September 1, 2000
Here for a good time
Trooper still raisin' hell
By JOHN KENDLE
So, Brian Smith, how does it feel to be raising a little hell 25 years after the debut of Trooper?

"I love it, it's still always a different show every night," says the veteran guitarist with one of Canada's favourite '70s bands. "The crowds are always new and it's generally still very exciting to be playing. I can honestly say I'm not jaded, even after all these years."

Yes folks, it would seem the original members of Trooper -- guitarist Smith and singer Ra McGuire -- still have the jones for performing, as the people who stuck around till 4 a.m. for their set at Minnedosa's Classic Rock Weekend could attest.

A quarter-century after the group released its Randy Bachman-produced debut album, crowds still clamour to hear the likes of Baby Woncha Please Come Home, Two for the Show, Here for a Good Time, Oh Pretty Lady, Raise a Little Hell, Round Round We Go, Three Dressed Up as a Nine, Janine and The Boys in the Bright White Sports Car.

Trooper was one of the earliest beneficiaries of Canadian Content radio regulations and as a result became one of the country's first superstar rock acts. The string of hits it racked up in the late '70s marks was equalled by few others at the time.

It's been estimated that one in every four households owns a copy of the Vancouver quintet's greatest hits collection, Hot Shots.

Smith says he's bowled over by the fact people still want to see him and McGuire play.

"It's very gratifying, especially when you hear the stories from people. Ra and I always go to the merch booth after a show to sign autographs and people say things like 'My parents played Hot Shots to death!' Lately we've even had a couple of (people say) 'My granddad really likes you guys.'

"I'm not insulted or threatened by that. In the old days, when I was 21, the biggest thing in my mind was what I would be doing in five years time, and could I make a living playing rock 'n' roll. To be 51 years old and still doing it is really something special."

These days the band -- which includes drummer Lance Chalmers, keyboardist Paul Gogo and bassist Scott Brown -- plays 100 to 110 dates a year. More than enough work to stay fresh, Smith says, while allowing for plenty of time off to indulge his interests in skiing, boating and fishing at the northern B.C. lodge he escapes to whenever he can.

The group regularly schedules a summer holiday, enabling McGuire to travel with his 13-year-old son.

"In fact, they're in Ireland as we speak," Smith chuckles. "Ra won't even know we're playing Winnipeg until he gets home, three days before the gig.

"He'll love me for that one."

Not that there's much chance of a falling-out. The pair's musical partnership dates back to "1966 or 1967" and their first high school groups.

"My first band was an all-instrumental act, but we started to notice that a lot of rock bands in Vancouver were starting to hire singers. I was going to Windermere high school, but our drummer was going to Killarney in East Vancouver and he said there was a really good singer at his school -- and that was Ra McGuire.

"He came in one day, and we've been together ever since."

Raising more than a little hell, no doubt.