It was difficult to turn on a radio in Canada in the 1970s or early ‘80s without hearing April Wine. The Halifax-spawned, Montreal-based band made radio-friendly arena rock and sentimental ballads that earned them a mass audience. Combine that with a rigorous touring ethic that saw them cross Canada multiple times and you get one of the more successful rock acts in this country’s history.
That history started in 1969 when Haligonian brothers David (guitar, vocals) and Ritchie Henman (drums), along with their cousin Jimmy (bass, vocals), started a band with singer Myles Goodwyn. The foursome relocated to Montreal the next year to record their self-titled debut for Aquarius Records. Jim Henman left in the fall of 1971, replaced by Jim Clench. This was the first of many April Wine lineup changes.
Album number two, 1972’s On Record, produced a #1 hit in the Hot Chocolate cover “You Could Have Been a Lady.” With 1973’s Electric Jewels, the remaining Henmans were replaced by Gary Moffet and Jerry Mercer, and the band debuted a big stage show, complete with pyrotechnics, that helped make them a popular touring attraction.
1975’s Stand Back became the first Canadian album to surpass sales of 100,000 and included the Top 20 hits “I Wouldn’t Want to Lose Your Love,” “Tonight is a Wonderful Time to Fall in Love,” and “Oowatanite.” Clench left the band during this period.
Its follow-up, The Whole World’s Going Crazy (1976), was certified platinum on release (another first for a Canadian band) and yielded the hit ballad “Like a Lover, Like a Song.” The accompanying tour grossed over $1-million (another first) and included a sold-out date at the Montreal Forum – also a first time accomplishment for a Canadian band.
“You Won’t Dance With Me,” from 1977’s Forever For Now album, became the band’s best-selling Canadian single and helped nudge the album to platinum status. 1977 would also be memorable for April Wine’s inclusion as the opening act for the Rolling Stone’s now legendary surprise gig at Toronto’s El Mocambo club in April.
That summer the band also added Brian Greenway (guitar, vocals, harmonica) to the line-up. This freed up Goodwyn to play keyboards live and established the three-guitar attack also used by the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet and the Eagles that would characterize the next musical phase of April Wine’s career.
First Glance (1978) yielded their first American Top 40 hit, “Roller,” while Harder …Faster (1979) included the radio hit “I Like to Rock.”
The arrival of the ‘80s brought April Wine’s greatest success and the seeds of its demise. The Nature of the Beast (1981) sold a million copies in the U.S., and “Just Between You and Me” became a multi-format smash on both sides of the border. International touring ensued. 1982’s Power Play brought the band into the video era with the popular “Enough Is Enough,” but the album did not have the staying power of its predecessors. Further albums continued the band’s commercial decline. A Goodwyn solo album emerged in 1988.
Goodwyn and Greenway reunited with Clench for two albums in the ‘90s and two in the 2000s. 2006’s Roughly Speaking is their most recent release.
April Wine was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame during the 2010 JUNO broadcast, somewhat ironically given that the band received eleven nominations (seven for Group of the Year) during the course of its career but never won. The East Coast Music Hall of Fame inducted them in 2008 and the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame did the same in 2009.
April Wine continues to tour and play festivals annually, with Goodwyn and Greenway still part of the lineup.
April Wine formed in Halifax
Stand Back was the first album by a Canadian band to sell more than 100,000 copies.
First Glance was their first gold album outside Canada.
The Nature of the Beast went platinum in the U.S.
Inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame