Beddoes ~ Guitar, Vocals
Joel Bert ~ Congas, Percussion
Gary Cramer ~ Guitar, Vocals
Dave Engleman ~ Bass, Vocals
Larry “Lunchpail” McGillivray ~ Drums, Vocals
Elliot Turret ~ Guitar, Vocals
In Memory of
Ridgerunner was an original psychedelic rock band formed when Brain Damage, BC’s answer to the Grateful Dead, broke up due to a love triangle. Brain Damage had been started by Americans who moved to Canada during the Vietnam war.
In the summer of 1975, singer-songwriter Gary Cramer (one-third of the love triangle) and the rhythm section got together with guitarist Elliot Turret. When Elliot left in February 1976, Mike Beddoes took over on lead guitar.
Ridgerunner sounded a bit like Santana, with a heavy emphasis on percussion, vocal harmonies, and extended guitar solos, and was probably the first band in Vancouver to play reggae. They also had old-school rock and roll arrangements, with a clear lead guitar sound, two years before Dire Straits emerged. This was when most bands were playing disco and Top 40.
It was the end of an era. Psychedelia was winding down, the Vietnam war was over and so were message songs, new wave was barely on the horizon, and disco was supreme. These were also the last days when a band could expect to play at a club for six nights a week.
Ridgerunner played BC festivals like the Edgewood Fair, Habitat ’76, the Easter Be-in, and several tours of the Kootenays and Vancouver Island. They also played in Edmonton and Seattle. Apart from one-nighters, there were week-long gigs at bars and clubs, including the Cambie Hotel and Rohan’s in Vancouver, Harpo’s in Victoria, and The Beverly Crest in Edmonton.
Ridgerunner travelled with a mammoth PA system and four technicians (Mike Felon, Michael Kidder, Fred Michael, and Peter Vogel). The PA was centred around an Altec 1220 board going into a pair of double A7s with matching 511B horns and seven 12" Altec monitor speakers, all driven by Phase Linear power amplifiers. This was great for festivals, but a little overpowering for pub gigs. The whole system was transported, along with the band’s instruments and amplifiers, in a 5 ton truck with the “Nutty Club” logo on its sides. When the band folded in the fall of 1976, Fred took over the PA and made it the nucleus of Rocky Mountain Sound.
The band made a couple of demo tapes, a 16mm performance film, a songbook, and were recorded and broadcast live at Rohan’s in March and September 1976 by Vancouver Co-op Radio, CFRO. Ridgerunner reunited after 25 years for a 20th year celebration of Rohan’s Rockpile nightclub. Gary ended the set with the message: “Keep playing original music!”.
Back in 1968, when Gary Cramer was a young, impressionable teeny-bopper (and I was a mature 18), he heard the Mike Beddoes Blues Band play and liked what he heard. Years later, when I ran into him in front of Rohan’s, Gary invited me to join Ridgerunner. My first gig with them was at The Cellar, on Broadway and Kingsway. Coincidently, Gary’s dad had managed The Cellar as a jazz club in the fifties.
Playing at the last Easter Be-in, I remember how cold and wet it was. We’d just driven into Vancouver at the end of a tour and were dead tired. I was OK wearing a shirt, an undershirt, a sweater, and a jacket - but my hands! I could barely move my fingers. Time for the drum solo.
At Angels Acres near Nanaimo, we were one of about 8 or 10 bands playing that night and there must have been a couple of hundred bikers and friends. You haven’t lived until you’ve had a dozen motor bikes, noisy as hell, charge the stage while you’re playing. Our host kindly offered us a room in his house for the night. By about 3am the place was stuffed with people, mostly passed out, but still murmuring. It sounded like a giant beehive and the toilet was the fullest I’ve ever seen. Nice people and very hospitable.
On our last tour, one of our PA techs was seeing a woman in our entourage. When he started seeing another woman in Rock Creek, the first (who I’ll call Joanne) promptly smashed all the glass in the “Nutty Club” truck. What a great way to end the tour! No one said love was easy.
And the Little Vignettes:
Frank Frank’s Frank Franks. Translated, this means honest Frank’s (Frank Frank’s) fine hot dogs (Frank Franks) seen at a festival near Duncan. Also on the bill were Susan Jacks and The Young Canadians (embryonic new wave with Art Bergman).
Staying at Billy MacDonald’s place in Victoria, when we played at Harpo’s, and hearing him recite his poetry with the unforgettable line, “Come on, baby, lick my razor blade”.
Joel playing “Black Orpheus” with us on accordion at Silverton.
Sleeping on a wooden table in someone’s basement because it was warmer than the floor.
Ridgerunner was the start of my musical association with Gary Cramer. After Ridgerunner, we played as a trio with Mickey Earnshaw on drums (and me on 6 string bass) and as a duo which resulted in Gary’s 1979 album, “Too Much Isn’t More”. In the mid-80s, we formed the short-lived Sharks, with Scott McLeod on bass and Mitch Lazer on drums. In the 80s and 90s, I also played a few gigs with Gary in the re-formed Brain Damage. The last time we played together, Gary played rhythm guitar for The Falcons’ 2004 album, “Canadian Christmas”. We’ll miss you, Gary!
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Last Update: 19 June 2012
Credits: Mike Beddoes