Celebrating 30 Years of Rock and Roll
Story by Stuart Chatwood
Photography by Francesca Ludikar
Thirty years ago, on June 29th, 1990 the Tea Party was born at The Coach and Horses in Windsor, Ontario.
A long time ago—in fact Easter 1990 to be exact—Jeff Martin and myself took a break from our jobs in Toronto and returned to Windsor where we went out for drinks with Jeff Burrows. We ended up grabbing a few pints at The Coach and Horses on a Saturday night, where the venue was in need of patrons.
The manager of the pub asked Jeff Martin and Jeff Burrows if they were interested in performing again as a duo, like they had a few years back (imaginatively entitled B&M Blues). As the three of us were sitting there having a good time, we thought, “Why not go beyond a duo, and form a band for fun?”
We had been in bands together in the past but this time, having fun was the initial draw. The money they offered us was better than what Jeff Martin and myself had been making with The Stickmen in Toronto at the time and there was no pressure, so we thought, ‘Why not have a good time and play a weekend or two in the summertime?’
The following month Jeff Burrows came up to Toronto on an overnight Greyhound with a giant 4’X5′ box of drums. We dragged that massive box on the sidewalk back to our penthouse apartment (yes, we were living large on our pitiful salaries). Then we packed the drums into
my tiny car and made our way to Cherry Jam Rehearsal Studios. We had rented the space for Saturday, and they expected us to jam from noon until 5pm. But, our excitement for this new venture couldn’t be contained and we headed over at 5 am! We set up quickly and broke into “Good Times, Bad Times” and “Heartbreaker.” After about 10 more hours of jamming our fingers were bleeding.
We had big Cheshire Cat grins and the excitement was palpable. We took a break for some lunch at the Knob Hill Farms lunch counter and immediately began discussing recording our first album, and, in turn, world domination.
Over the next few weeks the calluses on the fingers built up. I adjusted to the bass fine after being the singer and rhythm guitarist in The Stickmen, but I wanted to bring my bass playing chops up to Jeff Burrows and Jeff Martin’s level of musicianship. That meant many arguments with neighbours that failed to sympathize when I explained that I needed to jam on my bass for at least six hours a day for four months straight. Some neighbours were sympathetic, though! One neighbour, who must have owned a crystal ball, actually came over and gave us group tabla drum lessons. More rehearsals in Toronto over the coming months culminated in that debut summertime gig.
As we hit the stage—well all 4” of it—we didn’t know what people would think. But we knew what we were doing was good enough to put smiles on our faces, so we knew deep down in our guts that this thing would resonate. It did and the rest was history!
Unfortunately, no photos exist in my collection from those first gigs. So, I pulled a couple of pics from the next few gigs in Toronto at “The Rivoli” and “C’est What”, where we performed as The New-Stickmen. Oh brother, what a lame name, but for us it was a tip of the hat to the New Yardbirds.
People often ask how the name The Tea Party came about and my memory is clear. We always had a well-read copy of The Hammer of The Gods on the coffee table at our Toronto penthouse. In desperation, Jeff Martin scanned for references. The Crowleys, Loch Ness, Edgewater hotel, The Lori Moddox’s and other names were rejected jokes. We settled on The Tea Party, home
to Zeppelin’s legendary four hour concerts on their first tour of America. It strangely resonated with us and was chosen in lieu of a better name, with the expectation that we’d change the name before the first album was released. However, I do remember sitting with Jeff Burrows and trying to talk Jeff Martin out of the name after our first review featured the line, “The Tea Party? Grandmothers shouldn’t be allowed to choose band names…”
For us it was a running joke. A sweet name juxtaposed against a group of longhairs playing some aggressive, passionate music.
Looking back is de rigueur right now, as we plan on embarking on our rescheduled Saints and Sinners Tour dates which will serve as a 30th Anniversary Tour for us. Consider this an invitation to come check us out in early next year… after you buy a ticket of course!
See you on the road soon after we get this COVID mess under control. Cheers!
Early next year, The Tea Party will be touring with Big Wreck, the Headstones and Moist for a 21-show multi-band concert called the Saints and Sinners Tour as part of their belated 30th anniversary celebrations.
“We’re really excited to celebrate 30 years of rock and roll by playing these larger shows again!” Chatwood states.
The tour will kick off in January 2021 and visits Ontario on January 29th and 30th at Casino Rama and February 3rd in Hamilton. Details at saintsandsinnerstour2021.com.
The Tea Party has been nominated for 13 JUNO awards over the band’s career including Best Rock Album, Best Group and Best Single. They have sold over 2 million records worldwide and have 4 Double platinum, 1 Platinum and 4 Gold album certifications.
In addition, the band is currently finishing up their follow up release to last year’s “Black River” EP. The new EP is scheduled for release later this year.