Rick Keene Music Scene – Rest in Peace Neil Peart

March to the beat of your own drum.

Truer words have never been spoken when it comes to Rush drummer Neil Peart. Peart – passed away January 7th, 2020 at the age of 67 following a three year private battle with brain cancer. One of the greatest drummers in Rock n Roll and music history – is no longer here.

For the most part, Peart was an introvert with a keen eye to the world around him. Like most ‘observers’, Peart was able to put his thoughts into words. Along with writing most of the lyrics for his band Rush, Peart wrote seven books based on his travels.

Please listen below to part of Neil’s story and some classic Rush tunes.

Rush Here

Smoke Meat Pete Here

Sheldon Kagan; Memories of a Concert Promoter

Sheldon Kagan has been around …

From his humble beginnings in a bachelor apartment at the age of fifteen to introducing Jazz legend Miles Davis on stage – Mr. Kagan has a few stories to tell.

Please listen to his tales of playing cards at his home with Artie Shaw and how he feels about Miles Davis – all these years later …

A true Montreal entrepreneur and a true music lover …


Gino Vannelli – All Those Nights in Montreal …

Hometown boy turned man; Gino Vannelli, is coming back to Montreal in November …

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What else is new?

The man who started his musical career as a drummer in Montreal and a current resident of Portland,Oregon – often comes home. He frequently visits his Mom and was most recently in Ste. Agathe to play a festival. He was also in Montreal scouting out the location for his next hometown gig. The Rialto Theater on Avenue de Parc. A newly renovated ‘concert hall‘ which impressed Mr. Vannelli immensely …

‘A few months ago I came to check out the Rialto because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to play there. We met the owner Ezio and I was really impressed so I decided to play multiple nights there. It’s a beautiful theater and the sound is so good. Even the balconies – I felt as if you could reach out and touch people on stage.”

Vannelli is playing at the Rialto on the 2nd and 3rd of November. He is bringing his Portland band with him and people can expect new material from an upcoming Blues/ Jazz album along with some ‘twists’ on the classic stuff. Twists that Vannelli seems to have always been drawn to.

“I was a drummer first and was drawn to the premiere drummers of the time. Buddy Rich, Ed Thigpen, Alvin Jones and Max Roach. Those guys were the cutting edge Jazz guys. The pop guys back in the day, were bringing something new  – they were were being helped by new techniques of engineering. The idea of putting two mikes far away from the drummer and letting the room speak, that was done in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. Suddenly, in the mid sixties, the British groups started to close mike the drums, placing the microphone on the bass drum and closer to the snare. I worked with Geoff Emerick, who did most of all the Beatles’ stuff and he explained how they made that transition . It was fascinating.”

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Gino Vannelli’s first started making waves in the seventies. Following a stint at McGill, a time when fellow Montrealers Frank Marino and Sass Jordan were rocking the local stages – Vannelli decided he was looking for something else. A different sound. Following a stint in New York city, Vannelli ended up in Los Angeles and earned a record deal at the age of twenty-one. Listening to Vannelli’s early catalog – the ‘full’  and the ‘big’ sound came through louder and clearer than most of the Rock or Pop music at that time …

” It felt natural to me …” Explains Vannelli. “It was how I heard and felt music at the time. I was very curious about synthesizers and how you could manipulate them to sound like ‘real’ instruments. It gave the records an interesting sound and I had these tunes on my mind at the time. Another thing was the rhythm section. I really liked the hard rockin’ rhythm sections like Wyman and Watts of the Stones. I made sure the band we had going in the mid-seventies and late seventies had a really great rhythm section and I think we succeeded …”

Succeed is an understatement …

09 03 11_7048xStarting in 1974 – the hits started coming in bunches.

‘People Gotta Move” made it to No. 22 on the Billboard Top 100. On February 15, 1975,Vannelli became the second Caucasian performer to appear on Soul Train – a television appearance which opened the doors for him to tour and open up for Stevie Wonder.

In 1978, the song “I Just Wanna Stop” – sent him on a high-flying trip which landed Vannelli back on earth a different guy. That song earned Gino a Grammy nomination, was number one on the charts in Canada and number four in the U.S. Along with “Crazy Life,” “Powerful People,” “Storm at Sunup,” “The Gist of the Gemini,” and “A Pauper in Paradise” – Vannelli earned four Juno awards including Best Male Performer in the 1970’s. Gino Vannelli was on top of the world …

He was not finished there. His musical appetite – just warming up …

Stay tuned for Part Two

Vinny Appice; All in the Family; Part One

“I was always banging on things …” Admits legendary drummer Vinny Appice.

” I started at around ten years of age.  My brother Carmine, who is eleven years older than me – showed me some things but he was, at that point,  always on the road. I took lessons from the same guy that taught him.”


Vinny and Carmine Appice are drum playing brothers from Brooklyn, New York. There may have been a few years between them yet their paths in life collided with rock star status. Lately, the pair have collided in the same room as they travel around with their Drum Wars / Clinics. Something, says Vinny, that is both fun and competitive …

” We started to do drum clinics together but that turned into drum duets. Then we realized that was not enough and we wanted to play. That led into introducing music into our show and a tour. We decided to play four – five songs from my history and the same from Carmine’s. We do Dio and Sabbath from my repertoire and Ozzy, Cactus and Rod Stewart from Carmine’s past. We play eleven or so songs, then a duet.  You don’t usually see two drummers, so it is really exciting.”


Vinny – according to Vinny, plays louder and faster than Carmine and his brother plays with more feel. There are things Vinny does that Carmine  does  not do and the same the other way. There is also a lot of comedy involved – which makes for a great night of entertainment.

” If there are musicians in town that we know, like Rick Derringer or something, we get them on stage.” Says Vinny. ” It can turn into something real cool.”

What is really cool is what happened to Vinny when he was sixteen years old. Something that very few drummers can claim fame to…

vinny1“What happened was that I ended up playing in a band in 1975 in New York. The guitar player knew Jimmy Lovine, the producer, and he brought us into his studio where he worked to rehearse. Him and Roy Cicala ended up liking us and gave us a management deal and a room in The Record Plant Studio*  to rehearse. ”

The Record Plant Studio, a place where Aerosmith recorded ‘Get Your Wings in 1974, was the place where Lovine  showed up one day looking for guys to do hand-claps for a couple of  fellows that were rehearsing nearby. Two guys that were … somewhat ‘famous’.

” Jimmy said he was looking for about nine guys to add some sound for Elton John and John Lennon who were working in another room. It was like ‘wow’ – there’s John Lennon! We did not get to meet him then but a couple of days later, he heard our band playing and asked who we were. Then he started coming up and hanging out with us. We were playing pool and everything. I ended up doing a few gigs with him but at that time he was producing Yoko’s song or album. It was pretty cool for a kid like me.  Something I won’t forget …!”

Another thing the younger Appice does not lose from his memory are the guys who influenced him growing up. Guys aside from his older brother Carmine who was and is – a huge influence …

Buddy Rich, John Bonham, Mitch Mitchell and Billy Coghland were the main guys.” Says Vinny. ” Really – those are the guys who I studied to death!”

Following his ‘stint’ with John Lennon, Appice joined forces with Rick Derringer. A guitar player who Vinny had the opportunity to play with on three albums. ‘Derringer’ in 1976, ‘Derringer – Sweet’ in 1977 and ‘Derringer – Live‘ in the same year.


Appice then joined the band Axis and followed that up on Ray Gomez’ disc – ‘Volume’ in 1980. Then, the fun started …

” I met Tony Iommi from Black Sabbath. He had heard me play and asked who I was. Someone told him that I was Carmine’s younger brother and he asked me if I wanted to play with Sabbath.

“Well … ya ….!”

Stay tuned for Part Two!

Texarillo; The Blues Come Full Circle

A funny thing happened on the way to success for Montreal born Dwane Rechil. He hit the blues … again!


“It’s funny …” Says the forty – seven-year old singer, songwriter and guitar master. ” For years playing in my heavy rock band Top Johnny, I was always waiting for success to come. I was always on edge, never quite content with what I was doing. I thought I was having fun yet now that I am playing the Blues – I have never been more content in my life.”


Rechil is referring to his new band; Texarillo.

A band which has played together for a couple of years. A band which has just completed its first full album and is getting ready for the launch party on Feb. 7 at Calistoga Grill in Pte Claire.

A launch which will launch Rechil and his mates, Ricardo Bacardi ( Bass and vocals) and Ken Loudmann ( Drums and percussion) into the upper levels of  the Montreal Blues scene.

That’s the plan anyways …

“Right now, we are number ten on the Reverbnation Blues charts.” Says Rechil right before one of the band’s many gigs. ” The album has not been officially launched and it was only ready on the 18th of January. Not bad eh?”

Not bad at all for a trio which delivers high-octane Blues on any given night.

“I think what makes me and the band different from most Blues bands, is the fact that I come from a heavy metal band.” Says Rechil. “Blues was always my first love and now I have returned with an education in music. The songs on the album are an indication of my experience over the years.”

Drummer Loudmann is no slouch in the experience department either. Ken started playing drums when he was but three years old. An entire lifetime sits behind the ‘kit’ and provides an anchor for Rechil’ s songs and Bacardi’s profound bass playing.

Ken Loudmann

” I was not influenced by any one drummer.” Explains Ken. ” Really – it is a mixture of many drummers and drumming styles. I grew up listening to Jazz, Country, Rock – you name it. I saw Buddy Rich play five times so obviously it paid off, yet he was not a principle influence. I knew that Rich was an exception. He was born into a Vaudeville family and started playing on stage when he was three years old.

C’ mon – he was in another world, one that was out of my reach so I never strove to be like him …!”

Bacardi’s bass playing, along with a  sense of humor that injects even more life into a stage show ripe with Rechil’s uncanny ability to connect with an audience –  anchored deeply in the 1980’s. An era which Bacardi pinpoints as the training ground for his guitar and eventual bass playing.

” I just missed the Kiss period ( referring to the band Kiss – not the affectionate lip posturing).” Explains Ricardo. ” So my influences were Van Halen, AC/ DC and even U2 … I enjoyed the overall sound. Obviously Eddy Van Halen is a great guitar player and so is The Edge. I was more influenced by the overall sound these guys put out …”

Playing guitar is also what Rechil loves doing. It is something he started learning at the age of twelve after his Dad bought him an acoustic guitar. By the tender age of  thirteen; Rechil was –  a two song virtuoso.

Ricardo Bacardi

” I knew how to play ‘Wish You Were Here’  by Pink Floyd and ‘Stairway to Heaven‘ by Led Zeppelin.” States Rechil with a hint of pride.

” My favorite artist was Jimi Hendrix. To this day – when I listen to his songs. I still discover something new in them. I still cannot understand how someone could be that creative musically. Hendrix was not just a great guitar player, what made him stand out was his songwriting. He was a genius …”

Texarillo’s new album – ‘Black Satin Blues’, was a year in the making. All songs were composed by Rechil and he would create demos and play them to Ken and Ricardo. Three times a week, the trio would get together to  practice and record them. Unfortunately yet fortunately, gigs interrupted the process as the band did not want to play any new songs live. According to Rechil, there was no point having a CD launch if everyone has heard the new stuff.

Otherwise – everyone in the band would get the blues …

Which is exactly what  Rechil requires for happiness!

Texarillo Official Site


Top Ten Drummers

The men behind the scenes. The backbone of most bands. The guys whose mistakes can nullify anything in a heartbeat …

To narrow down a list of the best drummers is next to impossible – here is a (rim) shot at just that …

Ginger Baker

Stewart Copeland

Jimmy Chamberlain

Terry Bozzio

Keith Moon

Mike Portnoy

Neil Peart

John Bonham

Gene Krupa

Buddy Rich

Just Between Jerry Mercer and Me

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.”

Jerry then began his pursuit of all things music. He began studying all of the great drummers; Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa and Max Roach.

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 …