Tuesday, August 5, 2008

yohawks & squirrels

SCOTT of SKA, SOUL ROCK N' ROLL tipped me off to a cool article he compiled regarding OTTAWA GANGS & GARAGE BANDS from the 60's. it's a cool little piece of Ottawa history that you won't be really hearing about when you're taking your bus tour of the city.


Yohawks & Squirrels & Ottawa 60s bands

This garage punker popped up on a youtube feed I have.

Seeing the Sir John A. record label has reminded me that I want to post some info on the 'Yohawks & Squirrels' of Ottawa I'm trying to investigate for kicks along with other Ottawa 60s scene stuff I come across.

A member of my scooter club who'd grown up in the 60s in Ottawa posted a link on Canada Day to this info regarding a band made up of older gentlemen called the Yohawks in Ottawa:

"Before most of you were born there were Yohawks and Squirrels. mmmmm, I still remember my suede desert boots." - Lorne B.
The History of the Yohawks


The story of The Yohawks dates back to the days of the "British Invasion", just before the Summer of Love, and long before commercial radio became formatted for specific music genres and listener demographics. "Back in the day" bands would book four hours of studio time in Montreal (Ottawa didn't have a professional studio then) and record an A side and a couple of B sides, send the master off to the Smiths Falls RCA pressing plant, and hear themselves on CFRA, CKOY, or CJET two weeks later.


In the late sixties, as part of the Five D, an Ottawa band which enjoyed success throughout eastern Ontario, Dave Poulin, Brian Bradfield, Brad Campbell and Keith Richardson formed a lasting friendship that, forty-two years later, has resulted in their first album of fresh, original songs. While each member went on to other musical endeavors after the Five D, it's only now that time and technology has allowed the group to explore their collective creativity without any constraints.


It was appropriate to find a new identity for this project, as the material in no way resembles the "bubble gum" sound of Ottawa's first "boy band". After several attempts at finding a name (some funny, some rude) the band settled on The Yohawks. The name has a special meaning and a history in Ottawa. In the late sixties, a Yohawk was a person who dressed with a certain style; sneakers, desert boots or penny loafers, with a plaid, madras or paisley shirt and tight fitting chinos. On the other side were The Squirrels. With their jet boots, greasy hair and jean jackets they presented a tough façade. This was Ottawa's version of "Mods" and "Rockers", and the first recorded gangs in the city.


Heres a little blurb I came across on google in an Ottawa Police Recommendation:

The phenomenon of street gangs is not new. People who lived in Ottawa in the late sixties and early seventies would be familiar with the Squirrels and the Yohawks, two prominent gangs of that time. From anecdotal accounts, members of these gangs limited their criminal activity to minor property crime and assaults. Members occasionally possessed knives; however, they were seldom if ever used. The rules of engagement for disputes between rival groups were clear; fight involved one on one and when someone was down the fight was over.

I recognized the Yohawk/Squirrel reference because it was mentioned in an article by Ottawa native Jeremy Gluck. Gluck moved to england in the late 70s and was the lead singer in The Barracudas who attained some success with their hit Summer Fun.


Barracudas - Summer Fun:

"Gluck grew up in Ottawa, the capitol city of Canada. But his heart was set on rock an roll, and he knew it wasn’t going to happen in Ontario. He had his teen band phase…the first one was called the New Master Race and the second one was the Yohawks. When asked about these bands, Jeremy recoils as though confronted with a long hidden criminal record.

"Cripes, this really is crass exhumation! What sort of deranged maniac wants to know such things??", he pleads. On my end of the web I give a pitiless shrug. "Look", he says, "Thing is, The Yohawks never existed, well, they did, kinda...um...in Ottawa in the late 50s/early 60s there were apparently two gangs, The Squirrels and The Yohawks, that may respectively have been equivalent to Rockers and Mods. When I lived in Toronto my brother and I toyed with forming a band called The Yohawks...we did rehearse "Rumble" a few times. So, anyhow...I liked that name and once submitted a fictional review of a Yohawks album...sadly, it never ran! And I may have credited some obscure 4-track comp contribution to the name."

"The New Master Race thing is from even before that. I recall hitting the high school stage at lunch one day and launching into an impromptu cover of "Dirt" that had the preps and jocks white with horror...me being one of the great outcasts of the in-crowd then. So it was pretty much Drop-Out from the beginning...and drop in to REAL ROCK'N'ROLL. We did some great tapes, including one song called "I Got Nothing", that I only found out later, when Kill City was released, that had a doppleganger by the Ig hisself!!

In 1977 Jeremy couldn’t take it any more. He’d wanted to be where the action is for far, far too long. He pulled up stakes in Ottawa and headed to London"

Here is the article:

I mentioned it to a few people after the Canada Day post.

A friend asked her father about the gangs:

"my dad confirmed the existence of the yohawks and the squirrels yesterday. he said they were called the squirrels cause their hair was black and greasy! and the yohawks had long hair and looked like hippies.

there was supposed to be a big rumble at Carlingwood mall, but he doesn't think anything really came of that. neat huh? what would we do without dads to remember all this awesome shit for us?"

Totally, what would we do! My dads unearthed some cool tidbits on the Toronto 60s music scene for me over the past few years.

So far that is the little info I've compiled on the Yohawks & The Squirrels. Judging by the description, the Mods & Rockers comparison seems pretty fitting judging by the uniforms described in the yohawk history article.

Though I can't be sure any of these following groups were theme music for the gangs,
I'll post a few more Ottawa 60s tunes courtesy of tokensurfer, a youtuber who has a great wealth of Canadian garage & pop songs, and contributed many to the Wyld Canada compilation series (comically, according to him that series was created by an native Australian!).

Heres some stuff by the aforementioned Five D - Running Round In Circles

The Esquires - It's A Dirty Shame

The Esquires - Man From Adamo

Staccatos went on to become the Five Man Electrical Band who scored a substantial hit with Signs ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1Q7cP3ij5g ).

Staccatos - Half Past Midnight

Some surf inspired tunes:
Staccatos - Let's Run Away

I saw this Staccatos LP at a vintage shop and went back to pick it up a few days later but it was gone. If anyone comes across it, let me know, I'd still like a copy.
Staccatos - You Only Die Once

This group, Heart, I'd never heard of until I saw the label browsing Tokensurfers videos:

Heart - Treat Me So Bad


Heart - Help Me Down

Don Norman & The Other Four - Low Man ... super fuzz

Heres a link to more of tokensurfers 60s Ottawa tunes, there are too many to post here:

And a link to an article about The Sir John A. records label:


If anyone has any more info, please let me know.

tonight at 9 pm on CHUO 89.1 FM, UP FOR A DOWNSLIDE will have a special guest dj - IAN MANHIRE of THE WHITE WIRES/SEDATIVES. he'll have a slew of great singles to play for you so make sure you tune in to that.

also if you want to hear exclusive tracks from MOTHER'S CHILDREN tune into WAITING TO BE FORGOTTEN at 12 pm on CHUO. i'll be playing songs that you probably won't get to hear until their record comes out so make sure you tune in cause the songs are amazing. if you can't listen to it live i'm working on creating a downloadable mp3 archive of all my shows which will hopefully be up this week.


the gagaman said...

this work to you and SCOTT...this is some really tasty stuff...and you know what a BARRACUDAS fan I am!

the gagaman said...

I meant nice work

... said...

it's all scott.

stéphane said...

so interesting!!

i once worked in a kitchen in a Byward Market restaurant, Le Café du Marché. This was in the early '90s (1994?). The manager had once been a member of the squirrels gang. i don't remember much else, except that they put on a tough exterior and they ran wild in the streets getting up to no good.
kids were fearless and much tougher back then.

i got PLENTY of old ottawa stories from my dad and uncle who both grew up in lower town and sandy hill in the '50s and '60s. my dad used to hop trains when he was just a kid. then, he was sort of an ottawa beatnick watching leonard cohen poetry readings at Le Hibou Café.

Denton said...

Here's some more recently posted stuff on the Yohawks:

CanadianRoadie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CanadianRoadie said...

Hey there,
Would like to get in touch with Lorne B who pointed article and was in Ottawa during the '60s. He might know about my dad and share some info. His page I created for him facebook.com/waynetenderlatendresse