#147: The Blamers by Les Vogt
Peak Month: August 1960
11 weeks on Vancouver’s CFUN chart
1 week Future ‘FUN Favorites
Peak Position #1
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ did not chart
YouTube.com: “The Blamers”
Les Vogt was the lead singer for the premier local rock n’ roll band in Vancouver called The Prowlers. As described in his bio, he writes “I was a tall, shy kid that became interested in music at the age of 13 when my older brother (Ed) took me to a few “live” concerts… Louis Armstrong and Wilf Carter were the most memorable. After seeing a Wilf Carter concert in 1951, I took my older brother’s hand-me-down guitar and learned to play and yodel in the confines of my bedroom.” At the time, Vogt was a Grade Eight student at John Oliver High School. By 1953, Vogt became part of the Fraserview Drifters, along with his friend Larry Tillyer (guitar), Laurie Bader (drums), Eric Olsen (accordion) and for awhile Wayne Dinwoodie (fiddle). As country music was the only alternate to the big band sound, the Fraserview Drifters played covers of Eddy Arnold, Hank Thompson, Marty Robbins, Guy Mitchell, Frankie Laine and others. By 1954, the set shifted to covers of “Sh-Boom” by the Crew Cuts, “Three Coins In The Fountain” by the Four Lads, and other pop tunes. By 1956, a guitar player from Nova Scotia, Fred Bennett, had moved to Vancouver. And he joined the band.
On local Vancouver radio, Jack Cullen had moved from Port Alberni to host a radio show on the forerunner of CFUN, then called CKMO, in 1947. CKMO was 1320 on the AM dial before the station moved over to 1410 AM. Cullen, in addition to the Owl Prowl show also hosted the 1320 Club in the late afternoons. Cullen aired live big band shows during his program with Glenn Miller and other visiting recording stars, as well as Mart Kenny and His Western Gentlemen and Dal Richards big band. Cullen could croon a tune and often sang a few while being an emcee at a concert or for a dance. In 1956 Cullen was the emcee for a sock hop at John Oliver High School. Attending the sock hop was John Oliver student Les Vogt. The young man got the courage to introduce himself to the popular DJ and told Cullen about his band, The Fraserview Drifters, and that he intended to play sock hops at high schools in the future. Cullen didn’t take much notice, simply saying “sure kid… good luck and stay in touch.”
Les Vogt recalls “The band’s big break came from a fluke telephone call to DJ Jack Cullen’s radio program. Cullen’s “Owl Prowl” was Vancouver’s most popular radio program at the time and pretty much all the teenagers in the city listened to it. One of the girls attending a basement rehearsal for the band took it upon herself to phone Jack Cullen (on the air) and asked him to listen to the band over the phone. He not only listened to the band… he patched the call over the airwaves and all of Vancouver was talking about the band the next day. Cullen received so many phone calls that he brought the band into his small radio studio and recorded several songs which he proceeded to play regularly on the air. This connection resulted in the band naming themselves “The Prowlers” since their popularity came from Jack Cullen’s Owl Prowl radio show.” They began to appear regularly on local DJ Jack Cullen’s Owl Prowl radio show on CKNW. Cullen did more for The Prowlers when he arranged for them to be the opening act for the June 27, 1956, concert featuring Bill Haley & The Comets at the Kerrisdale Arena.
But once Elvis Presley appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show on three occasions in September 1956, everything changed. The Prowlers were a sought after band. Their repertoire included covers of Presley records such as “Don’t Be Cruel”, “Mystery Train”, and “When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again”, Frankie Lymon’s “Goody Goody”, Carl Perkins’ “Blue Suede Shoes”, Fats Domino’s “My Blue Heaven”, Buddy Knox’s “Hula Love”, and Clyde McPhatter and the Drifter hit “Money Honey”.
In May, 1958 The Prowlers released a song Les Vogt composed called “Get A Move On” on a small local independent label named Aragon Records. The Prowlers were backed by the vocals of a local girl group called The Valentines. However, the record was passed over. ON CKWX Red Robinson was the number one DJ teens listened to in Vancouver. Management at CKWX Radio considered The Prowlers, with their association with Jack Cullen, as competition who would give attention to a sister radio station they didn’t want to give publicity to. Consequently, the song was a commercial failure in Vancouver having no exposure on the Red Robinson show. Over on CJOR teen DJ, Frosty Forst, gave the disc a spin. But it wasn’t enough to save it from obscurity. Vogt graduated from John Oliver High School in 1958.
In 1958 The Prowlers recorded a song called “The Blamers”. “The Blamers” was recorded by Allen Parker, who was a milkman. Les Vogt got to know Parker when they both worked at Dairyland. Parker made demos of a number of local groups. When Parker was at a concert of the DeCastro Sisters in 1958 he was able to interest their manager, Jack LeGras, in listening to Parker’s demos. In 1960 “The Blamers” was released on Sparton Records in Canada.
As well, there were changes in the lineup, as Laurie Bader was replaced on drums by Carl Ashley, and Carl Reis was added on saxophone.
Allen Parker wrote “The Blamers” credited to a pseudonym Sipson P.Kloop. The song concerns a young guy and a young girl who meet at a rock ‘n roll dance “where everybody’s looking for love.” Standing in judgement, are a cohort called ‘The Blamers,’ “who’ve never heard of a world where everybody’s looking for love.” The Blamers are “the wise ones” who are “running the world today.” In contrast, the young couples who are falling in love “have no voice at all.” But, from the point of the narrator of the song, “blessed are the true hearts that are really in love.” After all, the young guy and the young girl have figured things out and they get married while everybody else is still looking for love. Despite the wedding bells, ‘The Blamers’ predict the marriage won’t last. However, the narrator of the song suggests that ‘The Blamers’ should stick to their own (generation) as they don’t understand the magic of love that is unfolding for the newlyweds in the ’34 coupe.
1934 Ford Coupe
“The Blamers”is from a genre of songs in the late ’50s and early ’60s lamenting a generation gap, and an older generation that didn’t understand the teen set. George Hamilton IV lamented in “Why Don’t They Understand” the judgements of elders that young love was “wrong.” Gene Pitney in “Town Without Pity” sang “ours is not an easy age, we’re like tigers in a cage…The young have problems, many problems, we need an understanding heart. Why don’t they help us, try to help us, before this clay and granite planet falls apart.” Pitney sings about “these little minds” (in the older generation) who don’t understand young people in love. Paul Anka asked for help dealing with parental authorities and an older generation who dismissed young love as just a “Puppy Love”. The older generation had rules, as the Everly Brothers depicted in “Wake Up Little Susie”.
“The Blamers” peaked at #1 in Vancouver. The song was a pick hit on WSBA in York, Pennsylvania, but didn’t chart. On December 31, 1960, there was a radio broadcast of the C-FUN Soundathon: The 60 Most Popular Records of 1960. “The Blamers” was listed as the #20 hit single of the year.
Despite CKWX deciding back in 1958 to not play The Prowlers first single, “Get A Move On,” Les Vogt ended up collaborating with Vancouver DJ, Red Robinson in 1962. Together, they promoted dances and concerts for Top 40 radio listeners in Greater Vancouver. Among the acts they brought to the West Coast were Jerry Lee Lewis, Dick and Dee Dee, Dorsey and Johnny Burnette, Donnie Brooks, Buddy Knox, Roy Orbison, Bobby Curtola, Glen Campbell, Wilson Pickett, Little Richard, Dusty Springfield and Billy J. Kramer.
In New Westminster there was an alley called the Hollywood Bowl. In 1965 Vogt changed it into a concert venue called The Grooveyard. The club hosted live bands each Friday and Saturday night. Many Vancouver bands were booked to perform at The Grooveyard, including the Night Train Revue, The Nocturnals, The Epics, The Soul Unlimited, The Stags, The Shockers and The Shantelles. There were also performers from the USA who were booked to do concerts there including Ike & Tina Turner, Bo Diddley, Paul Revere & the Raiders, The Sonics, The Frantics and the Kingsmen.
Rockabilly singer, Buddy Knox, moved to Canada in the late 60’s and joined Les Vogt in launching a night club called the Purple Steer. It catered mostly to the country and western music crowd. The club opened in October, 1969. From 1969 until 1972 Knox and Vogt had headliners at their club like Charlie Rich, Bob Luman, The Coasters, Bobby Freeman, Dorsey Burnette and Jerry Wallace.
In 1976 Les vogt relocated to Nashville, Tennessee, to take on the role of Tour Manager for Roy Orbison, which continued through 1979. Vogt and Red Robinson also continued their partnership from 1962 until 1986. The year the City of Vancouver hosted Expo ’86, Robinson and Vogt put on the Legends of Rock And Roll at each Sunday at the Expo Theatre. During the exposition Robinson and Vogt hosted 43 concerts. Another achievement of Les Vogt was key involvement in the creation and lineup of the country music Merritt Mountain Music Festival from 1993 to 2004.
June 29, 2022
Jack Cullen Then and Now, YouTube.com.
Les Vogt – The Story, Lesvogt.info.
The Prowlers – Vancouver, BC (1956-1960s), Pacific Northwest Bands.com.
Red Robinson – Conversation With the Legends, Rockabilly Legends.com
Tom Harrison, “The Last Deejay explores Red Robinson’s love of rock ‘n’ roll,” Vancouver Sun, September 23, 2016.
Robin Brunet, Red Robinson: The Last Deejay, (Madeira Park, BC, Harbour Publishing, 2016).
“Hi-Fi Forty,” CFUN 1410 AM, Vancouver, BC, August 6, 1960.
“C-FUN Soundathon: The 60 Most Popular Records of 1960,” CFUN 1410 AM, Vancouver, BC, December 31, 1960.
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