Ritchie Henman; The Beginning and End of the Dudes

Before disbanding in the fall of ’73, AW took the summer off for everyone to clear their heads. The band had toured almost non-stop since fall ’70.

” I went camping and fishing with Claire ( my wife) for a few weeks and when I got back I was contacted by a band from California called “The Wackers“. They were living and working out of Montreal and their drummer had broken his left wrist in a diving accident. I filled in alongside Ernie until that group disbanded in October.” Explains Ritchie Henman – the original drummer of April Wine.

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At that point David and Ritchie Henman  started “Silver” with Danny Ceaser on bass and George Mack on keys. George had played with the brothers and Jim Henman in “Prism” in ’68-’69.  Silver and the new version of the Wackers (with Bob and Kootch from the original group along with local drummer Wayne Cullen and Brian Greenway on guitar), began jamming at Smitty’s, a country bar in NDG.

Says Ritchie;

“The bar allowed us the run of the place on Monday nights. Neither band was accomplishing much on its own and it wasn’t long before the principal songwriters got together on the notion of joining forces.” He continues. “We originally called the group “All The Young Dudes” to draw a lawsuit from Bowie’s company. Thereby drawing attention … ”

The stragedy sort of backfired when the band was notofied that Bowie loved the name! Nonetheless, the members shortened it to “the Dudes” which had always been the plan.

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“We quickly became the number one unsigned band in all of North America and spent several weeks in the Twilight Zone entertaining obscene offers from almost all the major U.S. labels.” Explains Henman.

” Finally, with New York Attorney Nat Weiss (the former partner of Brian Epstein) doing our bidding, we signed a historical contract with CBS in New York. We ate, drank and made merry while leaving the production of our debut LP to one Mark Spector, a terrific guy personally (very personally) selected by the current head of CBS.”

According to Ritchie, Mark was in way over his head with that band and the LP tanked.

“We did that one magical tour with the Bee Gees…  nicest guys ever, and had some great gigs and get – togethers with our manager’s other acts. Groups such as Blood, Sweat and Tears and Ian Hunter.”

By the fall of ’77 the group saw no point in carrying on. They did one last set of recordings at Le Studio with the top engineers from Criteria Sound in Miami. It was a study for CBS to decide what should be done with the band and the resulting recommendation was that they should have been self-produced from the start.

“CBS took a pass and cut us loose and we went our separate ways. I started a few original projects for the next two years and had some great experience, enough to keep my hopes alive for one more “career” group.

Late in ’78 I was asked to join a local group called Lyrock who had an eastern tour booked but were losing a few members. I went to see them play and saw for the first time Don Beauchamp on keys and some vocals as well as old acquaintances Wally and Tom Rathie who had been in Frames, our fave opening act during the Dudes period.”

Interspersed with Lyrock’s cover songs were several originals by Don and Wally and Ritchie was blown away. This was the music he had looked for.

” I took the tour gig but as soon as I got back to Montreal I got in touch with the Rathies and managed to get an audition for their new group.” Continues Ritchie. ” They chose a local jazz drummer over me and I was quite devestated but a few weeks later I was called back. It hadn’t worked out and I was in!”

As Ritchie had expected, the group’s music got immediate attention and they organized themselves with an indie label and local production Guru; Guy Rheaume.

” Our first LP, ‘Rollin’ With The Times was an instant in-trade hit.” Says Ritchie.

“The entire Canadian radio industry seemed to adore us. Unfortunately, our manager, fearful of financial ruin refused to sign off more than 5,000 units for our first pressing. This – despite urging from people who didn’t even have a stake in it, to guarantee at least 20,000 units.”

He goes on.

“Incredibly, just as we were charted with heavy rotation on 52 stations coast to coast, our distributor went bankrupt. It took our manager six weeks to find a new distributor and during that time the available pressings sold out. This forced the stations to drop it..Crash and burn … another one-hit wonder.”

Ritchie had been through this type of thing before but for the other four members of Cruiser ( this being their first real crack at the high-end of the entertainment industry), Henman believes they were devastated.

“Don left town shortly afterward and Wally, Tom, Ed and I did some studio sessions together but it was never the same and we drifted away from it by ’82.

Says Ritchie; “Even for me the project remains both the best and worst I have ever experienced.”

The first LP was finally released on CD three years ago as was the never-released second LP, Strange News.

” And I’ll go on record as saying they are both masterpieces!” Adds Henman. “To this day, the best players I have ever worked with are Ed Stevens on guitar, Tom Rathie on bass, Walter Rathie on keyboards and Don Beauchamp on vocals”.

For this statement, Ritchie Henman does not have to clear his head …

Frank Marino; Anti -Establishment 101

He was once and still is referred to as the white Jimi Hendrix. Something which Frank Marino disperses as something he never attempted to be …

It is also something the Montreal – born drummer turned guitarist extraordinaire cannot figure out.

Even after all these years …

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” It all started with a journalist who wrote that I was visited by Hendrix’s spirit and he reincarnated himself through me.” Marino says. ” What’s funny is that Hendrix was still alive at the time. I mean … really!”

Although Frank Marino may not have been the second- coming of Mr. Hendrix physically, the now fifty- eight- year-old is a throwback to the love generation. An integrity of love and peace which has been his best companion through four decades.

“During my time ( seven albums ) with Columbia records, I was always arguing with ‘the corporation ‘ over things – petty things. Details such as album art, length of songs. It was an ongoing battle.” Laughs Frank.

A battle which started the very first day he signed his first contract with the company.

” We were all in a meeting. All the bigwigs, myself, friends, family and members of the band. All set to sign this huge contract” Marino explains.” All of a sudden, this guy points to my friend who had been acting as the band’s manager and says – he has to go! I was floored!”

Marino told the executive that if his friend goes – he goes too. The ‘suits’ would not budge so Marino walked out and went home. A record deal and all that money left sitting on the table.

” Did they think I was fucking joking?” Asks Marino. ” They soon found out I was not …!”

Six weeks went by and Columbia called back. Your friend stays they told him. Frank Marino -1, Corporation – 0.

“Thats the problem with life and the way it is in the music business. A marketer figured out if you take ten bands which sound alike, put them together and give the tour a name, some sorta theme – money can be made. What happened to the music?”Asks Frank.

Marino comes from the ‘hippie generation’, Woodstock and music were his classroom as Marino spent a grand total of sixty- nine days in high school.

“I come from a family with older siblings and the whole peace and love era. I started experimenting with LSD at a young age. Unfortunately, I took too much too often and was ‘ trapped’ in a different world. I was hospitalized for a long time at the age of thirteen and when I came out, music was my life.”

While in the hospital, Marino …, out of sheer boredom, learned to play the guitar. An instrument which was lying around for kids to play with.

“It was a small guitar and I thought, why not? It was after all, the instrument of the sixties !”

Following his release, Marino discovered himself, along with some musical buddies ( some of whom would become Mahogany Rush ), would soon pay $1.00 to jam in a room at 2424 Ste. Catherine St. in Montreal. A house which is currently an old folks home. Instruments were not provided yet it was a place to hang out with people who shared the same interests. Similar to kids of today bringing their Xbox to a place where others share their games. A place where Marino plied his craft and made friends who are still in his life today.

What a life it has been …

“Imagine, I was a seventeen year old kid who had signed a huge record contract at a time when kids- especially not Canadian kids, made it big in music and the United States. I was a pioneer who used distortion to the max. At one time, my guitar was hooked up to twenty- two pedals. Only Hendrix had done it before and that is probably where the Hendrix references commenced. Add all this to the fact I just came from a major acid trip – who else was I going play like? Pat Boone?”

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Marino also says the guys who followed him, guys like Robin Trower – never claimed the Hendrix influence even though it was so obvious.

“I always said I was influenced by Jimi. My first album was dedicated to him and the song ‘Buddy’ was about him. I think guys like Trower and Stevie Ray Vaughn did not pump the Hendrix influence because they saw what happened to me and all the negatives it had.”

Marino also never wanted to be a star. The only reason he agreed to his first record contract was for the access to equipment.

“Robert Nickford had a company named Ko tai Records and he says here! Make a record and you can use this amp and these peddles. What kid do you know would say no …?”

Nickford then made a deal to merge his company with a record company in Detroit. The company was named Nine Records. Marino then became part of Twentieth Century Fox until joining Colombia in 1974.

Even now, Frank does not understand how musicians are considered some sort of gods.

” I felt uncomfortable getting In limos …” Adds Frank. ” I would rent a car and drive to the next gig. To me – Jesus is the only God I know …!” He also does not understand when musicians say their lives are hard.

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” You get free food and free booze. If you are young you have girlfriends everywhere. If you think getting on a plane a few times a week is tough, try packing boxes for some asshole every morning at six. That’s tough!”

What amazed Frank and continues to amaze him, is how he was always left out of the Canadian music scene. A factor which the guitarist attributes to his fame in the U.S. and being a native Quebecer.

” Whenever there was a Canadian ‘We are the World’ or something like that, I was never called and asked to participate. One – people assumed I was American and two; the Quebec music scene was like a seperate entity.Especially in the seventies.”

Montreal was rocking during that decade with artists such as April Wine, The Dudes, Nannette Workman, Offenbach and many others lighting up the city’s nightlife. Marino is good friends with many of them including Myles Goodwyn – which led to Frank playing on the April Wine song; ‘So Bad’ off of the album ‘The Whole World is going Crazy.’

” When April Wine was hitting it big, their manager – Terry Flood, came and asked me how to penetrate the American border and make it big. Terry and other Canadian bands came to me because I was huge in the States. In fact, to this day, aside from Montreal, I have still not played very many gigs in my own country. I told them – don’t ask me! I just stumbled into this …!”

Bands like Supertramp, Genesis and The Police are great examples of the type of love affairs nestled between French- Quebecers and musicians’ pillows. An amorous connection which made these bands more popular in Quebec than anywhere else. Frank Marino is part of that list.

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“If not for the support of the French-Quebecers, I don’t think I would have gotten so big.” Says Marino.” To be able to sell out the Montreal Forum three times you have to be good and at the same time – have loyal followers.”

One of the reasons Francesco Marino did not gather a flock of English Quebec fans was the lack of support from the English media. Notably the radio stations …

“If I had a cover song, like Purple Haze for instance, places like Chom – fm would play it. Aside from one original song; Dragonfly, the English radio stations would not play my tunes. I think its because they wanted to be ‘safe ‘. Another reason was my music was not vocally pleasing. In a five minute song, I would sing for a minute.”

Marino had many loyal fans in the States and his popularity happened so fast, Marino admits his career went backwards.

“Most bands play bars and clubs when they start out. Work their way up. In my life, it wasn’t until a good thirteen years later that I saw the inside of a club. Up until that point, I had been doing arenas and open air festivals. I had a billboard on Sunset Strip before I was twenty…”

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It was backstage at these festivals where the reality of the music business set in. Marino encountered many musicians who would talk of money only. Marino’s visions of a Woodstock setting, a situation where music would be the topic of conversation, were shattered. It was at this point he realized be was not in Kansas anymore. According to Marino, it was more like ‘Oz’.

“I was and continue to be anti – establishment.” Says Frank. ” For me, there is no room for business in the music business.”

He continues.” If you think about it, the music business is the only business where people suceed because others fail. Musicians want other musicians to fail. This is the mentality. You can always pick out a musician at a concert. Everyone is dancing and boppin’ and having fun. Not the musicians. They are usually in the back row, arms crossed and thinking; lets see what you got Marino or whoever happens to be on stage.”

Marino’s battles with Columbia continued over artistic ideas. Culminating with the album Juggernaut. According to Marino, halfway through their deal, Columbia had chosen the album cover art for his record; ‘The Power Of Rock And Roll ‘ – which seemed to be straight out of Playboy. When they started to play games during the next one, Juggernaut, Marino decided that enough was enough. Frank ended their partnership after seven albums in an eight album deal. A stipulation in Marino’s contract allowing him to do so.

Frank Marino then began the happiest period of his life. After a brief sojourn into the music business in the mid- eighties, a period which brought the same b.s. , Frank finally said ‘screw it!’ Starting in 1993, he fathered three lovely ladies with his partner of thirty- three years. According to Marino – there has not been one day since, they have not made him smile.

“Go figure?!” Says Marino. “All three of them are musical!”

Frank’s eldest daughter (19) is a classically trained soprano vocalist and the two youngest ones – (16 and 13) both play acoustic guitar. It is no wonder as Frank brought the kids on every tour since the day they were born.

Marino, always a technological ‘geek’ – started to run a small business on the side helping people to program and fix their computers. Sometimes people would recognize him and freak out but for the most part, Marino was just another dude fixing computers.

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One day, Frank ventured onto the Web and came across a fansite for Mahogany Rush. He did not realize there were so many fans talking about him and his guitar playing. Marino soon joined ‘the chats’ as himself. It took a while for people to believe it was him and it made him want to play music again. For the music …

“Now – we go on the road for thirty gigs or less when we feel like it. When we are fed up – we go home. There is nobody telling me do this – do that. No record company telling me I have to make a record. It is freedom …”

Just like Woodstock …

Leonard Cohen; He is the Man!

Nick Cave starts things off wearing a black suit.

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A funeral is the first thing that comes to mind. That is the time when people gather to contribute praise upon an individual or entity. In this case – Leonard Cohen is far from dead and the folks are gathered to pay tribute to an extraordinary poet, novelist and songwriter.

“No regrets, no occasion for self congratulation.” These are the words which escape Cohen’s mind at the beginning of the film; I’m your Man.

Who is Leonard Cohen?

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Over the years, the Montrealer has received an aura of sainthood. Musicians, politicians and the average citizen cannot claim to be big fans. Who owns a Cohen record? Be honest.

Yet if Cohen enters a room, a supermarket or a suburban mall, once his presence is acknowledged, a hush overcomes the masses. Why? Most do not know the answer to this question. Most do not know how to find out.

In the film, artists such as Rufus and Martha Wainright, Kate McGarrigle, Nick Cave and members of the rock group U2 – search for the answers. They scope the fields of wisdom. They arrive empty handed on the stage which Cohen built.

Was Cohen born among the chosen? How did this figure become the one to roam the truth? How does a man with no singing voice, become the frontman for a band of humanity.

‘Everything has a crack in it …’

Including God, Buddha or the religious flavour of the moment. Including Cohen himself; according to Cohen himself.

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Life is an enigma and Cohen, in his search for life’s missing pieces – becomes exactly what he is searching for. A walking, wounded and strong willed enigma trotting through the fields of life. A man on a horse coveted by so many – understood by few, including himself.

A man who seeks answers can never be satisfied. A bomber can never hit the mark if the instructions are torn up and tossed into an abyss of lies. A void created by the very things which started Cohen on a journey of self- discovery.

Information be has gathered is kept in his suitcase. It is shared and worn by others. Gladly the monk – the high priest of lyrical beauty, allows people blessed with more talent to display his songs in their golden cases. At the end of the day, they remain borrowed. Placed back to their proper place among the loafers and suits which travelled the globe.

Cohen is our man. There can be no doubt. He is a bird on a wire, gazing upon the winds of change. Chanting, whispering – halelujah …

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Slaves on Dope; ROUND TWO

What would you think if you saw a dude in line at Starbucks. His arms are filled with tattoos and he has a shaved head.

Assume he is a skinhead – type guy with an attitude? Smile politely and keep a distance due to your ignorance?

Many would …

How bad would you feel once you discovered the individual was a DJ on CHOM? How discusted would you feel inside if you found the fellow in front of you was on a National news program once a week? Then, if that was not enough – a discovery was made the man in question was part of a band that was the first to be signed by Ozzy Osbourne‘ s record label?

Go to the corner now! Come out in five minutes after you feel shame …

Meet Jason Rockman. Co – founder of the Band; Slaves on Dope.

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Along with Avrum Nadigel and Kevin Jardine, Slaves on Dope started in 1993 and won the CHOM L’espirit contest shortly thereafter. A victory which opened doors for music which was seeking a home …

Slaves on Dope were part of a new genre of music called NU Metal. A style which was not ‘in style’ in the city of Montreal at that time. Nu Metal is closely related to Rapcore – a genre of music which evolved from punk and not metal as most believe. Bands such as Korn and Limp Bizkit are considered to be leaders in the Nu Metal genre.

In 1995 – original drummer and bass player Patrick Francis and Lenny Vartanian left the band. New guys Frank Salvaggio (bass) and Robert Urbani (drums) joined Jason and Kevin in a heavier version of Slaves on Dope. A version which ended up in L.A.

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Salvaggio and Urbani took off on a six day trek to get the band’s name out there. Says Rockman; ” Following almost a year of playing out there and showcasing our music, one day we get a call from Sharon Osbourne asking us if we could meet. We became the first band to sign with Ozzy’ s record label – Divine Productions in 2000.”

That year was busy for the band. A full length album titled ‘ Inches from the Mainline’ was released. It went on to sell 70,000 albums and being a part of Ozzfest was a big reason for that.

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” My parents came to the show to watch us play.” Says Jason. ” Sharon Osbourne brought them into her private box to watch the show. Instead of being in the crowd, they were just off the right of the stage. It was pretty awesome!”

The next four years was filled with touring and craziness. Through all that – Rockman stayed sober. Something he is proud to say has been for twenty years now.

In 2004, shortly following the release of the band’s third album ‘Metafour and amid a three month tour of Europe -Rockman decided he had enough. He left the band he helped create to fulfill his family duties.

His girlfriend was three months pregnant at the time and Rockman’ s sense of duty took over.

” I just did not feel right being on the road. I wanted to be there – hands on!”

Jason returned to Montreal and worked for a transport company as well as the Sunglass Hut while his children grew. His relationship ended but his loyalty to his two children remained. The Montreal native who grew up listening to Zeppelin, the Stones and Jane’s Addiction – got a job working for CHOM, the very station which helped Slaves on Dope get discovered in the early nineties. He credits longtime DJ Tootall and his current wife for guiding him along.

Slaves on Dope returned to Jason’s itinerary in 2009 thanks to Patrick Charles.The Virgin announcer took Rockman’s demo and re- introduced Montreal to the band through a five song EP. Rockman and longtime partner -in- music Jardine were back along with new members; Sebastien Ducap ( Bass ) and Peter Tzaferis ( drums) .

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Songwriting partner Jardine had been running his studio since Slaves on Dope disbanded. That five year gap proved to be a blessing in disguise. Being back together displayed a maturity that might have been missing in the past.

Says Rockman; ” I wrote the songs and in the past – if Kevin attempted to give advice or add something, I would have snapped his head off!” He laughs. ‘ Now – we write together.”

Slaves on Dope have just released their fourth album; ‘Over the Influence’ and are hitting the road for a mini – tour to promote their new seventeen songs along with an impressive back catalogue.

” My kids are more important than music. I’ll go on the road but not for long …!” Says Rockman as he and his mates prepare to hit the pavement for three weeks.

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Apart from the album, Slaves on Dope have also recently released a digital – only ep titled ‘ Careless Coma’ and Rockman et al are looting through old concert footage to piece together a documentary.

Jason can be heard on Chom – FM every week MONDAY TO FRIDAY from 8pm til 12 am. He can also be seen every Friday at 3:20 pm on a CTV Toronto news program called ‘the blitz’ with Todd Van der Heyden. It is a pop culture panel discussion show.

Slaves on Dope can be seen and heard on their website along with MySpace and YouTube.

The next time you grab a coffee and see a guy with tatoos and a shaved head in line, you may want to ask for an autograph. After – all, how many guys do you know shook hands with Ozzy Osbourne?


Slaves on Dope – Discography

Studio Albums

One Good Turn Deserves Another (1998)
Inches from the Mainline (2000)
Metafour (2003)
Over the Influence (2012)

Demos/EPs

Sober (1994)
Klepto (1999)
Careless Coma (2011)

War Pigs , Black Sabbath Cover, appears on Japanese release of Nativity In Black II: A Tribute To Black Sabbath (2000)

Look What The Cat Dragged In , Poison Cover, appears on Show Me Your Hits: a Tribute to Poison (2000)

Go (Demo) (2002)

Drain Me (Demo) (2002)

All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth) (2011)

SLAVES ON DOPE.COM

Just Between Jerry Mercer and Me – Part Three

The saga of April Wine commenced with great songwriting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now What ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When I`m Sixty – Four … ?

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

An appreciation witnessed first hand on a couple of occasions …

To be Continued … 

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

Just Between You and Me

 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?

 

Ste Anne de Bellevue – In the Summertime…

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

All Night Long …

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.

Rock – a – Bye – Muddy …

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.

April Wine – Then …

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

Wine – circa 2001

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.

‘ A High Roller Baby …!’

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 …

Behind the Scenes …

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 Goodwyn

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.

The 1970’s – Comfortably Numb

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 …