Les Emmerson

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Les Emmerson
Les Emmerson.jpg
Les Emmerson performing with "The Groove Junkies" in Ottawa (April 2008)
Background information
Born (1944-09-17) 17 September 1944 (age 77)
OriginOttawa, Ontario, Canada
Years active1965–present
Associated actsStaccatos, Five Man Electrical Band

Robert Leslie "Les" Emmerson (born 17 September 1944) is the lead vocalist and guitarist for the band Five Man Electrical Band, and their predecessor band The Staccatos. He also recorded as a solo artist, charting three top 40 hits in Canada, including the #5 hit "Control Of Me".

He is best known for writing the song "Signs", which was a hit for Emmerson's Five Man Electrical Band in 1971 and also a hit for the band Tesla in 1990.[1] Both versions of the song sold approximately 1.5 million copies at the time of each respective release. In 2006, the song was sampled by Fat Boy Slim in the platinum-selling song "Don't Let the Man Get You Down".[2] Particularly as a result of the Fat Boy Slim sampling, Emmerson earns enough money from royalties on "Signs" that he can support an average lifestyle without working.[3]

Emmerson started his solo career while still a member of Five Man Electrical band. His first solo hit "Control Of Me" was released in late 1972, and peaked at #5 in early 1973. Follow-up single "Cry Your Eyes Out" reached a peak of #18 on RPM Weekly's Top Singles chart in September 1973.[4] Emmerson released two more charting solo singles in 1974 and '75 while still with the Five Man Electrical Band, but his only release after the band broke up was the non-charting single "Borderline" in 1977. No other material was released by Emmerson until 2007, when The Sound City Sessions appeared. This album consisted of material recorded in 1976 and '77, including "Borderline", and remains Emmerson's only solo album; his other solo singles have never been released on LP or CD.

Emmerson remains based in Ottawa as of mid-2009.[5]



Year Song Canada U.S.
Hot 100
1972 "Control of Me" 5 51
1973 "Cry Your Eyes Out" 18 -
1974 "Clichés" 75 -
1975 "Watching the World Go By" 26 -
1977 "Borderline" -


  1. ^ From their Five Man Acoustical Jam album.
  2. ^ From his Palookaville album.
  3. ^ Corbett, Ron (7 July 2008). "Royalty cheques worth some 'serious coin': One of the Signs that Ottawa's Five Man Electrical Band's legacy lives on". Ottawa Sun. p. 4.
  4. ^ "Top Singles". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. 1 September 1973. Retrieved 11 August 2009.
  5. ^ McRae, Earl (16 June 2009). "Shame that tune". Ottawa Sun. Retrieved 11 August 2009.

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