Big Sugar


Photo of Big Sugar
Big Sugar was a Canadian blues-rock band.

The band, consisting of vocalist/guitarist Gordie Johnson, bassist Terry Wilkins and drummer Al Cross, officially formed in 1991, although the three musicians had already played together for several years as an informal jam band with members of the Bourbon Tabernacle Choir, and as a supporting band for Molly Johnson's jazz performances. (Molly Johnson and Gordie Johnson are not related.) After Molly Johnson returned to rock music with Infidels, she helped her former bandmates to secure a record deal; their self-titled debut album was released in 1991 on Hypnotic Records.

Wilkins left in 1993, and the band recorded the album Five Hundred Pounds with the help of guest musicians, including Kelly Hoppe (a.k.a. Mr. Chill) and Garry Lowe, who would subsequently become official members of the band.

Big Sugar had slowly built a reputation as an outstanding live band, and Five Hundred Pounds consolidated it: the album sold 10,000 copies in Canada (the equivalent of selling 100,000 copies in the United States) without any real publicity or radio airplay.

Hoppe and Lowe began to bring reggae influences into the band's sound as well. During this time, Gordie Johnson also recorded an album as Don't Talk Dance, with Tyler Stewart of Barenaked Ladies and Chris Brown from the Bourbon Tabernacle Choir.

The band broke up in 2004, after, according to the band website, Johnson became frustrated with Canadian radio programmers who claimed his single "All Hell for a Basement" was "too Canadian" (the song references the province of Alberta). Johnson, a staunch nationalist, was disgusted and angry and left Canada to pursue music in a more "open, welcoming" environment. The newly re-named "Grady" Johnson can now be found in the Austin, Texas-based band Grady. Kelly Hoppe performs with Train 45, a roots music group. Mojah and Garry Lowe went on to form Truth and Rights Revue, a reggae band, and released one album to date. Eric Paul played with Truth and Rights, but has recently joined Ian Thornley (formerly of Big Wreck) in the newly-revised lineup of Thornley.