Tonight I'm going to see the farewell concert of the Nylons. Nowadays, the Nylons aren't exactly a household name but if you were alive in Toronto in the mid to late 80's, you knew who they were. They were Toronto's greatest musical export, the voice of the Pizza Hut jingles and Erin Davis at CHFI FM 98.1 helped bring their a cappella sound to the mainstream.
I'm not sure how their first record got into our home but I loved it instantly. To me it was a magic trick, how they made only four voices and some percussion sound like a fully produced and orchestrated song. They were so good at their craft, people would often forget they were only listening to voices. I don't know if they were really the first street corner, doo-wop a cappella group to record an album with percussion but they were the first to market it and give it a name, "Rockappella".
While I've seen the Nylons live a few times, I've never seen the original line-up. I wish I had begged harder for my folks to buy tickets to their Markham Theatre show back in 1990, the one that became their "Live" album, Four On The Floor. Lead singer Marc Connors died shortly after so that literally would have been my last chance to see him; he was my favourite.
The only surviving original member is tenor Claude Morrison. A few years ago, After Hours used to be a regular attraction at the Scotiabank Buskerfest. I'll never forget the day when I spotted Claude in the crowd, checking out our set. After we finished a song, I ran out to him, gave him a big hug and said to him that he was the reason why I did this. He smiled. Their current bass, Tyrone Gabriel, has also been caught dancing in the crowd at some of our live events and we've also sung for their lead, Garth Mosbaugh at the "SING!" event, which tonight's concert is sponsored by. After buying all of their albums and seeing them live numerous times, singing for them has been a great joy for me. It felt like coming full circle in a way.
Tonight will be bittersweet for me. I'm looking forward to hearing them again and I'm sure they will bring back some former guys (especially in Toronto) and have a few tricks up their sleeve for their final show. But it is sad as well. While most of After Hours, former and current, would tell you they got into a cappella because of Boyz II Men, I got into it because of the Nylons. They are my a cappella inspiration and I will indeed miss them.
While we have covered many Nylons arrangements over the years, most have fallen off the ol' set list. However, for as long as I can, I will continue to perform "Up On The Roof", which is pretty much note for note their arrangement, as a dedication to them and particularly to Marc, the original lead on that song. We've been told several times that our version is better than theirs. While that is a massive compliment that I'm happy to take and am always thankful to hear, I know which version I like best. :-) Thank you Nylons, without you, there'd be no us. Looking forward to tonight, break a pitch pipe!