December 6, 2004

SJP


Artist: Max Webster




Kim Mitchell (guitars, vocals)
Terry Watkinson (keyboards)
Paul Kersey (drums)
Mike Tilka (bass)
Gary McCracken (drums; replaced Kersey in 1977)
Dave Myles (bass; replaced Tilka)
Dave Stone (keyboards; replaced Watkinson in 1979)
Peter Fredette (bass; replaced Myles)

Sarnia in the 1960's saw a young, ambitious Kim Mitchell sweating it out in various line-ups of the same band starting with the name The Grass Company, The Quotations, Big Al's Band and finally ZOOOM, who wound up in Toronto where cover-tunes ruled and original material went unnoticed. Eventually all the members but Mitchell returned to Sarnia. He was starving but getting work doing studio sessions, beer commercials, and playing the hotel and airport lounge circuit. He set off to the Greek island of Rhodes backing up a Greek Tom Jones. Six months later Mitchell invited poet and childhood buddy Pye Dubois (real name: Paul Woods) to Greece to co-write some songs; they decided to make it a band project and set about recruiting a line-up

The 1972 line-up consisted of Mitchell, Kersey (The Bluesmen Revue), Tilka (an Indiana, USA, emigre), and Watkinson (already a veteran of the Canadian music scene with The Yeomen and all its namesake permutations). Tilka was in a band called Family At Macs and they did a song "Webster". It was decided to pick a name configuration that would recall other fictitious band names of not-real people like Jethro Tull or Alice Cooper. The name Max Webster was born.

By 1974 their live act was getting bites from management, production and record companies and in 1975 they signed with the Ray Danniels/Vic Wilson's SRO Productions as their management company. Danniels had set up an independent label imprint for SRO band Rush called Moon Records and then set up Taurus Records to handle other artists on the roster including Liverpool, Mendelson Joe and Max Webster.

The band's debut single was "Blowing The Blues" in 1975 through Taurus's distribution deal with London Records. Though the record gained little attention, a full self-titled album [aka 'The Blockheads Album'] was recorded and released that year under producer Terry Brown (Rush, Klaatu).

SRO would amalgamate both Moon and Taurus Records under the new name Anthem Records and Max Webster's contract was carried along with it. The first album was re-issued in Canada in 1976 and stateside on the back of Anthem's US distributor Mercury Records in 1977. The LP was issued with new artwork and renamed 'Hangover'.

1977's 'High Class In Borrowed Shoes' was also produced by Terry Brown. However, during the recording of 'Mutiny Up My Sleeve' (1978) he left over a dispute concerning the album's musical direction . By this point Sarnia's Gary McCracken (ex-Zing Dingo) had assumed the drum chores after Kersey had quit to co-found The Hunt after a falling out with Kim Mitchell. Meanwhile, former Zooom member Myles had taken over bass duties for Tilka, who would turn to business aspects at SRO/Anthem.

Yet, even with the changes, the band maintained its stance as a strong live draw, so much so that Rush asked them to open their 1977 tour. Slowly, Max Webster began to establish a massive cult following and acceptance, a fact that didn't go unnoticed by 'A Million Vacations' producer John de Nottebeck. With that album he made the band more radio friendly and they finally cracked the charts with the Watkinson led single "Let Go The Line" in 1979 and followed by the band's biggest commercial hit, the McCracken led title track. 'Live Magnetic Air' was also released that year but Watkinson left anyway to pursue a solo career. He eventually formed the band Antlers with Tilka in the early 1990's.

Despite a fabled team-up of Max Webster and Rush on the song "Battlescar", 1980's 'Universal Juveniles' had a noticeable absence of that trademark Watkinson keyboard sound and the band was falling apart from constant touring in towns where feverish fans were unable to purchase the band's records - especially stateside. The lack of promotion and poor management organization is sited as the cause for Kim Mitchell's resignation during a tour with Rush in April 1981. With this the band split up but they had actually been close to hitting the big time, so Anthem capitalized with a posthumous greatest hits package called 'Diamonds, Diamonds'.

Mitchell went on to a very successful solo career, but the continued cult status of Max Webster, particularly in Ontario, prompted Mitchell, Watkinson, McCracken, and Tilka to reunite in 1990. Their first performance was a short set at the Toronto Music Awards that year to 3000 hysterical fans who refused to pay attention to the awards given out after their set, continuing to chant "Max! Max! Max!" for the rest of the night. Anthem capitalized on the new-found Max fervour by releasing another best of package that year. Delighted with this response, the four musicians continued to do one-off dates around Ontario as Max Webster well into the late 1990's with Kim Mitchell Band bassist Peter Fredette filling in for Tilka.

In 2007, Mitchell, Tilka, McCracken and Watkinson reunited yet again for Toronto radio station Q107's 30th Anniversary bash along with David Wilcox, Goddo, Sass Jordan and Alannah Myles. The event was filmed but has yet to be released.

Kim Mitchell is the drive-time host on Q107-FM in Toronto. He still performs solo gigs in Southern Ontario; Gary McCracken still lives in Sarnia and owns a very successful music store/school. Aside from playing in ZZ Top tribute band Tres Hombres in the 80s & 90s, he has released several eclectic solo albums; Terry Watkinson performs with Mike Tilka in the band Antlers and occasionally joins Frank Soda live. Watkinson has been successful as a painter and displays his works in galleries around Ontario;


Singles
1975 Blowing Away The Blues/Hangover (Taurus/London) TR-006
1977
Words To Words/In The Context of the Moon (Anthem) ANS-003
1977 Diamonds, Diamonds/Rain Child (Anthem) ANS-005
1979 Let Go The Line/Moon Voices (Anthem) ANS-012
1979 A Million Vacations/Rascal Houdil (Anthem) ANS-013
1979 Paradise Skies [live - 3:12]/Paradise Skies [3:15] (Anthem) ANS-014
1979 Paradise Skies//Party/Let Your Man Fly (Capitol UK) 12YCL-16079
1979 Night Flights//Hangover/High Class In Borrowed Shoes (Capitol - UK)  CL-16104 
1980 Check/Blue River Liquor Shine (Anthem) ANS-027
1980 Battlescar/Hot Shots (Anthem) ANS-037
1980 Battlescar [12' sampler] (Mercury - US) MK-159
1980 Check/Drive And Desire [12"] (Mercury - US) MK-163

Albums
1975 Max Webster (Taurus/London) TR-101
1976
Max Webster (Anthem)  ANR-1-1006
1977 High Class In Borrowed Shoes (Anthem/Mercury)  ANR-1007
1977 Hangover (Mercury - US) SRM-1-1131
1978 Mutiny Up My Sleeve (Anthem)  ANR-1012
1979 A Million Vacations (Anthem)  ANR-1018
1979 Live Magnetic Air (Anthem)  ANR-1019
1980 Universal Juveniles (Anthem) ANR-1027
1980 Battlescar [12' sampler] (Mercury - US) MK-159
1980 Check/Drive And Desire [12"] (Mercury - US) MK-163
1981 Diamonds Diamonds (Anthem) ANR-1033
1989 The Best Of Max Webster - Featuring Kim Mitchell (Anthem)  ANMD-1058
2006 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Max Webster (Anthem/Universal) UNI-143772

Video


Compilation Tracks




Official Max Webster Website
Official Kim Mitchell Website

COMING IN OCTOBER 2011: The book version of the Encyclopedia.

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