There’s Just Something About Wheels

Story by Glenn Roberts// Photos by Margaret Malandruccolo and Glenn Roberts
August 1 2015

From mud to motorcycles to music, it’s all in a day’s work for the Road Hammers

The Road Hammers, a Canadian country rock band, have been taking the North American music scene by storm, and it just happens that two of the three band members are also passionate motorcyclists.

The Road HammersGuitarist and lead singer Jason McCoy, who put the band together in 2005, began his riding days as a child on a Honda Z50 before moving up to a 100 cc twin-shock Kawasaki. But he says of that bike, “It sure wasn’t a rock ’n’ roll machine.” It wasn’t until a neighbourhood kid sold him a Suzuki RM80 that Jason got really excited. “That bike was raced before I got it, so it was a bit punky, but it was so cool!” he says excitedly. “I rode that bike every day through trails and fields, and the ditch beside the road to my job cutting grass at the local airport.”

The band’s other guitarist and singer, Clayton Bellamy, grew up on a farm in Bonnyville, Alberta, and is the son of a motorcycle mechanic. There were always bikes around, and Clayton says some of his earliest memories are of him getting dressed in his dad’s motocross gear and clunking around the house in his way-too-big boots. Clayton would regularly go to watch his dad race cross-country and hare scrambles. He followed suit, going on to race motocross as a kid; Clayton was in the top four in the country in his class at one time.
Bass player Chris Byrne, the third member of the musical trio, seems to be the odd man out when it comes to the motorcycle scene. Having ridden on dirtbikes as a kid, his desire to pursue two-wheeled transport didn’t continue, although Chris does admit that he’s been seriously thinking about taking a motorcycle training course in his hometown of Calgary.


The Road HammersThe Road Hammers started from modest beginnings. On his way to a successful country music solo career, Jason mentioned to an executive from CMT that he’d like to start a new band that plays a fast-paced mix of country and southern rock, with some blues thrown in for good measure. That conversation morphed into discussions about a reality TV show to air on CMT about recruiting a band; that was in 2005, and the rest, as they say, is music history.

Chris was the first recruit into the band, having played with Jason on some of his solo projects. Chris knew Clayton from the Calgary music scene and encouraged him to audition for Jason’s new band. Later, Jason and his wife went to watch Clayton perform at a bar in Calgary. He was shirtless on stage, wildly swinging a microphone around and playing guitar; he then proceeded to crawl along tables, knocking patrons’ drinks off. Jason’s wife, Terrine, looked at her husband and said, “No!” Jason looked back at her and said, “Oh yeah!”
Jason says of Clayton: “He’s the perpetual five-year-old who always keeps the fire going. He really gets excited about stuff, and he’s got a lot of life energy and creative energy, and it’s contagious. He’s the wild child of the band.”

Nashville Bound

The Road HammersThe growing popularity of the band since its inception has been steadily on the rise, particularly after the band’s self-titled first album went gold and received a Juno Award in 2006. But the rise to stardom hasn’t been without its heartaches. The band members were living in the country music mecca of Nashville, touring the States and in the middle of recording their third album when the record label went bankrupt, leaving the band in scads of red tape and unable to record elsewhere owing to contractual limitations.
Jason says the band didn’t actually break up, but it did lose momentum for a few years. During those three years, Jason and Clayton pursued solo careers as well as radio DJ gigs and television shows, while Chris, who is also a studio musician, spent time in the studio recording, engineering and producing in between touring with fellow Canadian country music singer George Canyon.


All the legalities are now past, and since 2013, the Hammers are back with a vengeance after recording their Wheels album and hitting the road to support that release and they appear to be once again hitting on all cylinders: the new album garnered the band a 2015 Juno nomination. Three Juno nominations and one Juno Award in three albums – not bad. That’s in addition to numerous Canadian Country Music Award nominations and wins over the years.

I ask the guys what the highlight of their career has been so far. Jason says knowing that the industry has recognized their efforts by all the award nominations they’ve received. Chris’s highlight was hearing for the first time that their debut album went gold, and for Clayton, it was when the Road Hammers received a standing ovation at the Grand Old Opry and was asked on the spot to play again the next night. Each one of them is so humble, not once uttering a word of bragging, although with all their success, no one could blame them if they did. Breaking into the big time is tough, and they all remember the lean years (just before the Road Hammers, Bellamy almost quit music altogether when he couldn’t make ends meet) and consider themselves blessed to have made it to where they are today.


Coincidently, all three members are self-taught musicians and attribute their musical genius to listening to a smattering of folk music, southern rock, country, blues and even a bit of heavy metal thrown in for good measure. The Wheels album was an intentional departure from the previous album’s trucking songs to those more motorcycle-related, but regardless of the number of wheels, the songs continue to be forceful and deliver a fast-paced, energy-driven sound that makes for some of the best driving/riding songs anywhere, and this translates into an extremely entertaining live show as well.

They have a busy summer ahead of them now that it’s festival season, and they have a few concert dates playing south of the border. My wife, Gwen, and I were lucky enough to see them headline a concert during their Wheels tour along with Blackjack Billy and Doc Walker. It was an energy-packed show, and one I would highly recommend if you get the chance to see the Road Hammers live.

Get on Down the Road

During their downtime, Bellamy puts as many kilometres on his tricked-out Triumph Bonneville café racer as he can, while McCoy will be getting his “real rock ’n’ roll machine,”a Big Bear chopper, back on the road after wintering in Nashville, in addition to keeping his kid’s minibike in fine tune. And hopefully by the time you read this, Byrne will have taken his motorcycle training course and is on two wheels scooting around the Alberta countryside. However you look at it, the Road Hammers are all about making the wheels go round.


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