The Bells | The Canadian Encyclopedia


The Bells

The Bells (The Five Bells 1965-70). Montreal-based pop group active predominantly 1965-73.

The Bells

The Bells (The Five Bells 1965-70). Montreal-based pop group active predominantly 1965-73. The group was formed by Cliff Edwards (vocals, guitar) and Anne Ralph (later Edwards; vocals) under the name The Five Bells, playing middle-of-the-road pop in high-end nightclubs, lounges and hotels in Canada, the US and the Caribbean. Other original members were Jacki Ralph (later Jamieson; vocals); Doug Gravelle (drums); and Gordie McLeod (keyboard). In 1969 in Montreal they recorded their first album, Dimensions (542-004 Polydor). The single "Moody Manitoba Morning" (composed by Rick Neufeld) had some success on radio.

The group briefly disbanded in 1969, but Cliff Edwards re-established it under the name The Bells in 1970, with Jacki Ralph; Gravelle; Frank Mills (keyboard); Charlie Clark (guitar); and Michael Waye (bass). Where The Five Bells had been mainly a touring act, The Bells embarked on a series of recordings that benefited from new CRTC Canadian content regulations, beginning with the album Fly Little White Dove, Fly (1971, 2424 022 Polydor). The single of the same name (written by Canadians Marty Butler and Bob Bilyk) reached No. 9 in Canada. The Bells' next single, "Stay Awhile" (composed by Ken Tobias), reached No. 1 in Canada, No. 7 on the US Billboard charts, and gold record status (more than one million copies sold by May 1971); it also won an RPM Gold Leaf Award. The intimate duet, half-whispered by Jacki Ralph and Cliff Edwards with a keening harmonica break, also achieved popularity in the UK, Australia and Japan (despite being banned by some Canadian radio stations for its suggestiveness). The single's success led to Fly Little White Dove, Fly being re-released as Stay Awhile (24-4510 Polydor).

Other popular Bells recordings included the singles "Lady Dawn" and "Sweet Sounds of Music," and the 1971 LP Love, Luck 'n' Lollipops (No. 4 on RPM charts; 2424-035 Polydor). The Bells' brand of soft rock and pop included compositions by Edwards and by Mills but mainly comprised covers, such as songs composed by Gordon Lightfoot and Shelton Brooks, and by US songwriters such as Kris Kristofferson, Mac Davis and Carole King.

Edwards, Gravelle and Waye left The Bells in late 1972; Jacki Ralph led a group of the same name into the mid-1980s. The Bells, featuring some original members, played occasional reunion concerts in the 1990s and early 2000s.

During their heyday, The Bells played tours of Canada and the US, and performed at such venues as Massey Hall, the Canadian National Exhibition and New York's Copacabana. They were seen on Guy Lombardo 's New Year's Eve broadcast and the US television shows The Jackie Gleason Show, American Bandstand and The Tonight Show.

Further Reading