Original line-up (1974):
Bruce Arnold/drums (leader of band)
Rick Trembly & Ron Watson/guitars
Keith (Bert) Zurbrigg/bass
Further changes during the 70’s:
Rick Trembly fired, not replaced (1975)
Ron Watson leaves. (1976) Replaced by Brent Doerner
Bruce Arnold leaves. (1977) Replaced by Brian Doerner replaced by Leo Niebudek (1980)
Don Simmons leaves, not replaced (1976)
Keith Zurbrigg leaves. (1979) Replaced by Mike Uzilac.
Helix was formed in 1974 in Kitchener, Ontario. The original members were: Bruce Arnold (drums & band leader), Brian Vollmer (vocals), Ron Watson & Rick Trembley (guitars), Keith Zurbrigg (bass), and Don Simmons (keyboards). Within a short time Ron and Bruce decided to fire Rick Trembley. He was a nice guy but couldn’t play very well (not that any of us could-LOL) We never replaced Rick with another guitar. We just carried on with one less member. The next member to leave was guitarist Ron Watson, who was replaced by “Bad Boy” Brent Doerner. Brent would be in the band off and on until 2012.
After existing for about a year we attained the services of William Seip as our manager. Bill put the band out on the Canadian bar circuit, first to Northern Ontario, then to the Canadian Maritimes, and eventually right out to B.C.
The first couple of years on the circuit saw many membership changes in the band. Don Simmons, the keyboard player in the band, was the first casualty of the bar circuit. Don had been in a high school band called “Homegrown” with me and both of us had never been on the road before. I ended up loving the road. Most of the guys who left hated it. Don was replaced by Paul Hackman, a guitarist, because we couldn’t find another keyboard player. Paul would change the sound of the band. Paul would become my writing partner, friend, and business partner.
Around the same time Don left the band, so did Bruce Arnold. Bruce was the founder of the band and played drums. He was replaced by Brent’s identical twin brother Brian. Together they were a volatile pair.
So… By 1976 the line-up had changed to me (Brian Vollmer/vocals), Brent Doerner and Paul Hackman (guitars), Brian Doerner (drums) and Keith Zurbrigg (bass).
From 1976 until getting signed to Capitol/E.M.I. in 1983 we toured incessantly across the country from coast to coast, developing a large following. In that time we also started playing the occasional gig south of the border, mostly at the After Dark Club in Lockport, N.Y. and the Penny Arcade in Rochester, N.Y. However, their first U.S. date was a bar called “The Underground” in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
The band recorded it’s first “indie” album entitled Breaking Loose in 1979. This was after we had been turned down by every major Canadian label. One rejection letter called our music music “Dinosaur Music.” The album was recorded on the H&S label (Helix & Seip) and recorded with money borrowed from Bill, Bill’s mother, my parents, and Brent’s parents. In all, it cost $26,000.00. The album was produced by Bob Morton and sold roughly 15,000 copies. Most of these albums we sold between sets while we played the bar circuit. We were only making about $100/week at the time, but I found I could make more money than that by selling albums and making $2 a disc.
Breaking Loose would become a hit in the state of Texas, largely from the push given to the song “You’re A Woman Now”, written by Paul Hackman. The person giving the song airplay was a guy named Joe Anthony from KISS/KAMAC Radio in San Antonio. Joe Anthony was known as “The Godfather of Rock and Roll” and controlled a large portion of the Texas radio market. We also received heavy airplay at Amarillo College from radio programmer Chris Johnson.
Due to this airplay in Texas we embarked on our first ever “U.S. tour” which consisted of four dates: Helotiz (outside San Antonio) with Y&T, Amarillo College, and The Bijoux in Dallas and Houston. To our friends back home we were stars. I still bump into Dave Meneketti, as recently as the last Monsters of Rock Boat Cruise in 2014.
By the end of the 70’s Keith Zurbrigg had left the band to be replaced by Mike Uzilac, who would play on Helix’s next indi album “White Lace & Black Leather” (1981). He would stay until No Rest for the Wicked was recorded (1983). Shortly after Zurbrigg’s departure, the band would play it’s first ever concert gig at the Kitchener Auditorium as the opening act for Max Webster. Opening the show was BB Gabor.
Helix toured the bar circuit incessantly throughout the 70’s & early 80’s. Here are some of the bars the band rocked out. Were you there?There are many more. I just can’t remember them right now. WOW!
The Silver Dollar Lounge/Hespler
The Ridout Tavern/London, Ontario
The Old City Hall/London, Ontario
Kelly’s Boogie Parlour/Grand Bend
The Barn/London, Ontario.
The Underground/Ypsilanti, Michigan
The After Dark Club/Lockport, N.Y.
The Penny Arcade/Rochester, N.Y.
The Coronet Motor Hotel, Kitchener, Ontario.
The Nickelodian, Toronto, Ontario.
Ontario Place, Toronto, Ontario.
The Jamesway, Hamilton, Ontario.
The Beverly Crest/Edmonton, Alberta.
The Norlander/Winnipeg, Manitoba.
The Kap Inn/Kapuskasing, Ontario.
The Travelhost/Timmins, Ontario.
The Queens/Hearst, Ontario.
The Elm Hotel/Deep River, Ontario.
The Waverly Hotel, Thunder Bay, Ontario.
The Water Tower, Sault Ste. Marie
The Moustache Club/Montreal, Quebec
The Wicky Wac Club/Shediac, N.B.
The Hilltop Pub/Frederiction, N.B.
The Riviera/Windsor, Ontario.
The Elm Haven/Clinton, Ontario.
The Chooch/Guelph, Ontario.
The Landmark Inn/Thunder Bay, Ontario.
The Shawnee/Tecumseh, Ontario.
The Hunt Club/Grimsby
Uncle Sam’s/Niagara Falls, Ontario.
The Graham Bell/Brantford, Ontario.
The Caverly/Niagara Falls, Ontario.
The Sundowner/Niagara Falls, Ontario.
The St. Regis/North Bay, Ontario.
The Brockdan/Sudbury, Ontario.
The Espanola Hotel/Stinkville, Ontario.
The Twin Gables/Listowel, Ontario.
The Chathum Wheels, Chatham, Ontario.
The Aberdeen/Chatham, Ontario.
The Alec Arms/Lethbridge, Alberta.
The Hospitality Inn/Moosejaw Sask
The A4/Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
The Sierra Nights (Scary Nights) Regina, Saskatchewan
The Paddock/Regina, Saskatchewan.
The Airliner/Calgary, Alberta
The Beacon/Calgary, Alberta.
The Westward Hotel/Medicine Hat, Alberta
The Highwayman/Edmonton, Alberta
The Subway Hotel/Edmonton, Alberta.
The Marmot/Jasper, Alberta.
The Grande Prairie Motor Inn/Grande Prairie, Alberta.
The Queens/Seaforth, Ontario.
Round One/Thorold, Ontario.
The Atlas Hotel/Fort Erie, Ontario.
The Bijoux/Dallas, Texas
The Engine Shed/Stratford, Ontario.
The Imperial Hotel/New Hamburg, Ontario.
The Sherwood Forest Inn/Trenton, Ontario.
The Queensway/Toronto, Ontario.