Sherry Kean Huffman bounced around in several groups around the Toronto area during the late 1970s before forming The Sharks with guitarist and future husband David Baxter. At that time she dropped Huffman from her monikor, and while The Sharks’ lineup changed from time to time, they became a fixture on the Toronto bar scene, incorporating punk and pop covers while trying to fit their own original material into the sets.
Their song “Get Off The Radio” made it to a compilation album from Chamelon Records in 1981, giving the band enough exposure to get the attention of record executives while they continued shuffling their lineup around, one of which included Basil Donovan on bass and drummer Cleave Anderson. Both of them eventually joined Blue Rodeo.
Kean and Baxter folded The Sharks to go on their own in ’82, shopping around some demos until they caught the interest of manager Sergei Deming. He got them signed to Capitol Records before the end of the year, and the following spring they were in New York at Media Sound with producer Mike Thorne. They recorded enough material for a full album, but label execs felt they weren’t strong enough to release as a package. They compromised and five tracks made the cut to an EP that summer, MIXED EMOTIONS. “I Want You Back” was released as a single and received decent airplay from Canadian radio.
The following December, they continued recording back home in Toronto at Manta Sound with Harvey Goldberg. Her full length debut album PEOPLE TALK was released the following spring. Three of the tracks from the EP – “Mixed Emotions,” “Universe of Two,” and “I Want You Back” showed up on the album, as did two other songs originally discarded from the previous EP.
“I Want You Back” was released as a single again, this time with an accompanying video, and the song peaked at #21 on the Canadian pop chart in March of ’84. Foresight from the record company also took advantage of the dance clubs’ desire for extended mixes, and so the really long version of the single got played to death for a short while across the country in the bars. “Would You Miss Me?” and then “Get Away From That Girl” followed suit on the charts, but both stalled before making it to the top 40.
Kean won the ’84 Juno for Most Promising Female Vocalist of The Year while they toured the country with the likes of Martha & The Muffins and Blue Peter. But by the end of 1985 Capitol had dropped her from the roster. She took her time rebounding, but eventually got a new deal with A&M in 1986. The time off gave her and Baxter plenty of opportunity to write material. When MAVERICK HEART was released in the spring of ’87, they’d again surrounded themselves with a great supporting cast in the studio, including Tom Cochrane on “I Believe In You” and “Baby Talk,” and Daniel Lanois on “Diamonds and Pearls.”
With Bob Doidge assisting Kean and Baxter in the control room, the album was heralded by the critics, but all but shunned by the radio stations, who’d apparently forgotten all about her during the time off. The lead-off “Why You Wanna Break My Heart?” came and went just as quickly, and Kean soon retreated to doing the occasional shows around the Toronto area for the next few years, before getting out of the business all together.
Baxter became a highly sought after session player and also dabbles in production from time to time, as well as keeping busy with other projects. Throughout the ’90s and after, “I Want You Back” made its way to several compilation albums, and was also covered by Wilia Dean Parker and Mary Frierson in 2004.