The summer of ’77 changed April Wine guitarist’s Brian Greenway’s life.
Greenway was living in Montreal, working a steady part-time forklift job, and playing occasionally in another band.
“I was unemployed as a musician, working a steady job versus the security of a being a musician,” he said with a laugh.
Greenway previously played with the drummer of April Wine at the time, Jerry Mercer, in a Quebec-based band called Mashmakhan.
“I knew them. They always carried people with them, singers or the keyboard player. They said they wanted to try and add me. I played keyboard, sang and played guitar. So in the summer of ’77 I started with them on a trial basis. I remember just thinking ‘geeze, I hope they say yes, I can stay on,’ and they did and the rest is history so to speak.”
With the addition of Greenway’s raspy voice and the band now having a three guitar attack, April Wine curated a distinctive edge that has stood the test of time.
The first album with Greenway, the seventh for April Wine, pushed band into a new rock and roll stratosphere.
First Glance (Roller, Get Ready for Love, Right Down To It) was the first to reach Gold record status outside Canada and prompted bands including Rush, Journey and Styx to request April Wine to open their shows in the U.S.
“I wish I could remember a lot more of it. We did a lot of hits. It really started happening on the stage. Nine months is kind of gone. We were in a different town everyday,” he said. “It was the party days. We had the best time we can’t remember.”
April Wine would release five more albums between then and 1986 when they took a hiatus. The Nature of the Beast in 1981 was the height of their commercial success earning certified Platinum in the U.S. and reaching No.24 on the Billboard 200 album chart. The record included songs Just Between You and Me, which became April Wine’s most successful single in the U.S. and Canada, and the moderately successful, but crowd pleasing cover of Sign of the Gypsy Queen.
During the hiatus, Greenway released a solo album Serious Business.
April Wine would come back together in 1992, releasing four more albums.
There’s talk the iconic band will release a 50th anniversary record next year.
Greenway said he plays 20 to 30 shows a year with April Wine and also performs as a one-piece band playing guitar, singing and using drum pedals at a friend’s restaurant in Montreal. In addition, he also heads up the five-piece Blues Bus band with former April Wine bandmate guitar player Gary Moffet (1973-1984).
“We play songs you forgot you loved. It keeps me playing and active during the week. I’ve been doing it two years now. I’ve learned so much more about guitar from playing acoustic,” he said.
“I don’t want to go away and fortunately the reputation of April Wine helps with other projects. Good music is good music. Live music is slowly disappearing.”
Greenway said that’s one of the reasons Penticton’s Peach Festival is so special.
He couldn’t remember if he’d ever played the free family festival, but knew he’d played Penticton several times.
“I can’t remember if we’ve done Peach Fest but we’ve done lots of different fests, all the food group festivals,” he said. “It’s a pretty part of the world.”
Free concerts provide a chance to connect with fans and maybe make some new ones, he said.
“You tend to get a lot of people out at those kinds of things. A lot of them sometimes don’t know who they are going to see. They are just going to see a free show, but at the same time you can attract fans. You can get kids when they are younger and brand them into April Wine, just kidding,” he said with a laugh.
April Wine plays the Penticton Peach Festival Thurs., Aug. 9.