Just Between Jerry Mercer and Me – Part Three

The saga of April Wine commenced with great songwriting.

Something that sets Myles Goodwyn apart from most of his Canadian contemporaries except for The Guess Who, Neil Young and Rush.

Early songs such as `You Won`t Dance with Me` and `Bad Side of the Moon` led to bigger hits such as `Roller`,  Ì Like to Rock` and `Just Between You and Me`.  A legacy of linguistic and musical prowess to be left behind for generations to come.

According to Mercer, although Myles wrote the songs and the majority of lyrics – it was a group effort yet Myles always had the final word. Sometimes, it was not pretty …

” We were in the studio recording Nature of the Beast. We decided to cover the song `Sign of the Gypsy Queen`. I played the beat the way I thought it should go and Myles`vision was completely different. Usually we could come to a halfway point yet not this time. It was the only occasion I can recall when we almost came to blows! I was passionate and so was Myles! We ending up with a little of my idea and a lot of his!”

All the ideas led to a breakout album and suddenly the band was famous in Canada and the United States. They were `true`rock stars and that led to the inevitable `sex, drugs and rock n`roll` lifestyle.

Mercer was married and had two young children at home – a son and a daughter. His wife was supportive of his music yet the lifestyle was tough on the relationship. Jerry stayed true to his wife and stayed away from the groupies – the drugs did catch up to him and almost ruined him.

” I started experimenting with cocaine. A little at first and like most people that get addicted – it started to take over my life.” He shakes his head. ” The reason I stopped cocaine was because it was interfering with my abilty to play the drums. Drumming was always my passion and love – when it ( cocaine ) started to destroy that; it was time to stop!”

April Wine continued it`s rock ways but were never able to dupilcate the sucess of 1983`s Nature of the Beast album. By 1987 – the band was finished and the members went their seperate ways.

Mercer hooked up with former Offenbach members  John McGale and Breen LeBoeuf. The Buzz Band played in small local clubs in Montreal and gave fans an opportunity to witness Mercer`s drum solo close up. A drum solo which not only rests in people`s memories – a watermark moment for Mercer in the future.

Now What ?

One day, Jerry Mercer found himself above  Decarie Blvd. in Montreal. He was spiritually drained. He had an empty feeling inside and felt void. His marriage was ending, April Wine was not close to re-grouping and the Buzz Band was no longer playing very often.

” I was thinking of jumping!” States Mercer as if someone else was saying the words. ” I had all these questions in my head and there was no one with any answers for me. I really, sincerely, was just lost!”

It was then Mercer heard a voice in his head. The voice told the drummer to go and see an old friend named Bevin. An ally that Mercer had not spoken to in many years.

” I just started walking toward the last address I had for him. I did not think he would be there but the voice kept telling me to go!” 

Mercer found the house and knocked on the door. Bevin opened it up and knew right away something was wrong. He took Jerry in and after renewing acquaintances – the two spoke of life and death. Bevin convinced Jerry to join him in his Bible classes and the pair started to take  courses together.

Bevin and Mercer became closer than ever as the pair commenced recording a gospel C.D.  Bevin travelling from the city to Mercer`s home and the studio that lay in the bowels of April Wine`s ex-drummer`s home. Then, `like a shot through the soul` – Bevin was killed one day in a traffic crash on the way to Mercer`s.

” If it were not for the lessons that Bevin taught me and the ones we learned together, I would not have been able to handle his death. It was an ironic twist of fate. He saved my life and then his was taken away coming to visit me.  I do not know why – there is a reason that happened.”

Perhaps that reason was instilling strength in Mercer. Not long following Bevin`s untimely death, Mercer discoverd he had prostate cancer. A killer of many men around his age at that time. Jerry went for chemotherapy treatments and was drumming once more with the newly  re – formed April Wine.

This time it was Jimmy Clench back on bass, along with Myles and Brian. Mercer only missed one show due to his cancer.

” I played a few gigs standing up but because of the chemo, I was too tired. It was the only time in thirty years I did not play with Wine.”

When I`m Sixty – Four … ?

At sixty  years of age, Mercer and his bandmates started a new chapter in their lives. A chapter that was not filled with arena tours nor gold records. It was a section of their lives that gave the fans a chance to show their appreciation for a Canadian institution. The band – touring non-stop across Canada playing in small clubs …

An appreciation witnessed first hand on a couple of occasions …

To be Continued … 

Jerry Mercer and the Buzz Band will be playing May 18th at Calistoga Grill in Pointe Claire. Don`t miss it …!

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