"It started out as a joke. It quickly became a career. It's still funny, though."
- The Arrogant Worms
The Arrogant Worms, Canada's foremost comedy folk music act, began as a side project for some students at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Trevor Strong, Mike McCormick and John Whytock formed the Worms in 1991 after a period of moderately informal musical and comedic pursuits with the Queen's Players.
They came up with the name in a bar by creating a list of adjectives and nouns and crossing off the ones they didn't like until they settled upon the Arrogant Worms.
"That's right! We were drunk in a bar!"
- Mike McCormick
The Worms eventually became reasonably popular around Queen's and received exposure at campus shows and on campus radio. They then eventually became reasonably popular with the good people at CBC Radio. The Worms went on to earn their degrees and saved enough money to record their first album, an independent self-titled release, in 1992. Songs such as The Last Saskatchewan Pirate and Jesus' Brother Bob earned fame. The Worms performed throughout Canada and in some parts of the United States. Russell's Shorts, the album that brought the Spare the Spud movement to an unsuspecting world, was released in 1994.
John left the Worms in the summer of 1994 after finding that the touring schedule to be hard. Chris Patterson, a Queen's drama graduate, joined the band and assumed the bass player position. C'est Cheese was released in 1995 and contained such songs as History is Made by Stupid People and Proud to be a Banker. This album also ended up in space, and Dangerous (not to be confused with the Michael Jackson song) was played for the crew aboard the space shuttle.
The Worms continued to tour. 1997 brought Live Bait, the Worms' first live album. 1997 also brought Christmas Turkey, the satirical holiday album. A Canada Post strike prevented the album's full release. Band members suggested that Kenny G and Canada Post were just out to get them. Dirt was released in 1999 and contained such Canadian nationalist songs as Rocks and Trees, Log In To You (the internet love song), and Great to be a Nerd, the polka that tells it like it is.
The Worms' seventh album, Idiot Road, was released in 2001. It included laments about the boy band phenomenon, stalkers, getting the worst seat on an airplane, and the beaver, Canada's beloved national animal. It also contained a bonus track about a woman named Mrs. Catto and her budgie. Fans smiled, nodded and chose not to ask.
After ten years of independent music-making, the Arrogant Worms were signed to Oglio Records, an American record label, in 2002. They released Gift Wrapped, a compilation of eighteen of the Worms' songs.
In early 2002, the Worms performed a show with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. They tried to get a "famous Canadian guest star" to perform with them but couldn't. They asked Trevor's mom to join them onstage for a performance of Rocks and Trees, instead. The show was recorded and made into Three Worms and an Orchestra, their first television special. The soundtrack, Semi-Conducted, was also released in 2002. A DVD of the concert is available for purchase online. It includes unedited footage not used in the TV broadcast.
The Arrogant Worms are on their way to more musical success. There's another album, a DVD, and a plethora of more live performances on the way.
Throughout the course of their career, the Worms have:
Closed Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill (even though they weren't scheduled to - inclement weather can be a blessing sometimes)
Written and performed King of the Surf, their own musical
Been accosted by Fred Phelps because they happen to be from Canada (where everyone is allegedly "morally bankrupt")
Sung the national anthem at a Jays game and not been compensated - not even with free food
Had the number one song on the Dr. Demento show in 1995
The Worms are the first to tell people that, despite drastic mislabelling on the Internet, they are not the group responsible for The War of 1812, The Toronto Song, or Cows With Guns. The first two belong solely to Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie. The third was written and performed by Dana Lyons.
The Worms released another album (called Toast) in 2004. It was recorded at a live show at Hugh's Room in Toronto, and includes the entire concert (including their legendary banter). This album also marks the first occasion of Trevor and Chris boycotting a song, forcing Mike to perform it by himself.
The Three Worms and an Orchestra DVD, after having been held up by ratings boards, has finally been released for purchase.
The Arrogant Worms (1992)
Russell's Shorts (1994)
C'est Cheese (1995)
Live Bait (1997)
Christmas Turkey (1997)
Idiot Road (2001)
Gift Wrapped (2002)