The Hi-Risers were formed in 1998 by Gregory Townson (vocals, guitar) and Todd Bradley (vocals, bass), who had been playing with one another since forging their first musical partnership in 1984. In that year, each became a member of the Essentials, which began playing on the underground pop scene of Rochester, NY. The combo released an album, Gas Money, on Earring Records, but eventually morphed into the five-piece dance-rock band the Salamanders, which also included Christopher Earl (who also performed under his solo nom de pop, the Squires of the Subterrain) on drums as well as a younger brother of both Bradley and Earl. Soon the band had developed a considerable local following, which allowed them to make their sole recording, 1992's Livestock in the Living Room.
In addition to their own band gigs, the Salamanders backed up famous artists -- names such as Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Hank Ballard, jazz legend Bill Doggett, Bootsy Collins, and Pee Wee Ellis (the bandleader behind James Brown's great '60s band) -- who happened to be touring through Rochester. They also combined with soul great John Ellison to create his 1993 album Welcome Back (with Townson also taking co-production and mixing credits). The band dissolved in 1997 when several members quit and Townson embarked on a tour of Europe with Ellison, during which time Bradley formed the hillbilly duo the Rosey Beats with Earl, putting out a six-song cassette-only EP, Life Is Rosey, on Earl's Rocket Racket Records.
Upon Townson's return the following year, he re-teamed with Bradley and Earl to found the first lineup of the Hi-Risers. Earl was eventually replaced by veteran sticks man Jim Symonds, who had been playing for the previous 15 years with Bobby Henrie and the Goners, as well as sharing the stage with the likes of the Crickets and Johnny Paycheck. The trio recorded their first CD, Panic!, in 1998 and released it on 2-Bit Records to praise that extended all the way across the pond from London. After developing a sizeable Rochester following over the next several years, they re-entered the studio at the beginning of 2001 to record their second album, In the Spotlight. ~ Stanton Swihart