In 1991, Kingston, Ontario natives Mike McCormick, John Whytock, Steve Wood, and Trevor Strong decided to form a musical comedy troupe in between college studies.
With McCormick on bass, Whytock and Wood on guitars and Strong handling the drums, their frequent performances of songs and sketches at frat house parties led to gigs on campus radio station CFRC. This in turn evolved from merely a hobby when they’d run out of beer into an actual live act they took to the bars – where free drinks were provided and they actually made a buck.
They were soon doing regular spots on CBC’s Radio One and concentrating more on the music and less on the comedy sketches. Still, they kept their sense of humour while performing around Ontario, where their on-stage banter with the crowds earned them a loyal following of fans who enjoyed clever lyrics and harmonies mixed with a harmless poke at Canada and other relevant issues from time to time.
Before long they’d caught the attention of execs at Festival Records in Vancouver, and they were shipped off to Studio 29 in Campbellford, Ont. The result was their eponoymous debut, released in the fall of ’92. Their repetoire of making fun of themselves, as well as their homeland was widespread, with tracks like the lead-off “The Last Saskatchewan Pirate” (later covered by Captain Tractor), “The Canadian Crisis Song,” and “Jesus’ Brother Bob.”
They formed their own record label, Arrogant Worms Music, and with more quick wit and biting satire, their sophomore album, RUSSEL’S SHORTS was on the shelves in the spring of ’94, and also featured live clips from a show a year earlier in Kingston. With returning producer Andy Thompson, and without Wood, the album carried on where its predecessor had left off, and the band was now touring steadily across the country. The record featured such satirical songs as their ode to bad sci-fi flicks “Killer Robots From Venus,” and “Big Fat Road Manager” and “Carrot Juice Is Murder,” both of which saw MuchMusic give decent rotation to their videos, the band’s first two. “Carrot Juice Is Murder” also caught the attention of Dr Demento (renowned for giving Weird Al Yankovic and Freddie Blassie, among others, their break), who released the track on his BASEMENT TAPES VOL 4 compilation album.
C’EST CHEESE was released in 1995, and the last album that featured Whytock, and the first with newcomer Chris Patterson. It featured the single “Sex, Drugs, and RRSPs,” which also had an accompanying video, “Sam The Guy From Quincy,” and the live favourite, “The Mountie Song.”
Before the resulting tour got underway, the band was back to a threesome when Whytock left the fold. But their sold-out shows, which were now taking in parts of the US and Australia, wound up being material for their first live album, LIVE BAIT. Featuring six new tracks, the album showcased their banter with the crowds and live stage presence while premiering “Canada’s Really Big,” Jesus’ Brother Bob,” “Me Like Hockey,” “Proud to be Canadian,” “Malcolm,” and “TV Weather Guy.”
Their first yuletide-flavoured sarcasm came in the form of CHRISTMAS TURKEY, released in ’97 and their first time at Northumberland Studios in Warkworth, Ont. It featured the re-release of “The Christmas Song” from their debut album, as well as “Santa’s Gonna Kick Your Ass,” the Grinch-like “Christmas Sucks,” and “Christmas Hangover.”
After “Me Like Hockey” made it to Dr Demento’s catalogue again, more silliness was released on the public when they put out the DIRT album in ’99, which featured “A Man Has Needs,” “Johnny Came Home Headless,” and the bonus track “Winnebago.” Dr Demento liked the band so much he put “I Am Cow” from the new album on another of his compilations that same year too.
After releasing IDIOT ROAD in 2001, which contained “We Are The Beaver” (sort of a Canuck version of The Beatles’ “I Am The Walrus”), their first compilation album, GIFT WRAPPED followed a year later, which featured “Me Like Hockey” for the first time on their own record, as well as the previously unreleased “Song Inside My Head” and “Malcolm.” By the end of the year they’d also been featured on both volumes of the FESTIVAL TO GO albums, showcasing the best of the lesser known Canadian talent out there.
2003 was a busy year for The Worms. The Canadian Arts Presenters Association recognized the band’s tireless road schedule for the last decade plus, awarding them the Touring Act of teh Year Award. The band then lent their talents to a breast cancer research fundraiser project, when they recorded a cover song for the first time, “Swingin’ On A Star” for the band Soft Wind’s album, GOOD FRIENDS. The Kingston, Ont group happened to include Chris Patterson’s father.
Wanting to try something totally different, their onstage antics were filmed while they performed with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. The result was the SEMI-CONDUCTED album. Parts of the show were also used for the making of the THREE WORMS AND AN ORCHESTRA DVD, which also contained behind the scenes footage and documentary bits, along with cameos from figure skating champion Kurt Browning, and actors Tom Cavanaugh (Ed, Love Monkey) and Nathan Fillion (Saving Private Ryan, Desperate Housewives). British label Folkline Entertainment contracted out “Santa’s Gonna Kick Your Ass” for their HAVE ANOTHER WILD AND CRAZY CHRISTMAS album in time for the holiday spending bonanza.
Always lending their name and donating their time and talents to the cause of literacy, they were awarded the Peter Gzowski Award in ’04, shortly after TOAST, an album featuring new material recorded in front of a live audience at Hugh’s Room in Toronto, was released. “Hot Dog Song” praised the junk food, “New Car Smell” took pot shots at everything from surgical procedures gone wrong to bad Keannu Reaves movies, and “Shipwreck Balladeer” made fun of the shipbuilding industry. Stops on the road included all four corners of North America, as well as the Adelaide Fringe Festival and Port Fairy Folk Festival in Australia.
Taking some much deserved time off the road, they concentrated on outside projects for awhile. In February of 2005, Strong released his “ignorance is bliss” book, “Get Stupid!,” which not only tests a person’s ignorance, but provides the seven steps to bliss through ignorance, as well as recipes and gardening tips. They also collected royalties from Dr Demento again that year when he used “The Coffee Song” on one of his compilation albums, just after “New Car Smell” found its way to a Mariposa fundraising album.
2006 started with the release of BEIGE, where they’d assembled the finest musicians hanging around the soup kitchen and came up with songs like “The Ballad of Edna and Ida,” “Mime Abduction,” and “The Prescription Drug Song.”
Spending less time recording and slightly less time on the road, which by now had included practically every major music festival in Canada, they released TORPID in September of ’08. The album was all-new material, but recorded live during a function at the Kingston Brewing Company earlier that year, featuring such tracks as “If I Were Prime Minister,” “Big Box Store,” “I Got Fingers,” and a bunch of banter in between songs.
In ’09 they were the half-time entertainment during the Grey Cup in Saskatchewan, where they played, appropriately enough, “The Last Saskatchewan Pirate.” Arguably their most popular hit, it not only was one of 21 tracks to make it to the band’s 2010 double album ‘best of’ collection HINDSIGHT IS 20/20, but even got rehashed as an extended dance club remix.