In the 1960s in Sarnia, the band that would later form in Toronto as Max Webster started out with various names such as The Grass Company, The Quotations, Big Al’s Band, ZOOOM. The band chose Max Webster in 1973 in Toronto and originally consisted of guitarist and vocalist Kim Mitchell, keyboardist Terry Watkinson, bassist Mike Tilka and drummer Paul Kersey. Mitchell and Pye Dubois would write the majority of their material, with Mitchell writing the music and Dubois writing lyrics. During his tenure with the band, Watkinson also wrote a significant amount of material, typically one to three songs per album.
Kersey left the band after their 1976 self-titled debut album, to be 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. Myles had previously played with Mitchell in a series of pre-Max Webster bands, all based in Mitchell’s and Myles’ hometown of Sarnia, Ontario.
Max Webster’s third album, Mutiny Up My Sleeve (1978), was produced by the band and Terry Brown in collaboration with their ex-bassist Mike Tilka (who was now concentrating on a production career), and featured the Mitchell/Watkinson/McCracken/Myles line-up. This line-up would last through their fourth album, A Million Vacations, and a subsequent live album, Live Magnetic Air, both of which were issued in 1979.
Though their albums had become FM radio staples in Canada, A Million Vacations was the first Max Webster album to generate hit singles that cracked the Canadian top 100. The group’s first hit was “Let Go The Line”, which was 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).
With some international recognition having come their way, Max Webster then toured Europe to fairly large crowds in 1979. However, career momentum was stalled when the band’s label refused to finance a follow-up tour. By the time the band returned to Europe more than a year later, their single was off the charts, and the tour had to be cancelled due to poor ticket sales.
Prior to the recording of the band’s fifth and final studio album, Universal Juveniles (1980), Watkinson exited. This left Max Webster a trio of Mitchell, McCracken and Myles (and left Mitchell as the band’s sole original member). Universal Juveniles was recorded with the assistance of various session musicians; the song “Battle Scar” was recorded live with all three members of Rush playing alongside Max Webster.
Myles left the band almost immediately after the album was recorded. Max Webster toured for a little while longer with a revised ‘caretaker’ line-up before Kim Mitchell decided to dissolve the band at the end of 1981 for a solo career.