The band was originally formed in 1981 by lead vocalist and guitarist Johnnie Dee (of Niagara Falls, Ontario), Keyboardist Brad Bent (of Toronto, Ontario), and original drummer Mike Lengyell, formerly with The Diodes. By 1983, the line-up changed, with Dee (the only original remaining member) now on rhythm guitar and lead vocals, along with new recruits Derry Grehan on lead guitar and Dave Betts on drums. Grehan became the band’s primary songwriter, and penned “New Girl Now,” which won them an unsigned band contest put on by Toronto radio station Q107.
Various keyboard players and bassists came and left during this time, but on the strength of “New Girl Now,” WEA Canada signed the band to the label. Ray Coburn was added as a permanent new member on keyboards as the sessions got underway for the group’s debut LP, but the band still had no bass player, so bassist Brian Brackstone was recruited as a session player. Brackstone played on the entire album; bassist Gary Lalonde (formerly with Rose and Toronto) was added to the line-up after the album was completed, and appeared in the album’s group photos and played with the band live.
The band’s self-titled debut album, produced by Tom Treumuth, was released in June, 1984. The album featured four charting hits in Canada: a completely re-recorded version of “New Girl Now,” “Burning In Love,” “Wave Babies,” and “Stay In the Light.” All were written by Grehan. “New Girl Now” was also Honeymoon Suite’s first single to reach the top-50 in the United States.
Their follow up album, The Big Prize, produced by Bruce Fairbairn, was equally successful in Canada, with four more hits: “Bad Attitude,” “Feel It Again,” “What Does It Take,” and “All Along You Knew.” Grehan still wrote the lion’s share of the band’s material, but Dee and Coburn also contributed songs to this album; “Feel It Again”, a Coburn composition, reached the Top 40 in the US, while Grehan’s “What Does It Take” reached no. 52, buoyed by its inclusion on the soundtrack for the John Cusack film One Crazy Summer. In 1989, “Bad Attitude” was featured in the series finale of Miami Vice, played during a Ferrari driving segment that mirrored one from the series’ pilot episode.
In 1986, keyboardist Ray Coburn left the band, replaced by Rob Preuss of Burlington, Ontario-based Spoons. Also during 1986, the band produced the track “Those Were the Days” for the Charlie Sheen film The Wraith.
In the spring of 1987, the band performed the title track for the Mel Gibson film Lethal Weapon, which was composed by Michael Kamen. In the winter of 1987, the band started work on their third album in L.A. Unfortunately, Johnnie Dee was hit by a car at LAX airport, breaking his leg in several places, and required surgery to insert a ten inch pin to help the leg heal properly. While Dee was recovering in the hospital, one-time Doobie Brothers member Michael McDonald was brought in to help out with the recording sessions; he wrote lyrics and sang back up on “Long Way Back,” a forthcoming track for their next album.
In 1988, their third album was finally released: Racing After Midnight, produced by Ted Templeman (of Van Halen fame) and Jeff Hendrickson. That album made the top 10 in Canada, but was not as successful in the U.S. Singles included “Love Changes Everything,” “Looking Out for Number One,” “Cold Look” (Europe only), and “It’s Over Now.” By now, while Grehan was still the primary songwriter, Dee and Preuss frequently co-wrote with Grehan.
In 1989, the band released their first greatest hits compilation, The Singles, which included two new charting singles in Canada: “Still Loving You” and “Long Way,” both written by Grehan. Preuss left and Coburn rejoined the band in time to embark on “The Singles” tour, which would turn out to be the last tour featuring the band’s classic line-up until 2007.
By 1991, Lalonde and Betts left the band, and were replaced by Steve Webster (from Billy Idol’s band) on bass, and Jorn Anderson (from Fludd and Alannah Myles) on drums. The band returned to the studio to craft Monsters Under The Bed with Paul Northfield producing, and the team of Grehan/Coburn/Dee was responsible for the songwriting. Singles “Say You Don’t Know Me” and “The Road” were moderately successful in Canada, but once again failed to make a dent in the US. Ray Coburn left the band again after this album; he was replaced on keyboards by Peter Nunn.
The band continued to tour in the ’90s, although many line-up changes continued to occur, with only Dee and Grehan remaining as the consistent members. Sass Jordan bassist Stan Miczek joined in 1998 for the first of his 3 two-year stints with the band.
In 2002, they released their first new studio album in 11 years, Lemon Tongue. Playing on the album were Grehan and Dee, who were by now the group’s only official members, and who also wrote all the songs as a team. Also appearing on Lemon Tongue were Peter Nunn and Gary Breit on keyboards; Rob Laidlaw on bass; and Randy Cooke on drums. The album was released on an independent label, and leaned towards a more artistic and adventurous direction than their previous rock releases. The European release of this album was titled Dreamland, and featured many track changes, dropping five songs and adding four others, including a remake of their 1989 Canadian hit “Still Loving You.” The credited band on the Dreamland album (and presumably the band that recorded the new tracks) consisted of Dee, Grehan, Laidlaw, Nunn and new drummer Bret Carrigan.
In 2004, Dee released a solo album (Songs in Dee) featuring backing by the other members of Honeymoon Suite, along with guest musicians such as Kim Mitchell and Rik Emmett.
In 2006, the band released another greatest hits collection entitled Feel It Again: An Anthology, a 2-CD set featuring most of the band’s singles, selected album tracks, and rare and unreleased material.
In June 2007, the band officially announced the return of a reunited classic line-up of Johnnie Dee, Derry Grehan, Ray Coburn, Gary Lalonde, and Dave Betts. The band toured extensively throughout Canada in 2007 and 2008 and then entered the studio to record a new album. The high point of the reunion was the new CD Clifton Hill, produced by Tom Treumuth (who produced the self-titled Honeymoon Suite debut album in 1984), and named after the famous landmark in the centre of the tourist activity in Niagara Falls. The album was released in Canada in late September 2008 on Koch Records and subsequently by Italian melodic rock label Frontiers Records on October 10, 2008. The new album is described by guitarist Derry Grehan as “somewhat of a return musically to the sound that we had in the 80’s.”
In 2009, the band continued to tour Canada and select Northeastern United States cities. However, on September 1, 2009, it was announced that the band had again parted ways with original keyboardist Ray Coburn. Peter Nunn returned to the band lineup to replace him for the second time. The band made a successful appearance at Firefest 6 Nottingham, England to a very enthusiastic audience in October, 2009.
As of fall of 2015, the band is back in the studio mixing 4 new songs, and looking ahead to an early 2016 release of new HMS music!
They are also preparing for the 2016 summer tour which will once again take them across Canada, and select dates in the US as well.
Honeymoon Suite (1984) #38 CAN
The Big Prize (1986) #6 CAN
Racing After Midnight (1988) #8 CAN
Monsters Under the Bed (1991)
Lemon Tongue (2001)
Clifton Hill (2008)
Hands Up (2017)
13 Live (1995)
HMS Live at the Gods (2005)