Trooper ready to hit Westerner stage

  • Aug. 31, 2010 8:57 p.m.

Fans of legendary Canadian rockers Trooper won’t want to miss their single appearance during Westerner Days.

The guys play the Centrium July 21 – admission is included with gate price.

It’s been a long, creatively rich journey since singer Ray McGuire and guitarist Brian Smith first teamed up to write tunes and perform together back in 1965.

Later, in 1974, Randy Bachman of BTO signed their band Applejack to his Legend Records label. Trooper, their first Bachman-produced album, was released in 1975 and Trooper began touring the U.S. backing up bands from BTO, Aerosmith and ZZ Top to Fleetwood Mac, AC/DC and The Doobie Brothers.

Meanwhile, in Canada, Baby Woncha Please Come Home landed in the top ten and Good Ol’ General Hand Grenade vaulted to number one for a month.

In 1976, Trooper released Two For the Show. The title song, written by McGuire, shot to the number one spot and Santa Maria settled in the top five. The record was eventually certified platinum.

Trooper’s third offering, Knock ‘Em Dead, Kid included the hits We’re Here for a Good Time and Pretty Lady, and was certified platinum in 1978.

Things really heated up for the band with the release of Thick as Thieves, which slammed down hits like Raise a Little Hell (their first hit in the U.S.), Round, Round We Go and The Moment That it Takes.

Six months later, after severing their artist-producer relationship with Bachman, Trooper released the Howard Steele-produced Flying Colors album.

The guys changed direction in 1980, released their last disc on the MCA label. Sales, however were disappointing and MCA didn’t renew their contract. It would be two years before they guys toured or recorded.

Mike Flicker, producer and engineer for the band Heart, then approached McGuire and Smith in 1981 with a proposal to record what became the Money Talks record.

Trooper was back on the road again, and in 1986 played more shows than in any other year of their 10-year career.

In 1987, McGuire and Smith were encouraged by former MCA vice-president Scott Richards to start their own label and release a new project. With the help of their former manager, Sam Feldman, studio owner Tom Lavin, and FACTOR they began recording some 40 songs they had accumulated. Things took a step further when in 1989, Smith and McGuire’s newly formed Great Pacific Records struck a distribution deal with Warner Music Canada.

It was time for some fresh music. The Last of the Gypsies became the group’s first release in nearly a decade. The ‘Gypsies Tour’ was the most successful Canadian tour of the summer, with the guys performing 187 shows across Canada in 1990. They continued on a high note clear into 1991 with the release of the TEN album, playing 140 shows across the country.

In 1992 a personal tragedy struck the family of Brian Smith. He left the band and was replaced temporarily by guitarist Skip Prest. Smith was soon to return to the road, maintaining, through the early nineties, the same intense touring schedule.

Trooper exposure took another turn in the early 1990s as the band became more visible on TV, playing the Grey Cup half-time show, the West Coast Music Awards and guest-starring on This Hour Has 22 Minutes New Year’s special. Their songs were featured in numerous episodes of 22 Minutes throughout the eighth season (2000-01) including a memorable Christmas tribute to Canadian forces in Bosnia that featured We’re Here for a Good Time as its main theme.

In 2000, the band marked its 25th anniversary with a reunion concert in Vancouver — Tommy Stewart, Doni Underhill, Frank Ludwig and Harry Kalensky re-united with McGuire and Smith for a sold out performance.

As the new decade began, the guys wanted to make sure they struck a balance between being on the road and being at home. They limited their shows to 100 per year.

But demand for more shows hasn’t wavered. Trooper continues to sell out shows across the country and they often encounter fans from three different generations in the audience.

Meanwhile, other musical highlights for this year’s Westerner Days Fair & Exposition include the Kraze Birthday Bash, when Kraze 101.3 takes over the Centrium stage July 22.

Punk/pop sensations Marianas Trench play July 23 and platinum hit-maker Johnny Reid performs July 24. Tickets for Reid’s show can be purchased via Ticketmaster by calling 403-340-4455. The other shows are included with gate admission.

The Molson Canadian Ranch melds the fair’s traditional beer gardens with a new outdoor stage and lots of live shows featuring The Higgins, Hey Romeo, One More Girl and Jessie Farrell.

Gate admission prices are $9 for adults, $7 for youth ages 13 to 18) $4 for kids six to 12, and $5 for seniors. Kids five and under get in free. Parking is $6.

For more information, call 403-343-7800 or check out www.westernerdays.ca.

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