Q. Known for ten top 100 Canadian chart singles that include “Who Knows How To Make Love Stay” and “Too Bad”, what Canadian band am I speaking of that took a five-year hiatus after the death of their lead singer in 2004?
A. Doug and the Slugs was founded in Vancouver in 1977 by Toronto-born Doug Bennett, who had been a graphic designer in his home town before moving to British Columbia in the mid-1970s. Bennett served as the band’s chief songwriter, frontman, and lead singer. Keyboardist Simon Kendall described Bennett’s writing style: “He had some unique and very interesting lyrics. An anachronistic style, if you like. He was a bit of R&B, he was a bit 1940s, he was a bit Tex-Mex. As a writer, I think he deserves more credit than he gets for being intelligent. He wrote some beautiful and quite provocative songs.”
After some turnover amongst Slugs in the early months, the lineup stabilized by 1978, and for the entirety of their recording career (1978–1992), Doug & the Slugs consisted of lead vocalist Doug Bennett, guitarists Richard Baker and John Burton, keyboardist Simon Kendall, bassist Steve Bosley, and drummer John “Wally” Watson.
The band built a solid following in the Vancouver area through constant live performances. Determined to exert control over their own music and artwork, the band founded their own record label, Ritdong Records, and worked out a distribution deal with RCA Records for their recordings (Bennett chose the name “Ritdong” because he described it as the sound produced by an out of tune guitar). Their debut 45 single “Too Bad” was issued on Ritdong in February 1980, and became a substantial hit in Vancouver, rising to #2 on local Top 40 station CKLG. Shortly thereafter, the track entered the Canadian hit parade, becoming a top ten hit. That year, Doug & The Slugs’ manager, Sam Feldman mortgaged his house to make The Slugs debut album, Cognac & Bologna, was recorded at Metalworks Studios in Mississauga, Ontario.
Throughout the 1980s, a string of singles and albums followed. Their biggest success was 1982’s Music For The Hard Of Thinking, which in Canada peaked at #22, and spun off two top 40 singles: “Who Knows How To Make Love Stay” and “Making It Work”. However, the band didn’t break through internationally, and RCA ended their distribution deal with Ritdong in 1984, after the release of the best-of compilation Ten Big Ones.
Most of the Slugs left the band after 1992, although Kendall stayed until 1994. After this time, Bennett toured with an ever-rotating cast of new musicians, still billing their act as Doug & the Slugs. The original Slugs reunited to back Doug for two “25th anniversary” shows in Vancouver in 2003.
Bennett acknowledged the fact that he was a heavy drinker, and eventually all of the years of playing bars and heavy drinking onstage compromised his health. He succumbed to liver cirrhosis after falling into a coma in October 2004, passing through Calgary from Saskatchewan. Kendall remarked that Bennett “hadn’t been looking after himself. His health [had] not been good for the last couple of years, so it wasn’t a total surprise. But nobody realized how sick he was.”.
After a gap of several years, the original Slugs (Baker, Bosley, Burton, Kendall, and Watson) reunited in 2009 and invited singer Ted Okos to be their new frontman. The group still performs live dates as Doug & the Slugs, although now none of them is named Doug.
I knew that one….Gwen danced on the table in the bar at Banff Springs Hotel with Doug
Really - you go Gwen! Back in 1986 -Cab driver in Vancouver argued with us - said Roland was Doug. No free ride even if he said he was.
Roland Leno?…in a stolen cab….hmm
excellent Mary Anne …I’m Makin’ It Work