Chester.lumbia Records in 1

Bobby Kris and The Imperials

Bobby Kris and the Imperials were a prominent Toronto band in the 1960’s.
Their cover of Dionne Warwick’s Walk On By on Columbia was a hit all across Canada in 1965.
And one of the first Canadian recordings to crack into the CHUM Chart.
And to get play in Toronto and all across the country before Canadian content regulations on air.
In the original format they were a classic r ‘n b band with two saxes.
Later they dropped the horns and became more of a blues and rock band.
At various times the band opened for … The Beach Boys, The Lovin’ Spoonful and Gary Lewis.
And played teen clubs, coffee houses and later bars all over southern Ontario.
Alongside other well known Toronto bands of the time … The Mandela, Jon and Lee and the Checkmates, Luke and the Apostles, J. Smith and the Majestics, Robbie Lane and the Disciples.
Bobby Kris won the RPM Award for Most Promising Male Vocalist in 1965.
Soon thereafter the RPM Awards evolved into The Junos.

 

Bobby Kris…


 

 

 

Bob Burrows aka Bobby Kris

Been singing for as long as I can remember.
My father had a lovely baritone voice ~ loved to sing.
Taught me songs from the war … during potty training apparently.
Hung around the Salvation Army as a young boy.
Heard lots of great bands … brass all the way.
Ended up learning how to sing in Anglican choirs.
Men and boys only … no girls allowed!
Eventually became the soloist at St. James Cathedral.
Also studied voice at The Royal Conservatory of Music.
With renowned vocal coach Helen Simmie.
That led to the childrens chorus of The Canadian Opera Company.
And eventually The Stratford Festival.
Then the wheels came off … my voice broke.
As teenage boys’ voices are bound to do.
Went into dormancy for a while.

In the meantime, along the way I had bumped into rock ‘n roll.
First time watching The Tommy Dorsey Show with my parents.
A weekly big band favourite of theirs.
When this guy named Elvis Presley came on and did Heartbreak Hotel.
Blew me off the couch.
Soon there was a deluge of this great new music to listen to.
Not just Elvis …The Everly Brothers were my favourites at the time.
Along with Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Buddy Holly …
Great stuff coming out of the woodwork everywhere.
Then Elvis went into the Army.
And it never was the same again.
In fact the music went to hell in a hand basket.
We were inundated with Bobby This and Bobby That.
The Beach Boys … complete with their woodies and their surfer girls.
And Blue Velvet … and Fabian … and all that Hollywood bullshit.
Until those lads from Liverpool finally came to the rescue.
And breathed some life back into the beast!
However, fortunately for me during my period of hibernation as a singer
I had encountered something wonderful called … rhythm and blues.
R’n b, soul music, and then gradually the blues and gospel.
In fact all the stuff that Elvis and a lot of those guys grew up listening to.
Hung out at a great local record store on Bloor St. West.
Called Telesonic Record Bar. Owned by two brothers … Edward Joseph Ziemba and Joseph Edward Ziemba.
I’m not making that up. They imported all these terrific r’n b records from Buffalo. First r’n b tune I ever heard was I Think It’s Gonna Work Out Fine. By Ike and Tina Turner … what an introduction.
I was smitten immediately with this stuff.
Had so much drive and life and guts going on in there.
Gradually encountered Ray Charles, Bobby Bland, B.B. King, James Brown …
When my voice started getting back in shape I was offered a personal scholarship. By Helen Simmie who taught me for free.
Until she discovered that I was also wailing Ray Charles on the side in my bedroom. Think my parents had complained. So I was told that I had to make a choice … Either sing that “stuff” or study serious music at The Conservatory with her.
It took about 30 seconds to figure out what I wanted to do.
I was tired of singing about flower gardens and all the trees in England.
Wanted to explore songs about making out with my girlfriend and such.
And so I said goodbye to The Conservatory and went my own way.

First rock ‘n roll vocal performance was as a guest singer with a band called … The Kondors. That’s vultures with a K.
In the basement gym at St. Paul’s Anglican Church at a young people’s dance. Sang "What’d I Say" by the master himself.
Remember jumping off the piano in the last verse.
Had climbed up there during the instrumental solo for some reason.
Lucky I didn’t break my ankle. Anyway, people really liked it … the jumping off the piano part at least.
So the band invited me to become the lead vocalist.
Met some great players and made some good friends in that band.
Especially the 15 year old rhythm guitarist … Eugene Martynec.
And bass player Rick Dutt … now Rick Haynes bassist with Gordon Lightfoot for decades.
Certainly had lots of fun. Played teen clubs, dance halls, school and church dances. Not much approval for all this teenage madness on the home front though!
Band broke up when leader and founder Dave Konvalinka headed off to college.
Gene and Rick found their way into another band in the west end.
J. S. And The Imperials … seven piece r’n b outfit with two saxes.
Encouraged by my buddies I hung around the band.
Sat in a lot … and eventually weaseled my way into the lead singer role, replacing J.S.
Needed a “handle” to hide out from my parents.
Who had threatened to throw me out of the house if I didn’t stop singing that evil rock ‘n roll. Was ruining my voice apparently … and threatening my school career.
So Bobby Kris was born.
A kris was a Turkish dagger or something … sounded cool at the time.
I was young and full of testosterone … what can I say?
Anyway, as it turned out they caught me on the first gig!
And threw me out of the house.
Ended up living with Jon Finley for a year or so … and lived to tell about it.
We had already printed up all the promo stuff so the name stuck.
Bobby Kris And The Imperials were a regular part of the rock scene in Toronto in the 60’s.
Lots of good players came and went from the band over the years.
But it was always a cover band.
Middle of the pack in terms of capacity and all that.
We did have some fine moments.
Recorded a cover of Dionne Warwick’s Walk On By in 1965 for Columbia Records.
Was reasonably successful in Canada … made the CHUM chart … a big deal at the time.
On the circuit with a lot of other local bands of the day …
Jon Lee and the Checkmates, The Mandala, Luke and the Apostles, J. Smith and the Majestics
Played in a thriving circuit of teen clubs all over southern Ontario.
And later coffee houses in Yorkville.
Eventually Bruce Cockburn came to town and stole most of the band.
So that all fell apart.
Was put back together a few times … old rock stars never die!
They just keep coming at you … like heartburn.

Went through a personal crisis for a while.
And ended up in the classroom teaching school.
Last place I thought I’d ever be!
Did that for 30 years.
Sometimes got to teach music … rock music in fact!
Had some great little bands and singing groups at one school.
Actually learned a few things about playing the piano by ear at that time.
Club Hand Bob was born.
Came in handy writing songs … a new adventure for me.
Made some music here and there with friends and such.
Even managed a local heavy metal band for a while … The End.
Included a 15 year old organist named Sam Reid.
From time to time got engaged in some project or other as a vocalist.
Could morph into Bobby Kris at the drop off a hat!
For a while in the 80’s I performed as a duet with old friend and pianist Jim Oskirko.
We went to school together as kids.
Lounge gigs, piano bars and stuff like that.
Sometimes we invited other friends to sit in.
Called it Burrows And Company ~ had a great time.
Made a CD late in the 90’s … bobby kris now.
Produced by … Sam Reid … now of Glass Tiger.
Wonderful collection of musicians … 10 piece band.
Five piece horn section including Steve Kennedy ... one of the best anywhere.
And long time musical friend guitarist Larry Leishman.
Exquisite horn arrangements by the late Steve Collins.
By far the best work we have ever done.
Available on iTunes
In 2000 I retired from teaching with a gun to my head.
And started an organic and natural food service.
Operated 3 stores and home delivery all over the GTA for 10 years.
Wonderful time … financial disaster area … eventually collapsed.
And now here I am.
Having lots of fun writing songs … and making music with my friends
s.