Salt and the Choppers is a group of four songwriter/musicians from eastern Canada. Their music is a unique synthesis of such diverse classic era pop, rock, and jazz influences such as Steely Dan, The Band, Jimi Hendrix, and of course The Beatles. Emanating from four separate writers, their diverse catalogue includes everything from energetic raw rock, through infectious pop, to dreamy, distilled poetic gems. The unique blend of these four multi-instrumentalists is characterized by lush layered harmonies and a signature instrumental style that sticks to your ribs.
Meeting in high school in late 60s Saint John, New Brunswick, James Malcolm, Michael Maxwell, Robert Morgan, and David Round were drawn together by the desire to create, perform and record nothing but original music: No covers allowed! Under the unlikely moniker Salt and the Choppers, this resulted in an impressive 25 original works being preserved in
recordings from live performances. Although after high school they pursued separate musical careers in the Canadian music industry, the magic spark that had been ignited never faded away. After a just-for-fun reunion recording session of old songs in January 1981, that spark caught fire again and with a vengeance. Over the next five years they scheduled as many recording sessions as living in separate cities would allow, resulting in an a total 31 completed recordings from studios big and small from Saint John to Toronto.
In 2019, just before the pandemic hit, they were back at writing and recording again and now, beginning in 2022, Salt and the Choppers are finally releasing the best of those sessions through all the major music streaming services. Please stay tuned for their impending debut EP with more singles, EPs and albums to come.
According to Salt
Salt and the Choppers earliest beginnings occurred rather innocently at St. James Anglican Church on a Saturday night in April of 1964. Michael Bruce Maxwell, topped off with a stunning black Beatle wig didn’t realize at the time that he had actual real Beatle equivalent hair growing out of his actual head, no need for the wig. But, peering through the fake hair like a Clint Reagan floozy, he spotted an extraordinarily handsome young drummer, sans wig, vying for the same prize (oh yeah, they’re at a parish talent show, sorry)…and man, was he ever good! Maxwell was only twelve when he first met David Arthur Round that night, but he can still remember to this day thinking,” man, this guy could use a good Beatle wig…” . They didn’t see each other again until late 1967 when they started to attend the same high school.
James Ballem Malcolm was already a successful drummer through the mid 60’s, playing with the highly successful rock and roll band TheWild Set. He played drums in numerous well-received groups that followed, all with darn good names, right up until he formed the Choppers with Maxwell and Round. Jim had very nice, curly hair, used a scarf very effectively and is highly respected for his solid musicianship and his impressive depth as a songwriter, lyricist, keyboardist, drummer and singer.
Robert George Morgan, guitarist and best darn guy in the phone book, was the final piece to join the puzzle. We had heard of this neighbourhood kid who was copping Hendrix licks note for note on his parents couch down the street from me. We needed something like that we thought, so we sprung the question to Bob one day in the high school bathroom. The Choppers needed a strongly unique and distinctively identifiable style (that we didn’t actually know at the time) and through time Robert has put his indelible sonic stamp on it all.
I cannot believe that after all this I forgot to mention that Bob Morgan has a superior Beatle haircut, I already mentioned Maxwell’s…
The Early Years
Early on, or let’s face it, from the beginning the boys decided that any and all material would be original. Made up, composed, written or whatever, it would all be original and The Choppers Always Recorded Stuff.
Jim bought the first Chopper reel to reel from Chase Camera Supply on Union Street. The first Chopper “sessions” would have occurred at Robert’s parents’ house and everything blossomed from there. There were recordings of dances and coffee houses packed with young hippies actually listening to this original-playing band of fledgling quasi-composers and, get this…applauding.
Our original, two-track, “sound-on-sound” recording engineers, Ron Keith and Rod Stears, were also high-school classmates. The initial recording set up was simple enough: overtake Bob’s parents’ living room with miles of endlessly entangled mic cables and two 1/4 track tape recorders. Yup, creme-de-la-creme, gear-wise!
During their formative years, while most other bands were striving to attain truly psychedelic levels of light shows, the Choppers, instead, implemented floor lamps absconded from their family homes: an impressive array was amassed that first year!
The Middle Years
After almost a decade hiatus, the four members reconvened in Bob’s parents’ house to begin recording ...again!
Eventually, due to varying choices in post secondary education options, the Choppers disbanded. Mike Maxwell later established himself securely in the Toronto music business as a composer/arranger and producer for television and film, while Jim Malcolm continued on as a highly-regarded musician and songwriter, growing his Beatle haircut back and taking up swimming. Bob went on to a design and art direction career but never gave up his night job playing in well known regional bands. David Round continued on a musical path, also playing in well known regional bands, but did not realize it until years later when he gave up alcohol. He was surprised to find out the Choppers had continued and that he was still a member although still on probation. He maintains that those are days he’ll never, ever …remember.
After almost a decade hiatus, the four members reconvened in Bob’s parents’ house to begin recording ...again! After about six older original songs were chosen to record, there was renewed excitement to continue composing new material and to try to make getting together an ongoing reality. From 1980 ~ 1986, Salt and The Choppers wrote, rehearsed and recorded at least six to eight full-blown sessions, culminating in three dozen finished original songs and a 45 RPM single being released on Gary Chase’s Epcom Records.
The Later Years
Although we may we may not be teen heart throbs, we still have what it takes to write great songs produce great recordings. Some of the recent songs we have put together are amongst our strongest to date. The modern music industry, which has made it possible to publish and distribute our own material, has breathed new life into our joint passion. We are loving every minute of this adventure hope to be churning out tunes for years to come.
So, recording new material continued in the years and decades that followed our very early efforts, with different venues, producers, engineers and numerous guest participants all of whom continue as close friends and associates of our core membership and to whom we owe huge thanks for the precious input and advice we have been blessed to receive from all.
No-one helped us more than Todd Clark. He loaned us all his equipment, synthesizers, sound mixers, microphones, drove us to Toronto for sessions in a van packed with musical gear, advised on musical content, criticized and critiqued our moves…a perfect example of one musician selflessly providing exceptional physical and invaluable technical assistance, when his mother would allow. Nor can we forget the immense contribution of resources, time and spirit from Gary Chase of Epsom Records and Rick Knight of The Grange.
We wish to extend our gratitude to the following people who made contributions, big and small, and made our journey delightful and possible: Gary Furniss, Rod Phaelen, Terry Emery, Chris Chase, Ron Keith, Rod Stears, Joe Guss, Richard Davis,...... ????????
We would be remiss if we didn't mention our deep gratitude for the incredible photographic record of our journey that was captured by our very own Michael Maxwell's camera and that makes up most of what you see here. Also included are photos contributed by Ron Keith, Rod Stears, Joe Guss and Richard Davis. Mike's diligent archiving of all the tapes from 2 track to 24 track made it possible to bring our music into the digital age. Thanks Mike.