Moxy release video for “Moon Rider” from new ‘Live in Toronto” album
The Canadian band dates back more than 40 years and its Facebook bio (with slight edits) provides a detailed history: “Moxy was a Canadian hard rock and heavy metal band, formed in Toronto, Ontario, in 1974, from previous members of the rock group Leigh Ashford — which included singer Douglas “Buzz” Shearman (former teen singer of Sherman & Peabody) alongside Greg Godovitz of Fludd & Goddo and Gil Moore (later of Triumph), Earl Johnson (former member of King Biscuit Boy), Bill Wade (former member of Outlaw Music and Brutus under the alias Hally Hunter that also included Gino Scarpelli of Goddo) and Terry Juric, (former member of Outlaw Music) as Leigh Ashford. The group changed its name to Moxy in late 1974. This name change was accompanied by a change in the group’s sound. Buddy Caine a former band mate of Earl Johnson was added to the group in 1975.
Moxy toured extensively in Canada before having a hit in late 1975 with “Can’t You See I’m A Star”. Moxy then toured the United States on the strength of their radio airplay. Markets in which the band was very popular included Ontario, Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit and San Antonio. Joe Anthony, the Godfather of Rock in San Antonio on KISS-FM was largely responsible for the popularity of the band in south Texas and helped bring about their first headline appearance in the U.S in 1977, appearing with AC/DC as their opening act.
Despite the death of Joe Anthony, the Moxy/Texas connection has continued into the present with Moxy‘s hits like “Can’t You See I’m A Star”, “Moon Rider”, “Sail On Sail Away”. “Midnight Flight”, “I’ll Set You on Fire” and “Are You Ready” still on the daily rotation at many Texas radio stations.
Many of the guitar solos on the band’s debut album were performed by guest session musician Tommy Bolin, who had previously been the lead guitarist for The James Gang and later replaced Ritchie Blackmore in Deep Purple.
In the spring of 1974, Buzz Shearman joined up with Earl Johnson, Bill Wade, and bassist Kim Fraser. Still calling themselves Leigh-Ashford, they made their first appearance on the music scene in October 1974 at Scarborough’s notorious rock club “The Knob Hill Hotel”. Shortly thereafter, Fraser was replaced by Terry Juric on the recommendation of Earl Johnson and the group changed its name to Moxy. Their first single release was a trial run of “Can’t You See I’m A Star”, which was distributed by Yorkville Records. The promising sound of the single received heavy radio support from CHUM (AM) in Toronto and led to the band’s signing of a contract with Polydor Records of Canada in December 1974. The Polydor Records contract was mainly due to the popularity and success of the former band, Leigh Ashford, and to Buzz Shearman’s reputation.
The independently produced self-titled album, Moxy, also known as the Black Album, was recorded over two weeks in early 1975. Mark Smith of Bachman–Turner Overdrive fame acted as co-producer for the album. While in Van Nuys, California at Sound City Studio recording this album, session guitarist Tommy Bolin was in the studio next door. Bolin was so impressed with the no-nonsense, to-the-bones sound of Moxy that when asked by the band’s manager Roland Paquin to fill in, he said yes. Earl Johnson was actually supposed to have done all the guitar parts, but got into a disagreement with the producer and was consequently tossed out of the studio. Roland Paquin knew Bolin from when he was a road manager for The James Gang. After the Moxy sessions, Bolin continued to work on his first solo album Teaser, and later that year got the call from David Coverdale to join Deep Purple. Having heard the impact of the twin guitars, Moxy then headed back to Toronto in search of a rhythm guitarist who would free up Earl Johnson to play the material on tour that had been added to the songs in the studio by Tommy Bolin. Buddy Caine, a friend of Earl Johnson‘s, became the needed second guitarist, allowing the group to then hit the road with a Canadian tour that included Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes, where the group mostly played small venues.
The first album found its way to hard rock stations in the southern USA. The winter of 1975 “Can’ t You See I’m A Star” and “Moon Rider” were receiving heavy radio support from KMAC/KISS in San Antonio, Texas. Tommy Bolin‘s contribution would get some much needed attention for the album in the U.S media, even though Bolin always downplayed his involvement. Moxy renegotiated a new contract with Polydor of Canada for distribution in affiliation with Mercury Records. Both labels were owned by PolyGram Records at the time, who reissued the self-titled debut album in North America and worldwide in 1976. The spring of 1976 “Fantasy” and “Sail On Sail Away” hit the top 20 charts on KISS-FM radio in San Antonio, Texas. KISS-FM disc jockey Joe Anthony had the freedom to play the album in its entirety on many occasions through the late 1970s. Johnson recollects, “We did an interview with a DJ in Texas, I asked him what songs of ours they were playing. He said, ‘First we play the first side, then we play the second side.’ I just about fell off my chair.”
After a few years of touring, Moxy went from a bar band to headline concert attraction in Canada. Moxy II was recorded in the band’s hometown of Toronto at Sound Stage studio with famed Aerosmith producer Jack Douglas. This was a year after the first album for Canadian fans, but just three months after the reissued copy of Moxy I was released in the U.S. Moxy II received international press coverage for the band. Most reviews predicted success for the band and comparisons were made to Aerosmith, Rush and Deep Purple. Moxy II was also highly acclaimed on its release by Geoff Barton of the UK music publication Sounds (magazine), who made the album available to its readers for the special price of only £1.50. Geoff Barton would later refer to Moxy as the Canadian Zeppelin.
The fall of 1976, Moxy was touring throughout Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes. They then toured Texas as the opening act for Black Sabbath, and Boston, except at the new Convention Center arena in San Antonio October 24, 1976, where Boston was the opening act. November 17, 1976, “Take it Or Leave It”, reached No. 14 on the Top 30 CHUM AM in Toronto and in Texas “Midnight Flight”, “Cause There’s Another” and “Take it or Leave It” received heavy radio support. Moxy then toured California, Illinois and Missouri. “Cause There’s Another” reached No. 16 on CHUM (AM) radio on March 26, 1977.
March 1977, after touring non-stop since the release of Moxy II, Moxy went back to the studio in Toronto to record another album with Jack Douglas producing again. The result was Ridin’ High which once more contained all-original material written by the band members with an even harder/heavy sound than the first two albums. The album received good reviews, with nomination of a Juno Award in 1977 for most promising group of the year. However, airplay was limited as FM radio stations in Canada and northern U.S. shifted to softer rock. Nevertheless, in the southern U.S and Europe, “Are You Ready”, “Ridin’ High” and “I’ll Set You on Fire” received heavy radio support. Johnson reminisced, “I remember going in doing radio interviews and ‘Ridin’ High’ was the single and they would put it on and all the needles would just go tilt over right into the red and the station engineer would be freaking out.”
July 27, 1977, Joe Anthony brought Moxy to Texas for their first headline appearance in the US in Austin at Armadillo World Headquarters. The next night in San Antonio at the Municipal Auditorium and on July 29 in Corpus Christi, Texas, at Ritz Music Hall, with AC/DC as the opening act for all three dates. Moxy went on to tour throughout California, Illinois, Missouri, Michigan with bands like Styx, The Ramones, Hall & Oates, Rainbow, The Runaways and Trooper, ending the tour headlined Massey Hall in Toronto.
The hard touring and rigorous schedule was beginning to take its toll on the band by late 1977. Most of the band members had been touring since the late 1960s in other bands before Moxy was formed. Living a life filled with sex, drugs and rock and roll, the band had been slowly self-destructing for years. Buzz Shearman had developed vocal cord problems and singer/soundman Brian Maxim (singer on Moxy V) had to be called in to hit the high notes off stage. Shearman decided to leave in late 1977 after the Ridin’ High tour, due to personality conflicts and in order to seek medical attention for his vocal cords and drinking problem. Michael Rynoski, who later changed his name to Mike Reno and played with Loverboy, replaced Buzz Shearman and made his musical debut on Moxy‘s next album. Bill Wade had also left the band in early 1977 and had been replaced by Danny Bilan.
Under The Lights
Danny Bilan would later join Wild T and the Spirit after turning up on Hanover Fist‘s album Hungry Eyes. Moxy‘s new album’s title track Under the Lights and “High School Queen” made the charts in Canada, but the album lacked the punch of the band’s earlier works instead opting for a laid-back sound. Moxy then toured across Canada playing many festivals including the Canadian World Music Festival with Aerosmith, Johnny Winter, Ted Nugent and Triumph but the band no longer garnered a strong response in terms of either record sales or audiences that it had with Shearman as the vocalist. Shearman formed his own band called Buzz Saw with ex-Christmas guitarist Bob Bulger and drummer Frank Russe.
Earl Johnson had left Moxy in the summer of 1978 just after the albums release and was replaced by Woody West who was a former member of the big band version of The Stampeders and a former member of Brutus. Johnson commented, “Under The Lights wasn’t even really a Moxy album. Mike Reno, great voice, but he just wasn’t a hard-edged singer. I left the band a couple of months after it came out because I knew basically that Moxy wasn’t what it started out to be.”
Buzz Sherman passes away
Shearman rejoined Moxy in late 1979, touring Canada and Texas with Buddy, Terry, and Danny alongside new guitarist Doug MacAskill. Terry Juric had appeared on Thor’s 1978 album Keep The Dogs Away during Moxy‘s down time and then appeared on Pop Rocker Stanley Frank‘s 1980 album Play It Til It Hurts. Bill Wade during this time performed on The Cry‘s 1980 album Wispear and then formed the band Bongo Furies with fellow Canadian rocker Gino Scarpelli and bassist Terry McKeowen. In March 1980, Buzz was a candidate to replace the deceased Bon Scott in AC/DC but because his recurring vocal cord problems would not allow him to tour extensively, AC/DC band members ultimately decided on ex-Geordie singer Brian Johnson. In 1982, Buzz, Earl and Bill helped fellow Canadian singer/songwriter Lee Aaron on her debut album called The Lee Aaron Project. By 1983, Buzz was working a day job at Shaw Industries, just barely holding Moxy together while shopping around for a new record deal. Then tragedy struck when Buzz died in a motorcycle accident, on June 16, 1983, at the age of 33, just north of Toronto.
Moxy‘s remaining original members reunited soon after Buzz‘s death to put on a benefit concert and release a retrospective package, with proceeds earmarked for Valerie (Buzz‘s widow) and Jesse Shearman (son). The retrospective package released by Pacemaker Records, called A Tribute to Buzz Shearman, features three previously unreleased Moxy songs with Buzz on vocals: “Highway”, “Eyeballs” and “Trouble”. Buddy Caine, Terry Juric, Danny Bilan and Brian Maxin (Moxy‘s 1970s backup singer) later formed the band Voodoo. The Buddy Caine Band would later be formed by Buddy, who wrote a song in honor of Buzz called “Feed The Fire” that was released on the 1994 Best Of Moxy: Self-Destruction. Earl Johnson soldiered on, recording songs like “Heaven On Heels”, “Body Contact” and “Killer On The Loose” with Tom Griffin (co-writer of “Candy Delight” on Moxy V), Howie Warden, and Danny “Coke” Colonello playing local Toronto bars and night clubs like El Mocambo, Gasworks, and Larry’s Hideaway. Bill Wade would later show up on Thor‘s 1997 album An-THOR-Logy that was recorded in 1979.
In 1999, Bill Wade gets Moxy back together into his home studio, with Earl Johnson and Buddy Caine after a 20 year recording gap, to produce Moxy‘s fifth studio album appropriately titled Moxy V. The new album Moxy V released in 2000, returned them to the hard rock sound of the first three albums. New vocalist Brian Maxim (former member of Stumbling Blind and The Passing Fancy), who was considered a true member of Moxy, as Brian sung back-ups for “Buzz” on tour back in 1977, worked with Buddy Caine and Terry Juric in the band Voodoo and worked with “Buzz” at Shaw Industries in the early 80s. The album includes “Working Man” (early tune by Billy Wade), “Yuccatan Man” (unreleased Buddy Caine composition from the early Moxy days) and “Walking On The Wild Side” (unreleased Earl Johnson composition from the early Moxy days). Bill Wade grew very ill shortly after Moxy V was released. Unable to continue, a replacement for Bill became necessary and a bass player was also needed. Bill’s replacement was Kim Hunt who like bass player Jim Samson are known in the Toronto area as the best rhythm section, they are former members of Zon, a very popular Toronto area rock band. Bill would succumb to cancer on July 27, 2001. at the age of 53.
For the 25th anniversary, Moxy played in San Antonio alongside fellow special guests Saxon in 2000 and again in 2004 with Budgie and Michael Schenker (Scorpions & UFO) at the annual Legs Diamond bash in the Sunken Garden Theater to the delight of 6,000 fans. The popularity that Moxy still holds in Europe prompted the band’s first tour outside North America in 2001, accompanied by a new CD cover of Moxy V unique for the European fans.
In 2013, Earl Johnson spiced up the band with a superstar line up that consists of Nick Walsh on vocals (Slik Toxik/Famous Underground), Alexis Von Kraven on drums (Heavens Fire/Mother’s Green/Inner Turbulece/Independent), Rob Robbins on guitar (Steel Lilly/Hotel California) and Oscar Anazetti on bass (The Rabid Whole).”