Original Caste, The
The Original Caste. Pop group. The five-member band grew out of the Calgary folk trio The North Country Singers, formed in 1966 by songwriter and guitarist Bruce Innes (b Calgary 7 Jan 1943). They moved to Vancouver and added the singer Dixie Lee Stone (b Moose Jaw, Sask 14 May 1946), who married Innes. After playing western Canadian and US coffeehouses and resorts, in 1969 they signed with Bell Records, adopted a pop sound, and changed their name to The Original Caste. Their first release with Bell was the 1969 pop LP The Original Caste (Bell TA 5003), from which the moralistic tale "One Tin Soldier" (written by US producers Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter) became a No. 1 gold record in Canada and Japan, was No. 1 in several US cities, and reached No. 34 on the US Billboard charts in 1970. Also from this album, "Mr Monday" hit No. 3 on the CHUM charts in May 1970, was No. 1 in Japan, and sold over 2 million copies.
At their peak, the band was based in Los Angeles. They toured North America and Japan, performed with Glen Campbell and B.B. King, and made television appearances, including on Denny Doherty 's CBC TV show in 1978. Additional releases included several singles 1970-1, which fared less well, and two Live in Japan albums (Bell 1971). After the band's dissolution in 1972, Bruce and Dixie Lee Innes continued to perform as The Original Caste, releasing the country-influenced album Back Home (Century II/Capitol ST 17004, 1974), arranged by Tommy Banks and recorded in Alberta. Bruce Innes continued to perform under the band's name through the early 2000s.
"One Tin Soldier" was given a BMI award. A cover version performed by the US band Coven was featured in the 1971 film Billy Jack. In 2003 CHUM radio banned The Original Caste version and other anti-war songs, despite its having reached No. 1 on the CHUM chart in December 1969.
The Original Caste's trademark early sound was polished, uncomplicated pop, made remarkable by Dixie Lee Innes's rich, strong voice and heartfelt delivery. The band was among the earliest Canadian pop groups to be heard internationally.