwani, “Immanuel Kant said Sexual Desire is Morally Wrong – he May have Had a Point: The Philosopher Implicitly Acknowledged the Unusual Power of Sexual Urges and their Capacity to Divert us from Doing What is Right,” Scroll.in, December 31, 2016.
“CKLG ‘Thirty’,” CKLG 7300 AM, Vancouver, BC, February 21, 1975.
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