Domenic Troiano was a Canadian guitarist whose musical style was varied and expressive. With rock as his foundation, he infused blues, soul, R&B and funk into his music, both as a solo artist and with bands like The Guess Who.
Born in Modugno, Italy, in 1946, Troiano and his family came to Toronto in 1949. A little more than a decade after coming to Canada, he was immersed in the city’s burgeoning rock and R&B music culture. Like many other budding guitarists at the time, he would study the Hawks’ Robbie Robertson at the Concord Tavern during Saturday matinee performances. By age 17, he had taught himself to play from chord books and by studying his idols.
He defined what contemporaries called “the Toronto sound” — a soulful, Motown-inspired version of rock ’n’ roll – during stints with Robbie Lane and the Disciples and as the replacement for Robbie Robertson as lead guitarist with Ronnie Hawkins. His 1972 instrumental “356 Sammon Avenue” was a tribute to his parents’ former home in Toronto’s East York neighbourhood.
From 1965 through 1969 he played with a group that would come to call itself Mandala. The band’s hits included the classic “Opportunity” (1967) and “Love-itis” (1968). Despite Mandala’s popularity, vocalist George Olliver left the group in mid 1967. His replacement was Roy Kenner, an old friend of Troiano’s. Some of Mandala’s members — Troiano, Kenner, organist Hugh Sullivan and drummer Whitey Glan — decided to form a new group. They recruited bassist Prakash John, moved to Arizona, and formed the band Bush in 1970, releasing one self-titled album.
In 1972, Troiano and Kenner joined Jim Fox and Dale Peters in the James Gang Band, with Troiano replacing soon-to-be-Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh. While still a member of the James Gang Band, Troiano released his first solo album in 1972. Recorded in Los Angeles, it featured a variety of musical styles. Later that year, Troiano began working on his next solo project; Tricky was released in 1973, and Troiano left the James Gang Band soon after.
In 1974, Troiano joined The Guess Who as Randy Bachman’s replacement. After The Guess Who disbanded, he tried his hand again at a solo career, producing his third solo album Burning at the Stake and his fourth, Jokes on Me. He also formed the Domenic Troiano band, which remained together from 1976 to 1979, the year Troiano released his last solo album, Fret Fever. Throughout his career, Troiano remained humble in spite of his success, escaping the trappings of fame and excess.
Approximately one year after the release of Fret Fever, Troiano formed the Black Market with Bob Wilson and Paul DeLong. They released Changing of the Guard in 1981. In the years following, he wrote themes and incidental music for television, including such shows as Night Heat, Diamonds and Hot Shots. He also played for other artists, including Diana Ross, Joe Cocker, Donald Fagen, David Clayton-Thomas and Etta James, and produced albums for singers, including his ex-wife Shawne Jackson.
Troiano was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1995. He died a decade later on May 25, 2005. He was 59.
Helps define the “Toronto Sound” with single “356 Sammon Avenue.”
Joins The Guess Who as Randy Bachman’s replacement.
Releases Fret Fever in 1979, nominated for Producer of the Year JUNO.
Inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame
Returns to the stage for the first time in more than two decades, surprising friends Bernie Labarge and Alex Lifeson of Rush at the Orbit Room in Toronto.