ver 40 years ago Ra McGuire (vocals) and Brian Smith (guitar) got together to write songs, and have continued doing so since. For the first nine years they fronted a band named Winters Green but in l974, Randy Bachman of BTO signed their band, now named Applejack, to his 'Legend Records' label. Their debut 1975 album, Trooper, under the production of Bachman himself, featured the line-up of Frank Ludwig (keyboards), Tommy Stewart (drums) and Doni Underhill (bass), along with McGuire and Smith.
Now named Trooper, they began touring the US, backing up BTO, Aerosmith, ZZ Top, REO Speedwagon, Elvin Bishop, Fleetwood Mac, The Doobie Brothers, ELO, and others. In Canada, the tracks Baby Woncha Please Come Home reached the top ten, and Good Ol' General Hand Grenade went to number one for a month. Smith and McGuire were nominated for Best Composer at the 1975 Juno Awards (the Canadian version of the Grammys).
Now signed to 'MCA Records', Trooper released their second album, Two For the Show in 1976. The album became their first gold record with the title song going to #1, and Santa Maria going top five. The album eventually went platinum. McGuire was nominated for Best Composer and Trooper was nominated for Best New Group at the 1976 Junos.
The third album, Knock `Em Dead, Kid (1976), including We're Here for a Good Time and Pretty Lady was certified platinum in March of 1978. The group did an extensive tour in Canada and continued to tour in America. They were nominated for Best Group at the Juno Awards that year as well.
This was a time when Trooper's quick rise to stardom could do no wrong and their fourth album, Thick as Thieves (1978), continued this trend. The hits it unveiled were Raise a Little Hell, Round Round We Go and The Moment That it Takes. It went gold before it was shipped and eventually turned platinum. Once again they were nominated for Best Group at the 1979 Junos. The follow-up Hot Shots (1979), a greatest hits album, sold 450,000 copies that year alone making them the first Canadian artist to ever achieve this amount in sales. Although not previously released as a single (which was the modus operandi at the time), The Boys in the Bright White Sports Car was included on the album and quickly earned `greatest hit' status.
More Juno awards were handed out in 1980 for Best Group, Best Composer and Best Album, but by this time they had severed their relationship with Randy Bachman once and for all, and then proceeded to release the Howard Steele-produced Flying Colors album. It contained the hits Three Dressed Up As a Nine, Janine and Drive Away. The album also went platinum. That same year they released an album with no title. The platter featured the single The Real Canadians, a silly track about what really goes on when the lights are down in Canada. The disc received some airplay but sales were disappointing and 'MCA' gave them their walking papers effectively putting the band on hiatus for two years.
Their return to the music business in 1982 was less than what they wanted. Heart producer Mike Flicker approached McGuire and Smith with a proposal to record what became the Money Talks album for the 'RCA' label. It appears that it's title was more telling than they had expected as the album failed commercially but Flicker had secrets of his own on the business end of things for he never released sales figures, or apparently even royalty statements to the group - big "no-no" in the legal world.
Without a record company and pretty much self-managed, Trooper hit the road again, playing nightclubs and bars. By 1986 they had played more shows than in any other year of their ten-year career, breaking attendance records from coast to coast. Several demos were recorded but failed to attract interest, except in 1986 when Toronto singer Siobhan Crawley had a regional hit with the Smith/McGuire penned The Best Way to Hold A Girl.
Encouraged by the former vice president of 'MCA', Smith and McGuire started their own label, 'Great Pacific Records', and with the help of former manager Sam Feldman and studio owner Tom Lavin they set about the recording of their next studio effort. Their efforts were complicated by mounds of red tape from a Canadian government program that subsidized the Canadian music industry they had applied to for financing. The money they got from the government was less than they expected.
In 1988 'MCA' re-released the Hot Shots album on compact disc and sales of this title went six times platinum. In late 1988 Errol Ranville (of C-Weed) released a recording of the Smith/McGuire penned Janine. This country hit remained on the charts for 16 weeks.
With the new popularity of the "classic Rock" format that same year many of the old Trooper hits began receiving regular airplay again. In 1989, Trooper finally met with some minor success again, after almost a decade, when 'Warner Music Canada' (then 'WEA') was introduced to them by then head of A & R, Bob Roper. Last of the Gypsies sold gold. The support tour saw them with Honeymood Suite, Helix, Kim Mitchell and others for a total of 187 dates. Two videos were also released, one dating back to 1980. Their tenth album, appropriately titled Ten (1991) boasted another huge tour and the hit single, The American Dream.
But just as they were once again climbing the ladder, 'Warner' did something very unpatriotic, they dropped their entire Canadian roster keeping only those artists they felt "had legs", a term used to describe bands who sell well in the USA. Trooper was not immune either and they lost their distribution contract with 'Warner'.
Smith and McGuire's operation would suffer some personal set backs in 1992 when tragedy struck the family of Smith, forcing him to leave temporarily. Former Sweeney Todd guitarist Skip Priest took his place. Although Smith would return no new songs were written for two years. During the remainder of the 1990s Trooper remained a classic Canadian act selling out venues wherever they went, even if they rarely left their homeland.
In 1998, Trooper guest starred on This Hour Has 22 Minutes New Year's Special. Their songs were also played in numerous episodes of 22 Minutes throughout the 8th season (2000-01).
In 2001, Shot Spots, a Punk tribute to Trooper, was released on 'Visionary Records'. It contained 30 Trooper songs performed by 30 Canadian punk bands.
In April 2006, Ra McGuire released his first book, published by Insomniac Press, Here For a Good Time - On the Road With Trooper, Canada's Legendary Rock Band.
In Fall 2006, drummer Clayton Hill joined the band.
Trooper's next album was the compilation Hits From 10 Albums on July 1, 2010, celebrating the band's 35th anniversary.
On August 11, 2010, the members of Trooper enjoyed a private tour of the Gatineau Preservation Centre to see where Library and Archives Canada houses its collected Trooper archives. Those archives consist of 401 photographs and a stack of textual records such as financial records, McGuire and Smith donated in 2004, hoping to provide some insight to the Canadian music industry of the '70s and '80s. The band would later make another donation to the archive, including some of their early demo recordings, lyrics sheets, and master tapes.
The band has also donated the massive 32-foot strobe-lit sign of their logo once used to illuminate their shows, to the Canadian Museum of Civilization.
Footnote: In 2002 Trooper even played at the Oakville Waterfront Festival in the pouring rain, quite literally playing every venue offered them.