Blue Rodeo | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Blue Rodeo

Blue Rodeo, a rock group, was formed in 1984 by high school friends and songwriters Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor. After playing as the high-energy pop group the HiFi's and the New York-based Fly to France, Cuddy and Keelor returned to Toronto and recruited self-taught jazz pianist Bobby Wiseman, bass guitarist Bazil Donovan, and drummer Cleave Anderson. Beginning in clubs along their hometown's Queen Street, Blue Rodeo delivered a melodic blend of folk, rock and country marked by Beatle-esque harmonies.
Blue Rodeo
Bazil Donovan, Bob Wiseman, Greg Keelor, Mark French, Jim Cuddy (courtesy Artist Consulting Team Inc).

The group's debut recording, Outskirts (1987), included the plaintive top-10 Canadian hit "Try," which was sung by Cuddy. The subsequent albums Diamond Mine (1989), Casino (1990), Lost Together (1992), Five Days in July (1993) and Nowhere to Here (1995) have collectively sold more than 1.5 million copies in the wake of steady concert touring throughout North America and Europe. Following a number of personnel changes, the band's lineup in the mid-1990s comprised Cuddy, Keelor, Donovan, drummer Glenn Milchem, keyboardist James Gray, and multi-instrumentalist Kim Deschamps (who was replaced in 1999 by Bob Egan).

Blue Rodeo took a hiatus in 1996 so that its members could pursue solo projects. During this period Keelor was executive producer of the benefit album Pine Ridge: An Open Letter to Allan Rock (1997), which urged Canada's justice minister to lobby for the release of imprisoned Native American activist Leonard Peltier; the album featured songs by Keelor, Cuddy, Wiseman, The Skydiggers and Jane Siberry, among others. Blue Rodeo also launched its low-key Stardust Picnic festival series with a show at historic Old Fort York in Toronto in 1996.

The group has continued to regularly release new albums, including Tremolo (1997), Days in Between (2000), the double-disc concert memento Just Like a Vacation (1999) and Palace of Gold (2002). In 2004 the band released the DVD Blue Rodeo in Stereovision. The 12-song Are You Ready (2005) featured a guest turn by Paddy Moloney of The Chieftains and earned gold-level sales (50 000 units) in Canada. It was followed in 2007 by the studio album Small Miracles; the documentary Blue Road (DVD/CD) was released in 2008, followed by the double-album The Things We Left Behind in 2009. An eight-disc boxset titled Blue Rodeo 1987-1993 (2012) featured remastered versions of the band's first five recordings as well as previously unreleased material. A notable inclusion in the set was a stripped-down Keelor remix of the hit "Cry" from their first album Outskirts.

Blue Rodeo was named Canada's Group of the Year at Juno Award ceremonies in 1989, 1990, 1991, 1996, and 2008. In 2009 the band received a star on Canada's Walk of Fame, and in 2012 Blue Rodeo was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

Solo Recordings

Keelor and Cuddy have also recorded solo albums while continuing to lead a group that rates as one of Canada's most popular touring bands. Nearly a decade after releasing his solo debut, Gone (1997), Keelor released Seven Songs for Jim (2005) in honour of his father, and then the full-length album Aphrodite Rose in 2006. For his part, Cuddy has released three solo albums, including 1998's All in Time, the gold-certified (in Canada) The Light That Guides You Home in 2006-which featured appearances by singers Kathleen Edwards and Oh Susanna (Suzie Ungerleider)--and Skyscraper Soul, released in 2011. Several other band members are involved in side projects as well: Egan released a self-titled album in 1998, followed by The Promise (2002), Lonesome Destiny (2003), and The Glorious Decline (2006). In 2008 Donovan released the solo album Matinee. Milchem has recorded three albums with his band The Swallows: Turning Blue (2000), The Beauty of Our Surroundings (2002), and Awkward Situation (2006).

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