Border City Band Guitar Army Reflects on 25 Years
Story by Karen Tinsley
Photography by John Liviero, Sooter’s Photography
Formed from strong doses of Detroit rock, rhythm and blues, Guitar Army has been kickin’ out the jams on the Windsor/Detroit circuit for 25 years. Here, on the verge of launching their ‘Detroit Blood’ LP, they reminisce, reflect on their roots and expound on their passions.
Where did the name Guitar Army come from, anyway?
It could be the iconic 1972 manifesto “Guitar Army: Rock and Revolution with The MC5 and the White Panther Party” that proclaimed, ‘rock and roll is a weapon for cultural revolution’ (written by John Sinclair, manager of the notorious Detroit band MC5).
Or it could refer to the technique (often credited to Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page) of overdubbing multiple guitar parts to create a layered and harmonized sound.
Guitar Army can also describe a group of guitarists performing together to create a powerful sound, and in these parts, Guitar Army is Dale D’Amore and Tim Garant (guitar and vocals), Mike Fortier (bass guitar and vocals) and Wayne Bracewell (percussion and vocals). The band gives a big shout out of appreciation to Tim’s brother Dave Garant, who fit right in (performing live and on two record albums) while Wayne was on hiatus for a few years.
Founded by late local musician Pat Sprague in 1997 and named after a hit song by Detroit-based band The Rationals, Guitar Army once played Classic Rock Fest on the River with Rationals lead singer Scott Morgan. They also performed with MC5 drummer Dennis Thompson.
Everyone in the band agrees that both The Rationals and MC5 were major musical influences; in fact, they also agree that their phone started ringing right after those momentous musical collaborations with their idols.
Bass player Mike recalls, “the local live music scene was so vibrant in ‘97; we played places like The Loop and Aardvark Blues Café.”
Back then, Radiohead, Metallica and Mötley Crüe ruled the airwaves, along with the Backstreet Boys and Spice Girls.
Wearing track suits outside the gym became a thing (thanks in large part to Sporty Spice’s affinity for Adidas© pants). Bill Clinton was sworn in for his 2nd term as President. Tiger Woods, at age 21,
became the youngest golfer to win the Masters; Mike Tyson bit off Evander Holyfield’s ear in the boxing ring. The Detroit Red Wings won their first Stanley Cup in 42 years. Princess Diana died in a horrific car crash in a Paris tunnel.
After twenty-five years, from jamming with rock heroes to a Victoria Day gig in Las Vegas (where Dale suffered a broken finger!) to performing their original song ‘Goin’ to Detroit’ on Channel 2 (last September at 8 o’clock in the morning!), it’s safe to say Dale, Wayne, Tim and Mike are bona fide rock ‘n’ roll journeymen.
Guitar Army were featured as special guests when the legendary ‘70’s hard rock guitar guru Pat Travers and his band—best known for hits Boom Boom (Out Go The Lights) and Snortin’ Whiskey (featured in the 2004 movie Sideways)—performed at Rockstar Music Hall in April 2019.
Drummer Wayne says he literally “lives and breathes music 24/7/365. I love playing so much! Sometimes, after we’ve loaded up after a gig and I’m walking out the door, the club manager calls out, ‘Hey man, you forgot your money…’”
“Being part of a rock ‘n’ roll band is absolutely a dream come true for me,” says Tim, with more than a hint of childlike glee.
Something that sets Guitar Army apart from many of their contemporaries? They perform original songs.
Dale (not only a lead singer and guitarist, but also a prolific songwriter) shares, “On stage, we don’t always introduce our original songs, because sometimes that can turn certain audiences off. We just launch into our originals without any fanfare. But that being said, when we play to audiences who know us, we get requests for our original stuff.”
When asked about his songwriting process, Dale says, “a lot of inspiration and energy comes from pioneers like Chuck Berry, Jerry lee Lewis, The Ramones and The Clash. Our Punk Rock roots and influences are rooted in our original songs and our live shows—which makes us a bit different from the rest.”
And speaking of live shows, it’s a practice of Guitar Army not to employ set lists.
“We pride ourselves on our ability to ‘read’ our audiences before we get too far into a performance,” says Mike.
The art of being able to gauge (and engage) audiences is striking that balance of giving people what they want, but also giving them things they don’t know they want yet. By stacking their shows with tried-and-true hits, catchy originals (such as Faster and Louder, a track appearing on Invading the Border, a recently released compilation LP featuring musical newcomers and mainstays), Guitar Army has found a formula that works.
The art of giving back is also evident: Dale, Mike and Wayne have been inducted into the Windsor-Essex County Music Hall of Fame, which exists to recognize musicians and promoters for their music and community service.
“It’s a Hall of Fame with a difference,” says Mike. “You can be the best singer or player on the planet, but if you don’t give back to your community, you don’t get nominated.”
When asked how modern technology advances have impacted the band, Dale is quick to point out, “People in Poland and Germany have heard our music and bought our CD’s. During the pandemic, we did both virtual performances and porch concerts.”
Mike also runs a Facebook page called Windsor Punk, New Wave, Alternative—Past and Present. “I started it to keep in touch with fellow musicians during the pandemic, hoping to connect with 50 or so people; now it’s grown to almost 1,000 followers!”
So what does the future hold for Guitar Army?
Dale says that in addition to the release of their new LP “Detroit Blood”, there are also plans to “put something out on vinyl”.
And as this interview wraps up, the band is asked to share their funniest, weirdest, most memorable story. Their answer is unanimous: “The Aardvark photobombing incident. Just type in “girl moons band” on YouTube!”