Roxanne – Such a tangled web

january roxanneI’m getting a lot of requests to carry on dredging old musical memories out of my addled brain. Despite my protests, I’ll bow to that pressure, but I’m moving on now from the terrific bars and clubs of Toronto’s late 70’s and early 80’s, and on to an attempt to deconstruct the very fabric of the groups who filled those venues.

But first … an apology to our fearless leader, Bob Segarini. In an effort not to seem like an apple polisher, I failed to note his presence on the Toronto music scene in last week’s memoirs. Bob played at every venue I mentioned – he was everywhere.  And where he was playing, I’d show up sooner or later. You see, I’ve known Bob for longer than just about anybody who is still in my life.

Bob and Roxy Joey Cee's Party January 2013We first met when I was underage drinking at Montreal’s “Your Father’s Moustache,” aka “The Moustache,” a zillion years ago.

We have often lost touch with each other through the years, but somehow we have always seemed to wind up bumping into each other at interesting points in our lives. His talent alone would have made him a wonderful person to know, but it’s always been his boundless enthusiasm and innate intelligence that has kept our connection alive. Well, that, and a shared love of good food and drink …

rox and kaid 81 gasworksA few readers were upset that I hadn’t mentioned some of their favorite bands in last week’s column. You must remember, this is MY Toronto, so my memories involve people I worked with, or met along the way, as we crossed musical paths. Or met in a rest stop off the highway on the way home from a gig, right Sharon Kaid? I’m still chuckling over some of our crazy encounters. You can’t tour in a group with three, three, three lovely ladies without meeting a few characters along the way.

There were also amazing pockets of music going on in the city that completely escaped my attention, due to where the sounds were happening, or to my own time on the road. Some friends will wonder why I failed to mention the fabulous reggae, ska, and fledgling rap groups that also had huge followings. I just didn’t get out as much as I’d have liked, and generally had to fulfill promises that I would ‘most definitely for sure this time I promise!’ go see another friend’s gig.

family treeToronto’s musical history is more complicated than a hillbilly clan’s family tree. Back then, everyone either knew, or knew of, the hot players in town, and musicians moved almost seamlessly from one group to another, colliding, creating great music together, and then ping ponging from that platform to yet another group.  If Toronto’s musical history was set in a Bible format, it would consist almost entirely of ‘begats’.

Fr’instance … while attempting to find some info on the band “Moxy,” I found an interesting site that had quite a lot of information and links. (http://www.canadianbands.com/Moxy.html)

From that page, I went to Wikipedia, and found some of the same info, along with other tidbits, and with even more intriguing links to follow:

Moxy is a Canadian hard rock and heavy metal band, formed in Toronto, Ontario, in 1974, from previous members of the rock group Leigh Ashford — which included singer Douglas “Buzz” Shearman (former teen singer of Sherman & Peabody) alongside Greg Godovitz of Fludd & Goddo and Gil Moore (later of Triumph), Earl Johnson (former member of King Biscuit Boy), Bill Wade (former member of Outlaw Music and Brutus under the alias Hally Hunter that also included Gino Scarpelli of Goddo) and Terry Juric, (former member of Outlaw Music) as Leigh Ashford. The group changed its name to Moxy in late 1974. This name change was accompanied by a change in the group’s sound. Buddy Caine a former band mate of Earl Johnson was added to the group in 1975. Moxy toured extensively in Canada before having a hit in late 1975 with “Can’t You See I’m A Star”. Here’s a rare track; an unreleased song, “Can’t Stop The Music” (1980.) Written by Buzz Shearman and Billy Wade.

Now, that’s a lot of bold face right there, and that only takes you from 1974 to 1975. So much incredible talent. And that was only the beginning. After Buzz left due to vocal problems, the band carried on in various permutations. The late great Brian Maxim, as well as Michael Rynoski, who later changed his name to Mike Reno and played with Loverboy, both filled inas vocalists at times, before Buzz returned to the group. Sadly, Buzz was killed in a motorcycle accident in ’83.

But a good band is never totally out of the game, and there have been several incarnations of Moxy since then. The newest lineup, set to tour the US this summer, includes Earl Johnson, Alexis Von Kraven, Rob Robbins and the preternaturally ever young Nick Walsh of Famous Underground and Slik Toxik on vocals.

Pull a thread on any of the terrific bands of the 70’s and 80’s and you’ll find a similar range of connections. Say  …  the band Toronto. If we check in on fellow scribe Jaimie Vernon’s  Canadian Pop Encyclopedia (http://jam.canoe.ca/Music/Pop_Encyclopedia/T/Toronto.html) we see that vocalist Annie ‘Holly’ Woods floated through Sass and Gambler before meeting up with Brian Allen (Rose) and forming Toronto in 1979. With the addition of guitarist Sheron Alton (who had previously been in Lady – the band which I eventually wound up fronting before we changed the name to Performer,) Jimmy Fox (drums), Scott Kreyer (keboards) and ex-Centaurus member Nick Costello (bass) the group had terrific success from their first album.

shawn abies babiesBy 1982, Barry Connors (Coney Hatch) replaced Fox and former Rose bassist Gary Lalonde (later of Honey Moon Suite,) replaced Costello.  In ’83, the band toured cross Canada, using the slogan “Lock Up Your Sons,” a nod to the notorious Abraham’s ChildrenLock Up Your Daughters” tour. Performer (which included Shawn O’Shea of Abraham’s Children) was one of the bands who filled in as opening act to Toronto and label mates The Headpins on that tour.

By 1984, it was basically all over for what was left of the original group. Sadly, Alton, Allen and Jim Vallance (original drummer of Prism, and former songwriting partner of Bryan Adams) signature song “What About Love”, left off of their own 1982 album, ‘Get It On Credit’, became instead an international top 10 hit for Heart in 1985. Oh well, at least the royalties must have been terrific.

Here’s how I remember the kids who made good. As I recall, this was mainly shot at the old Waterworks, at the end of Queen Street East. Holly’s hair was a better version of the shaggy mop we could all accomplish by ourselves in a hotel room. You just pulled all of your hair into a ponytail on the top of your head, and cut straight across. We called it “the zizz.”

Toronto – Start Telling the Truth (1982)

And here’s the fabulous Darby Mill’s of the Headpins, in their video for“Don’t It Make You Feel”

Once again, I’m out of time, and out of space. I’ll continue with Toronto’s rock family tree next week, with a few surprises for hard core fans. Till next time!

= RT =

Roxanne’s column appears here every Sunday 

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonRoxanne Tellier has been singing since she was 10 months old … no, really. Not like she’s telling anyone else how to live their lives, because she’s not judgmental, and most 10 month olds need a little more time to figure out how to hold a microphone. After years of doing things she didn’t want to do, she’s found herself working with a bunch of crazy people who are as batshit crazy and devoted to music as she is, and so she can be found every Monday at Cherry Cola’s, completely unable to think of anything funny to say, as the co-host of Bob Segarini’s The Bobcast. Come and mock her. She’s good with that. And she laughs. A lot. But not at you.

One Response to “Roxanne – Such a tangled web”

  1. Thanks for the mention, Roxanne! There was also a long-suffering version of Moxy in the 2000s who released two albums on my label. Early Johnson and Buddy Caine from the original Moxy plus Jim Samson and Kim Hunt from Zon along with returning vocalist Brian Maxim (RIP).

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