#1309: Train by Shooter
In 1971 a 50s cover band based in Toronto was formed named the Greaseball Boogie Band. Eat your heart out American Graffiti. The band released an album in 1973 of covers of early rock era classics. It included “Don’t Be Cruel” by Elvis Presley, “High-School Confidential” by Jerry Lee Lewis, “Slipin’ And A-Slidin’” by Little Richard, “Rockin’ Pnneumonia” by Huey “Piano” Smith, “Blueberry Hill” by Fats Domino, “Searchin’” by the Coasters, “Honky Tonk” by Bill Doggett, “Sea Cruise” by Frankie Ford, and others. The band members included bass guitar player Gene Trach, vocalist Duncan White, keyboard player Ray Harrison, drummer Tommy “Short Ass” Frew, saxophonist Wayne “Pig Boy” Mills, and John “Animal” Bride.
Gene Trach had been a member of Robbie Lane and the Disciples, who were originally a backing band for Ronnie Hawkins. They had regional hits in Canada, charting Top 20 records between 1964 and 1967. These included “Fannie Mae” and “Ain’t Love A Funny Thing” in 1964, and “What Am I Gonna Do” and “You Gotta Have Love” in 1966. Robbie Lane and the Disciples had a spinoff band in 1965 named the Butterfingers, which included Gene Trach. And since 1963, Duncan White had been a vocalist for The Regents, a house club band at Toronto’s Blue Club Note that began in 1959. The Regents had a local Top 20 hit in Toronto in 1965 titled “Me And You”.
After the Greaseball Boogie Band released an album in 1973 they got a Juno nomination for Most Promising Group later in 1974. But at the March 1975 Juno Awards, it was Rush who won. Nonetheless, the Greaseball Boogie Band went on tour with The Guess Who, Roxy Music and Sha Na Na. This included being an opening act for an Ontario Place concert for 15,000 Toronto area fans.
In 1975 the Greaseball Boogie Band changed their name to Shooter. There were lineup changes and Trach and Frew left the band. Harrison, White, Mills and Bride provided the continuity as Shooter added bass guitar player Norm Wellbanks and drummer Sonnie Bernardi. Pamela Marsh also was added as a backing vocalist. The band recorded a cover of Leo Sayer’s Top Ten hit “Long Tall Glasses”.
Shooter charted two more singles into the Top 20 on the CKLG chart in Vancouver (BC). The first was “Train”, which peaked at #17 in September 1975.
“Train” is a song about one persons’ memories. In this case, memories are triggered by the sound of a train engine, the image of the wheels turning and steam rising as it leaves the station. Among the memories is that of trying to catch a train for a trip somewhere.
Passenger rail and freight train service have been part of the story of making Canada an economically viable nation. The train was the primary mode of long-distance transport in Canada until the 1960s. In 1831, a railway opened between Albany and Schenectady, New York. Among the first passengers on that line included Peter McGill, president of the Bank of Montreal, and Jason C. Pierce, a Vermonter who had been captured in the War of 1812 and had settled in Saint-Jean (then known as St. Johns), a prosperous village on the Richelieu River.They, along with the brewer John Molson, were the authors of the bill that created Canada’s firstrailway company on 25 February 1832. They named it the Champlain and St. Lawrence Railroad.
According to The Canadian Encyclopedia “Albion Mines Railway, Pictou County, NS, was the second steam railway in Canada and the first to use a standard gauge and split-switch movable rail. Built by the General Mining Association, 4 km of track were opened with great celebration on 19 September 1839.” By May 1840 the line was completed and covered six miles.
Another early rail company was the Brockville and Ottawa Railway. Incorporated in 1853, it ran trains from Brockville, through Smiths Falls, to Sand Point, near Arnprior, with a branch line from Smiths Falls to Perth. Its first B&OR train left Brockville on January 25, 1859. It was also the first rail company in Canada to build a tunnel. The Brockville Railway Tunnel, opened in December, 1960, was Canada’s first railway tunnel. Its location was beneath the city of Brockville, Ontario, where the present City Hall is situated. The tunnel is 1,730 feet long.
The Toronto and Nipissing Railway, T&N, was the first public narrow-gauge railway in North America. It chartered in 1868 to build from Toronto Lake Nipissing in Ontario, via York and Victoria Counties. At Nipissing it would meet the transcontinental lines of the Canadian Pacific Railway, providing a valuable link to Toronto. It opened in 1871, with service between Scarborough and Uxbridge.
When British Columbia agreed to join confederation in 1871, a stipulation was that the Canadian government would build a railway connecting all of Canada. The Canadian Pacific Railway was completed in 1885 when the last spike was driven into the railway near Revelstoke, BC, in Craigellachie.
In 1975, though planes had assumed the primary mode of transportation for long distances, most citizens in Canada had taken a train at some point. So “Train” by Shooter also evoked memories of boarding a train for radio listeners.
A third single, “Hard Times”, climbed to #18 in July 1976. The band’s label, GRT got into financial difficulties and folded. Harrison, Mills and Bride left Shooter in 1978 to form the Cameo Blues Band. Another member of this band was Billy Bryans, who later joined the Parachute Club in 1982. Shooter moved over to Casino Records and got some new replacements. But their recordings were commercial failures, and the reformed band folded in 1980.
John Bride went on to be a session musician on recordings for the Time Twins, Men Without Hats, and several lesser known recording artists. Gene Trach was a session musician on an album in the mid-70s for Ukranian wedding music. Ray Harrison did some session work for the Downchild Blues Band. Wayne “Pig Boy” Mills did some session work for M+M (formerly billed as Martha and the Muffins) and Prairie Oyster.
January 4, 2020
“Robbie Lane and the Disciples,” Wikipedia.org.
“The Regents,” Discogs.com.
Don Edwards, Christine Garner and Jaimie Vernon, “Shooter,” Canadian Bands.com.
“Brockville Railway Tunnel, Canada’s First – 1860,” Brockville Railway Tunnel.com.
Pierre Burton, The Last Spike, (McClelland & Stewart, 1971).
“Champlain and St. Lawrence Railroad,” Wikipedia.org.
“Significant Dates in Canadian Railway History,” Railways in Canada.net.
Lois Kernaghan, “Albion Mines Railway,” The Canadian Encyclopedia, February 6, 2006.
“CKLG ‘Thirty’, ” CKLG 730 AM, Vancouver, BC, September 16, 1975.
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