Garfield French

The night I will never forget

by Garfield
in Stories

Remember one of the first shows we did. We were working hard in our studio FGF named after my father. It was located on Wildcat up at Keele and Finch in Downsview. Our engineer Gideon was running the band through a tune and my sister Donna who ran the office was up front with me when a call came in from Bill Ballard of Christmas records and son of the infamous owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Now at this stage in our development we hadn’t done many shows. There had been a few high schools and a group of medium security prisons that we paid to do in a futile attempt to get a Canada council grant that wound up going to someone selling wooden ducks at the foot of Yonge street. I was spending my parent’s money faster than they could earn it all in support of my dream. My road crew manager  Jim Ferron was busy doing some staging in the rear while Danny Thomas or Danny Diode as he was fondly referred to partly because of the ever present soldering iron in his hands as he attempted to work his magic and keep the machine running raced to one emergency or another. I must say he was and still is one the most generous people l know and without him l don’t know how we would have kept the show going.

Back to the story. The phone rang and Dennis Neufield my manager at the time came in to tell me Bill Ballard wanted to see me and he sent a car to pick me up and take me meet him at his office in Maple Leaf Gardens. This was incredible. Finally a break. All our hard work to get our name out had paid off at last. Everyone was so excited.

As l sat in front of Bill Ballard who was stretched out in his chair behind his desk, he was asking about my aspirations and letting it be known that his label was an up and comer and if l played my cards right there may be a possible recording contract down the road.

They wanted us to prove ourselves first by giving a good appearance opening for one of his acts that night at Ontario Place. A terrific opportunity to really showcase the band. Of course l accepted the gig and headed back to Wildcat to get ready. My one hundred and twenty-eight pound frame was shaking like a leaf. Ha ha.

The crew packed us up and off we went for the our biggest night to date. I have forgotten a lot of details over the years and l apologize for that but some events that occurred on that night at Ontario place l could never forget.

The show was a total disaster.

Prior to receiving the call to take the stage, my Dad and my sister were in the dressing room with me. Dad said that the main act was being televised live and the place was packed and l could tell he was nervous as hell making me just as nervous.

We got the word and headed up the tunnel from the dressing rooms to the stage. As I exited the tunnel, the lights and size of crowd took my breath away and after that l can only remember things going down hill. As we began playing our first number, it became obvious that there was no sound. It was horrifying. We played on and listened as the boos started and by the end l think they were even throwing popcorn. I have lost all recollection of how long the humiliation lasted but l will never forget the aftermath.

As we hurried from the stage, there in the tunnel was my dad. He looked ashen and he nervously said to me “Son l will give you money but l can’t go through that again. That’s yours.”. I swear his hair started turning white that night. I remember seeing tears in the eyes of a couple crew members. It broke my heart. No one knew what had gone wrong. Yet! Later it was discovered that someone had put a pin through our main power cable resulting in a total disaster for us and a sweet evening on TV for the headliner without the threat of being upstaged by the opening act.

In the aftermath of our fiasco the agent for Bill Ballard whose name l forget charged into our dressing room and while the band was huddled in total devastation and began shouting and berating us with threats of being blackballed and never getting work again. Finished in the industry and so on and so on.

Then out of nowhere comes a little tornado. She got right up in this guys face and began railing on him in our defence until he left. I was so proud of my little sister at that moment. I think she even called him a bastard.

That night we felt the fickle hand of fate and saw the cutthroat side of our chosen industry first hand.

But that night we grew and bonded as never before.

Comments (1)

  • Catherine Ramat

    Wow what a story. That was some rough start, but hey you didn’t give up and look at the genius well loved band you became!

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