It may have been a Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday. Do the days of the week matter when the phone rings and a Canadian rock legend is waiting on the other end of the call? The bruises linger from the self – inflicted pinching that took place on my right arm as I took the receiver from my ex and spoke to April Wine’s drummer.
I arrived at Mr. Mercer’s home the following day. A greeting ensued at the front door of a beautiful house located a hop, skip and drum roll from the Cajun Blues restaurant. Jerry introduced me to his current wife and his son Sean. His daughter (the server), was also hanging around and her and I laughed quietly with the irony of the circumstances that joined us together in this ‘after hours’ club.
Once the formalities were completed and I was cultured to the fact that Jerry`s daughter was studying piano and the son – a drummer just like Dad , Jerry and I moved from the kitchen and carved a path to the den. The scenario became a video in my mind, a picturesque view of the waterfront took center stage through the bay windows.
“I have an office… Gold records on the wall … Just leave a message – maybe I’ll call …”
Whether or not Mr. Mercer has, “accountants pay for it all …” (more of the songs’ lyrics ), is something I do not know. It was of no interest to me and frankly – none of my business . What I do know – Mr. Mercer did call me back. I stood there.
The hair on the back of my neck and on top of my
head along with all the tiny ones that guarded my scrotum – were standing on guard. Shivers traveled the length of my body. Overcome with nostalgia and the sheer magnitude of what lay before me, my knees developed a mind of their own and searched the floor.
- Life ‘s been good so far …
Glints of sunlight recoiled off the yellow discs that adorned the walls. I was the victim. I lay dying on the desert floor in a Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Western as the golden vultures with the names ‘I like to Rock’, ‘Just Between You and Me’ and ‘Roller’ encircled me.
“If nervousness and anxiety were to be the ailments that killed me – a death on Jerry Mercer’s floor was not necessarily a bad thing ” I thought silently.
Jerry motioned towards the sofa and we sat.
The ( then ) sixty – one year old could sense the three-year-old schoolchild that currently invaded his couch and he immediately put my senses at ease. He asked about my children. As any parent is aware – there is not a disaster in the world that the idea of offspring dancing through your mind, like angels on a cloud – cannot heal.
“So where do we start?” Jerry asked in a kind way once my tales of tots were completed.
“I thought you would know … “I responded with a nervous laugh. I was not convinced this was the proper time to inform Mercer that this was indeed – my inaugural biographical interview.
Where does one start? At his birth? In his parents’ bedroom …? Should we get them on the phone? Who knew?
“Why don’t we start with how you became a drummer?”The words escaped my mouth and the resonance eased my novice-batting stance. I was ready to step to the plate. The pine tar tossed aside.
The only interview I had done to this point was never published. I was not over – whelmed during that one and the fact that the majority of my questions were about the Rolling Stones – had everything to do with it.
Annie Liebowitz, the famed photographer, was in town with a collection of her photos. They (the photos), were on display at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts and my journalistic mentor was kind enough to donate his press pass. He was well aware of my obsession with the ‘World’s Greatest Rock n Roll Band’ and Ms. Leibowitz had been the band’s official photographer for their historic 1972 and 1975 tour.
It is one thing to know a great deal about a subject and a completely different one when you are learning as you go. Not only that – with all due respect to Ms. Leibowitz, she never ‘rocked my world’ with a ten minute drum solo’!
In the beginning …
Mercer began his tale as Yannique brought us refreshments. My borrowed tape recorder on full alert as the’ rocker’ informed me of his tribal beginnings in the art of percussion.
He started playing in a marching band when he was fourteen as an extracurricular activity. Once he completed school at Verdun high school, he commenced working at IBM and was set to indulge in a career with a growing company.Then, one afternoon, he heard something that altered his life and in the process – startled his parents.
“I was listening to AM radio. My hit parade was the hip radio show back then . All of a sudden the Ray Charles’ song ‘What’d I Say ‘came on. I had never heard anything like it. I thought to myself ‘that cat has swing!’ I knew right then and there – I wanted to become a drummer!”
Mercer informed his parents of his decision and promptly quit his job to pursue music. His dad told him that it was like ‘jumping off a diving board into an empty pool ‘.Yet, in Jerry’s words; they were very supportive. ”They were Christian and very religious people. I could never have asked for a more loving environment to grow up in.”
He would sneak into the Maurice Richard arena and crawl up on the catwalk to get a bird’s eye view of his idols as they came to town. High above – he would watch with precision as Krupa introduced his talents to Montreal. Buddy Rich would arrive the following week and make everyone’s (including Mercer) jaw drop to the concrete floor. The rafters were also the place that Mercer witnessed an up and coming talent ply his trade as an opening act for the Isley Brothers. It was a young Jimi Hendrix with Mitch Mitchell banging away on drums. Mitchell fast became another hero to the young Mercer.
“Music was much easier to get into back then.” Mercer continues.” You had four choices – Jazz, Pop, Rock or Country. These days there are so many different genres with each one having a sub – genre. I do not envy kids today. Even with all the advancements and the ability to self- record, it is such a difficult environment. “He goes on to say with a laugh.” Even the drugs today make it much scarier than my day.”
Mercer bought a small kit for fifty dollars that consisted of a snare, a high hat, a bass drum and one tom. He would play along to the songs he heard on the radio and whichever records he managed to purchase or get his hands on. He never learned to read music. He learned to play with the feel of the song and this prepared him for his first gigs. He met up and played with Trevor Payne and the Triangle.
Thus began a long winding journey into the world of rock n roll that almost ended in suicide…
To be continued …
So there I was…
As I stood in front of a mahogany bar that was painted ever so slightly by the morning sunlight, a smile appeared on my face. I had met some of my childhood idols, enjoyed a lustful evening of rock n roll and was pumped to enjoy a day of waitering. A few dollars in my pocket followed by an evening of blues … what was there not to be happy about !
One of the waitresses was behind the bar and preparing her station for the forthcoming events. Suddenly, the door which led from the bar to the adjacent terrace opened . With the sun and the maple boards as a backdrop – there stood a figure that was at once recognizable. A silhouette that graced hundreds of stages around the world. For the second time in less than twenty – four hours, I was in the company of Mr. Jerry Mercer.
A Coincidental Coincidence
I had worked with this waitress for two months. I never knew her father was the drummer for April Wine. It was probably a good thing. If I had known – the poor girl would have had to endure many hours of questioning. Once I was done – the Spanish inquisition would have come across as a segment on a poor talk show.
Like a teenage boy receiving a glimpse of a girl’s underwear under a short skir, I said hello to the icon with a huge smile on my face. Mercer recognized me from the previous evening and appeared equally amused to see me. He introduced me to his daughter (formally) and the pair let it be known that Jerry was dropping something off the younger Mercer had forgotten. I told Jerry that I had thoroughly enjoyed the show and it was an immense pleasure to make his acquaitance for the second time. He thanked me, kissed his daughter goodbye and was just about to make his exit – stage left , when a thought occurred to me.
I asked him if he would be interested in doing an interview.
Mr. Mercer replied in the same fashion as did Brian Greenway the night before. ” Been there – done that ” was the sentiment the members of the band ( Myles excluded ) seemed to be riding – full steam.
” Has anyone ever done a story about you ? ” I inquired with an inquiring mind.
” You know …” I continued. ” An interview about what makes Jerry tick outside of April Wine ? Your likes , dislikes etc…”
I was aware that I had the man ‘s curiosity by the neck. He stopped and stood for a moment. Save the smoke emitting from his ears – it was easy to tell the man was thinking…. Hard!
After a few minutes of trepidation – Jerry replied almost surprised. After all the years of playing with bands such as the Triangle, Mashmakhan, April Wine and the Buzz Band. All these seasons of playing with or around the likes of Trevor Payn , Roy Buchanan, Janis Joplin, the Band, the Grateful Dead and many more … Mr. Mercer realized that no one had ever sat down and spoke to him about his life experiences and his viewpoints.
I was to be the first and we made arrangements to meet the following week.
To be continued …
No – wait!
Run back to the house and grab Roger Wall’s new CD – Midnight Ride! For a long drive, there is nothing better for a Jazz fan to keep the toes a tappin’…
Kansas – born Roger Walls brings fifty years of experience to the disc, a half century of knowledge accumulated partly by working with some of the greats in the music industry.
Tony Bennett, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Duke Ellington are some of the people that have employed Roger at some point. Trumpet, alto and tenor sax along with anything that blows – Mr. Walls brings all this knowledge to Midnight Ride.
As Roger said recently from the stage at the House of Jazz; “What’s the point of staying in your room? It’s cabaret time!”
If Roger had stayed in his room, playing at Carnegie Hall for Ella Fitzgerald‘s 75th Birthday party – would have been a dream. Instead, with Max Roach on drums – Roger played for the legendary singer to the song; Tiscut a Tasket with the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
” The song featured me playing a solo – WHAT A RUSH I FELT PLAYING WITH SUCH GREAT PLAYERS FEATURED AT CARNEGIE HALL!
Although the new CD adds an assortment of various styles, it tells a personal tale for Roger. A story told through music …
The first track – Soon come young blues; opens the first leg of ‘the drive’ with an upbeat tempo. Drummer Eloi Bertholet, a fellow ‘farm boy’ from Saskatchawan, instills the proper speed limit to get the listener’s engine revvin’. The song says; ‘ this is Jazz’ ! No more -no less and keeps a curious ear for the next track. A song inspired by a dream …
‘I said you’d be back’ is what a warden of a prison told Roger in one of his many dreams. The storyline consists of Roger escaping and the warden informing him of their soon- to- be – encounter. This instrumental track delivers a manic feel. Trumpets sounding like police cars as the underlying keyboards give chase to a criminal drum beat. Following this song; your speed limit is a little higher as it attempts to keep up with your heart rate.
The third song on the disc is a shock! By far – the catchiest tune on an over- all catchy collection of a dozen songs.
‘Slow walk ‘ combines Rap, Jazz and Funk. An unlikely trio that conjures up phrases such as ‘wtf’? If Roger’s conscience spoke to him – it surley said; ‘ what are you thinkin’ dude’? Yet it works and it works extremely well. The type of tune which places your fingers on the replay button – over and over.
The song settles into a groove quickly. A rhythm of making love to a sultry woman. Not fast – not slow, just right.
Therein lies the beauty of the song. The routine of the same rhythm is disrupted by not one – two rappers. A ‘ take your turn’ adventure in a hip hop dueling session. A female’s voice gives pleasure while the man’s presence – a perfect balance to a funk- riddled tightrope excursion.
Following a move to Quebec with his new wife, Roger discovered Montreal was a great place to be and discovered a niche playing with French Stars.
“The studio scene was great – I could do 3 beer jingles (there used to be about 30 studio’s in town ), a tv show and a jazz gig in the same day .” Walls continues. ” I was the only one in town that had high chops because of my rock experience and good teachers.”
This opened the ‘ trumpet case’ so to speak and Roger soon found himself among great – if not, legendary performers. Cab Calloway – Al Martino – Paul Anka – Tom Jones – Michel Legrand – Aretha Franklin – Donna Summers – Whitney Houston – George Burns – Petula Clark – Englebert Humperdink -Dean Martin- Diana Ross – Joan Rivers – Dionne Warwick to drop a few names.
Roger recalls when the orchestra he was playing in backed up the Godfather of Soul – James Brown.
” He ( Brown) arrived 15 minutes before we were supposed to go. Nobody in the band knew a set list containing the three songs he was supposed to play. I spoke with him and we narrowed his ‘hits’ to the three. In five minutes – I scribbled the sheet music, xeroxed it and handed it to fifty guys in the band. Talk about cutting it close?”
Close is what you may want to do when you play the next song on the disc; ‘Music to Wish for Girls By’.
A song inspired by one of Wall’s conga players’ favorite songs; Music to Watch Girls By…A popular song written by Herb Albert. Roger’s version turns the track into a Latin- based rhumba and adds spice to a scene that may otherwise be melancholi as the title suggest. Music can transform dreams into possibilities …
‘I Will Wait Forever’ continues the soft section of the CD without the groove of the previous track. It is a song for the special men who fall in love with a special lady and wait forever …
Forever seems a long time ago to Roger. Starting his career in Wichita, Kansas and gaining notoriety with the Central Standard Time band. The band toured all over the States and the east coast of Canada. They made such an impact – Roger and his ex – mates were recently inducted into the Kansas City music hall of fame. Something Roger could not fathom when the band broke up in St.Paul, Minnesota.
” I hopped in my ’59 Volvo and headed to L.A. I played several of the clubs , hooking up with musicians and making a name for myself. A friend could have got me a gig with Lawrence Welk – instead I ended up in Quebec.”
Rene Simard’s company hired Roger and he also was lead trumpet for one of Quebec’s most popular artists; Garou. Roger travelled all around Europe, Japan and France. His stay in Japan was the inspiration behind ‘ A Pink Japanese Moon’ – another track on a Midnight Ride.
The song fulfills what Walls wanted to do. Capture the beauty of Japan! Within a minute, the listener is transported beyond the rice fields into the land of silky screens and geisha girls. A spiritual massage given by Wall’s eloquent use of his instrument amid the sweet sounds of his backing band.
Les Murs De Paris is another track on the album which captures Roger’s memories. In France, Walls played on a t.v show entitled “Apre Mo Lise”. Various people such as Gene Krupa and Sonny Rollins would appear on the show, adding more fuel to Walls’ ‘ Wall of Sound’.
” Don’t forget – in the 1970’s, people would drive from N.Y.to Montreal to listen to Jazz. I played at hot clubs such as The Rising Sun, Rockheads Paradise and Grand Cafe. I played with the Ink Spots, the Drifters and Frankie Hubbard. I even played for Jerry Lewis at the M.S. Telethon!”
These experiences are evident on the ‘train medley’. Roger’s hommage to Chatanooga Choo Choo, Pennsylvania 65000 and Take the A Train. It commemorates all the years Walls played with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. For older and more traditional Jazz fans – a pleasant trip backwards.
The final cut on the album brings us back to the start. ‘A Midnight Ride’ – inspired by Roger’s love of cars and driving. An upbeat finish to a darkened ride with the moon as a guide.
This album is not the best Jazz album nor is it the worst. It lies somewhere high above a mark. An indentation which millions of players strive to reach each year. An indentation which Roger Walls reached and passed miles ago …
Get in you car!
Don’t wait …
Roger Walls new CD “Midnight Ride”
Available at Archambault Music ( Jazz) 500, Sainte-Catherine Est
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‘Say Hello …’
This was not my first venture into the decadent world of groupies, hangers – on and various forms of life. I have been to a Toronto Maple Leaf game after all …
I have been fortunate to go backstage at a Jeff Healy, Luba, Offenbach and Michel Pagliaro concert prior to this. Although the above foursome are not exactly the Who , Led Zeppelin , Stones or the Guess Who and this was not the sixties – backstage with musicians remains – backstage with musicians! Sex is sex, booze is booze and a few puffs from a marijuana cigarette will increase the urgency to rape and pillage small bags of potato chips.
Brian Greenway appeared to be holding center court as I entered the crowded room. The space was no larger than the den of a suburban bungalow and the ‘disciples’ surrounded Brian as he preached the ‘word of Rock ‘. I neared the aging guitarist to get a feel for the discussion and to open the opportunity of introducing myself to this man of wealth and taste. The gist of his conversation lay somewhere between the past and future as Greenway did his best to erect a bridge between the generations that stood before him.
- I listened for a bit. He spun tales of debauchery – details of which, considered not for the faint or adventurous, omitted on cue. This was not the first time Mr.Greenway told stories of his youth and he was well prepared .
The ensuing minutes passed quickly for someone with an inquiring mind or a penchant for times far away. A diminutive chapter of a rock star’s life was being printed before my eyes. The words of which – firmly planted onto the pages of his fans’ memories. Words that will one day – truthful or not, be regurgitated from generation to generation with additional embellishment along the way.
Speaking with Greenway … Sweet !
When my moment drew near– I approached Mr.Greenway and uttered the necessary introduction.” I am a big fan …nice to meet you …blah, blah, blah…”
Obviously I had seen him many times yet I somehow doubted, in my incarnations as a fan and with my obvious good looks – Mr.Greenway’s ability to siphon my identity out of thousands of spectators in the Montreal Forum, Maple Leaf Gardens or the Civic Center in downtown Peterborough.
We departed the room together. Brian tossed variations of places and people my way in an attempt to discover his determination of our congregation. After concluding that a Rum and Coke was my beverage of choice and generously pouring two for the both of us – Mr. Greenway and I concretely stumbled upon our common ground.
It is reasonable that Greenway should forgive me for letting our past reunion slip through the fingers of my mind. The pair of us narrowed the time of our rendez – vous between the years 1979 – 1982. That placed me directly into the era I now refer to as ‘the experimental one ‘. In 1979, I was fourteen and thus began my preparatory lessons into the world of ‘Drugs 101’.
Was I There …?
During that time , in a galaxy far removed from Twitter – there was a band by the name of Sweet…
Ballroom Blitz is the name of their biggest hit and the moniker that most people are familiar with. That song continues to be a staple at parties around the globe and I am fortunate to have witnessed its formative years as the tune began its crawl through the corridors of rock history. Are you ready Steve …? Andy …?
For reasons known solely to man or the group’s manager, the band or several members of – were residing at a house in Kirkland, QC. It was my hometown and somehow (it was the experimental years), I managed to end up in the ‘house of the rising sun’ on an evening when the inhabitants were smack dab in the middle of ‘sex , drugs and rock n roll ‘. As I flipped through my past darkly – I did recall ‘taggin’ along with my niece’s boyfriend that evening. He was seven or eight years my senior and for a brief moment – a huge influence on me.
‘Pete‘ was a favorite of mine. An older brother I never had. He was in a band, he loved sports and most important on the list of Big Brother candidates – he dealt drugs. ‘Pete ‘gave meaning to the phrase ‘money for nothing and chicks for free ‘far before it became fashionable. Pete’s forte, among other weapons, was acid or L.S.D.for the uninitiated.
Mind – altering substances that – according to my Mom, would irrevocably have me behaving as a chicken and thus – launching myself out of windows. The result ? A slow painful death offered from the pavement below. My remains ? Scooped and placed in a bucket for the world of science to dissect and placed on an expedition. ‘A tour ‘ so all teenagers around the globe could witness the ill effects of drugs. (My Mom – if anything , had a fantastic imagination. Bless her depression – era heart!).
Brian Greenwaywas not sure if he accompanied another member of April Wine to the party that night. I – on the other hand, cannot recall whether the acid was pink, purple or blue microdot. So – his recollection of a fourteen year old – strung – out –on – acid was a tad ‘sketchy’ and my memories of the evening remain a bad episode straight from the DVD collection of I Love Lucy . Yet – who was I to argue with a famous guitarist? If anything –Brian’s yarn gave me a new story to tell. After all – tales of moped rides in hockey rinks, runaway bananas and jeans dancing to a Pink Floyd tune on top of a guitar case will only get you so far…
Business is Business
- As I attempted to detach myself from the masses (and TimothyLeary), I informed Mr.Greenwaythat I was not just ‘a pretty face on acid ‘and my current incarnation was that of a rookie journalist. I wondered aloud if an interview -comparable to the one my friend was carrying out as we spoke, could very well be on the horizon for the pair of us. He paused and in a way that made me feel unique – he informed me he was not interested. Apparently, the process had run its course in the life of Brian. It was nothing personal (he was quick to point out) and apologized for the timing of his decision. Nevertheless – I managed to spend a few interesting minutes alone with this man. I discovered – apart from the Sweet incident, backstage in the seventies were what most of us had heard and only a few could imagine.
I deposited my email into his hand in the off chance that one day – his mood would be of a different type. I shook the remaining one and thanked him for his generosity and time. I watched with a hint of jealousy as a blonde woman led him out of the room. Their arms wrapped around one another as they departed under an umbrella of laughter.
I had now crossed paths with two members of a group that had opened for one of the greatest rock bands of all time – the Rolling Stones. Two people that brushed shoulders with my idols and I said nothing!
“Oh well, two down – two to go…” I reasoned as I downed my drink and poured another.
“He Was Like a Marionette! “
Tommy Lee , the one – armed dude from Def Leppard and the ten year old who bangs pots down the hall from me aside – most drummers seem approachable. Appearance –wise, JerryMercer of April Wine lies somewhere in the middle.
When Mr.Mercer is on stage, delivering one of the most recognizable drum solos in Rock n Roll, there is no one that makes a concert more fun and fan friendly. On the other hand – Mercer appears in the image of a biker gone bad.. A shaved head and biceps larger than a small country only lend credence to the type of man that may eat raw meat for breakfast. As a youngster – I recall my original reaction as I analyzed the photo that graced the back cover of Apri l Wine’s Nature of the Beast album.
All of the members – Myles, Brian, Steve Lang and Gary Moffat came across like your ordinary run – of – the –mill rock stars. Myles in a Habs’ jersey; Brian looking every bit the Canadian version of Peter Frampton and Gary and Steve posing in their … well… rock star poses.
Then there was Jerry…
Imposing was the polite way of referring to this mass of drumsticks. He was a cross between Charles Mansonand the wrestler Mad Dog Vachon. An experiment in cloning that included the genes of a Gorilla mixed mistakenly with a mountain man.
An Unexpected Expectation
As I completed my way through the backroom mazes of Le Spectrum– it was therefore with great consternation that I approached one – half of the battery section in April Wine.
Surprisingly – Mercer is not very tall. I knew that television adds ten pounds to whoever is appearing on it yet it was a revelation to discover that any form of media seemed to inject a foot onto the drummer’s height. He remains intimidating on the first encounter – his torso and arms much the same delirious size as they materialize in photos. His chest seemed content. Ready to deliver murderous bear hugs to anyone that tests its strength.
Mr. Mercer was removing the sweat off a well-deserved performance as I happened by the area in which he dressed. Deer – like, I wedged my suddenly small head into his room and in a tone resembling Pee- Wee Herman – I said hello to the man at the rear of the hard driving sound of April Wine. He did not say good –bye.
Instead of snapping my appendages like dry twigs – Mr. Mercer was as inviting as a Grandmother sitting on the porch on a hot summers ‘ day. The first thing out of his mouth was to warn me that he only had a few minutes to talk as his wife was waiting for him. He motioned for me to come and sit while he continued his post – concert procedures. Part of me was relieved while my other fraction was scared silly of this man. I wanted to have a word yet the fear of ‘pissing him off’ and the repercussions that would surely develop led me to a silent vigil as I sat on the wooden chair.
It’s Only Rock n Roll ( but I like it …)
He asked if I had enjoyed the show and inquired my name. Salutations removed – my nerves settled to the point where words commenced to flow in a more natural state. This time – my questions pertaining to the Stones were on the front burner and I was unwavering when it came time to receive the recipes regarding their success.
I informed him of my status as a huge Stones fan and asked him to decipher his experiences with them. April Wine opened for them in 1977 at the El Mocambo Club in Toronto. It was previous to the Stones releasing their soon – to – be number one selling album Some Girls and its release co – existed with Wine’s most successful album – Nature of the Beast.
Mercer was more than pleased to spin the tales of his brush with greatness. He informed me that he did not speak with Mick, Keith or Ronnie Wood. He did exchange words with the Stones’ drummer and bass player –Charlie Watts and BillWyman. He went on to say that the pair came as advertised.
The duos were very gracious with Charlie and him exchanging the names of influences.Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich and Mitch Mitchell were a few names admired by both.
These men were heroes to Watts and Mercer while Stones’ bassist Wyman chimed his agreement. Jerry explained that the Stones had a lot going on. There were people coming and going – the members of the legendary band whisked from room to room. In a way – Mercer gave the impression that being a Rolling Stone was not for him.
The sole time that Mercer and his band mates had any contact with Mick Jagger was before the Stones sound check. April Wine were sitting in their dressing room and preparing for the night’s show. There was a knock on the door. The Stones’ lead singer popped in and placed a basket filled with fruits on the small table placed elegantly in the middle of the room. He thanked the band for being the opening act and as swiftly as he appeared – he was gone. Still – Mercer seemed generally pleased that Mick Jagger found the time to do something nice like that.
As for Mr. Keith Richards– Mercer informed me th at various times throughout the day, the Stones’ guitarist could be seen wandering about. According to Mercer‘s first hand account; “Keith was like a marionette! Just when he looked like he was about to fall down – he would pick himself up again! “Mercer went on to say; “Keith certainly lived up to his reputation!”
Ronnie Wood also lived up to his status. Mercer says that Ronnie was constantly on the move – beer frequently in hand and smiling all the time. “He was very much the court jester and if you saw him andKeith together, you could not help but wonder if they were able to perform later on…?”
It was later on when Jerry discovered a tremendous appreciation for the Rolling Stones.
“We (AprilWine) were sitting in the club and watching them (the Stones) get ready for their sound check. Everyone except Mick Jagger was on stage and it was just chaos! Missed chords, sloppy changes, you name it – it was bad! Then – Mick arrives! He walked onto the stage and said something to his mates . To this day – I have yet to see a band come together so fast and tight! I have so much respect for them after witnessing that! Fun was fun but when it came time for business – the Stones outdo everyone. There is a reason why they have outlasted most of their contemporaries!”
I gained so much in the few minutes that I spent with Mr. Mercer I felt as if I had made a friend.
“Jerry has a way of doing that…” I was informed later on in the two brief minutes that I spoke with the band’s bass player Jim Clench.
Clench was on his way out when I met him in the hallway. At first – it was depressing knowing that I would not be able to get any more Stones quotes. Then I realized that Clench was not with the band at the El Mocambo gig. He had quit the band in the seventies and after stints with Randy Bachman’s group BTO and an appearnce on Brian Adams’ debut album – Jim re – joined Wine in their newest incarnation. Little was I aware – ten short years after meeting the man – Jim Clench would be dead from lung cancer at the age of sixty – one.
I found my friend sitting outside the club and we exchanged stories over a few drinks at another bar. By the time I got home- the kids were crying and not even Muddy could soothe their woes. It was six o’clock when my eyes shut and in three short hours – I would have to go to work.
Somehow – it all seemed worth it …
To be continued ….
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- Just Between You and Me (keenemusic.wordpress.com)
All this experience is parlayed into Walls’ new C.D Midnight Ride. The album is a collection of eleven original recordings based on his fifty years on the road and in the studio.
According to Roger, the album was created by his experiences touring abroad. Japan, Brazil and all of Europe are ingredients to a flavorful stew of Jazz styles.
Want funky blues along the lines of Art Blakey and Freddie Hubbard? Soon come young blues, the centerpiece of the album – is the tune to light up your toes and ignite your soul. The song has been a staple on 91.9 Planete Jazz for six months and reached number one on the Planete Jazz and Reverbnation charts. It remained on top for a year on Reverbnation.
Stay tuned for a feature story about Roger’s life …
To get a taste of Roger’s music check him out with the Duke Ellington Orchestra!
Witness the recording of the new CD – Midnight Ride
Have a band or want publicity as a solo artist? Contact me at email@example.com
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Le ‘Set – Up ‘
Toting a box of beer up a flight of stairs on a Saturday morning led to an encounter that would shape the rest of my life. Who knew?
I was toiling as a waiter in a restaurant named Cajun Blues. The establishment was the ‘outcast ‘among the several bars and restaurants situated in the picturesque town of Ste. Anne de Bellevue, QC. The reason for the leper – like treatment? The business did not possess a terrace on the waterfront and that absence left a void in the town’s visitors as they arrived to eat.
Ste. Anne be Bellevue is a community that thrives on the promise of the summer sun. The view of the sun’s rays reflecting off waves rooted by the variations of ships and boats is an integral part of the town’s survival. The countless photo -ops are a welcome sight for the lunch and supper crowd that flock to the boardwalk. A ‘luxurious dock ‘ that lays nestled on the western – most tip of the Island of Montreal and remains an attractive location for families , lovers and loners. For some – a mixture of all three. If Mama Nature cooperates, the customers grin while money rains directly into the pocket books of the establishments’ owners. If the matriarch of green decides otherwise – the terraces are as vacant as the property owners’ gas tanks.
Regardless of the Cajun Blues’lack of such a beautiful image, Saturday night at the eatery was jumping. Aside from Cajun food staples such as
Louisiana Mud Pie, Chicken Creole and Jambalaya – the singular item that enticed visitors to fill the clubs’ cozy atmosphere was an eclectic selection of live music.
As the stars and the moon danced high in the darkened sky – invited musicians orchestrated the pairs’ celestial moves with a catalogue of grooves both real and imagined. Blues was on the dessert menu one evening while an additional soiree wound up crammed with the crisp sounds of a drummer – a ‘ cat ‘ as cool as a northern breeze keeping time among a trio of Jazz musicians as they delivered ‘ last call ‘ to welcoming applause.
The subsequent week – Reggae was the ‘le soup du jour ‘. The clubs’ patrons would drain their ‘bowls ‘and in the process, fill up their palates with love and joy. Once the main course of unity was completed, the partiers made love to their drinks while the sweet sounds of Marley and Tosh provided a message of hope. The sort of memo that passed spontaneously throughout the crowd and a post – it note Mr.Marley would have permitted.
It was a unique three months for me as I spent evenings creating new friends and mornings producing friendship with my two small children .Francesca Emerald Amanda and Owen David Randall remain the beneficiaries of a Father completed by his love for music. Not a day passed without their Dad cooing them to sleep. Lyrics penned by Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon and Louis Armstrong became our lullabies as the virgin eyes on their softened faces closed into dreams of innocence.
These are the memories that stay firmly planted as seeds in the lawn of my soul .Landscaping created for a new generation. Seeds that will spread from my kids – to their very own.
– Le ‘Show ‘-
As my head ached and my ears called for silence, I carried the bottles of beer from the basement and placed the crate upon the bar. Standing there, I recalled the previous evenings’ adventures with a smile. This made my head hurt even more …
I had attended a concert by the Canadian rock band AprilWine. A friend and fellow journalist had invited me to join him. ‘ Tagging ‘ along meant the opportunity to not only see the show – a backstage visit was part of the itinerary as my friend was concocting an interview with lead songwriter and singer – Myles Goodwyn.
The group was one of my many favorites as the suburbs of Montreal nurtured me from adolescence to teen. You Won’t Dance with Me, Oowatanite , Roller , Rock n Roll is a Vicious Game and Just Between You and Me were staples of my teen years and just a few of the hits by the legendary rock band.
I had seen them live a handful of times between the ages of fifteen and twenty and once – I was fortunate enough to enjoy their arena show three times in one-week Toronto on Saturday, Peterborough on Wednesday and Montreal once more on the following Saturday. It was a threesome of the non – sexual type yet sensually pleasing.
The trio of shows wrought envy from the mouths of all my male fellow rock n rollers in the late seventies and for a brief moment in time – I was the coolest person amongst my peers. The boys were jealous yet the ‘chicks ‘dug me. Rock N Roll may be a vicious game but sex is the ultimate trophy to the victors!
So here I was – all these years later, with an opportunity to sing along to the tunes of my youth in the small confines of Le Spectrum .It was an exit on the highway of music I would notbe missing.
An Intimate Engagement
Time had passed since the days of the band selling out the Montreal Forum. The group had actually broken up for a few years in the late eighties only to re-form in the nineties. They continue touring on a smaller level as they play their music to loyal fans in Canada and the United States. The hits are no longer written by the formerly – proficient Goodwyn yet an arsenal containing songs such as Say Hello , I Like to Rock , Sign of the Gypsy Queen and Weepin Widow were more than enough to carry these former teenagers into the twi –light of their lives and career.
The show and tunes that evening were what I had come to expect from the foursome. High-octane rock performed with conviction at decibels alarming to some. Hit after hit brought grown men and women to their feet. Powerful anthems punctuated by tearful ballads lay witness to a new generation as they writhed in appreciation of the band’s efforts. The line – up consisting of Myles on guitar and vocals , Brian Greenway on guitar , the late Jim Clench on bass and the powerful Jerry Mercer on drums – did not disappoint the most cynical concert go – er. It was a wonderful summer evening under a cloud of nostalgia.
The show ended with an exclamation point. The song Roller, arguably the band’s biggest hit, was the encore and it whipped the predominant forty – something crowd into frenzy. Everyone it seemed knew the song and there was not a quiet voice in the house as the band elongated the distance of their watermark tune.
The song finished and the group exited the stage to deafening applause. The words; ‘She’s a high roller baby ‘were sung in unison as the throng of people made their way past the exits and onto the streets of downtown Montréal. The lyrics’ High roller baby ‘continued as they echoed through vacant buildings and began eking out a new found existence in a city they once owned.
It was now the time for me to get excited.
A behind – the – curtains visit was not only exciting for the privilege of meeting rock icons, the rendez- vous was also an opportunity for me to discover a few words from the men that had met my idols – the Rolling Stones.
“Going back stage is exciting. Regardless of how many times it has happened. “Annie Liebowitz
The entrance alone is usually long and dark followed by a door or curtain guarded closely by a security guard or personnel. A flash of a pass, a nod of a head and suddenly you have elapsed into unknown territory. You are privileged. Depending on the star or stars, thousands and sometimes millions of people are separated from you .Physically and emotionally you have obtained a realm that some may only dream of reaching in their paramount fantasies.
Once, twice or a hundred times – the heart always beats a little faster when a crowd is left behind the curtain at a Rock n Roll show. Terrence Mann may have had the same awareness as he approached the cornfields in the movie adaptation of the novel Shoeless Joe. Field of Dreams is the name of the film and is there a better way to identify the feelings of disappearing back – stage? Not quite …
On this evening – a curtain in lieu of a door was my gateway to knowledge and (if lucky) – a few beers. As my partner and I navigated the maze of rooms and people, we remained on the look – out for the subject of my colleague’s interrogation. We discovered Mr.Goodwynin a concrete room conspicuous with its absence of color. He was speaking to a couple of young women as he rested alongside a table outfitted with food. My friend introduced himself and promptly thanked Myles for the opportunity given to not only him – myself as well.
Just Between Myles and Me …
Myles was aloof and maintained a tone of aristocracy as I extended my hand to his. Habitually, I own the ability to garner good judgment of people. I did not like Myles in the first minute of our meeting and if my children and dog were by my side – I remain confident they would have had the very same feeling. Regardless if Mr.Goodwyn had shaken my hand – my feelings would not have changed.
Arrangements between my friend and Goodwyn to disappear into an atmosphere more fitting for a one – on – one discussion were completed. The lead vocalist informed me to help myself to whatever beverages and food I discovered. Since he made no mention of the women – I assumed they were also ‘up for grabs ‘!
I asked him where I could unearth the remaining members of the band and he pointed down the hall, toward the loud noise. The ‘ noise ‘was the sound of the many ‘back stagers ‘who seemed to be enjoying themselves a lot more than I was. The fact that I was soon to be part of their ruckus – made the departure from my friend much more tolerable.
As I watched the two disappear, I understood – from this point forward, the evening could possibly conclude in many variations. It depended on which choices I would make in the ensuing couple of hours and just how much I wanted to re – live the late seventies. Since I do not recall much of the late seventies, I walked down the hall with an ear toward a sinful evening. The ‘good angel ‘and the ‘bad angel ‘had quite the ‘heated discussion’ as they sat opposite one another on each of my shoulders . I entered a room and approached the walls of people …
To be continued …