Max Webster

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Max Webster
Founding member, vocalist and guitarist Kim Mitchell
Founding member, vocalist and guitarist Kim Mitchell
Background information
OriginToronto, Ontario, Canada
Years active1972–1981, 1990, 1995-96, 2007
LabelsAnthem, Mercury, Capitol, Taurus Records
Past membersKim Mitchell
Terry Watkinson
Mike Tilka
Gary McCracken
Dave Myles
Paul Kersey
Jim Bruton
Phil Trudell
Billy Sheehan
David Stone
Mike Gingrich
Greg Chadd
Steve McMurray
Peter Fredette
Pye Dubois

Max Webster was a Canadian hard rock band formed in 1972 in Toronto, Ontario. They were best known for their high energy stage shows, disciplined musicianship, and eccentric compositions combining elements of progressive rock, folk, punk, and new wave.


Initially a trio, the original members were guitarist and vocalist Kim Mitchell, bassist Mike Tilka, and drummer Phil Trudell. The band were briefly called Stinky, then Special Delivery. They settled on "Max Webster" in 1973, a name concocted by Tilka while playing with Daryl Stuermer in a Milwaukee band called Family at Mac's (Stuermer had written a song inspired by Ben Webster called "Song for Webster").[1]

The lineup was augmented to a quartet in early 1973 with Jim Bruton being added on keyboards. Paul Kersey replaced Trudell in April 1973, and Terry Watkinson replaced Bruton in February 1974. Max Webster were signed by SRO Management in 1975,[2] and a year later their self-titled debut album, co-produced by Terry Brown, was released. After a Canadian tour opening for Rush, Kersey left the band and was replaced by Gary McCracken. After recording and touring for their second album, High Class in Borrowed Shoes (1977), Tilka would follow suit and leave the band, being replaced by Dave Myles (although Billy Sheehan was Mitchell's first choice, who did pre-production for their next album[3]). Myles had played with both Mitchell and McCracken in a series of pre-Max Webster bands, all based in their hometown of Sarnia, Ontario.

Mitchell and lyricist Pye Dubois wrote the majority of their material, with their collaboration beginning in Greece in 1972.[4] Watkinson wrote one to three songs per album, and McCracken and Myles would eventually contribute material as well.

Max Webster toured heavily from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s, usually playing 200-250 dates a year in the bars, high schools, theatres, and arenas. Artists they opened for included Bachman–Turner Overdrive, Blondie, The Cars, Cheap Trick, Peter Gabriel, Genesis, The Guess Who, Kansas, Ted Nugent, Rainbow, Rare Earth, REO Speedwagon, Rush, Strawbs, and Styx. By 1978 the band were headliners in most major Canadian markets, although they continued to do extensive tours with Rush outside of Canada, supporting them over 200 times.[5]

Their third album, Mutiny Up My Sleeve (1978), was produced by the band and Terry Brown and their now ex-bassist Mike Tilka (who was now working in the Anthem/SRO office and was called in to finish the album after Brown quit[6]). The Mitchell/Watkinson/McCracken/Myles lineup would last through their fourth album, A Million Vacations, and a subsequent live album, Live Magnetic Air, both of which were issued in 1979 (Brown reunited with the band for the latter).

Though their albums had become FM radio staples in Canada, A Million Vacations was the first Max Webster album to generate hit singles that appeared in the Canadian top 100. The group's first hit was "Let Go the Line," written and sung by Terry Watkinson, and peaked at No. 41 on the Canadian charts. Follow-up single "A Million Vacations" was written by McCracken/Dubois, sung by McCracken, and peaked at No. 80 in Canada. The album's third and final single, "Paradise Skies" was a Mitchell/Dubois composition sung by Mitchell, and was a minor hit in both Canada (number 21) and the UK Singles Chart (number 43).[7]

With some international recognition having arrived, Max Webster then toured the UK and Europe backing Rush in 1979 and played successful dates of their own at the famed Marquee Club in London. However, their career momentum was stalled when the band's American label Capitol Records refused to finance a follow-up headlining European tour. The band returned to the UK over a year later, but poor ticket sales from a lack of promotion led to their shows being cancelled, and only two dates supporting Black Sabbath were fulfilled.

Prior to the recording of the band's fifth and final studio album, Universal Juveniles (1980), Watkinson exited, leaving Max Webster a trio of Mitchell, McCracken, and Myles. Universal Juveniles was recorded with the assistance of session musicians David Stone (who also briefly toured with the band) and Doug Riley. The song "Battle Scar" was recorded live with all three members of Rush playing alongside Max Webster.

Myles left the band immediately after the album was recorded, and Mitchell assembled a new touring lineup with Mike Gingrich on bass, Greg Chadd on keyboards, and Steve McMurray on second guitar. Watkinson eventually rejoined in December 1980, but Mitchell nonetheless decided to dissolve the band after a gig supporting Rush in Memphis, Tennessee on 16 April 1981, primarily citing exhaustion and a lack of label support.[8]

Legacy and reunions[edit]

Max Webster were close friends of fellow Canadian musicians Rush. In a 1978 interview, Rush bassist and vocalist Geddy Lee commented that he enjoyed their music, insisting "they're quite hard to describe, but they have amazing musicianship and very interesting lyrics."[9]

Although successful in Canada, Max Webster failed to achieve much success elsewhere. "Paradise Skies" was a minor U.K. hit, reaching No. 43 on the singles chart there. They also appeared on Top of the Pops in 1979, playing to a pre-recorded track that was recorded at Abbey Road Studios. Kim Mitchell's subsequent solo career, however, reached a much broader audience and he achieved popularity beyond Canada during the 1980s.

Among the highlights of the band's career were their New Year's Eve shows at Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens. Geddy Lee joined the band onstage to sing and play his Teardrop bass guitar for "Battle Scar" on December 31, 1980.

The band reunited in 1990 for a gig at the Toronto Music Awards, with the High Class in Borrowed Shoes lineup of Kim Mitchell, Terry Watkinson, Mike Tilka, and Gary McCracken. Max Webster did a proper reunion tour in 1995-96, with longtime Mitchell collaborator Peter Fredette joining the band as bassist in place of Tilka.

On May 24, 2007 The Mitchell/Watkinson/Tilka/McCracken lineup of Max Webster reunited for a one-off gig as part of the Q107 30th anniversary concert and live radio special at The Docks in Toronto. McCracken sang "A Million Vacations" with his tech Robert Sibony on drums, and Fredette joined the band onstage to sing Geddy Lee's part on "Battle Scar."

From April 2004 until August 2015, Kim Mitchell hosted the weekday afternoon drive slot (2 p.m.-6 p.m.) on Q107 (107.1) in Toronto, Ontario.[10]

In the 1990s Watkinson and Tilka formed the band Antlers, mostly playing Max Webster songs and classic rock covers. The band has continued on and off for more than 20 years, playing at various venues around southern Ontario.[11][12]

Gary McCracken teaches music in his hometown of Sarnia, Ontario.[13]

Rock Candy Records in England has re-released the first four Max Webster albums.

In 2017 a box set package called The Party was released by Anthem Records on vinyl, compact disc and digital formats. The release featured remastered versions of all the band's previously released material (with the exception of Hot Spots and Overnight Sensation, which had appeared on Diamonds Diamonds), unreleased live and studio songs, and Kim Mitchell's long out-of-print solo EP. The vinyl set includes a booklet, a poster and a sticker.

Paul Gilbert cites Mitchell's playing on Universal Juveniles to have been a great influence on his guitar style.[14] Music critic and biographer Martin Popoff cites Max Webster as his favorite band.


Studio albums[edit]

Year Title Chart positions Certifications
1976 Max Webster 32 Gold
1977 High Class in Borrowed Shoes 44 Gold
1978 Mutiny Up My Sleeve 53 Gold
1979 A Million Vacations 13 Platinum
1980 Universal Juveniles 41 Gold
1981 Diamonds Diamonds 47 Gold

A United Kingdom only release known as "Magnetic Air" was released in 1979 by Capitol-EMI Records to showcase the band to a wider audience, it features live tracks from the Live Magnetic Air album as well as songs from the first two albums Max Webster and High Class in Borrowed Shoes.

Live albums[edit]

Year Title Chart positions Certifications
1979 Live Magnetic Air 17 Gold

Compilation albums[edit]

Year Title Chart positions
1989 The Best of Max Webster


List of singles, with selected chart positions and certifications, showing year released and album name
Year Title Peak chart positions Label /

Cat. No.

1976 "Blowing The Blues Away"

b/w "Hangover"

- - Taurus TR 006 Max Webster

(Taurus TR-101)

(rereleased on Anthem ANR-1-1006)

1977 "Words To Words"

b/w "In Context Of The Moon"

- - Anthem ANS-003 High Class In Borrowed Shoes

(Anthem ANR-1-1007)

1977 "Diamonds, Diamonds"

b/w "Rain Child"

- - Anthem ANS-005 High Class In Borrowed Shoes

(Anthem ANR-1-1007)

1979 "Let Go The Line"

b/w "Moon Voices"

39 Anthem ANS-012 A Million Vacations

(Anthem ANR-1-1018)

"A Million Vacations"

b/w "Rascal Houdi"


- - Anthem ANS-013

(first pressing)

1979 "A Million Vacations"

b/w "Night Flights"

80 - Anthem ANS-013


1979 "Paradise Skies (live)"

b/w "Paradise Skies (studio)"

- - Anthem ANS-014

promo only

Live Magnetic Air

(Anthem ANR-1-1019)

A Million Vacations

(Anthem ANR-1-1018)

1980 "Paradise Skies (studio)"

b/w "In Context Of The Moon (live)"

47 43 Anthem ANS-014


A Million Vacations

(Anthem ANR-1-1018)

Live Magnetic Air

(Anthem ANR-1-1019)

"Blue River Liquor Shine (edit)"

b/w "Check"

98 - Anthem ANS-027 Universal Juveniles

(Anthem ANR-1-1027)

1980 "Night Flight (live)"

b/w "Hangover (live)"

- - Anthem ANS -020 Live Magnetic Air

(Anthem ANR-1-1019)

1981 "Hot Spots" (previously unreleased)

b/w "Battle Scar" (with Rush)

- - Anthem ANS-037 Diamonds Diamonds

(Anthem ANR-1-1033)

Universal Juveniles

(Anthem ANR-!-1027)

Box Set[edit]




2017 The Party 1976-82 CD/LP


  1. ^ Ask Daryl at the Wayback Machine (archived 2010-03-23)
  2. ^ "Billboard, 25 January 1975. Retrieved 17 March 2021". WorldRadioHistory.Com.
  3. ^ "BILLY SHEEHAN LOOKS BACK ON HIS MAX WEBSTER DAYS, 2 March 2005. Retrieved 17 March 2021". BraveWords.Com.
  4. ^ "A Conversation with Kim Mitchell, 25 February 2020. Retrieved 17 March 2021". GoBeWeekly.Com.
  5. ^ "The Complete Rush Tour Dates Listing. Retrieved 17 March 2021".
  6. ^ "RPM magazine, 1 April 1978. Retrieved 17 March 2021".
  7. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 356. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  8. ^ Sharp, Keith (2014). Music Express: The Rise, Fall Resurrection of Canada's Music Magazine. Toronto: Dundurn Press. p. 116. ISBN 1-86105-256-1.
  9. ^ "Record Mirror, 23 September 1978. Retrieved 17 March 2021".
  10. ^ "Shows – Q107 Toronto".
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-01-05. Retrieved 2015-11-04.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ kubrickrules (30 November 2010). "The Antlers featuring Terry Watkinson and Mike Tilka from Max Webster" – via YouTube.
  13. ^ Website for Gary McCracken Archived 2015-02-17 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ "Kim Interviews Paul Gilbert, 21 June 2007. Retrieved 23 June 2021". YouTube.Com.
  15. ^ Peak positions for Max Webster's albums in Canada:
  16. ^ a b "Gold/Platinum". Canadian Recording Industry Association. Retrieved 2011-09-02.
  17. ^ "Top Albums/CDs – Volume 32, No. 18, January 26, 1980". RPM. Archived from the original on October 24, 2012. Retrieved 2011-09-02.

External links[edit]