I was born in Halifax, NS, but moved to Toronto when I was a baby. In fact, I think I’m the only one in the band who grew up here. I picked up the guitar at nine, the bass at 13 and started playing professionally at 17. My first band was with a bunch of stage band friends from high school called Demons. We played covers at high school dances. The first touring I did was with the All Star Bar Band. We gigged in clubs and did country-rock covers (we were sort of like a human juke-box). In 1980, I joined The Sharks with Cleave Anderson (also Blue Rodeo’s drummer on Outskirts and Diamond Mine), David Baxter and vocalist Sherry Kean. The Sharks were a new wave band with R&B influences. In ’83, I started playing with a reggae ska band called Strike One, and then shortly after with Scab, a punk band from Toronto. They were amazing players.
In 1984 I saw the now-famous want ad in NOW Magazine which read: “If you’ve dropped acid at least 20 times, lost three or four years to booze and looking good and can still manage to keep time, call Jim or Greg.” At my friend’s suggestion, I called the number listed in the ad and left a message with Jim’s wife Rena. Unbeknownst to me, Cleave Anderson (from my Sharks days) had just joined Jim and Greg’s new band, Blue Rodeo, as their drummer. One afternoon, while eating lunch at The Bamboo, Jim, Greg and Cleave were talking about who they should get on bass. Since we all knew each other from the circuit, Greg asked Cleave what I was up to. At that moment Jim remembered seeing my name as one of the people who had answered their ad. They called me from the restaurant and asked if I could rehearse the next day.
I remember walking into the rehearsal space, which also doubled as Greg’s apartment, and we just started right in working on “Rose Coloured Glasses”. There was no audition, no meeting or anything. Back then the music came first. Same thing happened with Bob Wiseman. Greg came in one day and had Bobby with him and said, this is our new keyboard player. Our first gig came about six months later in February 1985 at The Rivoli.
– Bazil Donovan