Formed in Montreal in 1989 through a chance meeting between Drew Ling and guitarists Perry Johnson (who’d go under the pseudonym of Pere Fume) and Sonny Greenwich, the original group was rounded out with Alan Baculis on bass and drummer Rob Kazenel. After quickly becoming staples on the Ontario/Quebec circuit they were signed to Vertigo Records, releasing their debut in 1990.
Corky Laing was called in, who’d earned a name as the drummer for Mountain and established himself as a renowned producer, working with the likes of Wilkinsons and recording with practically everyone who was anyone. THE BROWN ALBUM was a unique mix of funk and hard-driving rhythms, capturing the airwaves by surprise. The first two singles “Masterstroke” and “Scratching The Whole” paved the way for the all-out assault Canadian radio would endure with the remake of Hot Chocolate’s “Every One’s A Winner”, and then “Play With Me”. Basically overnight sensations, they hired new drummer Marc Villeneuve and hit the road, including a European tour opening for The Cult. Their debut soon went gold, with the group’s image translating well to video as well – scoring them awards from MuchMusic as well as winning a ‘best single’ Juno for “Every One’s A Winner”.
After a ‘remix’ lp called REBOOT was released before Christmas, the group returned with BULL the next spring. Again Laing helped produce another mix of infectious dance rhythms and heavy guitar riffs. The single “Love Monkey # 9” should’ve been able to gold-plate the album by itself. But poor promotion kept it one of the sleeper hits of the year, with the other singles “Whatcha Need”, “Big Bad and Groovy” and “Rollercoaster’s Child” following suit.
The band re-grouped from the relative disappointment and released SLEEPING BOOTIE in ’93 with new drummer John “Fatboy” Lalley, aka Johnny Frappe. The third record followed the formula label execs had come to expect and wanted. But again minimal effort from the marketing department held back what could have been another best-seller, despite the strength of the singles “Moanie”, “Sorry Whole” and “Caught Looking At You”. Other noteable mentions included “The Long Goodbye”, the title-track and the rock standard “Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo”, easily one of the more palettable renditions of the song ever recorded.
Disillusioned, Vertigo let the band go, allowing them to sign with Mercury. Hoping to finally crack the American market, they band started working on their next lp in England. But issues with the new label caused founding member Fume to leave the group. He’d later revert to his real name and form Fonzi.
They tried out a few new axemen and settled on John ‘Fatboy’ Lalley. The simply self-titled album was recorded in Toronto’s Masterworks Studios and produced by John Fryer – and released in ’95. Tracks like “Papa Funk” stayed true to what fans had come to expect, but other numbers like “Pass The Shotgun” showed a darker side. Two singles came from the record, but neither “Hey Baby” or “Each Morning After” captured the interest of the American audience and the group disbanded in early ’96. Mercury released BOOTISM, a 16 track ‘best of’ collection which also contained a couple of remixes.