Setting The Record Straight

There is a lot of misinformation on the internet about Harlequin. Mostly there is confusion about the band’s origins. I’ve decided to set things straight with the facts as I know them to be.

Ralph James

It all started when Ralph James went from Winnipeg to Toronto in the mid-seventies to seek fame and fortune. He joined a band that called themselves Harlequin. Denton Young and John White’s names pop up in the history because they were in this first version of this band that performed on the Holiday Inn circuit. They were a cover band and never recorded or played original material. The band broke up after only a few months.

Ralph returned to Winnipeg and along with John Hanah, Dave Budzak and Gary Golden formed Holy Hanah. This band played original material which was written by lead guitarist and singer John Hanah. The band was an instant hit in their hometown, however it wasn’t long before John fell ill and they now needed a guitar player, a singer and new material.

David Budzak took over the vocal duties and they hired Lawrie Koyle (aka Leroy Hawk) to play guitar. David quickly grew tired of the double duty as they had a gruelling touring schedule. I had just left a band called Next with which I had recorded an album for Warner Bros. I was on my way to England with my then guitar player Bob White when I received a call from my agent who informed me that Harlequin was looking to audition me. I cancelled my plans and flew to Ontario instead.

Upon meeting Ralph and the boys I could tell that they were driven and focused and best of all, looking for a songwriter. Not being interested in playing covers we set about putting together a catalogue of tunes. We went on like this for a little over a year and eventually replaced Leroy with Glen Willows.

We worked very hard at writing and touring and eventually signed a recording contract and kept things going until the mid-eighties when the band broke up, but I bought everyone out and kept it going. Though it’s been reported that the band stopped touring, this was never the case. There have been plenty of changes, but the band was always active.

Ralph became my manager and, after hearing him deal with agents on the phone, I suggested he become one himself. He guffawed and went on a rant about agents and told me I was out of my mind and it was something he would never consider. Well … Ralph now lives in Toronto and is rich and famous as President of The Agency Group! The story has come full circle.

Glen Willows, Gary Golden, George Belanger, Ralph James and AJ Chabidon

I did slow it down some in the nineties because I had a young family and another business I started with my wife which we kept going for 18 years.

Harlequin is still going all these years later and I might add that the original lineup still plays together from time to time and, in fact, Gary Golden is back in the fold and Glen still plays the odd date with us too! We are, to this day, great friends! We enjoy each others company and that fills me with pride and happiness!

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