Mary Saxton’s Soulful Strut
Edmonton of the mid-20th century was a breeding ground for musical talent. Like many large and small cities across the country and the world, the birth of rock & roll in the 1950's and mainstream explosion of the early 1960's with bands like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones etc., was the catalyst for many young people to get into music themselves; playing instruments, singing and writing songs. Mary Saxton was one such young girl.
Mary was born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta. At a very young age, she caught the music bug and began singing. Soul and R&B music were her main muse, but pop music and big band were inspirations for her as well. As her singing talents grew with age and practice she tried to get on stage at every possible opportunity; singing at festivals, parties, high schools and anything to help hone her craft.
At just 16 years old she caught the attention of Edmonton based, Pace Records. On Pace, her label mates were garage rockers The Lords (who Mary sang back-up for) and The King Beezz. She was taken to work with producer Gary Paxton ("Alley Oop" and "Monster Mash" fame, among other novelty songs), and by the end of 1966, she released a pair of great soul/pop singles a pair of singles, "Losing Control" b/w "Better To Live or Die," and "Ask Any Girl" b/w "Do The Jerk."
The King Beezz ended up signed to another label by 1967, but Mary and the Lords, given the minor local success of their respective singles, were tapped by their label to appear on a mock-live album titled "Direct.. From The.. Rainbow Ballroom." Other local groups that were featured were the Southbound Freeway, The Young Ones and Its Us Inc.
With little lasting success, 1967 saw her join up with "The Daisy Hill Puppy Farm." They were becoming a hot item on the local circuit, thanks in large part to the inclusion of ex-Southbound Freeway members Mo Boyer, Mavis McCauley, and Herb Ego (later of Painter and Streetheart fame). The group stayed together for about a year, releasing a single and playing relentlessly on the local circuit. But her solo career came calling with more local attention.
1968 would see her sign a new deal with Quality Records. The singles she would release here would make up some of the track list of her upcoming album, which loomed on the horizon. "Sad Eyes," the A-side of her debut single for Quality, became her first top 40 hit, making the top 20 in some markets across the country. The horn-driven B-Side became a live favorite at her shows and also garnered decent airplay. "Wander By" b/w "I Don't Know" her second single also preceded her debut album by a short time (the album weirdly enough would be released on Birchmount Records, a subsidiary of Quality Records in 1969).
1968 would also see her briefly join The Rising Sun. The Rising Sun were mainly a studio shadow band employed by Birchmount Records and was an amalgamation of a number of notable Edmonton groups. These included members of Southbound Freeway, The Nomads, The Rebels, The Lords and Barry Allen. They would release an album titled "Born To Be Wild" (obviously to capitalize on the recent success of the Steppenwolf song on both sides of the border), which featured the Steppenwolf song as well as a number of well performed covers; including Jimi Hendrix' Fire.
Her debut album performed fairly well locally and in some markets across the country upon its release. This was surprising considering it was shifted to subsidiary label Birchmount, a budget line where it received very little promotion. It was almost like in the preceding months; Quality Records saw her as "on her way out" so to speak and didn't bother.
With little lasting success from her album despite it including her dual sided hit "Sad Eyes" from 1968, Mary ultimately moved on. She rang in the 1970's with The Elastic Band, a new project she got involved with Gerry Ford, Al Girard, Lennie Buc, and Don Brown. They toured the area's circuit for a year while shopping for a management and recording deal. Ultimately Mary got frustrated and left the group where she would shortly afterwards fall into a rut.
From 1973 to 1976 not much happened for Mary. She tried to play live and shopped around for a new label but had little success on either front. Ultimately in 1977, her luck changed! She signed with Mustard Records; becoming their first signed act. She released her self-titled album later that year, and saw a pair of singles enter the charts; The A-sides "Take A Chance" and "Georgia Eyes," both hovered around the top 40, but didn't crack it. Another pair of singles followed the next spring/summer "I Want You" and "Lazy Old Soul."
She continued to tour the country and made some stops in the US over the next couple of years, while also joining Touche in '79. The disco trio of herself, Nancy Nash, and Rosalind Keene released their self-titled only album that year, spawning the moderate hit "Take A Look (But Don't Touch).
In 1980 she appeared on a special Radio Canada International project called Ladies In Nights, performing three new tracks written for her - "Don't Say No To Love," "Love Is On Our Side," and "Ladies In Lights." As the decade wore on, shows were less and less frequent, and she went on to a life outside of music.
WRITTEN & RESEARCHED BY: AARON LUSCH