Growing up in Edmonton in the late ’50s gave Mary Saxton musical influences that ranged from everything from Motown to big band to pop, and she put her talents to use at various live festivals and any other chance she could get to get on stage.
She was barely old enough to drive when she signed with local Pace Records in 1966, and was taken to work with hollywood producer Gary Paxton (“Alley Oop” and “Monster Mash” fame, among other novelty songs of the day). She released a pair of singles, “Losing Control” b/w “Better To Live or Die,” and “Ask Any Girl” b/w “Do The Jerk,” which featured an accompanying dance that caught on for awhile. She was tagged by the critics’ as a major Canadian answer to the Motown sound.
That same year, she wound up with some of the biggest names on the Canadian scene on the hottest tickets, culminating in Pace’s compilation disc, DIRECT FROM THE RAINBOW BALLROOM. In it she performed “Just For You,” “Go Ahead, Make A Fool of Yourself,” and “Big City Guy” with The Lords, another hot commodity planted in Alberta soil.
Before the end of the decade, she joined Daisy Hill Puppy Farm, one of Edmonton’s top band prospects that featured ex-Southbound Freeway members Mo Boyer and Mavis McCauley, and Herb Ego (later Painter, Streetheart). But that freeway went nowhere, and her next project was dabbling in Rising Sun, another conglomerate of other local bands, like Southbound Freeway, The Nomads, The Rebels, and The Lords.
Resuming her solo career, she moved to Quality Records in ’68. The first single, “Sad Eyes” became her first top 40 hit, making the top 20 in some markets across the country. The horns-driven b-side “Take My Heart” also got fair airplay and became a favourite during her live shows. The single preceded the album of the same name, which also produced “Wander By” b/w “I Don’t Know,” and were indicative of the rest of the album’s r&b/soul standards vibes.
She rang in the new decade with The Elastic Band, a new project she got involved with Gerry Ford, Al Girard, Lennie Buc, and Don Brown. They toured the area’s circuit for a year while shopping for a management and recording deal. Frustrated, Saxton went back as a solo artist and became Mustard Records’ first signing in 1977. They set her up with producers/writers Karl Erickson and Norman Rooke, resulting in her self-titled album later that year, and saw a pair of singles enter the charts – the lead-off “Take A Chance” and “Georgia Eyes.” Both hovered around the top top 40, and another pair of singles followed the next spring/summer – “I Want You” and “Lazy Old Soul.”
She continued to tour the country and made some stops in the US over the next couple of years, while also joining Touche in ’79. The disco trio of herself, Nancy Nash, and Rosalind Keene released their self-titled only album that year, spawning the moderate hit “Take A Look (But Don’t Touch).
In 1980 she appeared on a special Radio Canada Internation project called LADIES IN NIGHTS, performing three new tracks written for her – “Don’t Say No To Love,” “Love Is On Our Side,” and “Ladies In Lights.” As the decade wore on, shows were less and less frequent, and she went on to a life outside of music.
SAD EYES was re-released in the late ’90s as part of a dual album set on Quality Special Products with The Allan Sisters, another blast from Edmonton’s proverbial past who had several hits around the same time as Saxton. Her name popped up again in 2004, when “Big City Guy” from her ’69 debut album resurfaced, on Ace Records’ retro compilation album, BOY TROUBLE – GARPAX GIRLS.