Dave MacPhail returns with real rhythm 

’60s legends The Epics bring old school R&B to Whistler for ski club's annual fundraiser


Who: The Epics/WMSC fundraiser

When: Saturday, Dec. 12, 7 p.m.

Where: Whistler Conference Centre

Cost: $69, $130 per couple or $600 for 10 tickets

David MacPhail spent almost 35 years living and working in Whistler, toiling away as the Manager of Building Services for the municipality and fitting boots for some of Canada's top ski racers.

But what many people don't know is that MacPhail made quite the name for himself on the Canadian music scene before he came to Whistler in 1971.

Born and raised in a musical family in Vancouver, MacPhail went on to join a school band and as a teenager, hung around clubs in downtown Vancouver to watch bands play.

"You would see me every night, every weekend, hanging around the bandstand listening to them play, watching what they were doing and especially watching what the crowd was doing," he recalled.

MacPhail had an uncanny knack for hearing rhythm patterns in music and realized that even more important than technical skill was a performer's ability to engage the audience: also known as the "groove."

"The 'groove' is really what infects people - they can't sit down, they have to get up and dance!" MacPhail explained.

In the early '60s MacPhail was the founder and drummer for a popular band called The Epics, playing at Vancouver's iconic venues, Oil Can Harry's and the Hollywood Bowl, where they opened for acts like the Ike and Tina (Turner) Revue, CBC Vancouver's Let's Go Show and the R&B segment of CBC's Rock Classic, filmed at Vancouver's Commodore in 1990. Their seminal hit single, King Size, which was released in 1968, hit the top five in the local charts and remained in the top 10 for 20 weeks. It is considered by many to be one of Canada's greatest contributions to '60s R&B history.

You see, at the same time that Motown and Stax artists were producing solid '60s R&B soul, Vancouver's own The Epics were taking things to new heights with their heavier brand of West Coast R&B.

After catching one particularly amazing show (the Ike and Tina Revue), the young MacPhail was finally inspired to put together his own band, carefully handpicking and ensuring the other members could similarly charm an audience with their rhythm.

"The big mistake that bands make is they start with a melodic component," MacPhail said. "You start with the rhythm component: that's the foundation. Once you've got the rhythm, you've got the engine."

And once they had that engine, The Epics were off. Within two months of playing gigs, they were on top of Vancouver's music scene.

In later years, the band became known as Jayson Hoover and The Epics. They eventually disbanded although some of the members, including MacPhail, sporadically got together over the years for one-off performances. The latest (and current) incarnation of the group includes MacPhail on drums, Christine Best on vocals, Jimmy Harmata on guitar, the former bassist from Trooper, Harry Kalensky, Michael Van Eyes on keys, Tom Gould and Aaron Hardie on sax.

The legendary B.C.-based rhythm and blues band is coming to Whistler to perform for the annual Whistler Mountain Ski Club fundraising event, which takes place Saturday, Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. at the Whistler Conference Centre. With his strong connection to Whistler's ski racing community, MacPhail was eager to get on-board with WMSC's fundraiser when he was approached by one of the organizers.

"I thought it would be great to come back to Whistler and do (a show) because the people of Whistler have never seen this part of me," the Sunshine Coast resident said. "You hear people talk about their life being chapters, well my life's different books."



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