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Les Emmerson (1944–2021), writer of the classic rock anthem “Signs”

by Kirk Fox

Les Emmerson was a Canadian singer-songwriter who wrote the classic rock anthem “Signs,” which was a hit song for his band the Five Man Electrical Band.


Les Emmerson was the primary songwriter, lead vocalist and guitarist with the Canandian rock band the Five Man Electrical Band. The Ottawa, Ontario group was first known as the Staccatos and had a top ten hit in Canada in 1966 titled “Half Past Midnight.” Though they has some success in their native country, they had not broken through in America. They changed the name of the band to Five Man Electrical Band and released a self-titled LP in 1969. In 1971, the Emmerson penned song “Signs” became the band’s first international hit, reaching the top ten in America, Canada, and Australia. The song became a generational anthem which Emmerson wrote after he was driving in California and noticed the billboard signs blocking the beautiful scenery. The band broke up in 1975 and Emmerson released some solo material. He has been inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Notable Quote

“One day we played together and we decided to put a little band together.” “He turned out to become one of my really good friends and he was the one who got me on stage. I don’t think we made any money that night, but it really did not matter.” – He told the Barrhaven Independent in 2020


Tributes to Les Emmerson

Full Obituary: CTV News

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