Jimmy quit, Gordy got married — but the band that inspired Summer of ’69 is now getting back together

It’s been close to six decades since a small-town B.C. high-school band featuring a young Jim Vallance bought their first six-string — and nearly 40 years since the song Vallance co-wrote, inspired by his early musical memories, became a rock classic. 

The song was Summer of ’69, a single from Bryan Adams’ 1985 Reckless album that became a hit around the world and remains a radio staple.

As the song goes, Jimmy quit, Jody got married, and the band didn’t get far.

That band was based on Vallance’s first musical venture The Tremolones, later known as 4Most — and for the first time in decades, the group founded in Vanderhoof, B.C., population 4,500, is set to take the stage. 

On Saturday, 4Most — including Vallance — will reunite at Nechako Valley Secondary School, where they’ll play a song and share some memories of their time playing together, as part of the launch of a music scholarship in Vallance’s name.

As a bonus, Vallance will donate one of his four Juno Awards to display at the school where his career in music began. 

Those were the best days of my life

Vallance has written hundreds of songs in his decades-long career — including Jump by Loverboy, Now And Forever (You and Me) by Anne Murray and Don’t Forget Me When I’m Gone by Glass Tiger — along with many co-written with Adams, including all of the songs on the multi-platinum Reckless

“They all start the same: you’re sitting there with a pencil in your hand staring at a blank piece of paper,” Vallance told CBC’s Daybreak North host Carolina de Ryk about the songwriting process.

Outlets including Fox News and The Daily Mail have reported that Adams chose ’69 as the year for the song for, well, R-rated reasons. But Vallance said there’s a much more wholesome history behind the lyrics.

Summer of ’69 was written after he and Adams had listened to Strawberry Fields by The Beatles, a homage to John Lennon’s childhood in Liverpool, he said. They decided to write a song about their childhoods and their dreams of becoming musicians — the best days of their lives.

A band plays in the back of pickup trucks
The Tremolones, who would later become 4Most, at an all-night rodeo dance in Vanderhoof, B.C., in the mid-1960s. (Submitted by Gordon Keith)

“My thoughts were just full of Vanderhoof and Terrace,” Vallance said. “First bands, school friends, first girlfriends, first guitar.”

WATCH | Archival footage of Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance:

Bryan Adams, rising rock star

40 years ago

Duration 10:16

The 24-year-old Canadian boy finds success in the world of rock and roll in 1983. Cuts Like a Knife, This Time and I’m Ready by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance, published by Irving Music, Almo Music, Testatyme Music and Adams Communications. A&M Records.

Had a band and we tried real hard

That first band included fellow high-school students Wayne Deorksen and Gordon Keith, who worked part-time at a Vanderhoof gas station and used their wages to buy guitars and amps.

“Everyone wanted to be involved in music,” Keith said.

One day, they heard drumming coming from a music room at their school, and peered in to see a red-headed boy named Jim Vallance, whose family had recently moved to Vanderhoof. 

They called on friend Dave Snell to play bass and formed The Tremolones. The band rebranded as 4Most in 1966 after Snell left the band and another friend, Chuck Davies, stepped in.

A band plays on a stage
The Tremolones make their first appearance at a town dance in Vanderhoof, B.C. A young Jim Vallance plays the drums. (Gerry Fairbrother/Submitted by Gordon Keith)

They played a few dances and one time played in truck beds at a rodeo, according to Keith.

“Mostly instrumentals. We were big into The Ventures and The Shadows,” Vallance said. 

4Most played together until 1967, when, yes, Jimmy quit — because the Vallance family was moving away. 

A band on a stage in a black and white photo
4Most plays its last show in Vanderhoof, B.C., in 1967. (Submitted by Gordon Keith)

Vallance continued his pursuit of a musical career in Vancouver, becoming a member of Prism before partnering with Adams — then a young artist looking to launch a solo career — in the late 1970s.

When Keith and Deorksen, who now live in Grand Forks and Prince George, respectively, first heard Summer of ’69, they felt the connection. 

“What Jim had [originally] wrote was, ‘Woody quit and Gordy got married.’ Well, I was the Gordy and I’m still married,” Keith said — for 56 years, in fact. 

And that six-string? That was Deorksen’s. 

“I bought my first six-string at the five-and-dime. I played it till my fingers bled,” he said. 

Some of those strings are still around. Deorksen said one of them will be included in a display case at the band’s old high school as part of the Jim Vallance Music Scholarship Project. 

Look at everything that’s come and gone

4Most are now set to take the stage of their former high school in Vanderhoof with the goal of raising money for the new scholarship. Deorksen, Keith and Vallance are planning to perform Walk Don’t Run by The Ventures, but Davies won’t be able to make it due to a health condition, Deorksen said.

The idea for a scholarship formed as Vallance’s old friends watched him earn honours and awards over the years. 

“We just thought, whoa, he got his music start in Vanderhoof. We need to honour him,” Deorksen said. When he floated the idea with Vallance, he eagerly signed up. 

Vallance is donating $1,000 to the initiative and one of his Junos will be displayed at the school alongside Deorksen’s guitar string and one of 4Most’s setlists. 

Jim Vallance, left, and Bryan Adams participate in the "Pretty Woman: The Musical" Broadway opening night curtain call at the Nederlander Theatre on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018, in New York.
Jim Vallance, left, and Bryan Adams at the Pretty Woman: The Musical opening night curtain call at the Nederlander Theatre in New York in 2018. Vallance and Adams had a hugely successful songwriting partnership for many years. (Greg Allen/Associated Press)

“When I think of Jim, I still think of him as a young red-headed drummer,” Keith recalled. “But when you look at his accomplishments, I mean, he’s had a tremendous impact on a lot of musicians’ lives and it’s almost surreal for me to think about it.”

Vallance said he’s pleased he’ll be gathering with his old friends once again to play some music and honour his roots. 

“Music is just such a wonderful thing. It’s a universal language. Anywhere, music is uplifting, in any language, any culture.”

LISTEN | Jim Vallance shares songwriting history ahead of scholarship launch:

Daybreak North13:09Storied songwriter giving back.

Jim Vallance donating a Juno trophy and scholarship to Vanderhoof high school


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