Led by guitarist/vocalist Doug Bennett, the Vancouver-based Doug & the Slugs were at the forefront of independent Canadian rock for more than a quarter of a century. While their debut album, 1980's Cognac and Bologna, remains the peak of their career (it sold more than 100,000 copies), the band long continued to bring their lighthearted R&B and hook-laden pop to enthusiastic crowds throughout North America. Their songs have been heard in such films as Iron Eagles II, Meatballs II, Tough Love, and Neon Rider.
Formed in 1977, Doug & the Slugs have withstood numerous personnel changes. The original band, featuring guitarist John Burton, bassist Dennis Henderson, keyboardist Drew Neville, and drummers John "Wally" Watson and Ted Laturnus, was only together for a few months. By 1978, only Bennett, Burton, and Watson remained, with guitarist Richard Baker, bassist Steve Bosley, and keyboard player Richard Kendall replacing Henderson, Neville, and Laturnus. Although this lineup remained intact for a decade, the group continued to evolve. By the spring of 1998, the group featured Bennett, keyboardist/vocalist Marc Gladstone, drummer/vocalist Chris Murray Driver, guitarist/vocalist Elio Martelli, and bassist/vocalist Jay Wittur.
Signed by RCA after releasing a self-produced single, "Too Bad," in June 1980, Doug & the Slugs went on to record several impressive albums in the 1980s and early '90s. Their second album, Wrap It!, released in November 1981, featured the vocal harmonies of Toronto-based a cappella group the Nylons. Their third effort, Music for the Hard of Thinking, released in 1983, included the Canadian hit "Making It Work." Popaganda, released in 1985, received a Canadian Academy of Arts and Sciences Award for Album of the Year and earned the band an award as Group of the Year.
During the subsequent ten years, Bennett continued to balance group activities with work as a soloist. He released the solo album Animato in 1986; he made his theatrical debut in John Gray's musical Rock and Roll; and he went on to co-produce an English translation of the long-running Quebec hit comedy Brew in 1993. Bennett also established himself as a writer, director, and producer of music videos. In addition to creating videos for Doug & the Slugs and Canadian rock bands Trooper, Headpins, Zappacosta, and Images in Vogue, he worked with Canadian country music artists including Suzanne Gitzi, Rhodes & Marshall, and Wyona Sue & the Turnpikes.
Although most of the original Slugs had been replaced by the mid-'90s, the band celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2003 with a pair of reunion shows in Vancouver. Just one year later, however, Bennett was dead from cirrhosis, a victim to years of alcohol abuse. By 2009, virtually all of the original Slugs began playing again, with new frontman Ted Okos. ~ Craig Harris