A Concise History of The Onits

This is a story of a band, a story we have heard told with different names, dates, and events. No animal testing, red dye # 3, and no names have been changed to protect the guilty.

  • The Onits: mark I

  • Formed approx. Sept 1980, in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada. (could be a million other small cities, but....)

    Pete Wilkins: vocals/guitar
    Tom Wilkins: vocals/bass
    Stan Hilborn: drums/vocals

    From left to right: Tom, Stan, Pete

    Stan was approached by Pete, who had been in other Preston(Cambridge) bands, to form a rock band. He had in tow, his cousin, Tom, who was a clarenetist, but was about to learn bass guitar from Pete. This after all was the 80's, a turbulent time in the annals of rock. Christ, what a mess the music biz was in. On one hand, stadium rock, frickin' disco, and EVERYONE was doing a disco song. The Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, sheesh, almost all were guilty. New Wave/Punk was rearing it's head, and Van Halen, complete with Diamond Dave ruled the rockers. We decided upon a revisionist "British Invasion" path, since New wave/Punk were borrowing extensivley from that back catalouge. Also the fact that we weren’t "flash" players. I mean seriously, clarenet to bass......there’s a jump! I had come from The Terraplane Blues Band, and Pete had been playing, hmm, what kinda music? No matter. Our plan, Keep It Simple, Stupid! We embarked on this route, and now had to come up with a name. The old "finger to the dictionary" thing wasn’t panning out, and with everyone shouting out something unagreeable, I yelled "sit on it"(yes, Happy Days reruns were de rigour after a hard days work) to yet another weak suggestion, and the name stuck.

    Okay, now for the music. Easy songs....The Kinks, "All The day, All The Night", "Love Potion #9" by the Clovers, Robert Palmer’s "Jealous", "Hippy Hippy Shake" by the Swingin’ Blue Jeans, some Beatles, some Who, Yardbirds, Tommy James and the Shondells, the Elvis’, Costello and Presley, and one of the world’s greatest songs ever.....The Flamin’ Groovies’ "Shake Some Action".

    We were fortunate enough to practise in a room at Jade Audio, a custom case manufacturer that Pete was working at, and so now as we "mastered", and I use the term loosely, some songs, we were itchin’ to play in front of real people.

    A mutual friend of ours, who was living in Hamilton at the time, and playing in The Pins, gave us the chance to open for them at New York, New York, downtown Steeltown on Jan. 23rd, 1981. We mustered up our own gigs after that, as we had done quite well that night. Too bad that New York New York burned down shortly after we had played there, as we were to headline in a month’s time.

    We played The Elmira Motor Inn, Elmira.....Mar. 26th-28th, The Queen’s Tavern in Ayr......Apr. 10th-11th, Again at the Queen’s, Ayr....Apr.25th and a birthday party for someone in a hall in Bridgeport May 8th.

  • The Onits: mark II

  • May 12th/81, Robb Wildman, (real name, honest), joins us. He had been in the Pins, and had grown up with Pete, playing in various basement bands in Preston(Cambridge). toenote...Cambridge, Ontario is made up of Galt, Preston and Hespler. Preston is our hometown.

    Robb Wildman.....Vocals/guitar/gyrations

    Robb not only brought his Brian Connelly of Sweet haircut, but also his Hendrix impressions and gave us the chance to learn a "higher" calibre" of songs. Bowie, Johnny River’s "Sea Cruise", Hendrix, Be Bop Deluxe, and a whole host of new wave/punk tracks took shape. It was quite the mix, and was working, as we were able to blend old music with new music. 867-5309 by Tommy Tutone, Joe Jackson songs, hell, even Bram Tchaikovsky. (see song list at the end of this saga) Pete was working on building a huge p.a. system and monitors. He also bought lights, and now we needed a light man. Well, someone to help us load/unpack/pack up/unload, and do the lights. Ok, it’s been a few years too many, and the brain cells aren’t what they used to be, so lightguy shall remain nameless for now.

    Robb’s debut was ....The Queen’s Hotel in Ayr.....May 29th-30th. Yup, we had a fondness for this place, and the farmers from miles around seemed to prefer the hockey games on the big screen to us. But.....there were booze cruises from around the other farm communities, and therefore almost always garned a full house.

    The Jade practise halls were home to many bands, most whose name escape me, but one was Warhead. We decided to pool our resourses together and put on a concert. We flipped a coin, and The Onits won headline honours. "Boogie 'Til Your Face Falls Off" was put on by "Sheer Luck By Chance Productions"(us), and took place in the back hall of the Matador, on Hespler Road in Cambridge, Friday June 11th/81. In the front and proper of the Matador was a young Lawrence Gowen with his band Rheingold. We charged 5.00 a head to get in, and people from the front were clamouring to get in! Was a very full house. After expenses, we all walked out with quite a pocket of cash. Next, was an old fave watering hole that Terraplane had made their debut, Nicholson's Tavern, in Blair, June 25th-27th. We played the Bright Hotel, another rural hotel sometime in July, and again, shortly afterwards, this hotel burnt down. Hmmmm....

    The Onits break up Aug. 13th/81, due to internal b.s. Seems we got past the b.s. and reform Sept. 14/81. We decide to take two self written songs and put them to record. On October 1st/81, we drive into the rustic village of St. Jacobs to the Wax Works Recording Studio and lay down "Weekend Wrestler" and "Gamma Rays" to tape. This becomes The Onits only foray into vinyl. Steve Morris and Jim Corbett twiddled the knobs and buttons, engineered and produced the record. We took the master tapes to Ready Records in Toronto, home of new wave bands Blue Peter and The Extras, who in turn took it to Quality Records to commit the sound to vinyl. We played Nicholson's Tavern 1st weekend Oct, and the non country and western hotel in Maryhill, another rural hotel mid Oct.

  • The Onits mark III

  • Oct. 25th/81, Tom leaves the band, reducing The Onits to it's original three piece, with Pete taking on bass chores.

    The Onits soldier on, now adding another local restaraunt/bar, Branson's to the roster of gigs. So much so, that we played there Nov. 12th-14th/81, Nov.19th-21st/81. Branson's was in a strip mall that housed the local K-Mart, and the owner of K-Mart came in and complaind that we were too loud and customers were appalled and leaving the store. Of course we never did turn down, a he left licking his wounds. Played St. Clements Nov. 26th-27th/81, Back to Branson's Dec. 11th-13th/81.

    The new year had us playing good ol' Nicholsons Tavern Jan. 7th-9th/82, and again Jan. 17th-19th.

    We had the pleasure of opening for Billy Butt and The Brats at Larry's Hideaway in the big city of Toronto, Jan 22/82. We had some problems getting our money, but with help of a few strong arms, recieved our cash. While we were ensconced in Larrys, a wild winter storm was raging. We were seven people, little cash, and really no where to crash, as the roads were impassable. Someone's girlfriend had a credit card, so they secured a room at the Carton Inn, across from Larrys, and the rest of us snuck in one at a time. We used every square foot of that room, including closet and bath tub to garner some sleep, then snuck out early to drive back home in the am. Couldn't believe the amount of snow! Five snow plows to each side of the 401 highyway to clear the road.

    Feb. and Mar. dates aren't logged. All I have are Branson's, Nicholsons, 2 private parties, one in Bridgeport, the other no recollection, and we played Elmira Motor Inn again.

  • The Onits demise

  • We were booked by an agency out of Kitchener named Dram. They called and placed us in some godforsaken northern Quebec hole. It was a raging snowstorm, and the person's van had no heater, no snow tires and no muffler. We had spun off the road outside Cambridge and chuffed the gig off. This caused a bit of friction within the ranks, and was also a bone of contention thrown at the most inoppertune of times. Therefore friction caused us to call it a day, before we were to play our dream gig.....Preston High School, our old alma mater, in Apr.of '82. It was good while it lasted. Fun until it became a chore.

  • Epilouge

  • Pete formed various other bands, notably Point Zero. Tom continued to play his reed instrument in the Cambridge Concert band, and Robb and Stan both hooked up again in The Broadcasters. "Weekend Wrestler" backed with "Gamma Rays", 45 rpm VDR001, (vinyl dreams records) sells for 85.00 US on the internet. The Onits are mentioned in "Smash The State", a discography of Canadian Punk, 1977-92, compiled by Frank Manley.

    Uncle sam, a band out of Rochester considered covering "Weekend Wrestler", as did English band "Drivin' Sister".

    The original pressing called for 500 copies, but Ready upped it to 1000 copies., to get more cash out of us before handing the pressings to us. Out of the pressings, about 300 were sold to friends etc. Many were destroyed as even I personally sent some boxes to the dump when moving. All together, there may be 75 to 100 copies left between us, if that.

    Sorry for the somewhat longwindedness. Some listeners of my radio show, Adventures In Plasticland have wanted to know more about The Onits. I had kept some notes, though incomplete, and had to leave some dates/places out. Hope you enjoyed the read. And thank you.

    To the best of my recollection.....and from an old songlist

    All Shook Up.........Elvis Presley
    All The Day, All The Night.........The Kinks
    Back In History......Gene Vincent
    Bad In Bed......Wayne County
    Bang A Gong.....T. Rex
    Bored.....Iggy Pop
    Born To Be Wild.......Steppenwolf
    Can You See Me.....Jimi Hendrix
    C'mon Everybody......Eddie Cochrane
    Cocaine.....J. J. Cale
    Cracked Actor.......David Bowie
    Damn Dog......Times Square Sdtrk
    Different For Girls......Joe Jackson
    Don't Touch Me......Bill Nelson
    Eighteen....Alice Cooper
    867-5309.......Tommy Tutone
    Emily....Sylvain Sylvain
    Fire.....Jimi Hendrix
    Gene Genie......Bowie
    Hanky Panky......Tommy James And The Shondells
    Hippy Hippy Shake.....The Swingin' Blue Jeans
    Heads Kicked In......The Rezillos
    I'm The man......Joe jackson
    Jailhouse Rock......Elvis Presley
    Jealous.....Robert Palmer
    Just What I Needed....The Cars
    The Kids Are Alright....The Who
    Lola.....The Kinks
    Love Potion #9......The Clovers
    Lucy Potato.....Teenage Head
    Midnight Hour........Wilson Pickett
    Miracle man.......Elvis Costello
    Move It On Over.....Boxcar Willie
    My Generation......The Who
    Mystery Dance.......Elvis Costello
    The Nazz Are Blue.....The yardbirds
    Nice Legs....The Monks
    Night Time......George Thorogood
    Nobody Knows.....Bram Tchaikovsky
    One Bitten, Twice Shy......Ian Hunter
    On Your radio.....Joe Jackson
    Panic In The World.....Be-Bop Deluxe
    Paper Dolls.....Rubber City Rebels
    Picture My Face......Teenage Head
    Pills.....Bo Diddley
    Police On My back.....The Clash
    Pumping For Jill.......Iggy Pop
    Pump It Up......Elvis Costello
    Sarah Smiles......Bram Tchaikovsky
    Sea Cruise.....Johnny Rivers
    Sedated......The Ramones
    Shake Some Action......The Flamin' Groovies
    Shakin' All Over....The Pirates
    Slowdown.....Larry Williams
    Steppin' Stone.....The Monkees
    Suffergette City.....Bowie
    Summertime Blues....Eddie Cochrane
    Sunshine Of Your Love.....The Cream
    Surrender......Cheap Trick
    Teenage News......Sylvain Sylvain
    Whole Wide World....Wreckless Eric
    Who Do You Love.....Ian Hunter
    Wild Thing....The Troggs
    Workin' Week.....Elvis Costello
    You Really Got Me......The Kinks
    You're All I Got......The Cars
    Young And Stupid......The Rubber City Rebels

    Original Songs

    Weekend Wrestler.....Robb, Pete, Stan
    Gamma Rays.....Robb
    Goodbye Girl......Robb
    Space Invaders.....Pete
    Man Killin' Woman.....Robb
    Subway Submissive.....Pete

    yes, there were other songs, covered and original, but my source only had these, and no date, therefore uncomplete. This does give you some idea of what The Onits were. Like Spinal Tap.....amps on 11, and full throttle......Onits, up upp and awayyyyyyyyy!