Man­i­toba mu­sic scene Eter­nally grate­ful to these broth­ers

... but it led to life-long mu­sic ca­reers for two sets of broth­ers

SundayXtra - - FRONT PAGE - John Ei­nar­son re­mem­bers THE ETER­NALS Sign up for John Ei­nar­son’s Off The Record sum­mer cour­ses at mc­nal­ly­robin­son

MANY mu­si­cians play­ing the thriv­ing lo­cal com­mu­nity club and school sock-hop cir­cuit in the 1960s drifted back to school or to non-mu­sic vo­ca­tions af­ter a few years of fun, their glory days be­hind them.

Not so the four mem­bers of The Eter­nals. The two sets of broth­ers — Ron (key­boards) and Ted Pa­ley (drums) along with John (gui­tar) and Harry Hildebrand (bass) — par­layed their love for mu­sic and record­ing into life­long ca­reers in mu­sic tech­nol­ogy. In do­ing so they pi­o­neered the busi­ness of record­ing and sound in western Canada.

Hail­ing from Rosa, Man., the Pa­ley broth­ers hooked up with Stein­bach’s Hildebrand boys in the early ’60s. Play­ing rock ’n’ roll in a strict Men­non­ite com­mu­nity was pretty au­da­cious for the lat­ter broth­ers. Ron Pa­ley re­calls John pur­chas­ing a Fen­der am­pli­fier from a lo­cal mer­chant in Stein­bach. “It was his pride and joy but when the store owner found out John was us­ing it to play rock ’n’ roll, he came to his house, re­trieved the amp and gave John his money back.”

Al­ways fas­ci­nated by the record­ing process, the group set up their own stu­dio in a barn on the Pa­ley fam­ily’s farm. “We had recorded with Bob Burns pro­duc­ing us at Kay Bank stu­dio in Minneapolis,” ex­plains Ron, “and loved it. So when they were sell­ing their record­ing board and mics we bought them and set them up in the barn.” As John re­calls, “Mrs. Pa­ley wouldn’t let us bring her piano into the barn so we had to run a long cord from the house to the grainary where we had the board set up.”

The quar­tet moved to Win­nipeg in 1965, rent­ing a house in St. Boni­face where they lived and re­hearsed. “Be­ing two sets of broth­ers helped us avoid the pit­falls of other bands in the ’60s,” claims John. “Ron and I were the old­est so we looked af­ter our younger broth­ers.” The fol­low­ing year the four quit their day jobs to turn pro­fes­sional ul­ti­mately set­ting their sights on the more lu­cra­tive club cir­cuit in On­tario.

“We knew we weren’t the great­est mu­si­cians,” notes John, “so we fo­cused on our singing and learned how to be more ver­sa­tile all-round en­ter­tain­ers. That re­ally served us well in the clubs. We could even pull out a fid­dle and play polkas. We were al­ways re-booked for more money. And we didn’t dam­age the place, ei­ther. We were well-be­haved and took our mu­sic se­ri­ously.”

Booked by Terry Mor­ris, the band be­came a top draw in east­ern clubs. “We were held over for four­teen weeks in Wawa, (Ont.,) played Expo 67, filled in for The Stac­catos at the big Chaudiere Club in Hull, (Que.,) and played three weeks at Toronto’s The Fri­ars Club,” states Ron. The lat­ter en­gage­ment at one of Canada’s best-known night­clubs be­came a pin­na­cle for the band, who re­turned to Win­nipeg soon af­ter to build their own pro­fes­sional record­ing stu­dio.

Be­tween 1967 and 1969, The Eter­nals re­leased seven sin­gles, in­clud­ing the Randy Bach­man penned The Real World Of Mary Ann. “We recorded with the Minneapolis Sym­phony Orches­tra con­ducted by Bob McMullin from CBC,” Ron re­calls. “That was an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.”

In 1968, the four opened Century 21 record­ing stu­dios, Win­nipeg’s first in­de­pen­dent multi-track fa­cil­ity. Lo­cated on King Ed­ward Av­enue, the stu­dio fea­tured cut­ting edge 8-track record­ing. Re­spon­si­bil­i­ties were di­vided be­tween the four band mem­bers. “I han­dled the tech­ni­cal and equip­ment du­ties,” Ron ex­plains, “John was the mas­ter mixer and en­gi­neer, Harry was on the cre­ative side and Ted was the bean counter who looked af­ter the clients and ac­counts.”

While the stu­dio was booked heav­ily by a va­ri­ety of record­ing artists, from Harry Be­la­fonte (“Harry loved com­ing to Win­nipeg to record,” notes John) to Street­heart, commercial jin­gles helped pay the bills. Ron es­ti­mates Harry pro­duced more than 1,000 jin­gles in his ca­reer, in­clud­ing some for McDon­ald’s. “We re­al­ized there was a need for this kind of work,” says John, who still re­calls the words to their first jin­gle for a Dixie Lee Chicken fran­chise in south­ern On­tario.

As the stu­dio flour­ished, the four ex­panded into other soundrelated ven­tures in­clud­ing equip­ment rentals. In 1972, the Pa­ley broth­ers branched out into broad­cast and record­ing equip­ment sales, open­ing Oak­wood Au­dio. “We were known as The In­con­ve­nient Stereo Store and our man­ager was Ernie Klem or ‘Weird Old Ernie,’ ” laughs Ron. Bobby Vin­ton be­came their first ma­jor client, with Oak­wood’s Gerry Leger tak­ing their gear around the world for three years. Among the com­pany’s clients were the Pope’s gi­ant Birds Hill mass and the Cal­gary Olympics. John be­came the main sound man for the Cal­gary Stam­pede, a gig he kept for 37 years.

Two years later, Century 21 record­ing stu­dio re­lo­cated to a for­mer Ma­sonic lodge on Leila Av­enue in West Kil­do­nan. The im­pres­sive fa­cil­ity was built by leg­endary Cal­i­for­nia stu­dio de­signer Tom Hi­d­ley of West­lake Record­ing Stu­dios fame and was the only West­lake stu­dio in Western Canada. “We al­ways rein­vested in the busi­ness,” notes John, who spent his hon­ey­moon buy­ing record­ing equip­ment in Minneapolis. “We wanted to work with the best equip­ment.”

As Oak­wood Au­dio grew, the two sets of broth­ers di­vided com­pa­nies, with the Hilde­brands re­main­ing with the record­ing stu­dio. Boast­ing 24-track state- of-the art record­ing, the stu­dio re­mained open un­til 1998, when dig­i­tal record­ing be­gan re­plac­ing ana­log. Their top- of-the-line Neve record­ing board was pur­chased by Aus­tralian band AC/ DC, who sent their crew to Win­nipeg to dis­man­tle it and fly it back to Aus­tralia for their own stu­dio.

Em­brac­ing the dig­i­tal revo­lu­tion, Ron founded Me­dia Touch soft­ware com­pany in 1994. Its soft­ware is found in broad­cast fa­cil­i­ties across the con­ti­nent, in­clud­ing in­flu­en­tial 1010 WINS in New York. He later cre­ated Ron Pa­ley Broad­cast and bought the award-win­ning Dig­i­tal Juke­box com­pany. Ted works with him.

A rar­ity in the mu­sic busi­ness, the two sets of broth­ers con­tinue to re­main close af­ter 50 years of work­ing to­gether. “I can never re­mem­ber Ron and I hav­ing an ar­gu­ment,” states John. “Even af­ter we all mar­ried, we lived near each other. We’re all still friends.”

PHO­TOS COUR­TESY OF RON PA­LEY

TOP: Century 21 record­ing stu­dio ABOVE: The Oak­wood Au­dio sign FAR RIGHT: The Eter­nals, (left to right) Harry Hildebrand, Ted Pa­ley, John Hildebrand and Ron Pa­ley. RIGHT: Gerry Leger stand­ing by the Oak­wood Au­dio speak­ers on a Bobby Vin­ton tour.

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