The Stampeders, who will take their talents to B.C. this summer (June 18 to 30), were one of the first Canadian rock-n-roll acts to tour right across the country.
It was the early 1970s, and Donald K. Donald, a promoter from Montreal, had Kim Berly (drums), Rich Dodson (lead guitar), and Ronnie King (bass) playing almost anyplace with an arena.
Their first big hit Sweet City Woman came out in 1971, and audiences were agog.
“The people who come to see us now are the people who came to see us then,” Berly said. “So many of them will say, ‘You were the first famous band that we ever went to see. You came to our town or small city when there were no other acts touring.’”
He said most of the other bands people would hear on the radio were American or British, and they were typically limiting their stops to the big cities exclusively.
More than 50 years later the band is still getting love from Canadian towns, but its days of rocking out in arenas are over.
“They’re actually horrible places to play,” Berly said, laughing. “Instead we’re playing all these lovely little theatres.”
One of those theatres will be the Chilliwack Cultural Centre on June 28.
In addition to the venue changes, Berly said the band doesn’t exert itself like it used to.
“We don’t work quite as hard as we did,” he said, “We keep it to four (shows) in a row, and then we need a day off.”
That being said, they make sure the audiences who pay to come see them get an incredible performance.
“You put it all out in those 90 minutes that you’re out on the stage, and the rest of the time you can be as lazy and tired as you want,” Berly explained.
“We’ve learned how to conserve our energy throughout the day, to have it for the show.”
Touring at this stage in their life is aided by the band members getting along. The drummer said he and his band mates still love playing together.
“The three of us have been friends for all these years,” he said. “It’s not like we show up in separate cars and don’t talk, and go our separate ways (after the show), which is the story for a lot of groups that have re-formed over the years.
“We drive together and have fun. A lot of laughs.”
Berly is no stranger to the western-most province. He lives in Vernon, and was born in Dawson Creek.
At the age of 12 he moved to Calgary, where he met King and Dodson.
Berly said the trio decided to leave the confines of Cowtown in the mid-1960s.
“We wanted to be professional musicians, and in Alberta at that time the infrastructure didn’t exist, so off we went,” he said.
The band members hopped in an old car, Berly remembered, drove to Toronto and started a new life.
Within a few short years they were one of the most popular acts in Canada, but it seemed fleeting.
“When you’re 19-years-old you can’t imagine being 50-years-old, never mind being 70,” he said. “When we were touring across the country in ‘73 and ‘74, we used to laughingly call what we were doing disposable art, because we figured it was here and gone.”
It came as a surprise to Berly when The Stampeders reunited in 1992, and there was still an audience clamouring to see them.
While many people at the shows these days are silvering above the ears, there are still some ticket holders who weren’t born during the band’s hey day.
“I am amazed that this entire younger generation is still aware of, exposed to and loves this music,” Berly said.
The Stampeders, celebrating 50 years, will be at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre on Tuesday, June 28 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $68.50 and available at the Centre Box Office, online at chilliwackculturalcentre.ca or by calling 604-391-SHOW (7469).
Looking for more events taking place in and around Chilliwack? Check out What’s happening Chilliwack in our community section.