Lighthouse (1968-1976, 1992-present): a Rock band from Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
ormed in 1968 in Toronto by vocalist and drummer Skip Prokop (ex-Paupers) and keyboardist Paul Hoffert, Lighthouse started when the two met each other while on a flight from New York City to Toronto, and discussed forming a band structured around a rock, jazz horns and classical strings. Prokop asked Ralph Cole to join as guitarist because he admired his playing when they shared the stage at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit in the past. Prokop and Hoffert padded out the rest of the membership with friends, studio session musicians and members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. On the advice of Richie Havens, Prokop and Hoffert took a demo to 'MGM Records' in New York, who signed the band. But, two days later their newly founded manager, Vinnie Fusco, overturned the 'MGM' contract and made a deal with 'RCA Victor'. Lighthouse made its debut on May 14, 1969, at the Rock Pile bar in Toronto. Their grand entrance was completed with an introduction by Duke Ellington with the words, "I'm beginning to see the Light...house".
Lighthouse has always been a larger than normal band and featured instruments not commonly associated with rock acts,Skip Prokop (drums and vocals), Paul Hoffert (keyboards and vibraphone), Ralph Cole (guitar and vocals), Grant Fullerton (bass and vocals), Vic "Pinky" Dauvin (percussion and lead vocals), Ian Guenther (violin), Don Dinovo (violin and viola), Don Whitton (cello), Leslie Schneider (cello), Freddy Stone (trumpet and flugelhorn), Arnie Chycoski (trumpet and flugelhorn), Howard Shore (alto saxophone), Russ Little (trombone).
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During their first year, Lighthouse would host concerts at Carnegie Hall , Fillmore East, Fillmore West, the Atlantic City pop Festival, Monterey and Newport Jazz Festivals as well as the cities of Toronto and Boston. That Toronto event included a free concert at the Toronto City Hall in the summer of 1969 that drew a crowd of 25,000.
Their first album, Lighthouse, was released in 1969 by 'RCA' in their Toronto studio. The band then appeared at the Strawberry Fields Festival in August 1970, and at the Isle of Wight Festival where they were the only act other than Jimi Hendrix asked to perform a second night.
Suite Feeling (1969) came next and was also recorded at 'RCA's' Toronto Eastern Sound Studio. It featured two cover songs: The Band's Chest Fever and The Beatles' A Day In The Life.
Peacing It All Together (1970) would be their last for 'RCA' (this time recorded in Hollywood) and the last for lead singer Pinky Dauvin. By this time, the act had become a minor institution in Canada with the tracks, Feel So Good, If There Ever was a Time and The Chant achieving hit status.
'GRT' signed the band to record their next record at Toronto's Thunder Sound Studios. Some members also left, reducing the act to an eleven member set. The most notable change was new lead singer, Bob McBride.1971 was a busy year for the band with three albums coming down the pipe, One Fine Morning, Thoughts of Movin' On and One Fine Light - a 'best of' recording released by 'RCA' as an attempt to get one more kick at the band's success. The title track from One Fine Morning was a hit in Canada, peaking at 2. The song was also an international and American hit, peaking at 24 in 1971 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, with the first two albums eventually going gold in Canada. It was preceded on the Canadian charts by the single Hats Off to the Stranger achieving a 9 charting and remains as a staple on Canadian radio to this day.
In between recording albums and touring 300 days a year, the band members were involved with innovative projects including the first performances by a rock band with symphony orchestra, a collaboration with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet company dubbed 'Ballet High', which toured across Canada, and a CBC production of Prometheus Bound with actress Irene Worth.
Lighthouse Live! was recorded live at Carnegie Hall in February 1972. The album proved to be a success by giving Lighthouse bragging rights as it made them the first Canadian act to have an album qualify for platinum status. The band came back later that year with Sunny Days; another gold album. The title song became the band's next Canadian hit single and second and final Hot 100 single, peaking at 34 on 9 December 1972.
Hoffert grew tired of life on the road and left performing in 1973 but continued as the band's executive producer. Bob McBride mysteriously failed to show up at the Record Plant studio in New York for the recording of their next album. Prokop and Cole wanted to scrap the sessions but producer Jimmy Ienner insisted they continue and decided that whoever wrote the song, sings it. With the exception of No More Searching that was written and sung by new sax player Dale Hillary, Prokop and Cole sang all the vocals and harmonies on the album. When that album, Can You Feel It was finally released in 1973, the result was one of the band's biggest single releases, Pretty Lady, which was a top-10 hit.
Good Day (1974) produced no hits. Like the previous album, the lead vocals were divided between Skip Prokop and Ralph Cole, but when Prokop switched to guitar full-time, leaving the drum kit duties to Billy King. In an attempt to follow it up, the band recorded few more tracks for the next album before Prokop left; that album was never completed. 'GRT' released The Best of Lighthouse instead in an attempt to capitalize on their past success. The band went on tour a few more times before the act disbanded in 1976.
Prokop, Hoffert, Cole and McBride reunited, along with many of the Lighthouse alumnae, in September 1982 for a weekend of four concerts at 'Ontario Place' (a huge public park made from artificial islands off the Lake Ontario shore in Toronto) which drew 33,000 people, but at the end of the weekend the musicians went their separate ways again. In 1989 'Denon Records' bought the rights to the 'GRT' recordings and released The Best of Lighthouse-Sunny Days Again; the re-mix of the album was produced by Hoffert, Cole, Prokop and McBride. The band reunited again in 1992 as a ten-member line-up which included the founding members Prokop, Hoffert, and Cole with McBride on vocals. By this time, however, McBride had become addicted to drugs, causing erratic performances, resulting in his dismissal several months later to be replaced by Dan Clancy.
Three years later 'Breaking Records' released Song of the Ages. The single from which, Remember the Times, was a top-thirty hit in Canada. In 1998 The Best of Lighthouse-Sunny Days Again were digitally re-mastered and released by 'True North Records' along with Song of the Ages in 1999.
For their 40th anniversary, 'Universal Records' released 40 Years of Sunny Days (2009), a retrospective of their biggest hits.
As a seven member set, in 2016 they appeared at the Sound of Music Festival in Burlington, Ontario, Canada; the largest free music festival in that country.
Skip Prokop passed away August 30, 2017 from heart complications. He was 73.
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Lighthouse performs 'Hats Off To The Stranger' at the Sound of Music festival in Burlington, Ontario, Canada. June 19, 2016.
Photo by: Derek McDonald
Dashboard for Lighthouse
Artists Linked to Lighthouse
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