George Belanger   

Photo by Doug Budzak JrPhoto by Doug Budzak Jr

Meet George – lead vocals

I was born the first boy in a family of ten children … eight of them girls! How’s that for an opener? I got my love of music from my dad who would walk around the house singing all the time. He loved the black artists of his era like The Mills Bros., Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Ray Charles, etc…

I got my vocal training at Catholic School as part of the choir and was taught by nuns through elementary school. I was sent to college and minor seminary on a path to priesthood.

It was while I was in seminary that I first heard the “calling.”
“Leave school and join a rock band”, the voice said.
I did … and got tossed out of the house and lived, pretty much, hand to mouth for several years paying my dues.

My first real band was called The Nickels & Dimes, which alluded to the quantities of “weed” we were purchasing at the time. We thought we were so cool! Other bands I was in: The Hyde Park Convention (put that on a t-shirt!), Red Rider (nothing to do with Tom Cochrane), Papa Pluto and other forgettable ones.

In 1969 I was part of a band called Chopping Block and we toured all over the US playing clubs and a lot of army bases. The Vietnam War was on and we met a lot of reluctant participants who only wanted to party before they got shipped off to who knows what fate.

We had been touring for almost three months and had a few days off in Atlanta, Georgia where we had all of our gear stolen. I had just purchased a sound system on credit and stupidly had not insured it. I arrived back in town broke and in debt.

Coincidentally, our first gig on the US tour had been in Minneapolis where we warmed up for a band called The Litter, the loudest band I had ever heard! After the show I was approached by their manager and was asked if I would like to replace the singer. They were offering big money, per diems, a tour bus and enough production to outdo The Who at that time. When I told them I wouldn’t do it, they asked if I knew anyone and I suggested Ron Rene, who was fronting The Fifth. As fate would have it, upon my return home there was a job waiting for me!

This was my first recording act. There weren’t many studios back in those days so we recorded at the local radio station. Our first release was a version of “Tobacco Road” which got some decent airplay.

We then learned to do our own recordings on ¼ inch tape. We changed the name of the band to Next and took our demo to Toronto to seek our fame and fortune.

Lo and behold … on our first stop at Warner Bros. we were offered an album deal! The record was called “Dusty Shoes”.

We toured Ontario with The Downchild Blues Band, received a Governor General’s award and … I was back in my parents’ good graces. It was also in this band that I got to warm up Three Dog Night several times, Canned Heat, The Ventures and Led Zepplin, which is still one of the biggest thrills of my life!

The band broke up after a year or so and I decided I would like to go to England. I was about to book a ticket when my phone rang. It was my agent informing me that there was a newly formed band in need of a singer.

I was flown out to Ontario where I met what was already Harlequin and I was immediately impressed by their dedication and focus. We spent many years working our asses off until we hooked up with Jack Douglas.

The rest is history!