October 1994. Another new bar opens in Toronto. Big deal. One more watering hole. Probably will last a few months and then fold like so many others. However, this story is unlike most. This story harkens back to the mid '60s when clubs like Le Coq D'or, the Colonial, Club Bluenote and others hosted live entertainment that had their own sound, their own vibe, and their faithful followers. The Orbit Room is a special place. Founded by Tim Notter along with Alex Lifeson (of Rush fame), The Orbit has been the breeding ground of the resurgence of Maximum R&B, and a band known simply as The Dexters.
The Dexters were formed by Lou Dexter in the fall of '94. Tim and Alex wanted to create an atmosphere similar to the blues and soul clubs of the '60's, and asked Lou to form a band to be the house band at The Orbit. Not just any band, but one with its feet planted firmly in the roots of R & B, and capable of communicating that feeling with a '90's sensibility. Lots of instrumentals featuring the Hammond B-3 organ, guitar, bass, and drums. Lou enlisted three of his friends and longtime session partners Peter Dexter on bass, Mike Dexter on drums, and Bernie Dexter on guitar to form the band. After several weeks of intense rehearsal and research into their mutual memory banks, The Dexters premiered at The Orbit to standing-room-only crowds. Through word of mouth, The Internet, along with surprise appearances by Alex "Big Al" Dexter (Hmmm...I wonder?) on guitar as well as other notable notables, The Orbit took off immediately.
In the summer of 1995, The Dexters were recorded live at The Orbit by Mike Duncan and Joe Rossi. The result is "Hip To The Tip," a fourteen song compilation of classic R&B, psychedelia, and originals. It just doesn't get any better than this!
Bernie Dexter spent most of his youth holed up in his parents' basement, ear to the hi-fi, copping licks from Steve Cropper, Hendrix, Clapton et al, but when anyone asks Bernie to name his major influence, he will say "Bernie LaBarge" without hesitation, regardless of LaBarge's smaller cult following.
Pete Dexter is one of the most accomplished and in-demand bass players on the planet. However, he'd be the first to admit that he's getting a little tired of being compared to Peter Cardinali, bassist extraordinaire, whom he not only sounds like, but resembles to an amazing degree.
Mike Dexter's incredible versatility on drums comes from years of hammering it out in the bars and concert stages of the world. But his mentor, teacher, and fountain of inspiration is a drummer named Michael Sloski. Their playing styles are virtually identical.
Lou Dexter discovered Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff, Groove Holmes, Booker T. and all the other Hammond hotshots at a very early age, and has mastered the genre. But his greatest influence is keyboard wizard Lou Pomanti. In fact, they are often mistaken for one another.
Collectively and individually, The Dexters have performed or recorded with the likes of Blood, Sweat, and Tears, Tower of Power, Long John Baldry, The Boomers, Kim Mitchell, The Irish Rovers, Anne Murray, Bruce Cockburn, John Sebastian, and countless others. But their influences are quite unique. With over 100 years of playing under their collective belts, The Dexters are definitely a force to be reckoned with. Enjoy.