Rock and Roll Memories

Do rock and roll bands have DNA? And if so, how is the ancestry traced? When does the connection become so remote as to make the band a completely different creature?

I went to see Trooper last month. I remember buying their first album, sound unheard back in 1975, because it had been produced by one of my musical heroes, Randy Bachman.

Trooper had a string of hits in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but none of them spoke to me emotionally. I knew their music though – they were a band that I played on the radio. Then, as now, radio stations were required to play a certain percentage of Canadian content, and Troper were a mainstay of rock radio.

I saw them in concert two or three times back then, always because I wanted to see whomever was on the bill with them. I didn’t like them enough to pay to see them play, it was always someone else who was the attraction. Last month though I happily laid out for a couple of tickets, at prices unheard of in the 1970s.

Partly it was because it had been a few months since I saw a live show. Partly it was a chance for a night out with my wife, something we don’t get many of in the busyness of this world. And partly it was nostalgia

The question I struggled with was, was this really Trooper? I last saw the band play live about 1980. None of the band members on stage last month were with the group then. Indeed, the longest-serving band members today have only been part of the group since 1995.

Mind you, that is 28 years. You can hardly describe them as being new. But the hits were all written by Ra McGuire, who retired during the pandemic. He has given the new lineup, including his replacement, his blessing. But are they really Trooper if none of the band members remain from the early days?

There are many cover bands crisscrossing the continent, playing music made famous by others. I have always avoided those. My argument to a friend one time was: “Why should I pay $49 to see someone pretending to be the Beatles, when I could have seen the Beatles for four dollars?”

I didn’t though. See the Beatles for four dollars that is. I wanted to, but my parents wouldn’t let me go. Though since then I have seen most of the band perform as individuals – always paying more than four dollars.

So what makes Trooper different from a cover band playing Trooper’s tumes? I’m think it is the unbroken procession from the band’s beginnings to now. This isn’t a random bunch of people who came together as a tribute. This is a band that has evolved over a period of almost 50 years. I think there’s a difference.

Having seen them this time, and thoroughly enjoyed the show, I still don’t think I would do it again. Which is more due to my not being a big Trooper fan than any personnel changes. Then again, I won’t rule it out completely. If they were to come through town with another band I like….

Speaking of which, this Saturday I’m going to trip down memory lane once more, as Chilliwack will be in town. I’ve been a fan since 1969, since before they changed the name of the band to Chilliwack. This is one I want to see.

Once again though, there have been changes over the years. There is only one member who remains from the band I followed during my teen years. And like Trooper, Chilliwack hasn’t had a hit in decades.

But Bill Henderson is still on vocals, despite being long past normal retirement age. He seems ageless. I saw Chilliwack perform at the Renfrew fair eight years ago, and they were as good as they were back in the sixties.  I’m sure they haven’t changed.



  1. Neil Remington Abramson · · Reply

    It sounds like Trooper has become a franchise. If it’s still Trooper with none of the original cast, then why only one franchisee band? Why not as many as an international market can bear? That’s more franchise fees and percentage cuts of more concerts for the founders! Those founders need MBAs so they don’t leave so much money on the table, when even people like yourself, who didn’t originally like their music, are nostalgically willing to pay big to hear the franchisees play the same-old stuff.

    1. Try to tell the truth, I didn’t realize Ra McGuire had retired until after I bought the tickets. If I had realized beforehand that there were no original members left, I might have not bought them. Still, with a couple of the band members having been part of Trooper for almost 30 years, you could argue it is still the same band.

      But there are other bands touring with perhaps more questionable pedigrees. I remember back in the 1980s there were two groups calling themselves The Byrds making the rounds. Both had members who had been with the band. There are several 1950s groups making money with no original members.

      And then there’s The Guess Who. Randy Bachman left in 1970, Burton Cummings in 1975. They haven’t had a hit since. But you can still see a band using the name that traces its ancestry to the hitmakers of 50 years ago. I’ve heard the latest record – I won’t see them live if they come to town.

  2. · · Reply

    Nice article. For more of a challenge how about weighing

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