Saturday, December 16, 2000

Donn Downey

An icon of Canadian rock

Played bass for Loverboy, the highly commercial band that hit it big in the 1980s

TORONTO — The family and friends of Loverboy bassist Scott Smith have abandoned their search for the musician who was swept off the deck of his sailboat, the Sea Major, in rough water near the Golden Gate Bridge on Nov. 30.

The San Francisco Coast Guard ended its search on Dec. 1, but the family launched a private search that continued until last Saturday afternoon.

Mr. Smith, 45, an experienced sailor, was not wearing a life jacket when an eight-metre wave hurled him into the Pacific. The temperature of the water was 11 degrees.

Also on board were his girlfriend, Yvonne Mayotte, and his friend, William Ellis. They were sailing from Vancouver to a marina just south of Los Angeles.

The group's lead singer, Mike Reno, said in a prepared statement released on Thursday that hope had been all but abandoned.

"With a sad heart we write this to all who loved Scott Smith. Although every effort was made to find and save our soul mate, he was not found. …

"This is a time of great sadness for all of us in Loverboy, his family, friends and all that knew him."

He added that, with Mr. Smith still missing at sea, "it is extremely hard to find any sense of closure at this time.

"We are all trying to come to terms with this tragedy," Mr. Reno said. "With your love and prayers, we will slowly heal."

Family and friends will hold a private ceremony this weekend at an undisclosed location. Fans may call toll-free to 1-888-829-8811 to leave condolence messages for the band and Mr. Smith's family.

Mr. Smith is not legally dead because his body has not been recovered. His family must petition the court to get a death certficate. The group's publicist, Gail Lagden, said the family was taking the appropriate steps.

Loverboy was a group with no pretensions. It was a commercial, hard-rock band that was close to the hottest thing in Canadian pop music back in the 1980s.

The Vancouver-based group — Paul Dean, guitar; Doug Johnson, keyboad; Matt Frenette, drums, Mr. Reno and Mr. Smith — hit it big with such songs as Turn Me Loose and Working for the Weekend, selling more than 23 million records.

The beginnings of Loverboy date back to 1978 when Mr. Dean and Mr. Reno — who were both broke — started auditioning other musicians in Calgary. They put together a group that did not include Mr. Smith and it toured for about two years. Mr. Smith signed on in 1980 and Loverboy started recording.

They hit pay dirt at the 1982 Juno Awards, winning six awards, including those for best composer, best album, best single and even best engineer.

The group worked hard for several years, spearheading a Canadian invasion into the U.S. market. They toured the major cities in the United States, once going on the road for 14 months without a break. They chose to grab the moment, subscribing to the words of Mr. Dean, who was quoted as saying, "Get it when you can."

The moment passed and the band stopped recording in the late 1980s. Seattle grunge music was in vogue and Loverboy was exhausted from its time on the road, said their publicist, Gail Lagden.

In 1988, the band disbanded. Mr. Smith went on to play in Dangerous, a short-lived band fronted by Mr. Reno and former Headpins guitarist Brian (Too Loud) McLeod. He had a short stint in radio as the late-night DJ at CFOX radio station in Vancouver.

The Vancouver Sun reported that he was known to stray from the format, broadcasting live from the backstage party at a Def Leppard concert in Spokane and interviewing prostitutes he'd invited in off the street corner outside the station.

Loverboy reunited in 1993, playing smaller venues across North America.

In 1998, the band played 90 concerts and earned $1.5-million in concert revenue. This year they did 50 shows, earning between $17,500 to $25,000 (U.S.) per show.

Loverboy last appeared at a concert on the weekend of Nov. 25 at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver. It was billed as Loverboy and Friends and collected $62,000 for juvenile diabetes. Without Mr. Smith, the band cancelled several tour dates this month.

"We do not know what the future will bring as a band, but we remain together in everything we do," Mr. Reno said. Mr. Smith, who lived in the Vancouver suburb of Maple Ridge, leaves two sons — Spencer, 17, and Brandon, 15 — and his estranged wife, Donna Smith.

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Created: December 18, 2000
Last modified: January 19, 2001
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