54.40 (or 54•40). Rock band. Vancouver (Tsawwassen), British Columbia rock band formed 1979; it took its name from US President James Polk's campaign slogan "54.40 or Fight," which had to do with expanding the Canada-U.S. border northwards in the area of southwestern B.C. and northwestern Washington. The group pursued a folk- and roots-oriented rock style similar to that of the US band REM; this garnered it a following on US college radio stations.
Punk- and literature-influenced and alternative-oriented 54.40 originally comprised the trio of bass guitarist Brad Merritt, drummer Darryl Neudorf, and lead singer Neil Osborne (b Regina 1960). The trio toured in Western Canadian clubs and contributed to the 1981 joint album Things are Still Coming Ashore (MDM-3 Mo Da Mu) and released their own debut album Selection (1982; MDM-5 Mo Da Mu). In 1984, guitarist/singer/trumpeter Phil Comparelli joined the band, and it released Set the Fire (MDM-8 Mo Da Mu), including the title song and "I Go Blind." Drummer Matt Johnson had replaced Neudorf by the time of the band's 1985 single "Sweeter Things" and its self-titled 1986 album, 54.40 (92 54401 Reprise), which included the single "Baby Ran."
Keyboardist and harmonica player Dave Osborne toured and recorded with the band 1987-93. That era included 54.40's 1987 album Show Me (9 25572-2 Warner Bros.), which was its Canadian commercial breakthrough and included the successful singles "One Gun" and "One Day in Your Life." Fight for Love (1989, 92 59614 Reprise) and Sweeter Things: A Compilation (1991, CD 30857 Warner Bros.; comprising material 1984-9) followed, but US interest waned, and 1992's Dear Dear (CK 5440 Columbia) was not released in the US, although it was the band's top-selling album in Canada. A new US contract followed, and 1994's Smilin' Buddha Cabaret (CK80190 Sony Music) included the hit "Ocean Pearl." Slightly later, the US band Hootie & the Blowfish recorded a highly successful version of "I Go Blind." Trusted by Millions (1996, CK 80231 Columbia) and 1997's Sound of Truth: The Independent Collection (CK 80279 Columbia) followed, as well as 1998's Since When (CK80336 Columbia; charted at No. 18 on the Canadian Album Chart) and Heavy Mellow (1999, C2K 80461 Columbia). Sony/ATV Music published the songbook 54.40 Greatest Hits.
In the 2000s, 54.40 released Casual Viewin' (CK 80540 Columbia; in Canada in 2000 and in the US in 2001); followed by 2002's Radio Love Songs: The Singles Collection (CK 80763 Columbia) and 2003's Goodbye Flatland (SBCK 3012 Divine). In 2005, guitarist Dave Genn replaced Comparelli and the band released Yes to Everything (TND 365 True North); Northern Soul (TND 517 True North) followed in 2008.
54.40 won two West Coast Music Awards in 1999.
See also The Canadian Encyclopedia