A staple of Canadian classic rock, April Wine was one of the most popular and commercially successful Canadian rock bands of the 1970s and early 1980s. They had five platinum or multi-platinum albums in Canada, 21 Top 40 singles, and received ten Juno nominations, including seven for group of the year 1975–83. Their radio-friendly arena rock sound was characterized by strong melodies, catchy, muscular guitar riffs, and sentimental pop ballads. They released 16 studio albums over 35 years, and have been inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame and the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.
April Wine was formed in Halifax in 1969 and moved to Montréal in early 1970. Original members were Myles Goodwyn (vocals, lead guitar), brothers David Henman (guitar, vocals) and Ritchie Henman (drums), and their cousin Jimmy Henman (bass, vocals). They chose the name April Wine because they liked the way it sounded. The band went through numerous configurations over the years, and Goodwyn—who was also the main songwriter—was the only consistent member.
Rise to Success
April Wine had a minor Canadian hit off of their self-titled 1971 debut album with “Fast Train.” Jim Henman left the band and was replaced by bassist and vocalist Jim Clench. The band’s follow-up album, On Record (1972), yielded the Top 20 Canadian hit “Bad Side of the Moon” (written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin), and “You Could Have Been A Lady” (originally recorded by Hot Chocolate), which reached No. 5 in Canada and was a Top 40 hit in the US. David and Ritchie Henman left the band in 1973, replaced by Gary Moffet (guitar, vocals) and Jerry Mercer (drums). Clench left in 1975 (he later joined BTO) and was replaced by Steve Lang.
The band’s fourth record, “Stand Back” (1975), was the first album by a Canadian band to sell more than 100,000 copies. It eventually went double platinum in Canada 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.” Due in part to their practice of touring all across Canada—rather than only in the larger centres—the band’s popularity grew. In 1976, the band made history again with The Whole World’s Going Crazy, the first Canadian record to be certified platinum upon its release. The album reached No. 1 in Canada. The resulting tour marked another first for a Canadian band in that it grossed $1 million. That same tour, April Wine became the first Canadian band to sell out the Montreal Forum, solidifying their reputation as a popular concert band.
In 1977, Brian Greenway (vocals, guitar, harmonica) joined the band, and Forever For Now (1977) went gold in Canada on the strength of its best-selling single, “You Won’t Dance With Me,” which was a certified gold Canadian single. In April 1977, April Wine opened for the Rolling Stones—who were billed as The Cockroaches—at a much-celebrated show at Toronto’s El Mocambo. It resulted in Live at the El Mocambo (1977)—April Wine’s second live album after Live! (1974)—and led to the band making its US debut, opening for the Rolling Stones on their national tour in 1978.
Though it only achieved gold status in Canada, peaking at No. 62, First Glance (1978) included the enduring hits “Rock and Roll is a Vicious Game” and “Roller.” The latter provided the band’s breakthrough in the US, charting on the Billboard Hot 100 for eleven weeks and helping First Glance achieve American gold record status, a first for the band. Harder...Faster (1979)—which included the hard rock hits “Say Hello” and “I Like to Rock”—went platinum in Canada and gold in the US, where it spent 40 weeks on the Billboard top album chart.
Peaks and Valleys
April Wine’s exposure in the US was further solidified by Nature of the Beast (1981), their first album to go platinum internationally. “Just Between You and Me” was a Top 10 hit in Canada, reached No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100, and was the first song by a Canadian artist ever played on MTV. “Sign of the Gypsy Queen” was a Top 40 hit in Canada and charted well in the US. The band toured with Rush, Styx, and Journey in the US and Europe, and Nature of the Beast went double platinum in Canada. But years of constant touring were taking a toll on the band. After winning Félix awards for best-known Québec artist outside of the province, in 1981 and 1982, the band toured Nature of the Beast and went on hiatus.
The band’s 1982 follow-up Power Play went platinum on the strength of “Enough is Enough,” which was a Top 10 hit in Canada and reached No. 50 in the US. Goodwyn then relocated his family to the Bahamas, and the band began to fracture. They officially disbanded following their tour in support of Animal Grace (1984), but the band was contractually obligated to Capitol Records for one more album. Goodwyn and Greenway, the only remaining members, released Walking Through Fire (1985) and then pursued solo careers to little success.
In 1992, the group — consisting of Goodwyn, Greenway, Mercer, Clench (who died of lung cancer in 2010) and guitarist Steve Segal — reunited for a Canada-US tour and released a compilation album, Greatest Hits, which achieved double platinum sales in Canada. Their first studio album in a decade, Attitude (1993), went gold and was followed by Frigate (1994) and Back to the Mansion (2001). By the early 2000s, the band was playing around 100 concerts a year to their devoted fan base in Canada and the US.
April Wine won none of the 10 Junos it was nominated for over the years and was often derided by critics as generic (“I’ve written so much godawful crap it’s ridiculous,” Goodwyn has said). In 2003, Goodwyn received the Dr. Helen Creighton Lifetime Achievement Award from the East Coast Music Association. April Wine’s 16th studio album, Roughly Speaking, was released in 2006, and in 2008 the band was inducted into the East Coast Music Hall of Fame. They were inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame in 2009, received the Lifetime Achievement Award as part of Canadian Music Week that year, and were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame at the Juno Awards in 2010.
Dr. Helen Creighton Lifetime Achievement Award (Miles Goodwyn), East Coast Music Association (2003)
East Coast Music Hall of Fame, East Coast Music Association (2008)
Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame, Canadian Music Week (2009)
Lifetime Achievement Award, Canadian Music Week (2009)
Canadian Music Hall of Fame, Juno Awards (2010)
A version of this entry originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada.