Before Trooper officially became the Canadian rock group that would influence the Great White North’s music scene, Ra McGuire and Brian Smith were bandmates for Winter’s Green. From that group, there were a couple of songs that were recorded in 1967. “Are You a Monkey” and “Jump in the River Blues” were the two but it would only be “Are You a Monkey” that would eventually find a spot on The History of Vancouver Rock and Roll, Vol. 3‘s rock collection that was published in 1983. At the time, Winter’s Green, which changed its name to Applejack, was a local fan favorite in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Randy Bachman of Bachman-Turner Overdrive and The Guess Who fame was impressed by Applejack’s recorded performances. It was as Applejack the band recorded “Raise a Little Hell” and “Oh, Pretty Lady.” They also covered musical material originally performed by Chicago and Neil Young, which had a quality level that had Bachman sign the group to his label, Legend Records.
At this time Applejack changed the name of the band to Trooper. The year was 1975 when Trooper was released as the group’s debut album. At the time, the lineup was McGuire and Smith as the founders, along with Harry Kalensky and Tommy Stewart. After the album was released, Trooper went on an extensive promotional tour in Canada and the United States.
In the meantime, Trooper moved from Legend Records to MCA Records. The group also added Frank Ludwig to the roster before recording their second studio album. In 1976, Two for the Show was released and quickly became certified gold by Music Canada. Right after this release was Knock ‘Em Dead Kid, which was the album that featured the recordings of “Oh, Pretty Lady” and “We’re Here for a Good Time (Not a Long Time).”
In 1978, Trooper underwent a lineup change by replacing Kalensky in favor of Doni Underhill. Together, the band recorded and released its third studio album, Thick as Thieves. This was the album that produced the band’s signature hit, “Raise a Little Hell.” For the first time, Trooper had a single chart on the US Billboard Hot 100. In 1978, it peaked as high as number fifty-nine. Thick as Thieves also went on to become certified double platinum by Music Canada.
As successful as Thick as Thieves was, 1979’s Hot Shots broke all Canadian sales records after it was released as an album. This was a compilation record that featured Trooper’s greatest hits that were remixed from the previous four albums the band had released previously. It was certified platinum six times by Music Canada. Also released in 1979 was Flying Colors. From it, this double-platinum seller released Trooper’s highest-charted single to date, “Janine.”
In 1980, Trooper earned a Juno Award for Group of the Year. That same year had both of their albums, Hot Shots and Flying Colors, nominated for Album of the Year. However, the win went to Ann Murray’s New Kind of Feeling instead.
1980 also marked the year Trooper ended its business relationship with Randy Bachman. It also replaced Ludwig by Rob Deans before recording Untitled in 1980, then Money Talks in 1982. When 1986 rolled around, Ludwig returned as the band’s keyboardist while they embarked on a summer tour.
In 1989, The Last of the Gypsies became Trooper’s eighth album release. It was the first to come from their own label, Great Pacific Records. It became certified gold by Music Canada, thanks to the album’s two hits, “Boy With the Beat” and “The Best Way (to Hold a Man).”
When Ten was released in 1991, it was Trooper’s tenth album as a recording artist. It would be during this time the group experienced additional lineup changes. Ten was also the final studio album the band recorded and released before 2010’s compilation album, Hits from 10 Albums.
Recognition and Tributes
In 1999, the awards ceremony presented by the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN), recognized “We’re Here for a Good Time” and “Santa Maria” as songs that deeply embedded the fabric of Canadian culture as radio classics. Ra McGuire was also a recipient of the Classic Award for “Two for the Show.” In 2005, “Oh, Pretty Lady” also received a SOCAN Classic Award. SOCAN continued to honor Trooper going into 2012 with the presentation of its National Achievement Award to Ra McGuire and Brian Smith.
In 2001, Shot Spots was a tribute album that featured a collection of thirty Trooper songs that were performed by thirty Canadian punk bands. Trooper’s influence on the Canadian music scene was profound as it sparked a flurry of aspiring artists to embark on their own recording careers.
During the Vancouver Olympics Victory Ceremony that was held on February 21, 2010, Trooper began its thirty-fifth-anniversary tour. The tour ended on November 28, 2010, at Edmonton, Alberta’s Commonwealth Stadium when the Canadian Football League held its ninety-eighth Grey Cup championship game. Between February and November, Trooper’s tour broke several attendance records. On record, Trooper was named as one of Canada’s top five selling bands of all time.
Located at the Gatineau Preservation Centre is the Library and Archives Canada. It features an impressive collection of photographs and official documents that laid out the career run of a Trooper. The Canadian Museum of Civilization has a thirty-two-foot highlighted sign that bears Trooper’s trademarked logo.
As of November 2021, Trooper’s founding members Ra McGuire and Brian Smith announced they were officially going into retirement. After doing so, the two encouraged the current roster to keep Trooper going without them. The group’s current roster is Gogo, Scott Brown, Clayton Hill, Steve Crane, and David Steele.
Top 10 Trooper Songs
#10 – Baby Woncha Please Come Home
“Baby Woncha Please Come Home” was Trooper’s debut single that was released in 1975. On the Canadian Top Singles chart, it peaked as high as number forty-five. Although the band had yet to experience its big breakthrough, it did mark the beginning of an era that would forever change the Canadian music scene, especially in the genre of rock and roll. Ra McGuire’s lyrical plea for his love interest to return home has been a Canadian fan favorite since it was first released. The highlight of “Baby Woncha Please Come Home” was the harmonica playing as the song’s opener. It was a unique sound that literally played an instrumental role to make this tune a Canadian classic.
#9 – Santa Maria
“Santa Maria” was a 1976 hit that came as a source of inspiration after Trooper took a boat tour to Tugwell Island. This is a popular vacation destination located not far from Prince Rupert, a coastal community located in British Columbia. As for “Santa Maria,” it also made reference to the legendary pirate ship that set sail to seek out a brave new world. On the Canadian Top Singles chart, this single peaked as high as number thirty-five. Part of the appeal behind “Santa Maria” was the hint of comedy that came with a song that also came across as a musical adventure.
# 8 – Oh, Pretty Lady
In 1978, “Oh, Pretty Lady” was released as a single from the album, Knock ‘Em Dead Kid. This was originally recorded by Ra McGuire and Brian Smith when Trooper first went by the name of Applejack. This ballad addressed the vocalist’s love interest that he was there for her and only her. This love song became a number forty-two hit on the Canadian Top Singles chart and has since become a cult classic.
#7 – Two for the Show
In 1999, “Two for the Show” was recognized by SOCAN with its Classic Award for its role in shaping the development of Canadian radio and culture. When it was released as a single in 1976, it became a number thirty-two hit on the Canadian Top Singles chart. This was a beautifully performed song that dealt with certain realities that came with the entertainment industry from a variety of perspectives. It became a fan favorite for good reason as this became one of Trooper’s signature tunes that turned the band into Canadian icons.
#6 – Janine
On the Canadian Top Singles chart, “Janine” became a number seven hit after it was released as a single in 1980. From the album, Flying Colors, this song played an instrumental role in its double platinum certification by Music Canada. Today, “Janine” remains as a Canadian cult classic as a song that addressed the narrator’s love interest by name. This was one of those classic “the one that got away” songs that continue to have fans talk about their own experiences each time it comes up in conversation.
#5 – 3 Dressed Up as a 9
“3 Dressed Up as a 9” was a song that peaked as high as number twenty-four on the Canadian Top Singles chart in 1979. The opening riffs of this tune became a cult favorite among the Canadian fan base who couldn’t get enough of guitar-driven music. “3 Dressed Up as a 9” lyrically pointed out a person can dress up as close to a perfect ten as possible but without a star-quality personality to go with it, it’s a lame attempt at best. This musical jab against vanity was classic Trooper as the band continually displayed a humble style that made them so appealing.
#4 – General Hand Grenade
In 1976, “General Hand Grenade” became the second single released by Trooper that would earn an appearance on the Canadian Top Singles chart. This time, it peaked as high as number fourteen and has since become one of Trooper’s signature hits. This was a song about two different people that featured “General Hand Grenade” as a leader thirsting for war and “Isabella Band Aid” that would be left to clean up the mess. The song served as a reflection of how society behaves as a whole.
#3 – The Boys in the Bright White Sports Car
One of the most recognizable hits associated with Trooper is “The Boys in the Bright White Sports Car.” Released in 1979, this became a number twenty-five hit on the Canadian Top Singles chart. The song made reference to a group that was recklessly driving around in a vehicle. Before the song was over, it was suggested the car was stolen as it was chased down by the police, at least according to the narrative Ra McGuire delivered in what became an all-time Canadian cult classic.
The entire song was a heavy-hitting, fast-paced tune that got the adrenaline of music fans going. “The Boys in the Bright White Sports Car” was a tune that featured Trooper at its best as a band, especially among listeners who happened to sit behind their own driving wheel. When in concert, the moment this song began, usually the audience couldn’t help themselves as they’d erupt into a rock and roll frenzy. Pairing this song up with “Raise a Little Hell” served up the perfect recipe for a fan to speed straight into a zone like a daredevil.
#2- We’re Here for a Good Time (Not a Long Time)
If there was ever a song that stressed the importance today matters more than yesterday and tomorrow, “We’re Here for a Good Time (Not a Long Time)” is it. Released in 1977, this single peaked at number forty-three. However, over the stretch of time, this increased in popularity clean across Canada from its Vancouver roots.
Remember, the sun can’t shine every day so why not make today count? That was the message Trooper delivered with this celebratory song and it was one that was well received by an audience who clearly agreed. “We’re Here for a Good Time” became a signature song that not only turned Trooper into a Canadian icon but as one of the nation’s pop culture ambassadors.
#1 – Raise a Little Hell
“Raise a Little Hell” became Trooper’s first and only hit single that would make an appearance on the US Billboard Hot 100. It peaked at number fifty-nine after its 1978 release on the album, Thick as Thieves. On the Canadian Top Singles chart, it peaked as high as number twenty-seven. “Raise a Little Hell” became that one song from Trooper that served as a key source of inspiration for the fans. It became a staple of classic rock on a worldwide level, as well as the favorite song to play at sporting events.
Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League have been playing “Raise a Little Hell” as one of their sports anthems with zero intent of stopping anytime soon. Rolling Stone magazine also acknowledged “Raise a Little Hell” as one of the Top 10 Sports Anthems of All Time.
Feature Photo: User:CarsonCo, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Top 10 Trooper Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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