Developing a style that crossed over between country and light commercial pop, Lisle personified the MOR radio format, and was formed in the late 1960s by Barrie, Ontario natives Bill Chambers on guitars and lead vocals, bassist Brian Mathias, and drummer Dan Stephens.
For their first few years on the Ontario bar circuit, they covered the established hits and wrote some material of their own. Playing an average of six nights per week, they became a regular fixture in places like Pembroke, Renfrew, Orillia, and Peterborough in the process. They paid their dues until signing with Larry Thompson’s Bronco Records in ’72, with distribution by London Records in Canada and Bell in the US.
Recorded at Thompson’s Captain Audio Studios in Yorkville, the album was predominantly covers, including CCR’s “Down On The Corner” and The Lovin’ Spoonful‘s “Sittin’ Back Lovin’ You.” They released their cover of Sandy Posey’s “You’re Why Baby” as a single, b/w “Goin’ Away” (an old Fireballs hit) that December. When it peaked at #40 on the Canadian country chart, they returned to the studios, only to find that DJs had began playing the b-side as well.
With Thompson producing and nearly a year in the making, it was decided to try to capture as close to the band’s actual live sound as possible. They released their full album debut, SMILE WITH LISLE in the fall of ’73, with the cover of The Bee Gees’ “Sweetheart” hot on its heels. It spent 20 weeks on the chart and climbed to #27, making the top 20 on several stations’ own playlists. They continued playing throughout the southern Ontario circuit while they found their biggest success with “Shelley Made Me Smile” (which climbed as high as #16) b/w the Elton John cover, “Your Song.” The single also made it on to several compilation albums over the years, and an AM MOR staple in the process. It was also featured on Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand,” prompting Bell to want the band to tour the US. But because two of the members were married, they chose not to.
They carried on the circuit while writing some more material, and released the single “I Believe” in 1974. But when the song failed to chart, and with outside projects beckoning, Stephens left the group before the end of the year. Chambers and Mathias carried on as a duo, releasing the single “Canadian Lady,” b/w “Send Out A Song” on Bronco. That gig lasted for a couple of years, after which everyone went off to do their own thing, but still got together to do the odd one-off gig here and there.
They re-united in 1983 and released the single “We Have Just Begun” b/w “I Want To Love You Tonight” on Airborne Records. It failed to chart and everyone again went on to other things. Chambers eventually joined the nostalgia band The Martels. Stephens continued to play as a solo act and also opened up a record store in Barrie. Mathias moved to Orillia and aside from playing on occasion, got out of the business all together.