December 5, 2022


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SMILE WITH LISLE

Lisle was the name of a Canadian band made up of a trio of young men from Simcoe County who came to prominence in the early 1970's. Bill Chambers was the guitarist and lead singer, Brian Matthias played bass and Danny Stephens was the drummer. Brian and Danny also helped out with vocals. By 1972, the group was ready to record and signed with a small Toronto label called Bronco Records, and released a couple of singles that gained some airplay on CHUM radio. The success of the singles lead to the release of their only album, “Smile With Lisle”. 

 

I was able to contact Bill Chambers and he very kindly agreed to speak to me about the group. He advised me that around 1967, after a period of time rehearsing in his parent’s basement the original members of the band finally managed to get their first booking. Now that they actually had a gig, they needed a name. None of the fellows could agree on anything. Danny, who had set the job up, told the venue the name of the group was “The Lisle Electric Company”. When the boys arrived to perform, the sign at the hall entrance indicated the band performing were called “The Lisle”. They were later told the original name was too long to fit on the marquee, so the venue just used the first two words.  Although the band intended to come up with something better, Bill said they never did, and eventually dropped “The” from their name, and so “Lisle” it was. Over the next three years the group stayed close to home, continuing to perform, honing their musical skills, and getting established. In 1970 the boys decided to hit the road and started playing on the circuit throughout Ontario, performing from Sarnia to Timmins to Renfrew. It was around this time the original bassist quit, and Brian Matthias from Orillia joined. Bill explained “Danny met this kid in Orillia that played bass and could sing. He was just what we needed, full of enthusiasm, fun, just full of life. Brian has an incredible musical aptitude, in a matter of 3 weeks he learned our repertoire and we hit the road again. That was summer of 1971.”  
 

The band was playing six nights a week on the road, and were really starting gel. In the spring of 1972 the band made the acquaintance of Bud Crosgrey, who was starting the Bronco record label. Bud wanted to record the band, so he offered them a contract. The next step was decide what material would the band use in the session. Bill told me his Aunt Irma suggested they learn “Goin’ Away”, a single from the American band “The Fireballs”, and that ended up being their first single. Bud produced the recording session, which took place at Captain Audio, located in the Yorkville part of Toronto (Jim Morgan was the sound engineer). The date of the recording happened to be Bill’s birthday, the fifth of July.  It speaks to how tight the band was that during that one single session, they laid down two tracks; besides “Goin’ Away” they also cut “You’re Why Baby”. I should mention at this point that the band I’m currently with includes “Goin’ Away” in our repertoire, which is really how I became aware of the group. Our drummer (who sings it) always introduces the number as a song that a local band named “Lisle” had a hit with. 
 

Over the next little while, between gigs and other obligations, Lisle was able to record enough material to release their only album, “Smile With Lisle”. Included on the album was their most successful single “Shelley Made Me Smile”, which climbed to number 16 on the CHUM radio chart in 1974. It has also made it onto a number of compilations over the years, and could often be heard on Southern Ontario radio. This would turn out to be the band’s most successful period.

   

Bill left Lisle in 1974, although the band would continue with other members for a few years more. Throughout the band’s tenure, Bill credits Danny as being the driving force propelling them forward. Bill has kept his hand in music, and still performs. He also advised me that the boys have kept in touch, and strong bond still exists between everyone. 
 

I asked Bill about his original rig. He told me that he initially started out on the road with a 1960 Fender Telecaster through a black face Fender Bassman amp. Within the first year he switched a Gibson SG (with the P 90 pickups) and a Fender Super Reverb amp. By the spring of 1973 he had settled on a Gibson ES 335 going through a Fender Twin Reverb amp. By the way, Bill told me he still has the Tele!
 

Lisle is a wonderful story about some high school chums who started out like so many other teenagers learning how to play in the basement of their parent’s home. They actualized their dream of performing as a band, making a record, and getting their songs on the radio, and making it very easy to “Smile With Lisle”. 


 

 

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