A native of Durham, North Carolina, Anne Elizabeth Woods moved from San Fransisco to Toronto in the mid 70’s after fronting Sass, and then Gambler. She was introduced to Brian Allen in 1977, whose own band, Rose was on the verge of being cut from their label if they didn’t produce a ‘hit’. Woods guested on the single “Johnny Law” on their third and last album JUDGEMENT DAY … to no avail.
Over a year later Woods’ and Allens’ paths would cross again. Enter Jimmy Fox on drums whom Allen worked with in Rose, Scott The Mott Kreyer on keboards and Nick Costello on bass. Kreyer, Costello & Fox were all native New Yorkers and had also played with Woods, who’d now adopted the name “Holly”. They added Sheron Alton, Allen’s girlfriend and future wife and soon gained a rep as one of the most energetic live hard rock acts on the Ontario circuit.
After originally re-adopting the name Sass, a bar manager changed it to Toronto one night mere minutes before showtime. They were noticed by the same management company which handled The Raes, The Headpins and Chilliwack, inking a deal with Solid Gold Records in ’79.
Together, Toronto recorded four albums over four years. LOOKING FOR TROUBLE, HEAD ON, GET IT ON CREDIT and GIRLS NIGHT OUT all were certified gold or better. Along with tearing up the charts, they were major headliners with The Headpins, Chilliwack, and others. Inner strife with the label saw ASSAULT & FLATTERY released with only Woods and Kreyer the only original members remaining, thus under the name “Holly Woods & Toronto”. Produced by Brian “Too Loud” Macleod, and Mike Flicker
While the surviving members regrouped, Solid Gold issued a Greatest Hits package, which included the new tracks “Andrea” and “Me Generation”. Soon after, Woods, Kreyer and Gingrich carried on with new drummer Paul Hanna and returned to the friendly confines of Eastern Sound, releasing ASSAULT AND FLATTERY before year’s end under the guise of ‘Holly Woods and Toronto’. Produced by Mike Flicker, who’d previously worked with the likes of Heart and Al Stewart, the record fell back on a heavier guitar-oriented sound. But now free to call the shots, Woods still managed to make it her most diverse recording yet. “New Romance”, written by Anton Fig and Holly Knight (originally recorded by Widow in 1980) would turn out to be their last single. Brian MacLeod returned to also play a role on the record, co-writing “No More Cliches” and lending a production hand on a number of others, including “Cats and Dogs”, Woods’ powerful duet with The Pins‘ Darby Mills. “Bang Your Head” showed the group’s maturity, able to blend slick hooks with the hard edge that brought them to the dance and kept them for the encore.
Also on the record was the jazz-tinged “Look What’s Showing Through”, written by Eddie Schwartz. Despite the strong writing of “Desperation” and “Sometimes Change”, the good ship Toronto hit an iceberg before year’s end. The band was literally forced in to breaking up when Solid Gold Records filed for bankruptcy protection. Complicating matters was the fact the label had just received a sizeable advance from CBS, the distributor. Basically used as scape-goats, Woods and Kreyer were caught in the crossfire and watched helplessly as CBS immediately cancelled all future deals with the band and recalled 30,000 copies of ASSAULT AND FLATTERY from the stores. What was to be another cross-country tour was cancelled after only the third date.
Woods and Kreyer ended up relocating to Atlanta, Georgia. They went into Lowery Studios with producer Sonny Limbo, but again ran into major problems when Limbo passed away before they could finish the sessions, forcing the two to assume the remaining costs themselves. Although they shopped the material around, labels shyed away from it, fearing legal ramifications from Solid Gold. The emergence of the ‘classic rock’ radio format of the mid 90’s seemed tailor-made to Toronto – and rock fans in general. With revived airplay, Holly Woods & company have again become mainstays of the stage, mainly during the popular outdoor summer concerts, reclaiming the band’s title as one of Canada’s most genuine rock outfits.
In 2002, a group out of Vancouver called The New Pornographers burst onto the scene with a remake of the classic “Your Daddy Don’t Know” on the ‘Fubar’ movie soundtrack. 2003 saw Solid Gold release a new ‘best of’ package. THE COMPLETE GREATEST HITS is 10 tracks that helped shape Canadian rock in the 80’s, as well as the previously unreleased original version of “What About Love”. Keeping with the label’s kewl habit of including videos in their re-releases, “Start Tellin’ The Truth”, “Your Daddy Don’t Know” and the previously unseen “When Can I See You Again” are also included.
Holly is also currently pursuing a lounge-style act as a sideline – complete with her blues influences and reworkings of some of Toronto‘s classic hits. In 2007, Cyclone Records released LIVE IT UP, essentially the ‘forgotten’ album Woods and Kreyer had done after ASSAULT & FLATTERY nearly two decades earlier.