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The early '70s saw a mini-boom in America for Canadian-born rockers -- apart from major players like Neil Young and the Band, and singles chart fixtures like the Guess Who, there was an entire wave of one-hit and near-one-hit wonders. The Stampeders were part of this group, a trio originally from Calgary, Alberta, who hit the Top Ten in 1971 with the infectiously catchy "Sweet City Woman." They later charted low in the Hot 100 with "Devil You," and brushed the Top 40 in 1976 with "Hit the Road Jack."
The Stampeders were originally formed as a rock sextet in 1964, playing the bar circuit in Calgary before they set out for Toronto in 1966, playing local clubs and building a name for themselves. They saw limited success as a recording act in Canada with the single "Morning Magic" in 1968, but it was soon after this that the group was reduced to a trio: Rich Dodson (guitar), Ronnie King (bass), and Kim Berly (drums). A year later, this version of the Stampeders had their first real success on record with the sublimely beautiful country-rocker "Carry Me," which charted in Canada and got released in America. Then, in 1971, they were signed to Bell Records, the New York-based label best known as the home of such pop/rock outfits as the Partridge Family and Tony Orlando & Dawn.
That summer, they had the biggest hit of their career with "Sweet City Woman," a genial piece of midtempo country-rock that reached the American Top Ten and did even better in Canada, so well and so widely played that some younger listeners from "down north" came to resent the group and its success. The group released an album to accompany the single, but somehow, "Sweet City Woman" was one of those songs that just didn't entice listeners to make the jump to laying out the extra money for the LP -- the Sweet City Woman album never did much, although the group was popular enough for a time to justify three subsequent albums (for different labels, including Capitol) and a bunch of singles, none of which sold very well.
Ironically, "Sweet City Woman" wasn't very representative of the Stampeders' sound, only one facet of it. Their music had its romantic side, but also incorporated elements of CCR-style swamp rock and roots rock, as befitted a band that had made its living playing bars in the Canadian far west. Their last entry on the American charts was a version of "Hit the Road Jack" which included a telephone conversation with disc jockey Wolfman Jack, which reached number 40 in 1976. This was around the time that the Wolfman had been made a virtual fixture in American popular culture, courtesy of George Lucas' American Graffiti and his subsequent appearances on television. ~ Bruce Eder
- Calgary, Alberta, Canada
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