Photo © 2012 Gordon Hawkins
The Royal Crowns, Toronto’s favorite roots/rockabilly/party band celebrated their 20th anniversary by reconfiguring as a trio and getting down to work writing 15 new songs for their much anticipated third release, titled simply: VOLUME THREE. Original members guitarist-singer Danny Bartley, (former member of Shotgun Shack and the Razor Backs) and drummer-singer-professional wisecracker Teddy Fury (former member of the seminal rockabilly band the Bopcats) recruited Jason Adams in 2010, fellow pomade aficionado from Buffalo NY on the upright bass, and the rejuvenated swing/surf/rockabilly/country/roots band sprung into their third decade raring to go.
It started with Teddy and Danny. Toronto 1986. Teddy was playing with The Bop Cats upstairs at The Hotel Isabella when between sets he popped downstairs to check out a band he’d never heard of called The Thrashers. The Bop Cats were a popular band, charting #2 in England (above the Stray Cats!), but Danny’s guitar licks blew Teddy away, and Teddy thought to himself “wow, this is fun. I’d rather play in this band!” Later that year, Danny moved to Toronto from Markville, ON (population 1325) and in the summer of 1990, he and Teddy united, and The Royal Crowns, originally a four piece, was formed.
The band’s critically acclaimed first album “32 Miles from Memphis” made the National Post’s Top Canadian Albums of All Time and landed them as the featured band in the Disney channel movie “Mom’s Got a Date with a Vampire” where they performed three songs. The Royal Crowns quickly grew their reputation for a great live show, and today is still one of a handful of bands that can get notoriously stiff Toronto crowds up and dancing. Over the years they’ve been joined on stage by the likes of Angus and Malcolm Young of AC-DC; Robert Gordon, Ron Sexsmith, Memphis guitar great Steve Cropper, Russell DeCarle & Keith Glass of Prairie Oyster, Greg Keelor and James Gray of Blue Rodeo, New York saxophone great “Blue” Lou Marini – to name a few. After years of continuous gigging, the band returned to the studio and released their second album “After Dark” in 2005. Another five years of rocking the bar scene, and it was time for a change. Two out, one in – upright bassist Jason Adams joins the band and with his skill and enthusiasm comes a new energy, a fresh sound and renewed excitement about playing and writing songs towards a new record.
As much as they love to play, The Royal Crowns are blue collar guys at heart. Beyond his notoriety as a drummer, Teddy is probably the best known bartender in Toronto (Horseshoe Tavern), Danny operates a forklift when he’s not playing guitar. Teddy and Danny share the song-writing duties. Danny draws from true and often humorous observations in his life- like the amusing “Three Dollar Cologne” which comments on the fact, that in his experience, “women love the smell of cheap cologne” over jazzy guitar accents.Songs like “Don’t Seem Quite Right” reflects an authentic day for Danny Bartley. “I’ve worked in blue collar jobs my entire adult life to make ends meet and will probably have to until the day I die. That just don’t seem quite right”. “Pickled Beats” is the album’s stand out instrumental and shows off Danny’s guitar playing chops. He was inspired by the late Jimmy Bryant, the country/ western swing guitar virtuoso from the 50’s and 60’s. Danny’s guitar solos on VOLUME THREE are pure rock and roll, yet infuse elements of jazz, country blues and big band swing, bringing something fresh and unique to quintessential 12 bar blues. Danny plays a Gretch guitar through a Fender amp – he’s very much a purist and it shines through.
Teddy also pays homage to those who inspire him. He’ll challenge himself to little song writing exercises like with the catchy “She’s Got It & I Want It,” where he attempted to create a fun “Lady Is a Tramp” meets “The Girl Can’t Help It” with a little cha cha feel for the dance floor. He came up with the gritty sounding surf guitar song “Heavy Baby” while driving his ’59 Desoto to Montreal. He pulled into a parking lot to write it down.
By summer 2011, The Royal Crowns were armed with 15 new songs and ready to record VOLUME THREE. They were eager to work with well-known producer John Critchley (Dan Mangan/Elliott BROOD) at his studio, Green Door Studios, in Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood. Teddy explains: “We were leaning toward working with John, especially having listened to the fantastic acoustic sounds achieved on records coming out of the studio from bands like Elliott BROOD and The Warped 45s. Then we came to visit the studio, and we all felt undeniable good vibes and a real positive feeling from both John and the space.” That sealed the deal. They soon started calling John “Dr. Genius” as any of his suggestions were always great. The band wanted to have a “live” sounding album, indicative of their swinging style. According to Critchley; “People talk all the time about recording “live off the floor” without necessarily understanding what that really means, but this album was pretty damn close. The band returned to veteran Peter Moore to master. He did their first record – they’ve come full circle. A perfect fit.
The Royal Crowns official CD Release Party Extravaganza is a two night affair at The Dakota, Friday May 25th & Saturday May 26th with special guests Prophets and Losses.