The Influence was one of the most fascinating bands to emerge from Canada during the '60s. The group's rich diversity of styles was a result of the group members' wide range of musical backgrounds and geographical origins.
The band's driving force was guitarist Louis McKelvey (b. October 31, 1943, Killorglin, County Kerry, Eire), who had spent the early '60s playing with London bands, The Persuaders and Jeff Curtis & The Flames (frequent residents at the Ealing Jazz club).
After travelling to South Africa in the summer of 1965, he met singer Andy Keiller (b. August 16, 1941, Bodmin, Cornwall, England), who had already recorded a solo single, 'Find My Baby/Elaine' and an album entitled 'Round About Midnight' after moving to South Africa from London in March 1964.
Together they formed The Who-inspired band The Upsetters, named by McKelvey after Little Richard's first support group. The Upsetters recorded a lone single, 'Daddy Rolling Stone/Pain In My Heart', issued in late 1965. When Keiller left to return to London in November, McKelvey subsequently joined The A-Cads.
McKelvey was only a member of The A-Cads for a few months, but did appear on the single 'Fool, Fool, Fool/Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah' and helped finish off the band's lone album. The A-Cads spent the early part of 1966 travelling with the Boswell-Wilkie circus before relocating to London in April. The group however, soon fell apart and McKelvey moved to Montreal in late 1966.
After working with Les Sinners for a few weeks and recording with Our Generation, McKelvey met The Haunted's drummer Dave Wynne (b. May 17, 1946, Stockport, Manchester, England). McKelvey subsequently invited him to join the new group he was planning.
Around the same time, McKelvey met bass player Jack Geisinger (b. Jakob August Geisinger, March 1945, Czechoslovakia), who had recently been playing with The Buddy Miles Quartet and before that The Soul Mates. When Buddy Miles and the group's guitarist and organist, Walter Rossi (b. Rossignuoli Rossi, May 29, 1947, Naples, Italy) and Bobo Island (b. Bob Parkin, Montreal, Canada), were picked up by Wilson Pickett for a US tour, Geisinger accepted McKelvey's offer to join the new group. Shortly afterwards, McKelvey spotted an ad in the paper by Andy Keiller (who had moved out to Montreal earlier in the year) and invited him to join as the band's lead singer.
Formed in late 1966, the quartet, named The Influence, immediately made its presence felt and became regulars at Montreal's Barrel during the spring of 1967. A short while later, Rossi and Island returned to Montreal and, after catching the band's set, joined the line-up. The new line-up became more musically adventurous, adopting a style that was influenced by jazz musicians Sonny Murray and Archie Shepp, and with Island adding a second lead voice. After tightening up their act, The Influence moved to Toronto and became a regular sight at Boris'.
In September 1967, the band sent demos to ABC Records in New York and with producer Dennis Minogue recorded a lone album on 4-track that was finally issued in January 1968.
Major label, Columbia Records had offered to buy out ABC and re-produce the album (which failed to capture the group's unique sound) and when the band turned the offer down, Wynne left to be replaced by Montreal drummer Frank LoRusso (aka Yum Yum) replaced Wynne.
The new line-up toured extensively in the US Midwest and the New York area throughout the first half of 1968. Internal differences however led to Keiller's departure.
The band continued (adding ex-Soul Mates horn player Tony Morgese), but further personnel differences led to McKelvey's departure during the autumn. He returned to the UK briefly before forming the Toronto band Milkwood in early 1969.
The remaining members continued into 1969, but broke up when Rossi joined The Buddy Miles Express and Geisinger left for McKelvey's new group Milkwood. LoRusso later rejoined McKelvey in Damage and Rossi and Geisinger subsequently played in Luke & The Apostles and later Charlee.
Island was killed in a highway accident in June 1970. Wynne became a Canadian diplomat, working in South Korea before retiring early to work in venture capital in Singapore. Keiller currently runs a fibre glass business making bodies racing cars in Melbourne and McKelvey is a skilled carpenter living in Toronto.
Thanks, Nick, XtremeMusician.com contributing writer.