Blue Rodeo remains one of Canada’s foremost rock’n’roll bands more than 30 years after its formation, even though their music owes as much to country (and a bit to the blues) as it does to rock.
At the band’s heart is the songwriting partnership of frontmen Greg Keelor and Jim Cuddy. The pair met at North Toronto Collegiate high school but did not start performing together until after graduating university. Their initial bands, the Hi-Fi’s and Fly to France, met with little success. But Blue Rodeo, which debuted at Toronto’s Rivoli club in February 1985, quickly developed a following for their alt-country sound thanks to a rigorous touring ethic that saw them travel back and forth across Canada, with occasional forays into America.
Their 1987 debut album Outskirts featured the chart-topping single, “Try,” which went on to win JUNOs for both Single and Video of the Year. (The band would also take home their first Band of the Year JUNO in 1989.)
Diamond Mine (1989) and Casino (1990) soon followed, the latter containing hits like “Trust Yourself” and “‘Til I Am Myself Again.” An appearance alongside actress Meryl Streep in the 1990 film Postcards from the Edge helped boost the band’s profile during this period.
The 1990s would prove to be a fertile period for Blue Rodeo as strong album followed strong album. 1993’s Five Days in July proved to be their commercial peak. Recorded in just five days in July 2003, the album yielded the hit singles “Bad Timing,” “Hasn’t Hit Me Yet,” and “5 Days in May.” It would eventually be certified six-times platinum in Canada.
While generally not an outspoken band politically, Blue Rodeo have played benefit concerts in support of nuclear disarmament groups and voiced their support of native rights and the rainforests on Canada’s west coast. Their most overtly political moment came in September 2015 when they released the stand-alone song, “Stealin’ All My Dreams” to protest the government of then Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whom they dubbed in the song’s lyric a “little king.”
Outside the band Jim Cuddy has released three solo albums, as has Greg Keelor. Keelor is also a producer, having worked with Cuff the Duke and co-producing Blue Rodeo’s 1992 album Lost Together. He also provides the soundtrack for Canadian western comedy Gunless (2010). Steel-guitar player Bob Egan and bassist Bazil Donovan have both released solo albums as well, and bassist Glenn Milchem’s other band, The Swallows, released four records during their years of activity.
Blue Rodeo’s 30-plus years of creativity have been honoured many times. They have been named Band of the Year five times at the JUNOs, and were given a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2009. They were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2012 and, in 2014, were awarded the Governor General’s Performing Arts lifetime achievement award.
Blue Rodeo continues to tour and record. Their latest non-Christmas studio album was 2013’s In Our Nature, and Live at Massey Hall was released in October 2015.
“Try” topped the Canadian country charts.
Five Days in July certified 6x platinum in Canada.
Named Group of the Year five times at the JUNO Awards.
Presented with the Governor General’s Performing Arts Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014.