The Bells in 1970
|The Five Bells|
|Origin||Montreal, Quebec, Canada|
Will (Wayne) Cardinal
The band formed in 1965 in Montreal as The Five Bells. Members were South African-born sisters Ann and Jackie Ralph as well as Cliff Edwards, Doug Gravelle and Gordie McLeod. Edwards and Ann Ralph married in 1967. The Five Bells first hit in 1969 with "Moody Manitoba Morning" (written by Rick Neufeld).
In 1970 Ann retired when their first child was born, raising their family on a hobby farm in Warkworth, Ontario. The band shortened their name to The Bells, and recorded a hit single "Fly Little White Dove Fly", which became a Top 10 hit in Canada. Piano player Frank Mills joined The Bells for a short period from 1970 to 1971, after which he left to pursue a solo career, the highlight of which was the #3 1979 U.S. hit single "Music Box Dancer". Mills was replaced by piano player Dennis Will who remained with the band through to the end. Charlie Clark also joined the band in 1970 as a guitarist and vocalist; he now lives in Saint John, New Brunswick.
"White Dove" was followed up in 1971 by "Stay Awhile", a duet featuring Jackie Ralph and Edwards. Written by Saint John native Ken Tobias, the song became a major hit worldwide, selling four million copies and going to #1 in Canada on the RPM 100 national Top Singles chart on April 10, 1971 and remaining there for two weeks as well becoming their only Top 40 hit in the U.S., reaching #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. This disc sold over one million copies before the major U.S. radio stations played it, and received a gold disc awarded by the R.I.A.A. on 27 May 1971. The success led to invitations to perform on The Tonight Show in June 1971 and The Merv Griffin Show. In Australia, "Stay Awhile" reached #9. Also that year, the single "Lady Dawn" also appeared on the charts.
During late 1972, the band had another hit in their native Canada, a cover of the Beatles' "Maxwell's Silver Hammer." It reached number 83 on the RPM 100 and number two on the Adult Contemporary chart.
The band broke up when Edwards departed out on a solo career in 1973. The Bells had three Top Ten singles from their final album, Pisces Rising (Polydor, 1973): "The Singer", "Hey My Love" and "He Was Me, He Was You". Jackie Ralph recruited new members, featuring a new rhythm section with Skip Layton on drums and Will (Wayne) Cardinal on bass and band took on an edgier, country rock style. Layton and Cardinal were also members of Ocean in 1976 and Faro in the early 1970s.
The group has continued to perform occasionally over the years. Edwards and Gravelle both now reside in Gananoque, Ontario, Jackie Ralph in Vancouver, British Columbia, and Will in Mississauga, Ontario.
In the fall of 2014, a daughter of Edwards and Anne Ralph, Jessica Edwards, released a documentary film about The Bells' career and the personal relationships of the group members. Titled Stay Awhile, it premiered at the Whistler Film Festival on December 6, 2014.