The Mandala were initially known as The Five Rogues and were house band at the club Bluenote. Keyboard player Josef Chirowski (b. Mar. 2, 1947, Germany), bass player Don Elliot (b. Dec. 8, 1944, Toronto, Canada) and drummer Whitey Glan (b. Finland) had worked together previously in several outfits. The band adopted the name The Five Rogues when singer George Olliver (b. Jan. 25, 1946, Toronto, Canada) and guitarist Domenic Troiano (b. Michaele Antonio, Jan. 17, 1946, Mondugno, Italy, naturalised Canadian in 1955) joined the band in the summer of 1964.
The group quickly became a popular local draw and for a brief period of time worked with David Clayton-Thomas following his departure from The Shays in late 1965. Early the following year, the band decided to reinvent itself and emerged in the summer with a new name and image.
Mandala is a symbol (a circle within a circle within a circle) used by Buddhist monks as an aid to contemplation and was chosen by the band's manager, Rafael Markowitz (aka Randy Martin), a former TV clown. Markowitz envisioned the band as being a channel for the audience to release its emotions and the newly named outfit returned to the Toronto scene with its 'Soul Crusade', which was met with mass hysteria. Mandala immediately made a visual impact with their pinstripe, gangster-style suits and were the first Toronto band to use strobe lights at their concerts.
Markowitz was also a master at manipulating the media and made sure that the band was one of the best paid on the local circuit.
The US market soon beckoned and Mandala spent more and more time south of the border. In November 1966, the band played at Hollywood's Whiskey A-Go-Go and attracted 1,400 fans to the Hullabaloo a few weeks later, by word of mouth. The following year, the band travelled to New York on a regular basis and appeared on numerous occasions at Steve Paul's Scene.
As a result the band won a recording deal with Chicago's Chess label (distributed by Decca) and KR in Canada. The first recording, Troiano's 'Opportunity' was recorded with The Dells providing backing vocals.
The group's debut single, 'Opportunity' was a minor hit on the RPM chart in March 1967, peaking at a disappointing #72, and was followed by the slightly more successful 'Give & Take', which made #55 3 months' later. During this period the band began work on an album but it was not finished until the following year and after the band's personnel had undergone some major changes.
In September 1967 singer George Olliver left to form his own band, The Children and was followed by keyboard player Chirowski, who briefly worked for Canadian Pacific Railways and played with The Power Project with Larry Leishman from Jon and Lee and The Checkmates. Mandala duly recruited Roy Kenner from The Associates, and keyboard player Hugh Sullivan to replace them. The new line-up continued to be a popular local draw and started to gain recognition south of the border as well; one of the band's most prestigious appearances was at the Philadelphia Music Festival in July 1968.
After Atlantic chief Ahmet Ertegun acted on a tip from producer Phil Spector and bought the group's contract from Decca, the group completed its lone album.
The band recorded 6 tracks at Atlantic Studios, New York in February 1968 including the single 'Love It-is', which reached #50 during the summer. The band completed the sessions for its long awaited album, 'Soul Crusade', in April and then returned to Canada.
The band's final single 'You Got Me' reached #54 in December by which point the group was falling apart. The album failed to attract the sales the group had expected and on January 1, 1969 Mandala played their final date at the Hawk's Nest in Toronto. Troiano, Kenner and Glan went on to play in Bush. Troiano and Kenner played with the US band The James Gang while Glan and ealier member Josef Chirowski became top session musicians for the likes of Lou Reed and Al Cooper.