Formed in the late sixties, Stonebolt was the brainchild of Vancouver natives guitarist Ray Roper (originally from England), drummer Brian Lousley and Danny Atchison on bass. Originally called Perth Amboy, they honed their chops playing practically every small venue in the Vancouver area. They recruited John Webster on keyboards and brought in David Wills, formerly of the Seattle-based group Shaker on vocals in 1973.
They were mainstays of the BC bar circuit when in ’76, they recorded two sets of demos with legendary producer Elliot Mazur in San Francisco, whose previous credits included the likes of Janis Joplin, Journey and Neil Young. They were noticed by Walter Stewart in ’77, the road manager for Johnny Rivers, who signed them to a deal with Parachute Records, headed by Russ Regan, responsible for the first signings of Neil Diamond and Elton John.
They released their self-titled debut the following year, releasing two singles. “Queen Of The Night,” written by Adam Mitchell of The Paupers, failed to make much of an impression without proper support from the label. But the second, “I Will Still Love You,” hit the charts shortly thereafter and cracked Billboard’s Top 30, easily ranking as good a pop ballad as had been heard on the radio in years. Playing places as far abroad as Osaka, LA, and practically every point in between helped gain the group notoriety and were in the initial balloting for that year’s Grammys, eventually losing out to the disco invasion.
1979 was a year of transition for the group, though be-it still early in their career. They released KEEP IT ALIVE that summer and found gold with “Love Struck.” Anything but your typical ‘I love you – the sky is blue’ ballad, it quickly raced up the charts and is still a favourite of classic rock radio stations today. Also on the album were “Don’t Ya Hide It” and “Crying Again Tonight” – two more tight, cohesively written pop numbers that have proven to stand the test of time. Other tracks as strong as anything as ‘the flavour of the day’ on the radio included “Nights Like Tonight,” “New Lease on Love,” and the title-track.
Webster left to join Red Rider the next year and was replaced by Lewis Nitikman. NEW SET OF CHANGES hit the stores and featured a cover of The Beatles’ “Please Please Me.” The band released their final original album in ’82, with JUVENILE AMERICAN PRINCESS, which featured a cover of the Bee Gees’ “To Love Somebody.” Despite more constant touring and the hit single “Going Through The Motions Of Love,” which earned a SOCAN award for massive Canadian airplay, a musical ‘changing of the guard’ was taking place and Stonebolt found themselves, like so many other tight, cohesive rock bands, without an audience and disbanded in the mid ’80s.
Individually, the members went off to do their own projects. Roper had started up Trama with Trooper outcasts. In between sideline recording gigs, he then formed The Ray Roper Band, which morphed into The Edge in the late ’80s, which featured several connections to The Headpins at one time or another, among others.
But with the emergence of the classic rock festival, Stonebolt reunited for what was supposed to be a one-time gig. But after being met by rave reviews and rabid fans, they’d come full circle and found there was once again a home for cleverly-written rock and roll with an edge. REGENERATION was put out that year and featured a mix of the band’s classics, including “I Will Still Love You,” “Queen Of The Night,” “Don’t Ya Hide It,” and “Going Through The Motions Of Love” – as well as three new songs, “Let’s Go Back” “Extra Mile” and “The Love I Found.”