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Luke and the Apostles

Luke and the Apostles - Been Burnt / Don't Know Why - 7

Been Burnt / Don't Know Why - 7"
Bounty - 1967

Michael Panontin
Mike McKenna had found fleeting fame fronting a blues band called Mike's Trio, playing regular nights at the Cellar Club in Toronto's rapidly changing Yorkville neighbourhood. But sometime in 1964, the guitarist hooked up with singer Luke Gibson and classically trained keyboard player Peter Jermyn and the three rechristened themselves Luke and the Apostles. (The name, coined by Jermyn, was a cheeky reference to the already popular Robbie Lane and the Disciples, who were busy gigging up and down Yonge Street and who at the time included a very young Domenic Troiano.)

With bassist Jim Jones and drummer Rich McMurray heading up the backfield, Luke and the Apostles quickly endeared themselves to the Yorkville crowd, taking up a year-long stand at the popular Purple Onion club. In his Before the Gold Rush, Nicholas Jennings described the handsome Gibson as "shy and quiet, but (who) on-stage was transformed into a writhing, shaking, screaming package of pure sexual energy." And while the young ladies were busy drooling over the blond-haired singer, producer Paul Rothchild managed to check out the band while he was in Toronto in 1965 and was blown away by their blues-fuelled energy. The following day, he showed up at their rehearsal and promptly telephoned Elektra Records honcho Jac Holzman. As Gibson recalled, "We started doing our own song 'Been Burnt' and Paul hands me the phone and tells me to sing. That's how we auditioned."

The five were then whisked off to New York to record the raucous 'Been Burnt' (written by harmonica player Ray Bennett, who had just left the group) along with McKenna's 'Don't Know Why'. By the spring of 1966, with those two songs in the can, Luke and the Apostles seemed set to take their place at the top of the Toronto garage heap, right up there with the equally popular Ugly Ducklings. But alas, just as this single was being readied for release, Rothchild ran afoul of the law and ended up sentenced to a year in prison for possession of marijuana.

Undaunted, the guys regrouped back in Toronto, venturing outside their familiar Yorkville haunts for shows as far away as north Toronto and Oshawa, and even a date that August with Montreal's Haunted. It would take nearly a year for 'Been Burnt' to finally see the light of day south of the border (with a Canadian pressing issued on the Bounty imprint). But by the summer of 1967, Luke and the Apostles had become a household name around Toronto, eventually joining the Jefferson Airplane at a free concert in front of 50,000 people at Nathan Phillips Square.

That show caught the attention of promoter Bill Graham, who was impressed enough to slip the group onto the bill for his six-day Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead extravaganza at the O'Keefe Centre the following week. And though they were lucky enough to join the Airplane and the Dead for an extended jam that saw the normally staid concert hall transformed into a California-style freakfest, with kids dancing up and down the aisles and on the stage, Luke and the Apostles decided to bow out on a high note. The irrepressible Gibson wasted little time, joining the up-and-coming Kensington Market almost immediately after, while the more purist McKenna formed the blues-based McKenna Mendelson Mainline the following summer.

Luke and the Apostles might have ended up a mere footnote in the annals of Toronto rock history had Gibson and McKenna not been coaxed into a short-lived reunion a few years later in early 1970. This new line-up (with drummer Pat Little and former Influence bassist Jack Geisinger) would issue what was probably Toronto's ultimate swan song to the sixties, the cathartic 'You Make Me High', which would climb to a respectable #27 on the RPM charts that October.

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