Cowboy Junkies Biography
Last updated: 04/26/2007
The Cowboy Junkies had a long road to go down to become a band. Born and raised in Toronto, Michael Timmins and his childhood friend, Alan Anton (originally Alan Alizojvodic) played in the band Hunger Project. Forming in 1979, Hunger Project was not a successful pairing for the guys. Anton and Timmins went to England and became part of an instrumental band titled Germinal. Germinal was the type of music that, as Michael said, "Even we didn't want to listen to it."
After leaving Germinal Timmins and Anton headed back to Toronto in 1984. They started playing with Timmin's brother, Pete. Pete, like his brother and Anton, was self taught on his instrument, the drums. They rented a house and played in the garage, which affectionally became known as Studio 547. The guys liked what they were doing together and started looking for a lead singer when Michael turned to his sister, Margo. Margo, who was working as a social worker, would not sing in front of the guys, she would only sing in front of Michael. Eventually Michael got Margo to sing in front of the other band members and they liked what they heard.
When it came to naming themselves, they came up with "Cowboy Junkies." The name didn't mean anything, they just thought that it would get attention. In 1986 the Junkies released their first album on their own label, Latent. Whites Off Earth Now is once again a name that the Junkies just made up to attract attention. They recorded the album in Studio 547 using one microphone. They didn't stop there and moved on to The Trinity Session.
The Trinity Session was recorded around one microphone in The Holy Trinity church in downtown Toronto. The Junkies had never been able to play with all of the musicians at the same time before the recording session, but in the bands words, something magical happened. "We just happened to be lucky enough to have a tape deck running."
Trinity Session was followed up in 1989 with The Caution Horses and then 1991's Black Eyed Man. The band continued to receive critical acclaim for their music. The Caution Horses kept the same stripped down town of Trinity, while Black Eyed Man took on more of a country feel. 1993 brought about Pale Sun, Crescent Moon, an album that played heavily on rock and blues. One critic went as far as to call this album one of the top ten rock albums of all time.
Pale Sun, Crescent Moon also marked the end of the Cowboy Junkies' relationship with RCA. They decided to make the switch to Geffen for Lay It Down, but not before RCA honored the band with Studio and 200 More Miles.
Studio was a compilation of favorite studio songs, while 200 More Miles was a two CD set that chronicled the band's live music over their first decade. For Lay It Down, the band stripped down to the essentials and added fewer musicians into the mix. 1998 brought about Miles From Our Home, recorded in an old mill that Michael rented.
Cowboy Junkies have enjoyed the type of success that few bands manage to achieve. Critical acclaim. The Junkies have very quietly put out nine albums, 7 of which were completely new material, with record sales reaching more than four million. To put that in perspective, the Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac, one of the biggest selling bands in history, also released nine albums, but only five of those were new material. Cowboy Junkies have achieved the success that all bands dream of, and they have done it on their own terms.