The folk-rock group Kensington Market, one of several successful Canadian bands who played Toronto’s Yorkville club scene, had been put together by Bernie Finkelstein, the talent manager who later founded True North Records. The Market first released the progressive folk-rock minor-key I Would Be The One (the B side of Stone Records SX 721), written by guitarist Keith McKie, in 1967. The single was an inventive combination, with tinges of The Beatles and Jefferson Airplane. It did not chart, but on the strength of The Market’s recording Mr. John, the group was signed by the prestigious Warner Brothers label.
In February 1968 The Market travelled to New York City’s Century Sound studios, where they recorded their debut Warner album “Avenue Road” (WS 1754) with the sought-after producer Felix Pappalardi, who had worked with British super-group Cream. Pappalardi recommended re-recording I Would Be The One at a slower tempo and added a Spanish-influenced horn arrangement.
The new 45-rpm single (Warner Bros. Seven Arts Records 7221), with Speaking of Dreams on the B side and featuring McKie singing lead, was released in July 1968 and
became a breakthrough hit for The Market. The influential CHUM Radio listed I Would Be The One as one of their Hot New Hits, peaking at No. 18 on July 22 (the previous week Born To Be Wild, another Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee, was No. 1).
The “Avenue Road” album had glowing reviews in “The Globe and Mail,” “The Toronto Star,” “Hit Parader” and “Time” magazine. “Maclean’s” magazine reported, “For this Canadian group, two years of hard work in Yorkville coffee-houses has culminated in an unusually disciplined rock-sound production. … strings and brass fill the gaps and provide polished fullness.”
Composer McKie admitted that drug use had its place in the band’s progressive sound. “The world was a psychedelic place at the time. People were experimenting with substances to find out whether they could achieve some new state of mind .… A lot of that thinking carried over into our songwriting and recording.”
Nationally, the single resided at No. 1 on RPM’s Canadian Content chart for two weeks in September, topping the Irish Rovers, Andy Kim and The Stampeders. The song peaked on RPM’s Top 100 at No. 59.
“Cash Box Magazine” termed The Market … “Canada’s top progressive rock group” and declared that “The quintet…is in exceptional form on…I Would Be The One.”
McKie explained the band’s popularity: “When we sang together, there was a kind of ecstasy to it. A nice blend would happen.”
The single’s success led to Kensington Market playing at Toronto’s CNE, the Mariposa Folk Festival, and the Toronto Pop Festival, and in the U.S. in New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, Detroit, and Boston. They backed up Jefferson Airplane at its Hamilton university gig, released a second album, “Aardvark,” then dissolved in 1969.
Guitarist Keith McKie was born in 1947 in England, and at age six settled with his family in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario. Influenced by The Beatles, Laura Nyro and Ray Charles, he played with The Vendettas before joining Kensington Market. McKie also wrote contributions to albums by Ian & Sylvia and The Mandala. As a solo artist he released “Rumors at the News-stand” in 1981.