Not to be confused with a group from Detroit around the same time, Southbound Freeway’s name stems from Highway 2 that connects Edmonton to Calgary (re-dubbed in the early ’00s as the QE2, after the British Queen paid her subjects a visit.)
Formed in 1966, their roots stemmed from the remnants of several earlier groups on the Edmonton scene. After The Chessmen (not to be confused either with Terry Jacks‘ Vancouver group) had run its course, brothers Richard and Dwayne Osepchuk switched gears and rolled the dice on a new project called Li’l Davey & The Drastiks for about a year. Again looking to try something new, and with the brothers handling guitars, they added Ron Turko on keyboards and drummer Ken Koshelek – and Southbound Freeway was born. They then rounded out the group by adding Gerry Dayle on bass.
“Wes Dakus and Barry Allen were looking for a group for Barry to continue his career with. They liked our sound and the solid harmonies, and we had a meeting for Barry and Wes for Barry to join the band, since Wes was retiring from playng bass and retiring The Rebels,” Dwayne Osepchuk explained.
They toured Alberta and worked their way across western Canada, for a short period as Wes Dakus & The Rebels to finish some commitments. “At the time Barry had told us that he got a letter from Bob Burns asking if he would join The Guess Who. Wes, Barry and Randy Bachman were good friends at the time, as well as playing double bandstands together, but Barry told them he was joining Southbound Freeway instead,” he added.
They released the single “Dead End Street” b/w “Something Better” on Pace Records in the summer of ’66, with Ray Schwartz producing. Pace found another use for the two tracks, releasing them both on their compilation album that same year, DIRECT FROM THE RAINBOW BALLROOM.
They entered a radio station sponsored ‘battle of the bands’ competition in Edmonton without Allen, who had prior commitments, Winning meant they were automatically entered into a further competition in Forest Hills, New York in August ’67 called VOX Battle For Stardom. This was the same location the US Tennis Open used to be played, and prior to a concert by The Doors and Simon & Garfunkel. This time Allen went along for the ride.
After coming home the group replaced Dayle and Turko with Brad Carlson, and continued on the road, also performing on CBC’s “Let’s Go” afternoon show the first of two times. They toured steadily throughout Canada over the next year, sometimes appearing as one half of a double bill with Allen’s other backup band at the time, Coloured Rain, making stops in the US, as well.
But when Allen and Carlson left for Montreal to form the band Purple Haze, a lineup shuffle for Southbound Freeway saw the Osepchuks raid Daisy Hill Puppy Farm for singer Mo Boyer and singer/keyboardist Mavis McCauley. “Back then, women in rock bands were almost an anomoly. That was especially true if they could actually play an instrument,” McCauley said.
Because recording studios in western Canada at that time were almost non-existent, with Wes Dakus lending a hand, they managed to get some recording time with producer Norman Petty (Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, Buddy Knox, Barry Allen, among others) at his Clovis, New Mexico home studio. They spent part of the spring of 1969 recording with Petty, hoping to score a record deal out of it.
They shopped their material around, and Atlantic agreed to press one single to start on the Atco label in the US and London Records in Canada, with the possibility of more later. Their cover of Steve Miller’s “Roll With It” was backed with “Don’t Go Cryin’,” written by McCauley and featuring her on lead vocals. Reception that summer was minimal, due in direct correlation from the push from the label.
“Unfortunately we didnt have an actual manager and didn’t captalize on this really fantastic opportunity. By the time we would’ve recorded again in Clovis, it was far too late without management to get things off the ground,” McCauley noted.
They changed their lineup again when L’il Davey Peters (basically The Drastiks) traded singers. Now Boyers was with them and Mary Saxton was on the Southbound Freeway for a brief time. McCauley was also gone to go after a solo career. Under the ficticious name The Rising Sun (which featured Saxton and the return to the fold by Barry Allen, they released a cover of “Born To Be Wild” on a Canadian compilation on Birchmount Records and produced by Schwartz.
The band shortened their name to The Freeway, and replaced Saxton with Bob Alexander and keyboardist Wayne Schnieder. They recorded in San Francisco at Wally Heider’s recording studio, and released the single “Right Now Good Vibrations” b/w “You Don’t Have To Be” in ’72 on the London label, with Dakus and McCauley producing.
The band continued to perform until disbanding in 1976. They reunited in 1988 and again a year later for the Rock & Roll Reunions held in Edmonton. In 2009, SuperOldies Records out of Duluth, Minnesota released a compilation album called FROM CANADA TO CLOVIS, containing the Petty-produced Clovis, New Mexico tracks, as well as four songs that until then remained unreleased – “Seven Days Too Long”, “All By Myself”,”You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down”, and “The Old Rock Sound.”
Following her departure from the band, McCauley’s solo career in the ’70s produced two albums and a string of singles, before she joined One Horse Blue. The other members went on to their own individual recording projects. After releasing a pair of solo albums, Saxton joined the disco group Touche in 1979, releasing one album that year that spawned the moderate hit “Take A Look (But Don’t Touch).
Boyer passed away in 1977, and Koshelek passed away in 2005.