James’ Brand New Blog

More Saul Holiff: A #ldnont quiz & a Mel-O-Dene & Capers hero remembers the Man

- June 20th, 2012

It has been a pleasure writing about Saul Holiff today . . . here’s a quiz for the usual JBNBlog prizes. Among many other things, Saul Holiff was The Free Press restaurant critic for a time. What was the name of his column?

Someone who knew Saul even before the Johnny Cash connection really took hold is B.C.-based drummer Bob Liley. Back in the day, Bob was the leader of what was likely London’s pioneering rock & roll group, the Mel-O-Denes, and then Capers. Here are some amusing memories of Saul Holiff and less amusing of Johnny Cash when life around the country star could be grim.

Hi, James:

As you may remember, Saul always fancied himself as an impresario. He was a haberdasher when we met, with a clothing store upstairs on King St., I believe. He had a sign over the dressing mirror in his shop. I was 17 or 18 at the time. The sign said ‘WYBMADIFITY’. I, very naively, asked him what it meant. He turned to me and said, “Will you buy me a drink if I tell you”? I said no, that I was underage. I asked him again and got the same answer. We went through this a few more times until I finally realized that’s what the sign meant. Gheez!

His girlfriend at the time was a young blond beauty named Vanessa (I believe). Very svelte! As he had started to manage the band at this point, ‘Capers’, we spent some time with Saul, who opened his first ‘Saul’s Square Boy’ hamburger joint out in London South during this period. He booked Johnny Cash into Lucan and our band did a show with him, the first of three. This was during Johnny’s heavy drinking period, and we almost needed to prop him up on stage. The ‘Tennessee Two’, his back-up group, seemed unfazed by this. Bob Comber, who was playing vibes with the band at that point, remembers us putting Day-Glo silk-screen posters up all over town advertising this event. These posters were produced by Gerry Risser (my business partner/guitar player) and me in my parents’ basement. Bob remembers Saul claiming he lost money on this venture and paid us in shirts, which we got to select from his inventory! After several more Cash extravaganzas, Saul became Johnny’s manager and we lost touch.

I remember Saul as a well-dressed, impressive character with a strong personality who attracted people to him. When I learned that Saul was living out here in Victoria, I tried unsuccessfully to contact him. Then I learned he had died. An interesting character…

Regards,
Bob

Categories: Entertainment

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3 comments

  1. Bob Comber says:

    Interesting article. It brings many memories for me, and I do remember all these events. Bob Liley and I both worked at the London Insurance Company around that time and I remember auditioning “back-up’ singers from the staff at L.L for our recording of Rosie Lee , which did well in the Windsor and Detroit area. A fun time!
    Bob Comber

  2. larry moses says:

    I lived about a mile from Saul’s Square Boy as a kid. At about age 13 I worked picking up golf balls at Gosnell’s driving range directly behind his drive -in restaurant .At about age 16 in approx. 1963 I started working for Saul as a male carhop at this restaurant. Male car hops were not unusual ,as the car hop thing, was just beginning.
    Saul’s was very busy and sometimes the food would be cold by the time customers received their orders at their cars.
    Few complained though as they liked the new idea of eating in their cars and the ambiance of seeing and being seen at the Drive- In Restaurant. I recall inside the restaurant there were room for some customers and that they had a small new invention(to Canada( a table juke box at some of the tables.
    An older worker suggested I use some of my tip money to play some songs. I asked him which one’s I would like and he mentioned there were about 4 titles by Johnny
    Cash who was going to be a really great hit.
    As a result of this listening experience, I followed Johnny Cash’s career through its entirety and had a great feeling for his struggles and music.
    The amazing thing is that until just this past week I never knew that my boss, Saul, was Johnny Cash’s Manager????
    Nice to know— that far removed and indirectly in a most insignificant way, I was also part of the
    Ring of Fire and the Johnny Cash Culture.:)
    Cheers
    larry Moses

  3. james.reaney says:

    Not insignificant at all … thanks for sharing such great memories, Larry … just today I met someone who had heard the story the famous Cash-Carter wedding proposal actually happened first in the basement at the Holiff home (the one near Springbank Park) . . . who knows if that’s true?

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