The Canadian Squires
Uh Uh Uh / Leave Me Alone - 7"
Apex - 1965
|In 1963 Ronnie Hawkins was the unofficial mayor of Toronto's Yonge Street strip. He and his backing band the Hawks belted out their southern r'n'b, like the thunderous 'Who Do You Love?', nightly at the Le Coq d'Or, which boasted a third-floor "office" with a waterbed for those female patrons wishing to answer that question. And though the backing Hawks (Robertson, Danko, Hudson, Helm and Manuel) would ultimately far surpass him as the Band, at this point it was clear that Hawkins ruled the roost - with an iron claw, it would appear.
But the ever-improving Hawks were growing too big for their britches, or in this case the black Lou Myles-designed mohair suits that control-freak Hawkins had insisted on. So the fledgling rockers left that year in November and, as Levon and the Hawks, were making regular tours down to the southern states by mid-1964. This caught the ear of the legendary Henry Glover, who had worked with Hawkins over at Roulette. Glover promptly ushered the group into Bell Studios in New York and recorded a couple of Robbie Robertson's songs, and as the Canadian Squires (an alternate name they sometimes used) issued them on the tiny Ware label in the U.S. and on Apex up here in Canada.
'Uh Uh Uh' is a novelty number longer on swagger than on sweat, though with a fine candy-coated harmonica wafting in and out, and lyrics that suggest the boys took notes around Hawkins ("Baby, baby, baby, whatcha gonna do? / When you get to Toronto, I'll be chasin' after you"). The flip takes the prize here, though. 'Leave Me Alone' packs a wallop - it's a blast of swinging r'n'b/rockabilly full of brash, in-your-face bravado and blustery defiance. A superb slab of wax.
The record unfortunately tanked (with Hawkins later suggesting their name may have put off American listeners). But it hardly mattered, as the skies were opening for the lads. After a follow-up record on Atco, this one as the hipper-sounding Levon and the Hawks, Dylan came knockin' on their door, inviting them to play five apostles to his Judas on the infamous 1966 electric tour. And the rest, as they say, is history.
(Both tracks were included on the 1987 soundtrack to the Tony Bill movie Five Corners.)
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