Interview: Bentwood Rocker

The year is ’78 and after more than a decade of performing mostly cover material as the popular Canadian band, “Sands of Time”, musicians Eric Baragar, Mike Goettler, Steve Smith and Tim Campbell decided to take a new direction. They’d start writing and recording their own material, change the band’s name to Bentwood Rocker, and go for broke. Catching the attention of veteran record producer, Jack Richardson (Guess Who, Alice Cooper, Bob Seger), the band went into Nimbus Nine Studio where they recorded eight tracks. Although a record deal didn’t come together, the band released their first indie album, Not Taken, on Skyhawk Records. The first single from the album, “Forgive and Forget”, received substantial airplay in Canada and caught the ear of the Quality Records. That’s when Barry Haggarty joined the band. A succession of record deals followed, Quality Records, Aquarius, Capitol, Bellaphon in Germany, gigs, music videos, some solid Canadian airplay, some singles and then…. I talked with Barry about those golden years, and asked what happened. Turned out he just wasn’t busy enough. While with Bentwood Rocker, he became a sought after country session guitarist and harmony singer, performing with a number of Canada’s country icons. Then he opened a music studio in the west-end of Peterborough and the rest.. is yet to come. Always working on something, he’s been influential both in the studio and on stage, for many of Peterborough’s new talents. I spoke with Barry about the upcoming chapters of his musical career…

Mb: OK Barry, we’re recording.
Barry: I won’t swear then.
Mb: It’s OK. You say whatever you want.
Barry: (laughs) It would show immaturity on my part.
Mb: Ya, but you’re a rockstar! Here you are resurrecting Bentwood Rocker and living the dream!
Barry: Ya! We’ve got three EPs, Take 1, Take 2, Take 3 and with the three of them, we’re getting played in 40-43 different countries right now. I don’t think it’s going to change anybody’s life too much but… I haven’t seen the dough yet from Socan, but who knows! (laughs) It’s just great to keep your music going, that’s the way I look at it.
Mb: It must be fun getting together with the band after 30+ years….
Barry: Well, the thing is, we’ve never stopped. These guys started in ’78, so they’ve been together 40 years. I joined in ’82, 35 years, and we’ve never stopped gigging or recording. We do maybe 10 gigs a year… and they’re pretty nice jobs we do so… We’re almost like brothers we’ve been together so long and we’re always playing, always writing. This has been about three years to get these EP’s on the go.
Mb: What kind of gigs are you playing?
Barry: Let’s see… the last one we did was a Brighton street dance. We do some charity work too, where people hire us in to do different things. Lately we’ve been doing TV shows in Toronto. The Global Morning Show and some talk shows. We’ve done a half dozen in the past six weeks.
Mb: So give us some background on the band. When I was a young musician, you guys were the biggest local thing. You had a record. You were on the radio….
Barry: They started in ’78, I came a long in ’82… they had Forgive and Forget out, which was a minor hit in Canada and then we did the Take Me to Heaven album which came out in ’82. We had two singles off that and got airplay in Canada, Take Me to Heaven and Heart’s Say Go! That album was also sold in Germany, so I have an old German copy of it. And it was also sold in Africa, so we sort of had the rock and roll thing happening in other countries. That album did… they put a lot of money into that, for the day. We recorded it at Criteria Studios in Florida, at the Bee Gees studio. You know how it is. You think you have the world by the hind-end. At that time we were down recording and getting $300 a week each spending money, all hyped up thinking “This is it!” But you know yourself, all the stars have to align and everything has to be in order for things to do well. But we did have a few hits off it, so it was a good run with that album.
Mb: So what happened?
Barry: What happened… I think it was ’84 and we had a deal with Capitol Records for a single of a song called Second Wind and they were real busy with Cory Hart at that time, so we got put on the back-burner a bit. It did get released. Didn’t do great but it did get some airplay. And then what happened for me, in ’89 I went out on the road with some country cats, The Family Brown, Ronnie Prophet, Ian Tyson, all those guys. I was with those guys and still with Bentwood Rocker. That’s how I made my living. They all had day jobs. I was the only full time musician, which was good for me. I got nominated 3 years in a row for guitar player of the year and that’s what helped me get the studio together in 1991 and that’s been going for 26 years now. It’s crazy!
Mb: So these 3 EPs, they have lots of songs on them. Are you shopping this stuff?
Barry: Basically we’ve hired a promoter to help us out. He’s the one who got us the radio interviews and TV shows, and he has us connected with some radio trackers. Quite honestly, because of the kind of stuff we do, and what’s out there today, they didn’t think anything was really radio friendly. But with saying that, the stations that it did get to, and with all the live streaming, it’s radio worthy somewhere! Everything’s not about the ultimate commercial success. There’s lots of ways to make things work without that end of it. This gig we’re doing November 9 at Market Hall, with John Curtis and Water’s Edge… We’re on to promoting Take 3 at this point, so we’ll treat it like a bit of a CD release for us.
Mb: And reconnect with all the old fans from the 70s and 80’s.
Barry: Ya, I’ve had people on the street go “Bentwood Rocker… Ya I remember them!” Everything’s social media these days. It’s amazing the number of people who will follow you. The great thing is, with all these interviews and TV things, we dealt with a lot of young people and they didn’t look at us like we were an older band. They looked us like “You guys are really good at what you do!” They enjoyed what we did. I found that refreshing, cause obviously we’re older guys.
Mb: It’s cool to like your parent’s music!
Barry: It’s a good time to be out there and I don’t think anyone should let age be a barrier, and because of social media, there’s ways to get your stuff out there and that’s what counts at the end of the day.

Bentwood Rocker performs at the Market Hall, Friday November 9, 8pm