Barney Bentall (aka Franklin) spent his teenage years holed up on Keat Island, British Columbia, with songwriter Gary Fraser. By the late ‘70s Bentall was fronting a band under his new pseudonym Brandon Wolf doing slashing satire and throwing in healthy doses of the Fraser/Franklin originals.
With quirky tunes like the Dylan send-up “Blonde on Blonde on Blonde” Brandon Wolf was signed to A & M Records. They issued a four-song EP on A & M’s short-lived Debut Series which suffered at retail because retailers were charging full album prices for these mini albums.
Bentall went back to the drawing board with Nairne and Guppy to form the trio The Legendary Hearts (a name taken from a Lou Reed album title) in 1983. As time passed they added Bowman and Muir.
Soon Bruce Allen’s management company was handling the case but they intended the Hearts’ material to go straight into the hands of slick production whizzes Bruce Fairbairn or Bob Rock. And despite caving into releasing a much ignored Indie album with Bob Rock, Bentall wanted the material to mature and waited until Jehanne Languedoc at Finklestein Management approached with Finklestein and CBS Records fully behind them before committing any more material to tape.
In under a year the band’s eponymous debut was out and burning up the charts with the first hit “Something to Live For”. The success of the hit single led to platinum album status. Three hit singles from the album pushed Barney and his band into national prominence. In the fall of 1988 they won “Most Promising Group” honors at the Juno Awards (Canada’s equivalent to the Grammy).
In 1989, Barney Bentall, Gary Fraser and Colin Nairne were nominated for a Genie Award for “Restless Dreamer”, a song they composed for the movie American Boyfriends. Barney and the band mount two successful national tours.
The second Barney Bentall & The Legendary Hearts album was produced by Danny Kortchmar. Titled Lonely Avenue, the album was a strong follow-up to their debut. The first single, “Crime Against Love”, spent six weeks at the Number Two chart position. Two subsequent singles both reached the Top Fifteen and the band continued to tour in front of ever larger audiences.
In 1993, Barney and the band recorded their third release for Sony Music – Ain’t Life Strange. The album was recorded in a remote studio on a small island off the coast of Vancouver. Shortly before the recording was completed, Dave Reimer and Mike Crozier joined the band. Three very successful singles propelled the album to gold status and the band continued to consolidate its national popularity.
Produced by the band itself, Gin Palace was the fourth Barney Bentall album and arguably the group’s strongest effort. Songwriting collaborations between band members produced an eclectic and powerful album. The first two singles released both reached Number Two on the charts. The band mounted two sold-out national tours through 1995, as the album proved to be the fastest-selling Barney Bentall record as it reached gold status in 90 days.
Barney & The Legendary Hearts began writing songs for their fifth original album – Till Tomorrrow - in 1996. In the fall of 1996, a Greatest Hits record was released, comprising all the singles off the band’s records to date, in addition to five new tracks. Recording of the new album began at Mushroom Studios in Vancouver, British Columbia. Produced by Barney & The Legendary Hearts along with Scott Harding and John Chamberlain, the final sessions for Till Tomorrow were recorded in the spring of 1997 at Stepbridge Studios in Sante Fe, New Mexico. The band toured in support of the record throughout the balance of 1997.
Barney Bentall toured both with The Legendary Hearts and a stripped down acoustic “trio”, consisting of David Reimer (bass) and Rick Hopkins (keyboards) throughout 1998 and 1999. Numerous television appearances and live performances served to further consolidate Barney Bentall’s popularity across Canada. In 1999, Barney wrote a song – “The Unlucky Ones” – for a documentary on Sheldon Kennedy.
The much-anticipated Gift Horse (2006) was released on True North Records, featuring the lead-off “Dream of a Day,” “Gypsy Boy,” “Back up on the Horse” and “Dance for Me.” Back on the road in full force, a succession of tours commenced in support of the record.