Jerry Mercer – As The Years Go By; Part Four

In this ongoing saga which is known as the Jerry Mercer story – the drummer discusses the differences between the days of yesteryear and today when it comes to ‘the life of a musician’ in Montreal.

He also talks about some of his memorable moments including opening up for Steppenwolf at the Montreal Forum …

Please enjoy the interview and come back for more. Thank you.

Styx; Making It Look Easy …

Remember the days when a Rock n Roll show was a Rock n Roll show?

In Montreal, ‘back in the day’, the anticipation could be felt hours before the show in Atwater Park. A green-space dotted with empty beer bottles, tossed – away ‘clips’ of joints and concert goers in various stages of sobriety.The only thing ‘straight’? The white line dividing East and West bound traffic on Atwater street itself …

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The festivities would easily carry over to The Montreal Forum once the doors of the fabled hockey shrine opened and invited people in. The atmosphere inside – a gathering of people wanting to have a good time. Frisbees, Beach Balls and a cloud of smoke shadowed the crowd on the floor while the folks in their seats – enjoyed  the entire scene with a grain of salt ( or a line of coke).

It was all about anticipation. Awaiting the band to come on. It was magical. No previews via Youtube of what the group looked like or sounded like the night before in ( insert name here),U.S.A. No Facebook pages with status updates from Jimmy Page or Humble Pie. No tweets from Tiny Tim. No nothing. That is what made a concert so exciting. ‘Live music’ from ‘live musicians’. The pinnacle of the music world performing the pinnacle of songs and the only place to witness it was live …

Last night, at The Olympia on Ste Catherine St. East – that anticipation was felt inside the venue. An excitement loomed overhead like the fog of marijuana smoke once did at the storied Forum.

There were two reasons for this. Most important,  Styx was ‘in the house’. Montreal audiences have a love affair with the band dating back to the days of ‘Sweet Madame Blue’. That song became a huge hit in Montreal before anywhere else in the world. That – combined with Montreal’s affection for prog-Rock bands such as Genesis, Yes and Marillion, gave the audience a ‘buzz’.

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The other principle reason for everyone getting their ‘undies in a bunch’ – is the city’s and the Province’s love affair with Lawrence Gowan. Starting with his appearances at Le Moustache (a club across the street from The Forum) and ending with his monstrous hits; ‘Strange Animal‘ and ‘Criminal Mind’ – Larry, Lawrence or Gowan is a household name in Montreal. Two acts – one heart. One love affair. Placing  Styx and him together? A combination worthy of anticipation. Peanut Butter and Jam. The ‘munchies’ for a crowd ‘stoned’ in nostalgia.

The excitement evolved into bliss with Gowan’s best Dennis DeYoung impersonation on the evening’s second song; Grand Illusion. The opening keyboards as obvious as Liberace’s penchant for all things non-female. The audience was hooked. Receiving what they came for and enjoying everything that came after.

“Fooling Yourself’ was no joke. Another tune from The Grand Illusion disc delivered with almost the same uniqueness of the studio version. Following a brief introduction of original guitarist – turned bassist; Chuck Panozzo, Gowan sent shivers down the spines of everyone with the opening words to ‘Lady’. The group’s hit from 1975. Many in attendance realizing it was that song which gave the opportunity for a slow dance back in high school. A song which has not only stood the test of time, a song  relevant more than ever in an era of disrespect towards …um …everyone.

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‘Lights Out’ came next followed by ‘In the Wilderness‘, the latter also from The Grand Illusion. An album which the band has played in it’s entirety ( along with Pieces of Eight) on recent tours. ‘In the Wilderness’ should have stayed ‘In the Wilderness’. Following more known songs – ‘Wilderness’ set the tone back except for the die hard Styx fans. A nonsensical choice that every cover band can do in their sleep. Inappropriate unless the Grand Illusion album was played out fully (which it was not).

‘Sweet Madame Blue’ and ‘Crystal Ball’ continued the party with the entire audience singing along  to a pair of songs which (arguably) placed Styx on the Rock n Roll map. ‘Miss America’ returned the group to ‘Wilderness’ levels once more – somehow losing whatever melody it had on vinyl to outright distorted guitars in concert.

Gowan to the rescue …!

‘Criminal Mind’ elevated the band from it’s corny prison routine and introduced Gowan to the crowd as the solo artist they once knew. A haunting song which made it’s way around the room like a ghostly presence. A homecoming of sorts for the man who loved Montreal so much – he recorded an album in French.

‘Stephanie’, Gowan’s hit ‘en Francais’ – followed a respectful jaunt to the time when  Styx started to lose fans. ‘Too Much Time on Your Hands’ is great in concert and annoying anytime else. A crowd-  pleaser unless the crowd happens to contain prisoners with a penchant for Primus. A fluffy piece of music meant for …?

Once more – Gowan to the rescue…

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The funnest part of the evening had Gowan (alone) do a medley. A ‘montage’of great songs from the past starting with his own hit; Moonlight Desires‘. Roughly thirty seconds of the subsequent songs carried out – much to the joy of the crowd. ‘Sweet Dreams’ by The Eurythmics, ‘Changes’ by Bowie, ‘Tiny Dancer‘ by Elton John and’You Can’t Alway Get What You Want’ by the Rolling Stones. Each choice gaining sing-a-long status from the crowd with Gowan’s urging. The Stones’ ballad receiving the loudest and longest rendition. ‘Fat Bottom Girls‘ (Queen) and ‘Another Brick in the Wall ( Pink Floyd) led Gowan into the night’s biggest moment …

Come Sail Away.

The eruption, the sing-a-long, the joyous reaction and the memories- all in your face! An anthem delivered. A typical Styx ballad -turned rocker. The ORIGINAL Styx crowd pleaser done with so much heart – so much 70’s flavor – it was perfect as the final song of the show. Leaving the audience begging for an encore. ‘Renegade’ kept the fires burning long enough, hard enough for Styx to not be lumped in to the ‘nostalgia act’ category.

Oldie acts do not have the energy Styx generated last night.

Over- the – hill acts do not put on a Rock n Roll show …!

Highlight of the Night; No Mr. Roboto!

Lowlight; No Babe?

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Ritchie Henman – The Beginning of April Wine

Ritchie Henman along with his brother David and cousin Jim, were the founding members of April Wine.

According to Ritchie who currently resides in Dorval,Qc – Wine was created to ‘not be a cover band’ any longer.

” When we disbanded our group Prism in the fall of ’69, I was in engineering at St. Mary’s University in Halifax as was cousin Jim. He and David had tired of playing covers at teen dances and felt the time had come to do something with their songwriting. Despite David’s claim that AW began as a cover band, it was actually formed specifically to cease playing covers once and for all.”

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Jim and Dave Henman;Prism

Myles had become the principal songwriter of the band because he wrote the most commercial music but according to drummer Ritchie – the original group was always a democracy and David was the unofficial leader for business purposes

” I didn’t write at all back then except for a minor contribution to “Wench” on the first LP. AW hardly played at all around Halifax before moving to Montreal to try our luck at getting a record deal.”

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April Wine; Looking for a record contract in Montreal

The brothers’ and cousin’s plan was to form a band with a “neutral” name which would provide a platform for songwriting. To allow a situation that would enable the writers to move on to personal projects within three to four years.

Within a few weeks of arriving in Montreal, the band recieved the attention of DKD, which at that time was still a booking agency. Their first big gig was Canada Day ’70 – three months to the day since leaving home. April Wine played with groups from each of the other nine provinces and performed before 20,000 screaming fans at Place Des Nations. The group representing Nova Scotia.

The headliners were the Guess Who.

DKD was part of a group of companies that included Aquarius Records and Terry Flood Management. By August the group had signed contracts with both of those companies.

Says Ritchie; “We had accomplished what we had set out to do by ’73. By that time the live performances had begun to suffer as a result of lackluster attitudes and it was time for me to move on. David was also keen for a change.”

By ’73, April Wine had established themselves as a successful enough outfit to go to the next step. In September of that year, the members simultaneously quit the band.Two months later Myles and Jim Clench decided to form a new band and asked David and Ritchie if they intended to keep the name; April Wine. The brothers replied; “take it and good luck.”

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Myles Goodwyn and Future Mrs. Ritchie Henman backstage Montreal Forum 72'

The original April Wine’s final meeting took place at The Maidenhead Pub in Alexis Nihon Plaza.

“It was a very amicable separation.” Says Ritchie.. “Lots of laughs and good memories. I came to enjoy the band a lot more after I left and we always remained friends”.

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April Wine - Backstage 72' Tour

Myles and Jim would go to watch David and Ritchie in their new band ‘the Dudes’ and also jam with the band.

“Later on, when I was in a group called Cruiser, Myles called to congratulate me on our ’80 release, “Rollin’ With The Times”. An album which Myles felt was one of the finest ever Canadian LPs at that time.

Ritchie Henman lives in Dorval ,Qc.and reminisces of his early days as a drummer.

“My first favourite drummers were the drummer for The Ventures and,locally (Halifax) Tim Garigan, who at that time (’62) was the drummer for a local band – The Esquires. They went on to become The Great Scots and Tim went on to play with Pepper Tree who released one Lp in ’71.”

By the late sixties, Henman had graduated to Joe Morello (Dave Brubeck) and his first pro drum kit was ordered to be identical to his set. It was a ’68 Ludwig Silver Sparkle.

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68' LUDWIG Silver Sparkle

And the beat goes on …

Photos courtesy of Ritchie Henman.

September 6, 1980 – Ted Nugent at the Montreal Forum

My birthday is September 7 … Do the math!

A birthday present to myself. Red section at the historic Montreal Forum to witness Ted Nugent. A Ted Nugent who was known as a rock star – not a gun activist.

My best friend and I – both fifteen, dragged a Russian with us. His name was Ivan.He was like a stiff board. Seldom displaying emotion, rarely displaying passion.

The three of us arrived in the afternoon at Atwater park, a patch of green across the street from the house ‘the Rocket’ built. Minutes from Ken Dryden’s old stompin’ crease …

Armed with tickets, a few bucks and an equal amount of beer – we sat in the park amongst pigeons and party people. The difference? Our feathered friends not allowed to see ‘the Nuge’!

As the cool Fall weather attempted to chill our enthusiasm, the beer and excitement quashed the negativity in the air. Mr. Nugent was at the height of his popularity.

‘Catch Scratch Fever’,’Wang Dang Sweet Poontang’ and ‘Stranglehold’ were some of the tracks that placed him there. At the moment, ‘Wango Tango’, a full throttle manic rock song – kept him there. His music was not for the faint hearted, making it all the more surprising that our Russian comrade enjoyed it.

As the beer flowed elegantly into our systems, others of the same rock mentality came and went. Marijuana cigarettes passed in friendship. ‘Joints’ dispersed like candy.

Sometime around six o’clock, a dude happened by. The type of guy who was at Woodstock and never left. His hair – long enough to trip himself and several small children passing by at the wrong moment.

Along with iron- on patches, symbols of bands such as Led Zeppelin, Rush and Black Sabbath; the dude carried mind- altering substances in his worn- out Lee Jean jacket.

L.S.D – acid.

The thirtiesh- looking man was a born salesman, at least – in his halucegenic mind he was. He spoke of the pleasures, ‘the utopian heights’ we would reach witnessing Nugent under the described conditions. Not only that …the drug was cheap!

Three- four- ten bucks or something similar…

Upon much reflection and trepidation, Ivan, ‘Frank’ and I decided what the heck. If you were going on a roller coaster anyways – may as well get on the biggest one possible!

We sat. We drank some more. All the while fingering this ‘fantastic drug’ in our adolescent hands.

“We need a plan!” Declared Ivan in his usual, although slurred stoic manner.

“Ya man … A plan …!” Agreed Frank through slanted eyes. His long black hair interrupting his non – vision.

” We got an hour before the show!” I said. Proud to be the bearer of good news.” I heard it takes one hour for this stuff to kick in …!”

“Perfect!” Said Ivan with as much enthusiasm as a man about to have a tooth pulled.” We do now!”

With those words, Ivan of Russian descent, unwrapped the tiny pill and deposited it into his system. Frank and I – no chance to say otherwise.

Frank gazed into my slits.

“What are you doing?” He inquired. “You taking it now …?”

“Dunno …?” I answered, not sure what I was responding to..

“If it takes an hour …” Frank started speaking fast. ” If we wait til 9pm, it will kick in for the encore! That way, we’ll be flying for Catch Scratch Fever and Wango Tango!” Frank was proud with his plan.

“Sounds good.” I replied, gazing at Ivan who was playing with a Dandelion. “Good idea …!”

The three of us made our way across the street and into the Forum. A carnival- like atmosphere taking place before our very beings. The red, white and blue of the colored seats adding a comfortable backdrop. Frisbees flew through the thick air. Air created by the hundreds of joints lit at once.

“Who cleans the Stanley Cup banners?” I wondered silently.

We sat in our seats and in the next twenty minutes – smoked what was probably too many ‘funny cigarettes’ for our weight divisions. Ivan was practically non- responsive at this point and Frank’s eyes; shadows of their former selves …

Mr.Nugent and his band took the stage amid screaming fans and fading lights.

The noise of the crowd deafened by his electric guitar. Songs, some familiar – others not so much exploded from the speakers into our virgin eardrums. The ‘event’, my birthday present was underway. I poked Ivan to ensure he was awake to witness it.

Tunes by the name of ‘Sweet Sally’ and ‘Live it up’ played although doubt circles my memory like vultures from an era gone by. Frank was up and down with the music while Ivan sat. He was breathing – aside from his chest heaving in and out, no signs of life emerged from his Russian form.

I glanced at my brand new ‘state of the art’ L.E.D. watch.

The numbers ‘8 5 5’ awakening my dormant irises. I nudged Frank who stood to my left, almost knocking him off his weakened stance.

“Man! It’s 9 o’clock …!” I said. ” Get out your acid!”

Frank smiled. His grin reaching the corners of his closed eye-lids. Without a word between us, we reached into our Jean jacket pockets. Frank discovered his tin foil first; unwrapping the minuscule tablet of chemicals.

“Ready?” He asked – the pill close to his dried- out tongue.

After pillaging all my pockets and coming up empty, I assumed my package had fallen to the floor. I took out my Rolling Stones- tongued lighter and started a search on the floor. Following several moments, the people sitting in front asked what I was doing. I explained my drug dilemma and became fodder for the foursome of teens before me.

” That’s not how you drop acid!” One of them yelled. ” Look guys – this guy dropped acid …right on the floor!”

As fast as it takes to cook eggs in a microwave, I became the entertainment for the second row in the red section. By now, several others had turned to get into the ‘fun’. One of the girls in front felt bad and removed her lighter to aid in my search.

Even Ivan started to chuckle …

Moments passed. My ‘halucegenic helper’ was gone.

Frank had enough and popped his pill into an already inebriated palate. The time? Approximately 9:30 pm.

The show ended around ten. Thundering applause exited Nugent from the stage. Moments later – the applause returned him. Everyone was standing except for Ivan. Not asleep, not quite awake. A suspended state is where he was at this point.

Frank was acting funny. The drug starting to take him to other concerts in his head. He was more energetic than I had seen him in the five years since we met. Ivan …? As silent as a mouse on Christmas eve …

Nugent returned. Swinging on a vine. Or maybe that was earlier …

The opening rifts of Wango Tango waking the tenants who lived down the street from the Forum. Lights slapping our faces from every direction.

“This is Rock n Roll!” I recall thinking.

The initial reaction subsided, some – taking to their seats to enjoy Nugents’ extra- curricular tunes. Most – enjoying an experience unlike others. The people in front and almost everywhere around us were sitting. It was quiet as the people took in the show. Frank was looking at the ceiling and whatever images appeared in his mind.

Out of the blue, it happened. An event so unlikely – a replay was needed and YouTube was missed.

Ivan, the tormented figure of emotional emptiness – stood. At the peak of his vocal powers a sound emitted like bats released from a cave.

” Woohoo!” He shouted. ” Wango …Fuckin the Tango!” His arms straight in the air like a football referee signaling a field goal.” Fuckin’ right man!”

With that- he sat.

I never heard or saw the boy move like that ever again. He did come close. A week later, with Ivan sitting on my bed, I discovered the crumpled tin foil hiding my acid.

“Woohoo!” Ivan said quietly. Hands by his side …

Just Between You and Me – Part Two

‘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…”

Suddenly – without notice, recognition exchanged between the two of us.

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!”

Jimmy Clench

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 ….

Have a band or want publicity as a solo artist? Contact me at keenerick@hotmail.com