Myles Goodwyn 1948-2023

Myles Goodwyn 1948-2023

Myles Goodwyn, co-founder, creative force, and guitarist/frontman in April Wine, died December 3, 2023. He was 75.

Goodwyn grew up in Waverly, Nova Scotia, and was influenced by an uncle who was a gigging musician; at age six, his father gifted him a Norma copy of a Gibson Hummingbird that he used to play along to records by country artists, Elvis Presley, and Little Richard. His first musical interaction with a peer happened in August of 1963, when he heard music emanating from a neighbor’s home.

“He came through the woods to our place and asked if there was someone in my family who played the guitar,” said his then-future bandmate Jim Henman. “I said ‘Yes,’ and that was the first day that we played guitar together. After that, we played nearly every day after school, in our little woodshed. We started learning songs while my kid brother, Bob, would play drums on our mom’s sugar and flower cans.”

When friends formed a band to play a school variety show, Henman convinced his father to buy a bass so he and Myles could join, Myles borrowing Jim’s Eko electric. The group continued as a dance band doing Top 10 hits, each making $15 every weekend night. At 16, Goodwyn wrote his first song for the band, “You Won’t Dance With Me,” and it later became a hit for April Wine.

In 1969, Henman asked his cousins, Ritchie and David Henman, to start a band doing originals and touring Northern Canada. They agreed, but only if Jim could talk Goodwyn into being part of it. That fall, they became April Wine, which recorded two albums of mostly original music.  

Jim left the group while rehearsing for the second album, 1972’s On Record, and Myles replaced him with Jimmy Clench. While recording the third album, Electric Jewels, Ritchie and David were replaced by Jerry Mercer (drums) and Gary Moffet (guitar). Supporting it, they toured Canada coast to coast, building an audience on the strength of their live show. 

In his September ’20 interview with VG, Goodwyn said Electric Jewels and the next two albums, Stand Back, and The Whole World’s Goin’ Crazy, saw them progress as songwriters and musicians; on the latter, Goodwyn assumed producer duties for what became the first album in Canadian history to have platinum advanced sales orders.

“After On Record, I saw what was going on with us compared to how other bands – The Who, early Beatles, and of course Led Zeppelin – were making great albums that were not just a collection of singles,” he said. “By the time we started making Electric Jewels, I was beginning to understand that we could do things besides radio singles. After Stand Back and The Whole World’s Goin’ Crazy, the band really came together.”

Wanting a bigger live sound for their summer ’77 tour, Goodwyan added third guitarist Brian Greenway and signed to Capitol Records before beginning work on First Glance, the album that broadened their U.S. audience with the hit single, “Roller.”

Goodwyn and Greenway first met in ’72, when the latter was a member of Mashmakhan, which toured parts of Canada with April Wine. “They were the hot band in Montreal, and I really wanted to join them at that time,” Greenway recalled. He was still excited even after waiting five years for the call.

“I jumped at the chance, of course, and Myles said if it went well, I’d become a permanent member,” he added. “By October, I was full-time and we went to do First Glance.”

For the follow-up, 1981’s Nature of the Beast, Goodwyn hired Mike Stone to co-produce and the band traveled to Oxfordshire, England, to work with him at The Manor studio. 

“He gave us a more-live sound… had a great ear and was really great with vocals,” Goodwyn said. “Mike was responsible for the big vocal sounds with Queen. I’ve always been a musical producer – not technical at all. Mike, though, had the ears, knew the tech, and would spend hours to get what we wanted.”

Nature of the Beast proved to be band’s biggest album in terms of acclaim and sales, reaching double platinum status in Canada, and platinum in the U.S. with the hit “Just Between You and Me” reaching #17 on Billboard‘s rock-track chart in the fall of ’81. 

In 2002, Goodwyn received the SOCAN National Achievement Award, in ’08 he was recognized with the East Coast Music Lifetime Achievement Award, and in ’10 was inducted to the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. 

In 2016, Goodwyn released Myles Goodwyn and Friends Of The Blues, which received a JUNO nomination for Blues Recording of the Year and won an ECMA for Blues Recording of the Year. The follow-up, Friends Of The Blues 2, won the same blues category in ’20.

Goodwyn’s final performance with April Wine happened in March, 2023, in Truro, Nova Scotia. He continued to write, record, and perform in an acoustic quartet with Jim Henman, John Chaisson, and Steve Gaetz.

“Myles inspired future generations of musicians,” Henman said of his friend. “His music still gets daily airplay across Canada, and the band he fronted until 2023 continues to do 30-plus shows every year. His fans now span two generations and his contributions are part of the evolution of Canadian music.

“Having played acoustically with Myles this last six years was like going back 60 years. He and I co-wrote and recorded some great songs, like ‘Some of These Children’ and our first Christmas song, ‘Ring The Bells,’ and we started a few more I promised him I would finish. We shared a lot of time talking about life, like old friends do. There’s a hole in my heart, but it’s full of memories.”

“Myles wrote classic hits in Canada and the world for almost two decades,” said Greenway. “That’s something to be proud of, and his legacy will be reinforced every time one of his songs gets airplay. Everyone has a memory tied to an April Wine song, including me. I was a fan that got to join my dream band and have a career lasting 50 years plus. We still perform to appreciative audiences in Canada and the U.S. His memory will live on.”

Henman and Greenway have strong recollections of Goodwyn’s skill as a guitarist, songwriter, and businessman/band leader.

“From the formation of April Wine, I saw in Myles a strong focus and work ethic in creating tunes, rehearsing, working in the studio, and performing,” said Henman. “I recall seeing him read The Business Of Music, by Clive Davis. That was 1970, and at the time I was not interested in reading it, which explains a few things about my life decisions at that time (laughs). But thanks to Myles, the band’s success went above and beyond what any of us had dreamed.”

“Myles was a really good guitarist,” Greenway added. “I never understood how he got his roots and styles. There was so many good players in the Maritimes – Celtic influences, country, rock, R&B, all of it, and that was his style. It was very different from where I grew up. And he was a natural; I never saw him practice. 

“His songwriting was special, too. He had a way of hitting the heartstrings with lyrics that were well-conceived and even-tempered by the simplicity of a rock song or ballad. He was always writing. He’d come in with a song demoed on cassette and essentially produced in his mind. We’d add parts and maybe suggest a change here or there, but our contributions were mainly the guitar solos, which were always composed by us. We’d all try and the best one would be used. 

“I remember really wanting to do the solo on ‘Sign of the Gypsy Queen.’ It was right up my alley – E minor with a blues feel. So I fought for it, and during the session at The Manor, Myles walked in with plastic grapes hanging from his pockets, trying to distract us, but Mike Stone kicked him out and we got the solo done (laughs).”

In September of ’23, April Wine was granted a spot on the Canadian Walk of Fame, and Goodwyn was named to the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. On December 4, parliamentarian Darren Fischer stood in the House of Commons to acknowledge Goodwyn’s passing.

Goodwyn’s charity, Soleful Caring, will continue collecting footwear for people in need with diabetes.

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