The Stickmen were formed in January of 2002. Leader Bernie LaBarge wanted to assemble a unit to play the unstoppable groove music of New Orleans Funk. What he got was much more. The band gelled quickly and became a favourite at Toronto's legendary Orbit Room, where The Stickmen became the resident Friday night house band for over 2 ½ years. While teaming up with Brent Barkman, LaBarge found a gifted songwriting partner, and their infectious compositions are found throughout the band's recordings. With long-time friend Gene Falbo on bass, and blues veteran Jim Casson on drums, The Stickmen developed a killer rhythm section. Orbit Room owner Tim Notter describes them as "the best band that's ever played The Orbit".
Recorded in the summer of 2002 at Toronto's Tattoo Music, the debut CD "Side One" also features multiple Juno Award winner Cassandra Vasik on background vocals, and a duet with LaBarge on 'Til The Sunrise'. The Stickmen's "Side One" is a collection of ear-friendly, memorable songs performed in the way that only a seasoned line up can deliver.
Their sophomore release, "Side Two", is not just the sequel to "Side One"; it also represents another side of the band, demonstrating the inevitable growth that another year of constant performance has delivered. "Side Two" still features the unforgettable song writing of LaBarge and Barkman. In addition, it also contains some unusual remakes. Original songs "Hey There She Goes", "2.3 Eugene", and "When She Cries" vary from rock to funk to smooth Philadelphia- style soul. Another original, "Hey Bop A-Rebop" (co-written with Spin Doctor guitarist Eric Schenkman), features rock legend Alex Lifeson from Rush on guitar. The band puts their own spin on the quirky 60's Horst Jankowski hit "A Walk In The Black Forest", and Bernie LaBarge shows why he's one of the top studio guitarists in Canada with his rendition of the Santo and Johnny classic "Sleepwalk". "Side Two" starts where "Side One" left off, then proceeds to an even higher level.
Who are these guys?
Bernie LaBarge started playing guitar at age 11. He was the front man and/or guitarist for many popular bands in Ontario (Bond, Rain, Sweet Blindness, Zwol, Stem, Stingaree.) Bernie was nominated for Most Promising Male Vocalist at the 1984 Juno Awards for his album entitled "Barging In" (Sony). That album is currently released in Europe by Long Island Records. He has released records on Warner Bros., Sony, BMG, and various independent labels. Bernie has also been a sideman on over 100 recordings. He's worked with Kim Mitchell, Long John Baldry, Cassandra Vasik, The Irish Rovers, Doug Riley, Frank Byner of Tower of Power, John Sebastian, and Joel Feeney, among many others.
Bernie has composed and performed on many North American and Worldwide jingles i.e. Coke, Pepsi, GM, Ford, and Nissan, and he was the guitarist on Jim Henson's popular Fraggle Rock TV series. He won the Canadian Songwriting Contest in 1986 (Best R&B Song category). His single "Dream Away"(produced by Daniel Lanois) was one of the most-played songs of 1981. Many top Canadian and International performers have covered his songs.
Brent Barkman, born and raised in Winnipeg, has a University of Toronto Degree in Piano Performance and an unparalleled love of music. His mantle boasts a Cannes Award for the Canadian Tire short film Bike Story, along with a raft of other accolades. He is a lead composer with Toronto's Vapor Music, one of the top jingle and production houses in Canada. He has worked with the likes of Alanis Morrisette, Seals and Crofts, Buffy Saint-Marie, Jimmy Rankin, and Aretha Franklin, to name but a few.
Jim Casson has played in many different musical genres over his twenty-year career. He has always considered himself a musical chameleon, but his favourite style is the funk that he lays down for The Stickmen. Jim has performed throughout North America and Europe, and he's toured or recorded with many artists, some of which include Amy Sky, Downchild Blues Band, Rita Chiarelli, Barbara Lynch, Chuck Jackson, Chris Spedding, Peter Noone of Herman's Hermits, Carlos Del Junco, Dutch Mason, Joe Mavety, Sparkjiver, K.T.I., Danny Brooks, Jani Lauzon, Kiva, the Lincolns, and many others. In the studio he has played on film soundtracks, jingles, and over 50 albums. He has twice been nominated for the Maple Blues Drummer of the Year Award, and he won a Jazz Report Award in 1998 for "Blues Band Of The Year" with Downchild Blues Band. He was also nominated for Juno Awards for his work with Jani Lauzon on her albums "Thirst" and "Blue Voice New Voice" and for the Downchild Blues Band album "Come On In". He has often been featured in the international publications DRUM! and Drums etc.
Gene Falbo has been playing bass on the Toronto music scene for more than thirty years. He was a founding member of the 70's rock group Jackson Hawke ("You Can't Dance", "Into The Mystic", and "Set Me Free"). He played on Ray Materick's "Neon Rain" album ("Linda Put The Coffee On"). Gene has also toured with other artists such as Sylvia Tyson, Dan Hill, Cassandra Vasik, Charlie Major and George Fox, to name a few. He has also done a great deal of studio work as a session bass player.