Formed in London, Ontario, their origins began in 1970 when high school friends guitarist/singer Joe de Angelis and Bill Durst on keyboards/guitars began jamming together in the garage, quickly recruiting bass player James Corbet and Ed Pranskus on drums.
They began playing the local scene as Pink Orange, doing mostly Beatles/Stones/Led Zeppelin covers, all the while ‘getting it together’. They soon graduated to the Toronto bar circuit where they developed a loyal cult-like following. After changing their name, they were noticed by manager Wyn Anderson one night while playing, who secured them a deal with Greg Hambleton’s local Axe Records.
With Hambleton and Terry Brown (most noteable for his production work later with Rush and Klaatu) behind the controls, they went into Toronto Sound Studios in the spring of ’72. Their debut THUNDERMUG STRIKES was released that summer with their cover of The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” as the first single. But when radio stations began playing “Africa” (one of the few rock songs you’ll ever hear that boasts a kazoo solo) off the lp as well, direction changed. They left the confines of headlining with The Srawbs across central Canada to their own smaller venues across the country. Soon after management released it as a single, “Africa” cracked the national top 30, with the energized-blues flip side “Jane J James” becoming a programmer’s favourite as well. Their infectious groove had critics hailing them as the next potential supergroup. “Page 125” was issued as the third single in the middle of a North American tour, shortly before the album reached gold.
They were back in the studio the next year, gathering notes from the material written on the road. Recorded at Manta Sound with Hambleton again serving as producer. The band combined a mix of groove and heavy hitting rhythms in a style again before it’s time. Released in the summer of 1973, ORBIT again had the critics taking notice. The title track was released as the first single, again cracking the Top 40. The ‘white dude funk’ of “Garden Green” made it one of the year’s sleepers – as did “Boy You’ve Got Alot To Learn”, hitting big on Ontario college campuses. Another cross-Canada tour ensued – with the lead-off “Big City” instantly becoming a crowd favourite. The album’s strong overall appeal to FM station managers, including the acoustically upbeat “Molly O” laced with its psychadelic chanting, the horns & strings in “We’ll Never Forget” and the satirical “Mickey Mouse Club” made it two straight gold records. Meanwhile Epic picked up US distribution rights, releasing their own version of THUNDERMUG STRIKES, actually a combination of the first 2 Canadian lps.
On the prompting of head-brass who wanted a more commercial record, they returned to Toronto Sound that fall, releasing TA-DAA in time for the ’74 summer rush – with a different label and altered tracklisting for the American version. Again Hambleton assumed control and a cover of The Beatles “Drive My Car” was put out as the first single. In the hopes it would duplicate the moderate success of covering the Kinks’ on the first album, they were disappointed to not have it crack the Top 40. The band was touring across the country when the original lineup’s last single was issued in the spring of ’75, “Let’s Live Together”. Once off the road, the guys took some time to sit back and look at the whole situation, including the financial instability of Axe Records.
After replacing Anderson as manager with Wayne Thompson, the band continued doing the Ontario circuit for the next couple of years, releasing the Durst-penned single “Old Songs” in 1976, actually a left-over from the TA-DAA sessions. The band never officially ‘split up’, but each would go on to do outside projects, including Durst joining a ZZ Top tribute called Tres Hombres and a new wave-ish band called The Brains (Matt Campbell, Ernie Ripco, Dave McManus). Produced by Robert Leth, they released their only disc in 1980 called AUDIO EXTREMO on Falcon Records. In ’83 Durst also released a solo album on Passport Records called CALL BILLY, which featured DeAngelis on background vocals. DeAngelis was also an assistant engineer on Meatloaf’s DEAD RINGER in 1981.
Anderson would get the group together again in the late 80’s for a series of reunion gigs with Greg Simpson on board as new manager. Their reception prompted a full-fledged reunion in 1991 of Durst and Corbett, with new drummer Cory Thompson. Since Axe Records was no longer in business. Anderson used much of his own funds to finance the new project. Going back to their roots of sorts, they went to London, ON’s db Recording Studios in ’94. They took the demos and shopped them around, eventually signing with Raven Records that winter.
With Durst co-producing with Danny Brodbeck (& Anderson overlooking his investment as executive), WHO’S RUNNING MY WORLD, came out the next summer with a slicker sound – still thundering but with a refinement and maturity only afforded music vets. This was most evident in the lead-off title track, a re-vamped “Africa” and “Beard”, recounting Durst’s time in his ZZ Top tribute band. “Blue Water”, one of the year’s most under-rated tracks, was also released while the band was again taking their charged up live show through Ontario and Quebec and the northern States. Also on the record were “The Marijuana Song” (self-explanatory), “She Said” and “Say Goodbye”.
Anderson came back and served as Brodbeck’s executive producer again for the band’s next project BANG THE LOVE DRUM in 1997. Again largely self-financed, they again came out with another slickly-engineered raucous set of guitar-driven anthem-like tunes. With new drummer Justin Burgess (replaced by original drummer Pranskas months later) “Hole In The Wall” instantly grabbed your attention and didn’t let go. Other noteable cuts included “Heart Shaped Stone” and its retro production feedback, “Flow” and “Muffin Eater” further placed Thundermug in the ‘most influential but under-rated groups’ category.
Wyn Anderson died in 1999 following a long illness, which meant for all intents & purposes – the label ceased to exit and Thundermug went with it. They still played for awhile but soon went their seperate ways again. A sort of off-shoot of the band happened when Durst spent two years in Big on Venus with Pranskas and Justin and Sarah Burgess. Corbett is touring with Cheryl Lescome and Prankus is drumming with the Burgesses.
In 2013, upstart Axe Records re-released the band’s debut album on CD, tho no bonus material was included.