Major Hoople’s Boarding House has traveled the hard show biz road familiar to most show bands. From early 1967 high school gigs to performing in leaky roofed arenas, they moved on up to engagements throughout Ontario, the American border States and to posh nightclubs in major cities. Most of the original members were still performing right though to 2016 – that’s nearly 50 years!
Because of the groups instrumental strength and elaborate vocal harmonies, they made effortless transitions on stage from their own hit songs like “I’m Running After You” & “Someone” to their own unique version of “MacArthur’s Park” and “Tuesday Afternoon”. Combining their music with slap-stick comedy and costumes from the characters made famous in the “Our Boarding House” comic strip they enjoyed touring success through all the ups and downs over their long career.
But the touring grind takes its toll. “It gets to be real drudgery,” said keyboardist Peter ‘Moss’ Beacock, “you perform, clock in, travel, sleep, travel and start all over again.”
The Early Years
Major Hoople’s Boarding House began in mid-1967 at Cambridge’s Galt Collegiate Institute in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada, as a trio called The Shan-de-leers featuring Rocky Howell, Peter Padalino, and Rick Riddell. Following high school, the troop decided to go professional under the management of Larry Shannon, a disc-jockey from a local Kitchener radio station CHYM, and later Dan Mombourquette. Not too long after forming, the three added vocalist and bassist David Lodge to their ranks.
In November 1967, they received permission from Gene Ahern, the cartoonist of the long-running comic strip “Our Boarding House/Major Hoople”, to use the name Major Hoople’s Boarding House.
In 1968, one short year later, they added Gail Selkirk (who Peter Padalino calls “the little girl with the big voice”) on keyboard. This solidified the original 5 band members. Shortly thereafter, they began their extremely successful touring career in their home area. They worked the southern Ontario one-nighter circuit from Kitchener to Kingston, which helped solidify their first label signing to MUCH Records in 1970 where, after recording with producer Jack Richardson, they released the single “Lady”. Later that year, a move to Polydor Records allowed them some radio exposure with the song “Beautiful Morning”.
In 1975, after recording with several producers without that elusive hit single, bass player David Lodge brought a song he wrote to producer Greg Hambleton. Greg immediately signed the band and brought them into Toronto Sound Studios with a revamped line-up. Their first Axe Records single “I’m Running After You” was recorded with Rocky, David and band members Keith Stahlbaum, Dave Gooding, Peter (Moss) Beacock and Ed Miller (who was formerly in “The Sparrows” and Bobby Curtola’s touring band). It became an instant hit on Greg’s Axe label in Canada and was released several months later in the States on Larry Uttal’s Private Stock label. This was followed by “You Girl” and “I’ve Got You On My Mind” and endless touring for the next few years until exhaustion set in.
After a few years off the road, the original band members re-united and recorded with Greg at Soundstage Studios in Toronto. Two new original songs, “Someone” (D. Lodge & G. Hambleton) b/w “Loving You” (P. Padalino) were released on Axe Records in 1980. “Easy For Me”, “We Can’t Give Up” and several more were recorded a few months later to complete The Hooples Album (A535).
In 1982, they performed with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony in front of a sold-out crowd at Kitchener’s ‘Centre In The Square’. Most of the Symphony members were contemporaries of the band. Peter Padalino said at the time, “The idea is exciting for us because here you have two groups of performers who don’t traditionally relate in live shows at all. This is a very young and youth-minded orchestra and I think that will make a big difference in how receptive players are to a style of music we all grew up with”.
Around 1985-1986, original bass player/singer David Lodge rejoined the group for a tour. He had also been working as a hit songwriter for Axe Music and Peermusic during this time and was a co-writer of the Billboard #1 international hit by Peter Schilling, “Major Tom”. David passed away suddenly at the end of 1986.
In late 1987, Hoople’s re-grouped with Rocky Howell, Grant Heywood, Gary Hintz and Ralph Hetke. They continued playing festivals, one-nighters and corporate shows into the early 1990’s.
Back Together Again
In 2010, three original members, Peter, Gail, and Rocky, along with Ralph Hetke and Ron Duke, joined forces again to give their fans another chance to experience the classic sound of Major Hoople’s Boarding House. More recently, the band reunited with Peter (Moss) Beacock and Rena Gaile, bringing their extraordinary talents back again.
Hoople’s was successful for so many years due to their musicianship, a perfect blend of voices, great original songs and a lot of hard work. As David Lodge said, “We’re all naturally hams, really. We have always been aware of the visual effects of our show and we’ve worked at developing that part of it.”
Lead singer Rocky Howell, the only original member to stay with the band through all their decades of performing and recording, said in an interview, “I stayed with it out of love, loyalty or whatever you want to call it.”