Great Canadian Rock Show Part Three

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Lennex, Santers, Mainline, Bravebelt, Klaatu …

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 ….!

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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 …

All the Young Dudes; Part Three

Wayne Cullen, one of two – yes, two drummers in The Dudes, recounts how he came to be in the greatest band that never was …

The greatest live band out of Montreal in the 1970’s and how the record company which was supposed to help the band obtain stardom – did the polar opposite.

The Dudes’ story is a sad one as the band were so close to the pinnacle of the International rock music scene.

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Wayne was born in 1952 in the West Island of Montreal.

He started playing drums shortly after the Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan in 1964. He started playing in a cover band with friends all through high school. His band; Bacchus – would change a few members around the end of high school yet the band continued to play the university and club circuit for several years.

“The influences and covers of the group included Traffic, Neil Young, Stones, Beatles, Byrds and Fleetwood Mac (Kiln House era).” Says Wayne from his home in Vancouver.

Wayne was a huge fan of The Wackers, a group he discovered through CHOM radio in Montreal.

He explains.

“Chom began playing a few of their tunes from their first two albums around the time they moved to Montreal. ‘Body Go Round’, ‘I Hardly Know Her Name’, ‘Oh My Love’ and others. This was very much in line with the music I liked at the time but was not hearing. Montreal had gone prog-rock and was also heavily influenced by Led Zeppelin’s music at that time.”

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For Wayne, The Wackers stood out because of melody, harmonies and short songs with jangly guitars.

“I never got to see them with Michael Stull.” Says Wayne. ” Instead, my first experience seeing them came as a foursome at FC Smith Auditorium. I was sitting in the middle of about the 10th row and was blown away. Their showmanship was far beyond anything else in Montreal at that time. Their clothes, stage gear, lights professionalism and utter talent. Bob ( Segarini ) and Randy were mesmerizing to watch.”

Cullen’s enthusiasm also arose from being a big David Bowie fan …

“They ( Bob and Randy) both wore make-up, which at the time was a very Bowie thing to do. They were much more of a rock ‘n’ roll band live than on their two records. My enthusiasm was immediate and complete. Their Beatle covers of songs such as ‘She Loves You’, ‘I’ll Be Back ‘and ‘Slow Down’ were exquisite… !”

Cullen would see the Wackers at every opportunity and was always immersed in a sublime musical experience. His band – Bacchus, started covering a couple of Wackers’ tunes – most notably; ‘Puttin Myself To Sleep’ and ‘Hey Lawdy Lawdy’, Its My Life’ and Wait and See’.

“My girlfriend and I drove to Ottawa to witness their final gig and wept as they ended with the song -‘Time Will Carry On (Even When We’re Gone, sniff, sniff). It was a medley from Hot Wacks. Afterwards, we wandered into the dressing room but had never met them and were not able to muster much in terms of words.”

Please stay tuned for part four…