Triumph released their self-titled debut album in October, 1976. The album failed to achieve much commercial success, mostly because Attic failed to adequately distribute the record outside of Canada. The effort is considered a classic by Triumph's loyal fans, however, and was reissued years later with the title In the Beginning. Interestingly, Emmett's first name was misspelled on the album, prompting the guitarist to change his name officially. He would later explain that changing his name was far easier than getting the label to make a correction. Subsequent support tours got the band noticed by RCA Records, who signed the band for distribution outside of Canada (Attic would continue to be the band's Canada label for four more albums). The band's second release, titled Rock & Roll Machine, was released in November 1977 in Canada and in early 1978 elsewhere. While not a huge success initially, the album did spawn the band's first hit single, a cover of Joe Walsh's "Rocky Mountain Way", which helped the album land on the Billboard 200 albums chart in the US. The album would eventually receive double-platinum certification in Canada for selling more than 200,000 copies there.
In mid-1978 Triumph established a long-lasting popularity in San Antonio, Texas when they were asked to sub for Sammy Hagar at an in-studio radio station promotion. The DJ began playing Triumph heavily on the station after that, and the band capitalized on the opportunity by embarking on a brief tour of the Lone Star State. The shows helped boost the band's popularity, and the Texas market has been favorable for the band ever since. As the band's popularity and commercial success grew, so did their use of elaborate lighting and pyrotechnics at their concerts, earning the band a reputation for memorable live shows in the vein of KISS. With its fan-base growing, the band signed a new record deal with MCA Records, hitting the studio in the fall of 1978 to begin working on a third full-length album. The album was finished before the end of the year, and was the band's first effort to be solely produced by Levine, who had co-produced the band's first two albums.
The third Triumph record, Just A Game, was released on March 30, 1979, garnering positive reception from fans and critics alike. The album spawned the band's first hit singles, as both "Hold On" and "Lay It On the Line" spent several weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, peaking at No. 38 and 86, respectively. The two singles helped the album reach gold certification in the US, for sales of 500,000 copies, and the heavy airplay of "Hold On" helped expand the band's audience dramatically. "Lay It On the Line", meanwhile, achieved iconic status over the years at mainstream rock stations, and is likely the most oft-played single from the band's catalog on classic rock stations to this day. The band toured briefly in support of the record before heading back into the studio in December 1979 to lay down their fourth album.