Really? Follow up a hit record that reached No. 2 on the Canadian adult contemporary charts with a song that opens with a banjo?
Such was Rich Dodson’s thinking when his group, The Stampeders, released Sweet City Woman in 1971 as a follow-up to Carry Me.
“I’m like, ‘What pop station is going to play a song with a banjo?’” laughed Dodson, guitarist, singer, songwriter for The Stampeders, who, along with longtime bandmates Kim Berly (drums) and Ronnie King (bass), will play Vernon’s Performing Arts Centre Saturday, Sept. 17.
Lots of pop stations played Sweet City Woman. So did adult contemporary stations and country stations. It was played in Canada and the U.S. The song reached No. 1 across the country and went as high as No. 8 on U.S. radio charts.
That was 45 years ago. The song, today, is still being played on oldies stations. It was listed at No. 28 in Bob Mersereau’s book The Top 100 Canadian Singles of All Time, and voted one of the top-10 most recognizable songs of the 1970s.
What Canadian doesn’t know that famous banjo intro?
“That’s a guitar player’s performance on a banjo,” said Dodson, who actually owned an old rickety banjo but was inspired to rent the instrument from a music store on his way to record what would become The Stampeders’ most famous song, and a true CanCon classic.
“It threw banjo players for a loop.”
Dodson, Berly and King all met in Calgary and formed an instrumental group, The Rebounds, along the lines of The Ventures and The Shadows, in 1964.
The group added Berly and King’s brothers, who could sing, another musician and manager, bought an old Cadillac limousine and trailer and began touring across the country.
After the two brothers and other musician quit, the group became a trio and changed their name to The Stampeders, not for the Canadian Football League team in the same Alberta city, or for Calgary’s famous summer rodeo, but rather those that went stampeding to the Klondike in search of a fortune in gold.
The Stampeders, of course, became a household name in Canada between 1971 and 1976 with four songs reaching top-30 in the U.S. and top-5 singles in Canada; songs like Devil You, Wild Eyes, Minstrel Gypsy, Then Came The White Man, Oh My Lady, Monday Morning Choo Choo, New Orleans, Hit The Road, Jack (with legendary DJ Wolfman Jack) and Playing In The Band.
In 1971, The Stampeders won Juno Awards for Best Group, Best Single, Best Producer and Best Composer for Sweet City Woman, which went platinum (sold 500,000 records).
Dodson was inducted into the SOCAN (Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada) Hall of Fame for Carry Me and Sweet City Woman in 1994, along with Berly, who wrote Oh My Lady.
“I’ve got a million of them (songs like Sweet City Woman) but I’m still waiting for one to be bigger,” laughed Dodson. “Sweet City Woman was an unstoppable record. The audience reaction to it is always great. I’m happy that anybody shows up to our shows, and happy that we can still do the tracks.”
Dodson left the group in 1977, turning his attention to record producing. The Stampeders reunited in 1992 on The Dini Petty Show, and began playing gigs in and around Calgary.
They haven’t stopped.
“It never ends,” said Dodson. “Every summer, we play about 25 dates.”
The group is heading west to help Berly, who lives in Vernon, celebrate his wedding a few days before the gig at the Performing Arts Centre. Berly is getting married in Penticton.
The Stampeders take the stage at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre Sept. 17 at 7:30 p.m Tickets are $58/adult, row G to KK, and $68 VIP, row A to F, available at the Ticket Seller box office in the centre, call 250-549-7469 or order online at ticketseller.ca.