Maple Ridge band lit it up Back East

The Nocturnals from Maple Ridge were the first West Coast group to have their tracks played in central Canada

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Music plays such a large part in people’s lives. Songs are tied into our memories as tightly as wool is woven into a rug. An integral fibre of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows’ musical memory is The Nocturnals.

The Nocturnals group was formed in 1959 and originally called “The Rousers” but the name was soon changed to “The Nocturnals.” Band members included: Carl Erickson, Wayne Evans, Ron Henschel, Bill McBeth, Roger Skinner, and Chad Thorp.

“The Evans family lived next door. In his teens, [Wayne Evans] used to practice in his basement with the band,” explained Douglas Billingsley.

“Once in awhile, they would throw a party and the ladies would be their back-up vocalists. “It was a blast listening to them. As far as the neighbours, we would be in their driveway partying away. We were too young to be allowed down there. Now that I think of it, I guess you could call us groupies.”

The group was a mainstay in the community, playing weddings, high school dances, the legion, Aggie Hall, and the Pitt Meadows Community Hall.

“They were just a bunch of nice, polite guys back in the ‘60s,” reflected Carol Colban. She pointed out that while the Nocturnals were well-loved by people in the district, the group had an especially large fan base with MRHS alumni: “Just about everyone who went to Maple Ridge High School knew and liked them.”

The Nocturnals were the first West Coast group to have their tracks played in central Canada, with songs played on the CHUM Hit Parade in Toronto. With their music on the radio, concert attendance sky-rocketed.

“When our first record, Because You’re Gone, came out it was number one on the Hit Parade in Chilliwack for three or four months,” Chad recollected. “I can remember playing at the Cultus Lake Pavilion after that record was released.

The hall was packed so much that people couldn’t dance; they were standing and a lot of other people couldn’t even get into the building.”

Putting aside the group’s musical successes, at the end of the day the band was just a group of six guys having a blast.

“Nobody made a lot of money in those days, but we had lots of fun.” explained Chad. He chuckled and then added: “One time when we were playing in Kelowna at the Yacht Club, it was December and there was a lot of snow and ice on the ground. After the gig we were out in the parking lot and Wayne was driving and doing doughnuts in the icy parking lot with one of our vans. Bill was hanging onto the bumper at the back, skiing. So what happens? He falls off and separates his shoulder. A couple days later we were booked to play a live, over the radio, New Years gig at Oil Can Harry’s in Vancouver.”

Demonstrating drumming movements with his arm bent only at the elbow, Roger explained that; “Bill had his right arm taped to his body down to his elbow and was playing the drums like this. He did a great job.”

The band’s last gig was in Vernon during the spring of 1968. Luckily for devoted fans, the group had a reunion performance in 1986 at the Club Soda and again in 2007, first at The Hellenic Centre on Arbutus in Vancouver and then at the Red Robinson Show Theatre. Their two disk album, “The Nocturnals Greatest Hits and More,” includes re-mastered versions of all their original tracks plus a DVD of recorded history. There is a possibility of another Nocturnal Reunion coming. Let’s hope so.

Sandra Borger is a researcher with the Maple Ridge Museum.