Heard of these guys? Probably. You just do not know it.
Five Canadian bands who paved the way for guys like Bryan Adams and (sigh) Justin Bieber. Commercially – anyways. Bands who did not get their fair due airplay -wise and monetarily. Some did – most had a cup of coffee in the show but in those days, record companies led the corrupt way for most.
In part three, Ritchie Henman ( co-founder of April Wine), speaks about The Wackers from a front ( back?) seat view and Mitchell Field talks about Hellfield. A band who opened for The Cars at Maple Leaf Gardens.
Ready Ritchie? Mitchell? Alright fellas …let’s go ….!
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.
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.
“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.
“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 …
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.”
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.”
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.”
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”.
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.
David Henman, despite having a non – household name and not being known as a ‘star’ in the music world; is a very prolific songwriter.
Commencing with April Wine, where all of the members ( except Ritchie ) were excited about the songwriting process, David has been penning tunes for over four decades.
‘Drop your Guns’ was his first commercially successful song. It was included on April Wine’s second disc; On Record. That song remains a staple to this day during an April Wine concert. A song which remains close to Henman’s heart.
“As a victim of bullying when I was very young, I came to abhor all forms of violence at an early age. “Drop your guns” was an expression of that anti-violence mentality, which has become a huge part of my philosophy. I wrote both the music, which was inspired by a band called Humble Pie, and the lyrics. The song was a top forty hit in Canada, but wasn’t released in the USA for fear that it might be perceived as an anti-Vietnam war protest song. Duh! The song seems to have a message that resonates with people and continues to resonate decade after decade. I know this because, roughly six months after events like Columbine, 9-11 and the war on Iraq, my royalties for the song take a sharp spike upwards.”
Another song Henman wrote with April Wine which instills pride in the songwriter is also included on Wine’s second album. The track was inspired by a book Henman read at the time. Herman Hesse’s novel Steppenwolf and particularly the line ‘ for madmen only’ is the reason for the song ‘Refuge.’
“Songwriting is a curse.” Says David attempting to explain a life- long habit. “It’s an addiction. An obsession going back to the early days of April Wine. I was very anti-commercial. I thought pop music was all bubblegum, the lowest common denominator and all that. When Myles wrote “Fast Train” and it became a hit, I thought;’Hey! I can do that!’ Now – it is forty plus years later and I am still trying.”
Henman’s artillery of tunes is vast. The guitarist has or continues to write in many different genres …
“Over the years, my influences have accumulated, so you will hear elements of old rock, classic rock, heavy rock, country, folk, celtic, latin, world and even dance in my writing.”
Henman may have referred to Goodwyn’s ‘Fast Train’ as a symbol for something he attempted to strive for yet that does not mean the Nova Scotia – born singer has ever written for the FM or AM airwaves …
“I don’t consciously write for radio. Every song I write starts out innocently enough yet if a song I write does seem to me to be radio-friendly, I try to at least not get in it’s way.” David continues. “I have written a lot of songs. Some great. Some not so great. The proof is in the recording in regards to it’s commercial potential.”
In addition to writing songs, a huge part of David’s focus is on recording them in a way that make people want to listen.
Listening is what people from David’s generation did well. He was a young man at the start of the 1960’s, an era which introduced the world to the British Invasion and the birth of one of the most enduring periods in rock n roll …
Although Henman realizes he grew up in a wonderful time – music wise, he does not agree the music today is not as good as his generation.
“I steadfastly refuse to fall into that idiotic trap of claiming that the music of my generation is superior to the music of the current generation. This happens in virtually every generation. I clearly recall my parents’ generation, back in the fifties, whining that the music I loved was garbage.”
“That’s not music, that’s just noise!’ Then they would say the music of THEIR generation was all about quality; melody, lyrics, proper singing etc.”
“Before I was a teenager, I vowed I would never be that ignorant, that closed-minded.” Henman goes on.” Yet, that is precisely what happend to my own generation. I find myself virtually inundated by people my age, and younger – much younger, whining about ‘kids today’ and the music they listen to. I have only one thing to say to those people: get over yourself!”
David also realizes the record business is no longer what it once was. He believes there is ‘good and bad’ in the changes.
“The music industry I once knew and loved seems to have choked on its own greed. On the downside, music – especially live music, has been devalued. People no longer believe they should have to pay to own it. On the plus side, with no music industry to speak of and the advent of the global internet, we now have the potential to reach millions of people on our own initiative.”
David has released two CDs lately to ‘reach people’ and believes all his previous records with his older bands have been discontinued ( April Wine excluded) The two current ones are titled; The David Henman Band and Long Ride Home. The single ‘ Long Ride Home’ will be distributed to country radio in September.
David Henman is not playing live very much these days yet when he does – it is usually with his partner Rose. Instead, his concentration lies on writing and recording new material.
In search of his very own; ‘Fast Train’ …
*Ritchie Henman lives in Dorval,Qc with his wife and is not currently active in music.
*Jim Henman resides in Nova Scotia and has just released a new cd titled ‘Same Old Feeling’ . A cd which David Henman believes will be a classic.
*Jim Clench passed away in 2010 from lung cancer.
*Brian Greenway resides in St.Lazare is still playing guitar for April Wine.
*Myles Goodwyn remains the leader of April Wine and resides in St.Lazare as well.
Two cousins sat down in the Old Mill Tavern in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. The year was 1969. They ordered a pitcher of beer and complained of the lack of momentum their music had gathered.
They thought of putting a new group together. A band which would consist of the brother of one of the beer drinkers on drums and the other; a former member of the other ale quaffer’s band.
They ‘stole’ the singer / guitarist away from his band in Cape Breton, started rehearsing in one of their parents’ basements in Sackville and – just like that, one of Canada’s most successful rock bands were born …
The men in question were David Henman on guitars and vocals, Ritchie Henman on drums, Jim Henman on bass and Myles Goodwyn on vocals and guitars. The name of the band …?
” Myles agreed to join us, and we had planned to start out as a cover band. That all changed the moment Myles played us a couple of songs he wrote.” Says David Henman. “All of us have slightly different memories of how we formed but these are the basic facts.”
According to David ; Myles, long known as the leader and principle songwriter of April Wine, took control from the beginning in the songwriting department.
“He very quickly established himself as the most gifted and most driven musician and songwriter in the group. No one questioned that fact.”
April Wine hosted a lot of their own shows in the early days and one of the very first gigs Henman remembers was for a theatre group. The band had became involved with the actors at the Neptune Theatre and wrote music for a 13th (?) century play called; “The Lion in Winter.”
Aside from particular items like the above, Henman’s memories of the first four years of the group are vague. He does remember being obsessed with writing songs and recalls why he and Myles were worlds apart in their songwriting ideas.
” Myles was more commercially – oriented and I was more experimental.” States Henman on the two very different approaches to songwriting.”I was also into music like Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa while Myles was into r and b and blues.”
Goodwyn’s technique is apparent from the start of Wine’s career. ‘Fast Train‘ was one of the first songs Myles wrote and evolved into the band’s first hit. A song which to this date – remains David’s all time favourite April Wine song.
A fast train was what April Wine was now on in the music business. The year was 1970 and things were going quicky …
“We signed with Terry Flood management and Aquarius records.” Says David . “We recorded our first album; ‘April Wine’, with Bill Hill producing. The second one – ‘On Record’, was produced by Ralph Murphy and it marked the first without my cousin.”
Jim Henman, one of the founding members – left and was replaced by Jim Clench.
As the band were recording their third album; ‘Electric Jewels‘ – David and Ritchie left the band in a mutually – decided split.Myles was now the last original member when he and Clench decided to keep the band going …
“I was invited to join a reformed April Wine but my brother wasn’t.” Says David . “Ritchie and I have always been pretty loyal to each other, so I decided to abstain”. All these years later, David Henman has no regrets for his decision to not rejoin the band just before they hit it big.
“No. No regrets. I was young and given to temptation. My sense is that I ‘d have ended up a casualty ( of rock ).” Declares David.
Despite the split, David and Ritchie have kept in touch over the years with Myles. David says they are, in many respects – a family.
” I have been a fan and an admirer of Myles Goodwyn from day one. We often run into each other and these past couple of years he has invited me to join the band on stage.” An offer which Henman took with a smile.
Ritchie and David Henman’s departure from one of the-soon-to-be iconic Canadian Rock Bands did not dissuade the duo from carrying on.
The brothers formed a band named ‘Silver’ following their departure and the band played constantly for a couple of years. The music was a mixture of covers and David Henman originals. Once that music formation ran it’s course, the brothers discovered themselves playing with a familiar name to April Wine fans;
‘All the Young Dudes’, the brother’s new band which performed all originals during it’s year of existence, featured Bob Segarini and a young guitar player named Brian Greenway ( Brian eventually landed with April Wine in 1977 and remains to this day).
In 1976, David then struck out on his own with ‘The Debutantes’.
Between then and now – bands with names like; ‘Sensible Shoes’,’ Dancer’ and ‘The Business’ came and went.
Finally, in 2003, David Henman starting recording and playing under his own name. Something he continues to do in his basement studio in Bolton, Ontario.
In a galaxy far,far away from turntables!
Please stay tuned for part two and more of Henman’s story ….