The Pursuit of Happiness Biography

Originally from an online version of The Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia by Jaimie Vernon

Text has been partially revised for the purposes of this site. (updated April 1, 2001).

Just want an updated timeline of the big things? Head down here.

The most recent lineup:

Moe Berg (lead vocals, lead guitar)
Dave Gilby (drums)
Kris Abbott (vocals, guitars)[joined 1988]
Brad Barker (bass, vocals) [joined 1990]
Renee Suchy (vocals)[joined 1996]

The alumnae (one alumnus):

Johnny Sinclair (bass, vocals) [left 1990]
Tam Amabile (vocals) [left in 1988]
Tasha Amabile (vocals) [left in 1988]
Leslie Stanwyck (vocals) [joined 1989; left 1990]
Susan Murumets (vocals) [touring in 1990 only]
Rachel Oldfield (vocals) [joined in 1992; left 1995]
Jennifer Foster (vocals) [joined in 1995; left 1996]

The TPOH lineup since 1996 (l-r: Dave Gilby, Kris Abbott, Moe Berg, Renee Suchy, Brad Barker.

The story:

Edmonton native Moe Berg watched his father play in country bands while he grew up, and spent his time admiring guitarists like Eddie Van Halen, Jeff Beck and Johnny Winter. In his teens and early 20's he pursued his musical ambitions with area bands like the Modern Minds, Troc '59 and Facecrime. It was in Troc '59 that he hooked up with drummer Dave Gilby and in 1985, they agreed that the only way to keep going musically was to move to Toronto and try things out there.

The original cast (clockwise from upper left): Tasha Amabile, Johnny Sinclair, Tam Amabile, Moe Berg, Dave GilbyBerg arrived first and promptly began a solo acoustic act that he took to any bar that would have him. It was while he was doing this that he met Saskatoon native Johnny Sinclair and the idea of TPOH began to take shape. By 1986 they had added Winnipeg-born sisters Tam and Tasha Amabile for backing vocals, and the band began playing the Toronto area. A song that Berg had written in the summer of 1985, "I'm An Adult Now", was a constant audience favourite, so Berg's director friend Nelu Ghiran made a low-budget video of the song, which was promptly picked up by MuchMusic and "Toronto Rocks" (on CITY-TV), and suddenly the independent 12" single the band had pressed was totally sold out. Sensing the burgeoning interest in the band, WEA Canada picked up the single, repressed and repackaged it, and distributed it across the country. Now the band had a cross-country hit. Such was the band's independent success that they received Juno nominations in 1987 for Most Promising Group and Best Video.

WEA did not exercise its option to sign the band to a full deal, so in 1988 the band put out another 12" single called "Killed By Love" which was also a regional hit in the Toronto area. Constant playing anywhere and everywhere earned the band a reputation as being one of the strongest and loudest acts in the area, and all this activity caught the interest of Chrysalis Records. At this point the Amabile sisters decided to pursue their own musical interests (with their band Femme Fatale), and guitarist Kris Abbott and Leslie Stanwyck were brought on board for backing vocals. After signing the band, the label got the idea to pair the band with mega-producer Todd Rundgren. Rundgren ventured to Toronto in 1987 to see the band live at the from inside Love Junk (l. to r.): Kris Abbott, Dave, Moe, Johnny, Leslie StanwyckDiamond Club. TPOH went into the studio with him and the result was 1988's full-length debut, Love Junk.

Completely re-recording "I'm An Adult Now", it was the album's first single, once again garnering considerable critical and public praise, and the new video once again became a MuchMusic staple, although MTV in the US initially banned it, citing lyrical references to sex, alcohol and drugs; it was later added to rotation and the band even did a live spot on the famous music station. The album eventually went platinum in Canada (100,000 copies) and sold over 100,000 copies in the States.

One Sided Story touring lineup (l. to r.): Brad Barker, Kris, Susan Murumets, Dave, MoeThe group returned to the studio with Rundgren for their second Chrysalis offering, One-Sided Story (1990). Another lineup change occurred after recording had been completed as Stanwyck and Sinclair left to do their own musical things, so Halifax native Brad Barker (bass) and Susan Murumets (backing vocals) joined full-time. Berg's reputation for being a funny, intelligent, masterful songwriter was solidified. Although not selling quite as well as Love Junk, the album still went gold in Canada (50,000 copies) and their constant touring continued to draw sell-out crowds and enthusiastic reviews from the media.

For The Downward Road: Dave, Kris, Moe, BradLabel troubles forced the band to take an unexpected three-year hiatus, but they got signed by Mercury, hooked up with producer Ed Stasium (Smithereens, Living Colour, the Ramones) and added Rachel Oldfield for backing vocals in the interim. Their next release, 1993's The Downward Road, featured a musical collaboration with veteran songwriter Jules Shear and a guitar solo by Rundgren, and continued in TPOH's blistering pop vein. Although not selling as well as the previous two releases, it nonetheless garnered just as much critical praise, and live they still sold out venue after venue based on their reputation as being one of Canada's best performing units.

For Where's the Bone: Kris, Brad, Dave, Moe, Rachel OldfieldThe last two band albums, 1995's Where's The Bone (which was followed by another lineup change - Oldfield was replaced by Jennifer Foster) and 1996's The Wonderful World Of... were both released on an independent Toronto label, Iron Music Group, and were both accompanied by tours and enthusiasm from their league of hard-core followers.

Though the band has never officially announced its demise, in 1997, Berg released the solo album Summer's Over and is currently working on a book; Stanwyck and Sinclair have continued on as successful musical duo Universal Honey; Jennifer Foster released a solo CD called 'Speedyhead' which was produced by Moe Berg and Paul Myers (Gravelberrys); Kris Abbott is pursuing a book writing career; Razor & Tie Records in the US released a 'best of' package featuring some rare material in 1999; Moe Berg has also revived TPOH's cover-band alter-ego called Monteforte in March 2000.promo photo, circa Wonderful World

Copyright 1999, 2000, Canoe Limited Partnership. All rights reserved.

(Find more recent updates on the band members on the To Review page!)

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS TIMELINE (as of 09/2018):

1986 - The Pursuit of Happiness were launched in early 1986 when lead vocalist Moe Berg and drummer Dave Gilby moved from Edmonton to Toronto, Ontario. They soon met bassist Johnny Sinclair and formed the band, adding sisters Tamara and Natasha Amabile as backing vocalists.
1986 - (September) Their debut independent single, "I'm an Adult Now" became a smash hit across Canada in 1986, sparked by a low-budget video
1987 - CASBY Award winner, Most Promising Group (Canadian awards for independent and alternative music, presented annually by Toronto radio station CFNY, currently branded as 102.1 The Edge. CASBY is an acronym for Canadian Artists Selected By You)
1987 - Juno Award winner, Best Video: "I'm An Adult Now"
1988 - (October) Signed to Chrysalis Records. Their debut album, Love Junk, was produced by Todd Rundgren and released October 26. Band members: Moe Berg Vocals and Guitar / Kris Abbott Guitar and Vocals / Dave Gilby Drums / Johnny Sinclair Bass / Leslie Stanwyck Vocals
1989 - (January) "I'm An Adult Now" was re-released as a single, making it to the charts a second time. The song peaked at No. 6 on Billboard's alternative songs chart and was followed by "She's So Young" and "Hard To Laugh".
1989 - (March 16) Love Junk certified GOLD in Canada
1989 - Juno Award winner for Most Promising Group of the Year
1990 - (March 29) Love Junk certified PLATINUM in Canada for sales over 100,000 copies
1991 - Personnel change: Stanwyck and Sinclair leave after completing the band's follow-up with Rundgren One-Sided Story and are replaced by Brad Barker (bass) and Susan Murumets (backing vocals). Rachel Oldfield replaces Murumets in 1992.
1991 - (March 13) One-Sided Story certified GOLD In Canada
1993 - Signed to Mercury and released The Downward Road that featured the single "Cigarette Dangles" (the video appeared on Beavis and Butt-head)
1995 - Where's The Bone, the band's 4th album, released on Iron Music
1995 - Rachel Oldfield left the band and was replaced by Jennifer Foster, who in turn left the following year and was replaced by Renee Suchy, who remains with the band today!
1996 - The Wonderful World of The Pursuit Of Happiness, the band's 5th album, is released
1997 - Moe Berg releases Summer's Over via Iron Music, his first and so far only solo release
2005 - Band record two new tracks for a greatest hits compilation When We Ruled: The Best of The Pursuit of Happiness: a cover of Prince's "When Doves Cry" along with an original, "Hey Mary Anne"
2006 - (March) The band were inducted into the Canadian Indies Hall of Fame.
2014 - (December 13) The band reunited for the Q107 Jingle Ball at the Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto
2016 - Love Junk was # 28 on the Classic Rock Magazine (UK) list of "The Real 100 Greatest Albums of the 80s" and listed as one of the "Top 100 debuts of all time"
2017 - (October 27) Performance at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto as part of the Horseshoe's 70th anniversary series of shows.
2018 - Band current line-up features Moe Berg - lead vocals, lead guitar, songwriting / Kris Abbott - guitar, backing vocals / Brad Barker - bass, occasional live backing vocals / Dave Gilby - drums / Renee Suchy - backing vocals, live percussion


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