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Richard Stepp



After High Times finished it's extended run at the OK Coral in New Westminster, British Columbia, I regrouped in my future in-law's living room in Burnaby. There I jammed with a lot of people, and eventually settled on Jim Fraser from High Times on bass and vocals, drummer Rick Clark, and guitarist/lead vocalist Neil James Harnett. We put together four or five sets of cover tunes, and included a few of my originals as well and hit the road. To start we played the 'B' clubs around the lower mainland while we got our show tight. Shakedown was our name.

SHAKEDOWN from the left: Richard Stepp, Rick Clark, Neil James Harnett and Jim Fraser.

I had already landed myself a deal with Ray Pettinger and Casino Records. Casino had a distribution deal with A & M Records, and featured such noted western Canadian acts as Chilliwack, Bim (Roy Forbes), Diamond Joe White, and The Foreman Young Band. We had made some demos of a handful of my songs at Mushroom Studios with Rolf Henneman, and Pettinger assigned veteran U.S. producer Andy DiMartino to produce both Shakedown and The Foreman Young Band. 

SHAKEDOWN promo0003.jpg (270477 bytes)

Recording was done in Edmonton at the Sundown Studios. We cut some of the tracks that we had previously done at Mushroom in Vancouver, including As Days Go By and Good To Have You. The former was one of our most popular live songs, and a cousin to the sounds of BTO, The Doobie Brothers, Fleetwood Mac and other rock radio favorites. Good To Have You was a mid tempo love ballad, and Andy really liked that one. He added a Selina string machine to it, and eventually that was released as the first (and only) single in the late spring of 1977.

Live the group was doing better and better. We started to get some TV exposure, especially on the then new Vancouver station CKVU (now part of Global, formerly UTV). Bruce Allan's agency took over booking, and we were managed by Randy Taylor. We opened the show at the Commodore Ballroom for Chilliwack, and Long John Baldrey in Edmonton. We were playing better rooms, eventually getting the "A" circuit clubs.

Andy wasn't that happy with the band in the studio, and suggested I make some changes. I wasn't that happy with the way As Days Go By turned out, so I made the first change in the band and replaced Jim Fraser with Marshall Hunt on the bass. We kept on touring and were happy to get to open the show for Chuck Berry at UBC's War Memorial Gym. The single had been released by now, and was getting airplay on most of the stations in Western Canada. Unfortunately, no copies were pressed for sale, making it (and the Foreman Young Band's only singe) a rare find at record collector's swap meets.

Live at UBC's War Memorial Gym. L-r: Neil James Harnett, Richard Stepp, Marshall Hunt, & Rick Clark. Not shown is Lisa Stepp (keys).

We made another stab at As Days Go By, but Andy still didn't like what he heard in the studio. So I made some more changes. Neil James Harnett needed more space than I could afford to give him, so I got my old buddy Ray O'Toole to play the lead guitar and sing some songs. New to the line-up was the young and lovely Ali Monroe on keyboards and vocals. She added a jazzy feel to some of the material, and lots of colour to the guitar driven sound we produced. The group was very popular on the club circuit an we broke bar records in many of the places that featured such groups as Heart and Trooper. We opened for Trooper at the Langley Arena.

SHAKEDOWN MK2 left to right: Richard Stepp, Ray O'Toole, Ali Monroe, Rick Clark, and Marshall Hunt.

Once again we went to Edmonton and spent a few days in the studio where we laid down a few tracks that were never used. One was a ballad of mine called If I Could Write A Song, and the other was Ray's Too Late To Turn Back. Both songs would later be redone: my song would up with a very lush arrangement on my first solo album Holiday In Hollywood, and Ray would have a hit in 1980-81 with his band Blue Northern with their version of the old Shakedown tune. I think we also cut another version of As Days Go By and Driving Down The Freeway Listening To The Radio. Several other Shakedown numbers ended up on my first album, including When We Meet Again, We Got Tonight, Feel The Inspiration and If I Could Write A Song. But Andy still didn't like the band. The recording deal was between me and Casino, not Shakedown and Casino even though the single was released under the Shakedown name. So I made some more changes.

On Ray O'Toole's suggestion, I brought in veteran Vancouver musicians George Chapelas and Glenn Hendrickson. Chapelas had been an original member of The Night Train Review, Papa Bear's Medicine Show, Black Snake, and other groups, and Hendrickson had played in The Tom Northcott Trio, The United Empire Loyalists, Mock Duck, Orville Dorp and Uproar, to name a few. However, the changes didn't seem to me to make the band any better, and we did not make it to the studio before we broke up in late November 1977.

The single version of Good To Have You resurfaced as the b-side of my European version of the Holiday In Hollywood single in 1979.

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