Thanks to this iconic Canadian band for all of the ‘Fine Mornings’ and ‘Sunny Days’ it has gifted us
A Brief Commentary by Doug Draper
Posted May 19th, 2019 on Niagara At Large
Fifty years ago this May, as I was reminded this fine morning by another Canadian institution, CBC Radio’s Sunday Morning host Michael Enright, a band that would soon become another Canadian institution took the stage at a Toronto, Ontario music venue called the Rock Pile to make its performing debut.
The band, called Lighthouse and made up of a line-up of horn and string musicians built around a more generic four-piece rock band and lead singer, was introduced that night by non other than one of the most legendary musicians, composers and band leaders in jazz, Duke Ellington, who ended his intro with a play on lyrics from one of his own classic songs; “I am beginning to see the light … house.”
Lighthouse was fronted by the late great drummer Skip Prokop, keyboardist Paul Hoffert and guitarist Ralph Cole, and featuring a huge cast of great musicians from the late singer Bob McBride (whose voice can be heard on such hits as ‘One Fine Morning’ and ‘Hats Off To The Stranger’, and sax players Keith Jollimore, Steve Kennedy (both of whom went on to play with another hot Canadian band, Dr. Music of ‘Sun Goes By’ fame) and Howard Shore, who went on to front one of the earlier the Saturday Night Live bands and later became a three-time Academy Award winner for the music he produced for the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Like so many other Canadian music fans in the late 1960s, 1970s and beyond, I make pilgrimages to see Lighthouse in concert any time they were performing anywhere between Toronto and London, Ontario and Buffalo, New York.
I saw them again 1982 for what may have been the last time with most of the original members, including Bob McBride, at Toronto’s Ontario Place forum for a series of shows the band called ‘One Fine Weekend’.
Anyone who ever saw Lighthouse live, knows how great the musicianship has always been and how powerful the band sounds when every musician on the stage, including the horns, blast off at once.
Lighthouse has a long string of great albums (too many of them, sadly, only available if you can find them, in stores that sell used vinyl, and of great hits like ‘Sunny Days’, ‘Pretty Lady’, ‘One Find Morning’, ‘Take It Slow’ and ‘I Just Wanna Be A Friend’.
The band also has some epic versions of songs like ‘Eight Miles High’, which you can still hear live on a double-album Lighthouse recorded in the 1970s at New York City’s Carnegie Hall.
Tragically, Skip Prokop, drummer, singer, songwriter and one of the band’s co-founders, died two year ago but his son Jamie, who learned to play drums from one of the masters (his dad, of course) has picked up the torch as the band continues on with a 50th anniversary tour that already had it doing a show at St. Catharines First Ontario Performing Arts Centre this past January.
The tour also takes it as close to the Niagara region as the Cayuga Memorial Arena this May 25th and more dates in this area of the country may yet to be announced.
In the meantime, long live Lighthouse and thanks to Michael Enright and CBC for reminding the world about the band’s 50th birthday.
To watch Lighthouse performing ‘Take It Slow’, one of its 1970s hits live with Bob McBride doing the lead vocals, click on the screen immediately below –
To hear Lighhouse performing its studio version what became one of every fan’s favourites, ‘One Fine Morning’, click on –
To visit Lighthouse’s home site, click on – http://www.lighthouserockson.com/ .
To read a tribute/obituary Niagara At Large posted on Skip Prokop in 2017, click on – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2017/09/10/hats-off-to-lighthouses-co-founder-and-spiritual-leader-skip-prokop-thanks-for-all-of-the-sunny-days/ .
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