Moxy

Moxy was a Canadian hard-rock band that released four albums between 1975 and 1978 on Polydor|Mercury. They gained fame in Ontario and Texas, where import copies of their first album made them a regional phenomenon. Singer Buzz Shearman headed their first three albums: Moxy, Moxy II, and Ridin’ High. He cleared for Michael Rynoski on their fourth, Under the Lights. Rynoski became Mike Reno and shot to international stardom in Loverboy.

Members: Buzz Shearman (vocals, 1974-77, 1979-83), Earl Johnson (guitar, 1974-78, 1999-present), Bill Wade (drums, 1974-78, 1999-2000), Terry Juric (bass, 1974-83), Buddy Caine (guitar, 1975-present), Mike Reno (vocals, 1978), Danny Bilan (drums, 1978-83), Scott Cushine (keyboards, 1978), Woody West (guitar, 1978-79), Doug MacAskill (guitar, 1981-83)


Background

Moxy sprung from the final lineup of Leigh Ashford, a Toronto rock band with singer Buzz Shearman.

Leigh Ashford formed in 1967 in the city’s Yorkville neighborhood and cut one single before the arrival of singer Glenn Brown from A Passing Fancy. Before they released new material, Shearman stepped in from Flapping, a Hamilton band with instrumentalists that soon formed Tranquility Base, the backing band of Ian Thomas. Buzz sang earlier in Sherman & Peabody, an unrecorded combo named after Mr. Peabody, the anthropomorphic cartoon dog in the 1959–64 animated series The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends.

With Shearman, Leigh Ashford signed with Revolver and cut three singles and the 1971 album Kinfolk. In 1973, they lost guitarist Gord Waszek (to Fludd) and drummer Craig Kaleal (to Wascana). Ashford continued with guitarist Earl Johnson (ex-King Biscuit Boy) and Bill Wade (ex-Outlaw Music). When bassist Kim Fraser proved ill-suited to the new lineup, they hired Terry Juric, a colleague of Wade’s in Outlaw Music.

The lineup of Shearman, Johnson, Juric, and Wade hit the Toronto circuit under a new name, Moxy. Their first single, “Can’t You See I’m a Star” (b/w “Out of the Darkness Into the Fire”), appeared in June 1974 on Yorkville Records. Kinfolk soundman Mark Smith (Charlee, Mantis, Stampeders) produced both sides between the second and third Bachman-Turner Overdrive albums.

“Can’t You See I’m a Star” went into rotation on Toronto’s leading rock station, CHUM (AM). In December 1974, Moxy signed with Polydor Records, a division of PolyGram.


Moxy

Moxy released their self-titled debut album in the summer of 1975 on Polydor.

Moxy features both sides of the Yorkville single and six new originals by Buzz Shearman and Earl Johnson, including “Fantasy,” “Moon Rider,” and both sides of their second single: “Sail On Sail Away” and “Time to Move On.”

American guitarist Tommy Bolin (ex-Zephyr, James Gang) plays lead guitar on six tracks.

A1. “Fantasy” (5:40)
A2. “Sail On Sail Away” (4:52)
A3. “Can’t You See I’m a Star” (3:20)
A4. “Moon Rider” (4:30)
B1. “Time to Move On” (4:09)
B2. “Still I Wonder” (4:18)
B3. “Train” (4:39)
B4. “Out of the Darkness” (4:57)

Sessions spanned two weeks at Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, California, where Moxy co-produced the album with Mark Smith, who barred Johnson from the studio midway through the project. In an adjacent studio, Tommy Bolin booked time for his 1975 solo album Teaser. Smith had Bolin play guitar solos across Earl’s rhythmic breaks on Moxy (barring “Sail On Sail Away” and “Can’t You See I’m a Star.”)

Smith co-engineered Moxy with Richard Dashut, a 23-year-old soundman with prior credits on titles by Creation, Emitt Rhodes, and the 1973 album by Buckingham–Nicks, who subsequently joined Fleetwood Mac, which had Dashut produce their 1977 blockbuster Rumours.

Smith’s immediate post-Moxy credits include Trooper, Marcus, and the 1976 album Wait for Night by Aussie rocker Rick Springfield. Bolin joined Deep Purple (Glenn Hughes|David Coverdale era) before his untimely death in 1976.

Impressed with the album’s twin-guitar arrangements, Moxy hired rhythm guitarist Buddy Caine (a friend of Earl’s) as a fifth member.

Graphic artist Heiner Geisel designed the Moxy logo: a bold, slanted, three-dimensional nameplate with a Y descender that forms an underline. The back cover has calligraphy by one J.A. Dawson and a group-photo by Larry Nickels, who captured the new five-piece lineup with Caine, whose name appears in the credits, though his arrival post-dated the album’s sessions.

Moxy first appeared only in Canada. However, copies flooded into Texas, where San Antonio radio DJ Joe Anthony (“The Godfather of Rock”) placed “Can’t You See I’m a Star” and “Moon Rider” on heavy rotation on KISS-FM. In response, Polydor negotiated with Mercury (another PolyGram division) for release in the US, where Moxy appeared in the summer of 1976. Anthony aired both sides in full and added “Fantasy” and “Sail On Sail Away” to KISS-FM’s playlist.

On July 1, 1976, Moxy arrived in Pennsylvania for the Summer Rock Celebration, sponsored by the Council of Youth. Four-thousand people attended the six-hour event, which also featured Angel, ex-Mountain guitarist Leslie West, and Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow.


Moxy II

Moxy released their second album, Moxy II, in October 1976 on Polydor (Canada, Europe, Japan) and Mercury (US).

Moxy II, is the first of two albums by the classic five-piece lineup of singer Buzz Shearman, lead guitarist Earl Johnson, bassist Terry Juric, drummer Bill Wade, and rhythm guitarist Buddy Caine, the new recruit who replaces Johnson as Shearman’s co-writer.

The album features four Shearman–Caine originals: “Change In My Life,” “Tryin’ Just for You,” and the singles “Take It Or Leave It” and “Cause There’s Another.” Johnson submitted two songs (“Through the Storm,” “One More Heartbreak”) and joint-wrote a third (“Slippin’ Out”) with Juric and Wade. The group-written closing track, “Wet Suit,” features backing vocals by ‘Wisconsin Kid.’

A1. “Cause There’s Another” (3:45)
A2. “Take It Or Leave It” (2:38)
A3. “Through the Storm” (2:38)
A4. “One More Heartbreak” (2:38)
A5. “Slippin’ Out” (4:02)
B1. “Midnight Flight” (3:30)
B2. “Change In My Life” (4:38)
B3. “Tryin’ Just for You” (4:30)
B4. “Wet Suit” (4:54)

Sessions occurred in Toronto at Soundstage Studios with Jack Douglas, an American soundman (Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, Artful Dodger) and ex-musician who co-produced Moxy II with Ed Leonetti, his former bandmate in New Jersey psychsters Privilege. Douglas oversaw Moxy II in sequence with the 1975–76 Aerosmith albums Toys In the Attic and Rocks and the 1976 Warner release Jump On It, the fourth album by Montrose.

Moxy II was engineered by Maneige soundman Lee DeCarlo, who worked with multiple local acts (Fludd, Spirit of Christmas, A Foot In Cold Water) and US bands (Funkadelic, Morning Dew, Space Opera). The mixing engineer, Jay Messina, worked beforehand with Ambergris, East Coast, Stardrive, Ten Wheel Drive, and Zulema.

Moxy II revises the prior album’s cover in bright red. The tints of Geisel’s logo design differ by nation. Canadian copies sport gray letters; US copies sport white. Overseas, the album appeared in an embossed sleeve with metallic letters. Japanese copies have a textured surface.

Moxy greeted the album’s release with a US tour that swung through California, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas. They supported Black Sabbath (along with fellow openers Boston) at the Assembly Center in Tulsa (10|22) and the San Antonio Convention Center Arena (10|22).> In the midlands, Moxy opened for Rory Gallagher (11|1: Agora Ballroom, Cleveland) and Robin Trower (12|4: Pershing Auditorium, Lincoln, Nebraska). In January 1977, Moxy supported Styx in Toronto (1|27: Massey Hall) and London, Ontario (1|30: Alumni Hall, UoWO).

Polydor first lifted “Take It Or Leave It” as a single (b/w “Wet Suit”) followed by a February 1977 edit of “Cause There’s Another” (b/w “Slippin’ Out”). Both singles received heavy rotation on Toronto’s CHUM AM and San Antonio’s KISS-FM, which also play-listed “Midnight Flight.”


Ridin’ High

Moxy released their fourth album, Ridin’ High, in July 1977 on Polydor and Mercury.

Earl Johnson wrote three songs (“Nothin’ Somes Easy,” “Ridin’ High,” “Reprise (Nothin’ Comes Easy)”) and collaborated with Terry Juric on “Rock Baby” and “Another Time Another Place.”

Ridin’ High also features one song each by Buddy Caine (“I’ll Set You On Fire”) and Bill Wade (“Young Legs”). Unlike prior Moxy albums, only two cuts feature writing input by Buzz Shearman, who co-wrote “Are You Ready” with Caine and tri-wrote “Sweet Reputation” with Wade and Johnson.

A1. “Nothin’ Comes Easy” (4:15)
A2. “Rock Baby” (4:55)
A3. “Sweet Reputation” (4:00)
A4. “I’ll Set You On Fire” (3:24)
B1. “Ridin’ High” (4:09)
B2. “Young Legs” (3:47)
B3. “Another Time Another Place” (4:40)
B4. “Are You Ready” (3:54)
B5. “Reprise (Nothin’ Comes Easy)” (1:01)

Sessions took place in March 1977 at Sounds Interchange, Toronto, where Jack Douglas produced the album in sequence with titles by Bux, Cheap Trick, Patti Smith, Starz, and Aerosmith’s fifth album Draw the Line. Ed Leonetti co-produced Ridin’ High amid projects with Angel, Rex, and Legs Diamond. English soundman Mike Jones engineered Ridin’ High and concurrent titles by the comedy duo Hudson & Harrigan and the cabaret disco trio Gotham.

After sessions wrapped, Bill Wade cleared out for drummer Danny Bilan. In late July, Moxy champion Joe Anthony greeted the band in Texas, where they headlined shows in Austin (7|27: Armadillo World Headquarters), San Antonio (7|28: Municipal Auditorium), and Corpus Christi (7|29: Ritz Music Hall) with openers AC/DC. Moxy also hit California and the Midwest on bills with Hall & Oates, The Ramones, and The Runaways.

Ridin’ High presents Geisel’s logo in flat two-dimensional form around a giant rusty eagle, which hovers over a city in ruins. The back cover has a photo collage of red- and yellow-lighted live pics by Canadian rock photojournalist Bruce Cole, whose photography also appears on titles by Brutus, Max Webster, Moe Koffman, and Rush.

Polydor paired “Ridin’ High” with “I’ll Set You on Fire” as the album’s only single. Both songs, plus “Are You Ready,” went into rotation on stations in Europe and the Southern US. Moxy received a nomination at the 1977 Juno Awards in the “Most Promising Group of the Year” category, along with Garfield, Sweeney Todd, and Trooper. The Juno went to the THP Orchestra.


Lineup Change

By late 1977, Moxy’s tour grind ravaged Buzz Shearman, who struggled with alcohol and vocal-cord issues that necessitated an off-stage sixth-wheel (live soundman Brian Maxim) for the high notes. He retired after the Ridin’ High tour and sought medical care.

Moxy continued with singer Michael Rynoski (b. January 8, 1955), a native of New Westminster, BC, who played in the school bands Synergy and Spunk.


Under the Lights

Moxy released their fourth album, Under the Lights, in June 1978 on Mercury.

Under the Lights is the only Moxy album with singer Michael Rynoski and drummer Danny Bilan, who join Buddy Caine and founding members Earl Johnson and Terry Juric.

The album features two Johnson compositions (“Maybe I’m a Dreamer,” “Sing To Me”) and five by Caine, all with lyrics by Rynoski, who lone-wrote “Easy Come Easy Go.” Ontarian sessionist Scott Cushnie (ala Professor Piano) guests on the three non-Buddy numbers.

A1. “High School Queen” (4:50)
A2. “Under The Lights” (4:03)
A3. “Maybe I’m a Dreamer” (4:43)
A4. “Sing To Me” (4:05)
B1. “Sailor’s Delight” (5:01)
B2. “Thinking About You” (3:41)
B3. “Easy Come Easy Go” (4:48)
B4. “Livin’ & Learnin'” (3:57)

Sessions took place in February 1978 at Soundstage, Toronto, with Guess Who producer Jack Richardson and engineer Brian Christian, both credited on the concurrent ABC release Clayton by erstwhile Blood Sweat and Tears singer David Clayton-Thomas.

Ex-Lighthouse keyboardist Paul Hoffert arranged the backing vocals, performed by sessionists Colina Phillips (Triumph), Sharon Lee Williams (Patsy Gallant), and Tracy Richardson.

Polydor issued two Under the Light singles: “Sailor’s Delight” (b/w “Maybe I’m a Dreamer”) and “Sing to Me” (b/w “Livin’ & Learnin”’). Earl Johnson departed soon after the album’s release. Moxy toured with guitarist Woody West (Brutus, Stampeders).


Breakup

Rynoski struggled to garner the same buzz that Moxy had under Shearman’s leadership. The lineup folded shortly after their appearance at the Canadian World Music Festival, an all-day event (July 2, 1979) at CNE Stadium with sets by Aerosmith, April Wine, Goddo, Johnny Winter, Nash the Slash, Nazareth, Ted Nugent, and Triumph.

Terry Juric played on 1978–80 albums by Thor (Keep the Dogs Away) and Stanley Frank (Play It Til It Hurts).

Bill Wade joined The Cry, a new wave band that released an eponymous 1980 album on RCA Victor.

David Alpin joined the Toronto metal band Hanover Fist and later surfaced in blues rockers Wild T & the Spirit.

Michael Rynoski shortened his forename to Mike and chose the Anglicized surname Reno. In 1979, Mike Reno teamed with two-fifths of the original Streetheart: drummer Matt Frenette and ex-Scrubbaloe Caine guitarist Paul Dean. They formed Cover Boy, which renamed themselves Loverboy and rocketed to international stardom with the 1980–83 hits “Turn Me Lose,” “Working for the Weekend,” and “Hot Girls in Love.”

In 1980, AHED (the namesake division of the electronics manufacturer) re-released Under the Lights as Thinking About You, credited to Mike Reno & Moxy. The cover reuses his image from the 1978 album with the others removed from the picture.

Buzz Shearman had a short-lived band (Buzz Sawphoto) with ex-Christmas guitarist Bob Bulger and drummer Frank Russell, a sessionist on the 1978 symphonic–space album Plateau by author–filmmaker Robert Connolly. Buzz rejoined Moxy for a late-1979 Canadian tour with a lineup of Caine, Juric, Bilan, and guitarist Doug MacAskill.

In March 1980, AC/DC marked Buzz as a possible replacement for the late Bon Scott. Due in part to Shearman’s vocal cord issues, the Aussie band chose Brian Johnson, formerly of English rockers Geordie.

Shearman, along with Johnson and Wade, appears on The Lee Aaron Project, the 1982 debut album by hard-rock singer Lee Aaron. Connolly produced the album, on which Buzz sings backing vocals on “Should Have Known” and harmonizes with Lee on “Texas Outlaw.”

Meanwhile, Shearman approached labels for a possible Moxy reboot. Before making headway, he died on June 16, 1983, in a motorcycle crash north of Toronto. He was 33.


Discography:

  • Moxy (1975)
  • Moxy II (1976)
  • Ridin’ High (1977)
  • Under the Lights (1978)

Sources:

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