Born in Toronto in 1954, a twelve year-old Pat Travers was inspired to play guitar after seeing Jimi Hendrix in Ottawa, along with other influences of the day that included the likes of Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page. He joined his first band while still in his early teens, and while on tour in Quebec with Merge, he was noticed by the legendary Ronnie Hawkins in the early ’70’s. He quickly hired the hot shot guitarist to go on tour with him. Although never really happy being in someone else’s band, particularly rockabilly and country, the experience of playing with Hawkins gave Travers the opportunity to learn the ropes from an obviously seasoned pro, and stayed with him for the next year.
At age 20, Travers moved to London, ON, where he recorded some low-cost, low-production demos which eventually caught the attention of Polydor Records, who signed him to a recording deal early in 1975. Along with Mars Cowling on bass and Roy Dyke on drums, Travers’ self-titled debut was released in the spring of of ’76. The album featured a mix of original tracks and covers of rock and roll standards, including JJ Cale’s “Magnolia,” Stan Lewis’ “Boom Boom (Out Go The Lights), Chuck Berry’s “Maybelline” and “Hot Rod Lincoln” by Charles Ryan. A short series of mid-Canadian/US dates ensued, followed by a tour of England. Travers became quickly identified overseas while he wore red and white jumpsuits, and draped in a Canadian flag. It’s around this time that he also became known for giving out cardboard replicas of his Telecaster and doing concerts barefoot. His connection with the fans went even further, as it wasn’t uncommon at his shows to see fans air guitaring on stage with him. His early success culminated later that year when he was asked to play at the Reading Music Festival.
He set up shop in Britain, and recorded MAKIN’ MAGIC at London’s Wessex Studios. album in the summer of ’77. All but Willie McTell’s “Statesboro Blues” were original tracks, and featured the likes of Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple) and Brian Robertson (Thin Lizzy and later Motorhead) doing cameos. More tours ensued in support of the record, which contained the lead-off title track, “Rock & Roll Susie”, “Stevie” and “What You Mean To Me”. With the UK music scene moving towards punk, Travers felt his revved-up blues style wasn’t fully being appreciated.
He came home and recorded PUTTING IT STRAIGHT at Toronto’s Eastern Sound Studios with producer Dennis Mackay. The album featured Scott Gorham (Thin Lizzy) on guitars and Tony Carey (Rainbow) on keyboards and eight original tunes. With the reminiscent “Life In London”, “Gettin’ Betta”, Dedication” and “It Ain’t What It Seems.” the album stayed true to Travers’ roots, while still allowing him to experiment with sax on tracks like “Dedication.”
He took nearly two years to release HEAT IN THE STREET. Extra time in the studios with added guitarist Pat Thrall and new drummer Tommy Aldridge (later of Whitesnake, Ozzy Osbourne) produced a slicker, more mature sound with some of his strongest writing to date. With cuts like the title track, the revved-up Killer’s Instinct” and “Go All Night,” the addition of Thrall also provided Travers to expand his sound on a more diverse level, with keyboards dominating a number of the tracks. A five-track mini-lp called THE PAT TRAVERS YOU MISSED was released early the next year.
To understand Pat Travers was to see him live. And capitalizing on his on-stage energy was GO FOR WHAT YOU KNOW in the summer of ’79, recorded on various legs of the US tour earlier that year. The album would become a ‘must have’ for blues driven live rock albums, and hisbiggest seller to date, which featured the single “Boom Boom (Out Go The Lights).”
More intense touring followed, with CRASH AND BURN hitting the stores the next year. Unlike previous albums that focused predominately on the guitar, the album was laced with keyboards and found new audiences, and broadened his appeal with his already devoted following. Along with the title track, and staying true to what brought him to the dance, the album featured several powered up blues remakes, most notably Booker T Jones’ “Born Under A Bad Sign.” He also expanded his repetoire to some degree and showed his reggae influences, covering Bob Marley’s “Is This Love.” Ironically, though he was to some degree trying to shed the monikor of ‘guitar hero’, he found himself on the cover of Guitar Player magazine that same year.
In ’81, Travers was back in the studios recording RADIO ACTIVE, which saw him return to the simple but effective guitars/drums/bass formula, then spent the next year on the road promoting it, backing the likes of Blackmore’s Rainbow and headlining his own shows throughout North America and Europe.
A year later, Travers was in the studios once again working on what would become the BLACK PEARL lp, with the raucous tracks “I’d Rather See You Dead,” “Who’ll Take The Fall,” “Amgwanna Kick Booty” and soulful “Can’t Stop The Heartaches.” But the album was breaking new ground, with Beethoven’s Fifth one of the highlights from added keyboardist Don Harriss. “I La La La La Love You” was featured on the soundtrack to “Valley Girl” in ’83.
Again he embarked on an ambitious set of tours around the globe before releasing HOT SHOT in 1984. Coproduced by Barry Mraz in Orlando, FL, it featured the title track, the lead off “I Gotta Fight” and “Just Try Talking To Those Dudes.” But managment problems saw Travers leave Polydor, although he continued to tour for the next few years while BOOM BOOM – THE BEST OF PAT TRAVERS was released in ’85.
He finally went back to the recording studio to the delight of his legions of fans worldwide, releasing THE SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS in 1990, with Travers taking control of the production. True to form, it contained his signature searing guitar solos and a mix of originals, a revved-up cover of Billy Gibbons’ (ZZ Top) “Chevrolet” and four cuts written by new added guitarist Jerry Riggs. All in all, a fuller, broader sound. This prompted an extensive set of tour dates across the UK while a pair of ANTHOLOGY discs hit the British shelves the same year, both containing a few live tracks, shortly before Polydor released BEST OF PAT TRAVERS in ’91, basically an inflated version of their first ‘best of’ compilation five years earlier. A set of North American dates followed, with the Toronto show turning into the live album and video BOOM BOOM – LIVE AT THE DIAMOND CLUB.
His ’77 and ’80 Reading Festival performances, considered by many to be among the best ever done there were released as PAT TRAVERS – BBC LIVE IN CONCERT on Windsong Records in 1992, around the same time Travers signed with American indie label Blues Bureau International. He released BLUES TRACKS a year later, and predicatably, was full of covers of blues standards, including “I Ain’t Superstitious,” “Mystery Train,” “Built For Comfort,” “Just Got Paid” and “Sitting on Top of the World.”
JUST A TOUCH hit the shelves in ’93, which featured “Daydream (Your Blues Away),” co-written by wife Monica, who’d also been spotlighted as a backing vocal off and on for a few albums prior. A year later BLUES MAGNET came out, which showcased songs like the title track, “This World We Live In,” “She Gets the Lovin’,” “Elaine” and “Fall To Pieces.” Though he wasn’t hitting the road nearly as often as before, Travers still found time to delight tens of thousands of fans across the UK before returning home for a series of dates before releasing HALFWAY TO SOMEWHERE in 1995, then LOOKIN’ UP a year later.
A series of live, greatest hits and combinations of both surfaced over the next couple of years, beginning with his 1986 show in West Palm Beach, FL becoming a King Biscuit Flower Hour live album in ’97, as well as the ‘best of’ WHISKEY BLUES and BEST OF THE BLUES + LIVE. A year later BORN UNDER A BAD SIGN, his first greatest hits lp to span his entire career hit the shelves shortly before BLUES TRACKS 2.
Travers resurfaced with his first new material in five years with 2000’s DON’T FEED THE ALLIGATORS, though all eleven songs were actually covers. Supporting tracks like “Black Friday,” the Hendrix classic “Crosstown Traffic,” “I Can Hear You Calling,” co-written by fellow Canadian Domenic Troiano, “Spanish Moon,” Jethro Tull’s “Nothing Is Easy” and the cover of ZZ Top’s “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide,” he hit the road once again for a series of short tours to do what he’s always done best, please the masses live. Another compilation, BOOM BOOM was released later that year.
The next year saw another live disc, but this time with a twist. PAT TRAVERS SOLO, recorded live at Nils Lofgren’s Guitar Bar in Henderson, NV was an intimate and personal acousticenvironment, spinning a new web around some of his most cherished songs. That same year saw Travers join the “Voices of Classic Rock” tour, which featured a who’s who from the 70’s and 80’s, including Glenn Hughes from Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, Joe Lynn Turner, another Purple alumni as well as Rainbow, John Cafferty, Spencer Davis (Spencer Davis Group and Traffic), Foreigner’s Lou Gramm and Gary U.S. Bonds, among others. Along with performing on stage during many of the numbers from the other acts, he took center stage himself performing “Boom Boom,” “Hot Shot” and “Snortin’ Whiskey.”
2003 was another busy year for Travers release-wise. Along with the live album from a recent Tempe, AZ show called ETCHED IN STONE, Universal released yet another compilation in their 20th CENTURY MASTERS collection, and he got back to roots with a collection of new material called POWER TRIO, featuring Gunter Nezhoda on bass and former Jethro Tull drummer Ansley Dunbar. Back to what brought him to the dance, it was a stripped down set that consisted of new material like “Tramp” and “Day of the Eagle,” as well as a few covers of some of his personal favourites, including Cream’s “White Room” and ZZ Top’s “Nasty Dogs and Funky Kings.”
He teamed up with former Rod Stewart and King Kobra drummer Carmine Appice for the project appropriately titled Travers & Appice in 2004 and the album IT TAKES A LOT OF BALLS. He then returned to doing things on his own, his own way a year later with the album PT=MC Squared, which featured mostly original tracks like “Elijah,” “Can’t We Forget” and “In The End,” as well as a take on Elton John’s “Take Me To The Pilot.”
Travers’ reputation as having one of the best shows on the scene had grown over a quarter century, and he was joined on stage by some of rock’s most influential and powerful guitarists, including Rick Derringer, Jeff Watson of Nightranger and Tim Keiffer of Cinderella, to name but a few. He’s also returned the favour of lending a hand to other projects several times over the years, including appearing on the 1993 Stevie Ray Vaughn tribute HATS OFF TO STEVIE, where he punched out a ballsy version of “Cold Shot.” His admiration for SRV continued that same year when his mournful rendition of “The Sky Is Crying” found its way to the FIT FOR A KING compilation.
In ’94 he recorded a version of Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” for another compilation album featuring covers called CREAM OF THE CROP. His contribution of “The Cage” to the ’95 project called ANIMAL MAGNETISM showed his social awareness, as profits were diverted to animal protection. In 2005 “Snortin’ Whiskey” was used on the soundtrack to the film “Sideways”