On this day in 1974, St. Catharines drummer joins Canada’s power trio
Published July 29, 2022 at 9:48 am
The date July 29, 1974 is significant in both Canadian rock history and St. Catharines folklore.
That was the day that Port Dalhousie resident Neil Peart joined the band Rush. And for the band fanatics, it also happened to be singer Geddy Lee’s 21st birthday.
While born in Hamilton in 1952, Peart was raised in St. Catharines and was enough of a local boy that as a teenager, he worked at Lakeside Park. Rumour has it he wrote a pretty big song about that park.
As a teenage carny at the park, Peart worked on the Bubble Game and Ball Toss but when things got slow, it seems he totally slacked off and in the end, got canned for it.
How big was Rush as a band? They made it onto Family Guy in an episode where Peter Griffin was beaten up at a concert for being the only guy not wearing black jeans.
At 18 years old, in 1970, Peart took off to England with hopes of becoming a professional drummer but job prospects didn’t appear and 18 months later, he returned to St. Catharines to work with his father, Glen, selling tractor parts at Dalziel Equipment.
After gigs with countless southern Ontario bands, in 1974, he was encouraged by a buddy to audition for a band named Rush whose drummer John Rutsey had to step away for medical reason. The band has just released its self-titled debut, “Rush.”
While the audition did not go well by all accounts, Peart was nonetheless chosen by bandmates Lee and Alex Lifeson as the group was just two weeks away from its first U.S. tour where they opened for Uriah Heap and Manfred Mann’s Earth Band.
Peart’s first gig with the band was playing in front of 11,000 people at the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh on August 14 – little more than two weeks after joining the band.
Rush fans know the rest of the story. Peart became the main lyricist with the group which went on the heights of fame and critical acclaim.
Nicknamed the “Professor,” Peart was quite notably for the size of his drum set, in which he was literally surrounded by kits, chimes and cymbals.
Peart announced he was done touring in 2015 and in 2020, died of brain cancer.
Neil Peart shortly after he joined the band, Rush, and as a 16-year-old in his St. Catharines living room.