Brent Macnab memorial
Isolated from the Toronto juggernaut that all but controlled the Canadian music scene in the early 70’s, Alberta was developing its own style – with its own country-cross over-flavoured influences.
By 1977, Pickens was already one of Edmonton’s most promising acts when Drayton Valley native Ian Oscar grew tired of two years of gigging in and around Edmonton with Stash with little results. “I got a call from the Pickens boys, who were looking to make a change in the band and needed a voice. I had seen them around town at various venues and really liked their sound, and being out of a gig, I readily accepted,” Oscar said. Changing their name to One Horse Blue (after the Poco song of the same name), the lineup also consisted of guitarists Winston Quelch and Bob Burghardt, St Albert’s Ron Vaugeois on drums, and Randy Lloyd on bass. Mike Shellard, a native of Fredricton, NB, was added on guitars shortly after. Incorporating a country/rock hybrid, they carried on the prairie circuit for the next year.
Wes Dakus was the band’s manager and producer of a 45 they’d released as Pickens. Signing them to his Vera Cruz Records label, he took them into Sundown Recorders. Their self-titled debut was released in the summer of ’78 to much critical appraise, which featured the lead-off cover of Poco’s tune. Dakus had also convinced the band to work with several local songwriters, Gary Bowman, who penned “Deliver Me,” the band’s first single, Laurence Pugh,” who contributed “You and I,” and co-wrote “Back Time,” and Vern Wills, who wrote the track, “Brought Up In Jeans.” “Cry Out For The Sun,” b/w the unreleased “Hold All Your Happiness” became the second single later that year. “You And I” followed shortly after, backed by “For Reasons.” A predominantely laid back album, it also featured Vaugeouis’ future wife Mavis McCauley, who played keyboards on the lp and co-wrote “Love Like A Fire” with him.
They continued down the prairies road, often backing up Dakus’ other acts and even appearing on one fellow label mate’s own record, Shannon Two Feathers, which also featured drummer Bob Ego (Streetheart, Painter) all the while working on material for their next album. But by the time they’d returned to Edmonton and began recording, disagreements with where their sound was going meant Lloyd, Oscar, Quelch and Burghardt were gone, though the latter three still appeared on the next album.
With a lineup now that featured Vaugeois, McCauley, Shellard, and new members Steve Pugsley on bass and Brent Macnab on guitars, they headed back to Sundown with Gerry Dere co-producing. The result was BITE THE BULLET in the spring of 1980, which leaned more to the rock side of the spectrum, though tracks like the pedal steel guitar-driven “Hero of the West” still clung to their country origins.
The singles “Lost and Found” and “Some Women” did well, and the cover of Buffalo Springfield’s “Mr. Soul” took the band in a new direction. Also featured was McCauley’s soulful piano on the haunting “Blue Room” and melancholy “Crazy Fool,” and tight guitar licks in the lead off “Turn And Run” and “We All Need A Hero,” written by Jim Foster of Fosterchild .
The band hit the road again for the next year or so while working on their next project, coming back in the spring of ’81 for LIVIN’ ON THE EDGE, with Vaugeois producing. James Wright came in on guitar with the departure of Pugsley, and Greg Dunstan took over on bass. The lead single “Some Night” gave a good indication of the band’s commitment to lean to a more uptempo rock sound. Following suit was the title track.
ON THE STREET came out in ’82 and was again produced by Vaugeois. It featured the return of Burghardt on pedal steel guitar, but still maintained a rockier sound, including “Erika,” which he sang lead on. Expanding the band’s sound, McCauley was also now handling lead vocals on a number of tracks, and Macnab was gone to pursue new challenges with Models. Vera Cruz Records unfortunately closed its doors shortly after the album’s release, and the band now found itself on the road on its own, without any real support.
During this time Shellard came back into the fold while the band relocated to Vancouver, around the time Vaugeois made a guest appearance on Tim Feehan‘s CARMALITA album. The band signed a deal with Savannah Records in ’92 and released a self-titled country album, featuring originals Shellard and Vaugeois, guitarist Andreas Schuld, Larry Pink on keyboards and bassist Gordon Maxwell. The album scored four top 10 country singles, including “Hopeless Love” and “Bring Back Your Love.” Following Schuld’s departure, longtime band friend Jim Foster, formerly of Fosterchild took over on guitars.
The next year they were in the studios and on the set for the movie “The Harmony Cats.” Along with doing the soundtrack, they were the backup band for Canadian country diva Lisa Brokop’s character. Also in the film were legendary performer Hoyt Axton and Jim Byrnes, noted for his jazz and blues records as well as for his co-starring role on the TV series “The Highlander.”
But by the mid ’90s the band had all but disappeared again, showing up occasionally for the odd performance here and there. Yet again Vaugeois entered the picture before the turn of the century, and along with Shelland keeps the band on the circuit.
Vaugeois is also a member of the Vancouver Musicians Association. Quelch meanwhile teaches music in Edmonton, a regular performer with the Cathy Kowalski Band for awhile at the Little Flower Open Stage. The original members reunited in Edmonton in 2005 for the “Cowboy Cabaret” during the Canadian Finals Rodeo, along with Poco and Pure Prairie League.
Following their tenure with OHB, Oscar, Quelch, and Burghardt left to form Victory Group for one album in ’82. Burghardt then returned to OHB that same year . Bassist Randy Lloyd joined Pretty Rough and Millions for one album each. He passed away in 1987.
Over the years, many of the members’ paths continued to cross. Oscar and Shellard both worked on KD Lang’s debut album, and Ian Oscar and Winston Quelch still work together with Blue Yonder, whose second record is expected soon. Mike Shellard became a studio musician and also worked for awhile as Randy Bachman‘s guitar tech. Brent Macnab passed away in his sleep in 2012.