Born in Halifax on June 25, 1952, Brian Oliver MacLeod began playing in garage bands as a teen as a drummer, but was also an early guitar protege. After joining Pepper Tree as guitarist (tho not on any of their recordings), he branched out to the rest of the Maritimes for the next couple of years, and was a member of the short-lived Huski and Garrison Hill.
After moving to Toronto at the age of 20, he bounced around the bar circuit with Stingaree which also included fellow guitarist Bernie LaBarge, and also filled in for an ailing drummer on one Edward Bear tour. But that same year a fateful call from Bill Henderson would bring MacLeod to the west coast and be the big step in his career. He joined Chilliwack in time for their LIGHTS FROM THE VALLEY album, and stayed with them for four albums.
But looking for new challenges, he started The Headpins with bassist Ab Bryant in early 1980 as a side project. Along the way he became a highly sought-after producer, working with the likes of The Rovers, Tim Feehan, Kick Axe, Paul Dean, DOA, and Holly Woods & Toronto. He and Henderson also took home the Juno in 1982 for Best Producer for Chilliwack’s OPUS X album, MacLeod’s last record with them before focusing on The Headpins.
With Darby Mills fronting the group, they recorded three albums, two of which reached platinum (100,000 units) in Canada, and been on some of the biggest tours in the world with KISS, Quiet Riot, Loverboy, and Whitesnake, among others.
By now his songwriting credits had also expanded, co-writing some of pop and rock’s biggest singles of the era, including songs with Bryan Adams, Loverboy, Jermaine Jackson, and Chicago. Many of his sessions were recorded in the studio in his house boat, dummed ‘The Grand Marnier.’
MacLeod pulled the plug on The Headpins in the late ’80s. But after the short-lived Prisoner and Steele-MacLeod (both with David Steele), he formed a re-vamped version of the Pins with new vocalist Chrissy Steele (real name Christina Southern – no relation to David Steele). Recordings were done and a new deal was being looked for, but in the spring of 1990 MacLeod collapsed onstage, and was later diagnosed with cancer. Deciding it would be best to put tours and further recordings on the back burner, the album was released on MCA as Chrissy Steele‘s debut solo album, MAGNET TO STEELE.
MacLeod died of bone cancer in a Vancouver hospital on April 25, 1992.
(Holly Woods – Toronto): I remember working with Barney on ASSAULT & FLATTERY. We were having a spaghetti supper on his boat talking about my career as a solo artist. We’d just finished writing one of the tracks. He co-wrote, produced, played guitar – did practically everything on alot of that record. He sat in the control room while Darby and I sang “Cats & Dogs” and we just laughed the whole time. He was definitely one of a kind.