Copperpenny in 1975 squared for mocm


Origin: Kitchener, Ontario, 🇨🇦

November 4th was a Tuesday in 1969, when Copperpenny played in front of a hometown crowd at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium. The band was supporting a couple of recent singles for RCA Victor, with their debut album only months away. Although low in numbers, the two thousand fans were described as "a very good audience" by Robert Plant, lead singer of headlining act, Led Zeppelin. Zeppelin had just released their second album of heavy blues rock, but it seems that the new material didn't provide enough motivation that night. Blaming it on a faulty P.A. system and an illness to drummer John Bonham, they cut it pretty short. The uninspired 45 minute set that followed Copperpenny was also the last of eight Canadian performances made in 1969, before Zeppelin moved on to Kansas City.

The previous year, Copperpenny recorded three singles for Columbia Records. But before that would happen, a name change had been instituted. The band was formed in 1965 while the British Invasion had been in full force, and so naming the group "The Penny Farthings" (most likely taken from the name of a Yorkville, Toronto, coffeehouse), didn't sound like such a bad idea. It was wisely changed to "Copperpenny" (or "Copper Penny" as shown on many of their singles), the following year. The new designation was taken from the title of the Verve B-side of "If I Call You By Some Name," a 1966 release by The Paupers. The Paupers switched to Columbia Records in 1968 for an album and a couple of singles, with Copperpenny now as label-mates.

Copperpenny's, "Baby Gives Me Everything" and "Beezel Bug" never charted, but in between, "Nice Girl" made an appearance at number 77 on the Canadian weekly RPM 100 Singles chart. Unfortunately, the pop-flavoured releases weren't successful enough for Columbia to justify spending any additional effort (which was already very minimal; for example, the songs were overseen by the faceless production group at Chelsea Sound), and so the group was dropped.

Picking up the ball was Jack Richardson. His Nimbus 9 production company had recently signed a deal with RCA Victor to distribute a new project with The Guess Who, consisting of the Wheatfield Soul album and the smash single, "These Eyes." After a second Guess Who LP was out of the way, Richardson took Copperpenny to RCA's recording facility in Chicago to record ten songs.

Rich Wamil (born September 15, 1950) handled keyboards and lead vocals; Kenny Hollis (born April 10, 1946) also sang lead vocals; Vern (Laverne) McDonald (born September 1, 1947) played lead guitar; Bert Hamer looked after drums and percussion; and Paul Reibling played bass, but was soon replaced by ex-Rain member, Ron Hiller (born July 7, 1953). Wamil and McDonald also wrote all of the band's material. The songs were described by Walt Grealis of RPM Weekly Magazine, as "bubblegum or heavy rock," with the disclaimer that listeners should "be prepared to hear anything."

The first single from Copperpenny's self-titled album was "Just A Sweet Little Thing," a ray of sunshine pop in 1969. It didn't chart, and neither did the grittier follow-up, "I've Been Hurt Before." But eventually, the album's best song, "Stop (Wait A Minute)," cracked the top 100 on the strength of a catchy chorus when Hollis and Wamil trade lead vocals. The song received a lot of airplay in Southern Ontario and kept Copperpenny on the road for most of the year, with the band occasionally opening for The Guess Who or The Five Man Electrical Band. Closing the 1970 debut album was "Stop The World," a psychedelic track that lasted just under 9 minutes and finished with an explosion followed by the sound of a toilet flushing. The song also showcased the stellar guitar playing of McDonald.

Although RCA widened its distribution of Copperpenny's 1970 album into the U.S., the LP didn't sell very well. The group was also barely getting by financially, so it's not surprising then that within a couple years, only Wamil and Hollis remained from the original line-up. Hiller stuck around on bass, while Blake Barrett (born February 3, 1951) replaced Hamer on drums and Bill Mononen (born December 14, 1948) took over on guitar when McDonald joined Yukon. Losing McDonald also meant that Wamil became the principal songwriter, with the rest of the band pitching in. The reconfigured Copperpenny signed a new deal in 1972 with Much Productions to release an album and subsequent singles on their Sweet Plum label. The singles would also be distributed in the U.S., but through Bell Records on the Big Tree subsidiary.

Producer Harry Hinde did a top-notch job recording the band at PAC 3 Studios in Dearborn, Michigan, capitalizing on Wamil's soulful vocals and going for more of an R&B sound with many of the songs. First up in late 1972 was Copperpenny's finest moment. "You're Still The One" featured group vocals, as well as harmony vocals from Tony Orlando's back-up group, Dawn. It remains a mystery why "You're Still The One," with an improved intro for the single version, never hit the top of the charts. It did, however, give Copperpenny its first top 40 hit, peaking at number 26 nationally and number 16 in Toronto. However, the next single would become their signature song and biggest hit. "Sitting On A Poor Man's Throne" peaked at number 14 in 1973, even though the song had been shortened by almost 2 minutes to make it suitable for hit radio. (Note: The full length version can be found on the vinyl album of the same name. The only versions that have made it to CD have also been shortened. Brian Chater, who now owns Copperpenny's recordings on Sweet Plum, has been quoted as saying, "There had been no use putting it out because there isn't a group anymore." That statement makes it pretty clear what is wrong with the industry today. Executives in the music business aren't even music fans. It's a good thing Chater doesn't look after The Beatles' catalogue.)

Two more singles from the band's second album would follow in late 1973 and into 1974. "Rock And Roll Boogie Woogie And Wine" and "Where Is The Answer" both made respectable showings on the singles charts, while the group itself made a television appearance on CBC's, Drop-In variety show. Although "Where Is The Answer" featured Mononen on lead vocals, Wamil had been heard on the other three singles from the Sitting On A Poor Man's Throne LP. In the spring of 1974, Hollis tested the solo waters with his own Sweet Plum single, "Brenda." Copperpenny released a new single as well, an upbeat version of the old Gershwin standard, "Summertime," first heard in 1935.

Rich Wamil & CopperpennyConsequently, in 1974, Sweet Plum Records, Kenny Hollis, Rich Wamil and the other members of Copperpenny all went their separate ways. Hollis returned to RCA in 1975 for a couple of singles, "Our World Is A Rock 'N' Roll Band" backed with "Saying Goodbye" (written by Wamil) and "Ruby Baby" (a 1963 hit for Dion written by Leiber and Stoller). Although it wouldn't chart, Hollis would be better known for his final single in 1978, "Goin' Hollywood." Hiller formed gospel group, Sonlight, a few years later, while Wamil signed with Capitol Records as Rich Wamil & Copperpenny, backed by studio musicians. Wamil and his new Copperpenny's first release on Capitol was one of his own songs, "Help Your Brother." It barely scraped onto the singles chart, even though the band made an appearance on CBC's Keith Hampshire's Music Machine television show to promote it and its B-side, "Rollin' All Night."

When it came time to record an LP's worth of songs in Toronto with producer Harry Hinde, no original songs were chosen for what was to be called Fuse. Instead, Wamil, Brian Russell (guitar, had worked with Keith Hampshire and Charity Brown), Al Mix (guitar), Barry Keane (drums), Paul Zaza (bass) and Eric Robertson (keyboards) covered songs like the 1961 Bobby Lewis hit, "Tossin' And Turnin'," "Disco Queen" (a hit the same year for Hot Chocolate), "Suspicious Love," "Good Time Sally" (originally by Rare Earth) and "Going Down To Miami" (another Rare Earth song). "Disco Queen" (#56), "Good Time Sally" (#67) and "Suspicious Love" (#49 in 1976) all made respectable showings as singles, but the album lacked variety. Another single was added for the holiday season in 1975, a cover of Chuck Berry's, "Run Rudolph Run," but it didn't chart. One final single was recorded and released in 1976. "Needing You" had been the first song included on Natalie Cole's debut album in 1975. It had the makings of a bona fide hit, but Hinde's production came up a bit short, and it became Copperpenny's swan song.

After "Needing You" faded into obscurity, Copperpenny called it a day. Robertson, Keane, Russell and Zaza followed Harry Hinde to work with Charity Brown in 1976. Keane then permanently took over the stool behind the drums for Gordon Lightfoot. Zaza became an award winning movie soundtrack composer. Early Copperpenny member, Bill Mononen, works at an aviation fuel filtration company in Cambridge, Ontario, and has performed with The Blue Devils, as well as with Yukon alongside Vern McDonald (who has also played with Tone To The Bone). Paul Reibling moved into the technical area of sound recording with his Reibling Audio & Design Services company. Ron Hiller went back to school to earn his B.A. and B.Ed. He now records as Ronno, a children's music performer. Hiller also opened a commercial art gallery in St. Jacobs to showcase talents of Russian painters. Blake Barrett still plays some of the old Copperpenny tunes in Gravity with Rich Wamil, who works at Erb And Erb Insurance Brokers in Kitchener. Gravity has appeared regularly in the Kitchener area, and performed at Kitchener-Waterloo Collegiate's 150th Anniversary in 2005. Kenny Hollis worked as a manager and emcee at Lulu's Roadhouse in Kitchener in the late eighties. It was a huge nightclub with the world's longest bar and a house band that included former members of the Ian Thomas Band. Hollis also joined in several Copperpenny reunions. He died at the age of 57 on July 12, 2002, following a heart attack that occurred three days after he was hit by a pickup truck.

In their prime, the band was seen several times on national television, they were popular on hit radio stations across the country and performed over 100 shows a year, including appearances alongside Led Zeppelin, The Guess Who, The Five Man Electrical Band, Bob Seger and Uriah Heep. Their biggest followings were on the east coast, in the U.S. mid-west and in Southern Ontario. Although Copperpenny's successful days have long since passed, their music is still alive on classic rock radio. "Sitting On A Poor Man's Throne" has endured for over 45 years, and still receives strong airplay.

Band members
circa 1968-1969
Rich Wamil – vocals, keyboards
Kenny Hollis – vocals
Vern McDonald – guitar
Paul Reibling – bass
Bert Hamer – drums

1970 to 1972
Rich Wamil– vocals, keyboards
Kenny Hollis – vocals
Bill Mononen – guitar
Bill (Dal) Dalrymple – bass
Blake Barrett – drums, percussion
Wayne Evans - bass
Brad Fowles - drums

Rich Wamil– vocals, keyboards
Kenny Hollis – vocals
Bill Mononen – guitar
Ron Hiller – bass
Blake Barrett – drums, percussion

Rich Wamil – vocals, keyboards
Brian Russell – guitar
Al Mix – guitar
Paul Zaza – bass
Barry Keane – drums
Eric Robertson - keyboards

1975 (Touring Band)
Rich Wamil - vocals, keyboards & guitar
Mark Stephen Gendel - guitar
Bill Mair - bass & vocals
Jim Minas - drums & vocals

Highschool friends Ken Hollis and Rich Wamil began jamming together in the garage in 1965, and formed their first group, Penny Farthings soon after. Adopting a name they felt reflected the British Invasion they were hearing on the airwaves, they soon became staples around the Kitchener, Ontario area.

Members came and went over the next few years, but with Hollis on vocals and Wamil on keyboards and vocals, the lineup by ’68 also featured guitarist Vern McDonald, Paul Reibling on bass, and drummer Bert Hamer. While writing some material, they shopped some demos around while pounding the streets, eventually catching the attention of execs at Columbia. The first thing the label did was suggest a name change, so Copperpenny was born, taking their name from the b-side to The Paupers‘ hit, “If I Call You By Some Name.”

By that summer, they’d recorded some material, and three tracks were picked as singles over the next few months – “Baby Gives Me Everything” b/w “I’m Afraid Of The Cold,” followed shortly after by “Nice Girl” b/w “Help Me” and “Beezel Bug” b/w “I Gotta Go.” None shook the world’s foundations, nor did they live up to the expectations of some of Columbia’s staff, although “Nice Girl” did make it to #77 on the Canadian RPM chart. This was despite label brass putting little or no effort into promotions, exemplified when the three singles were overseen by a faceless production group at Chelsea Sound.

They hooked up with RCA Records and went into the studios in Chicago with famed producer Jack Richardson (Guess Who, among a million others). While finishing up work on their upcoming debut album, they continued playing gigs, highlighted by an opening slot for Led Zeppelin in Kitchener.

Their self-titled debut album was in the stores in the spring of 1970,and RCA and Richardson’s Nimbus 9 both released singles. But the lollipop melody of “Just A Sweet Little Thing” and the grittier “I’ve Been Hurt Before” both failed to chart. But the final single, “Stop (Wait A Minute)” cracked the top 100, fuelled by Wamil and Hollis trading lead vocals on the song. It got good airplay in the GTA and throughout southern Ontario. With “Stop (Wait a Minute)” getting decent airplay in the Detroit market, thanks to southern Ontario radio’s support, RCA was encouraged to widen its distribution into the US, but the album still failed to make a dent.

Also featured was the psychadelic “Stop The World,” a nine minute epic that when added to the rest of the album, had the critics totally baffled as to what direction the band was going was. The band kept on the road for the better part of a year, opening for the likes of The Guess Who and 5 Man Electrical Band.

Throughout ’71 the band continued to tour while writing their own material. But by the following summer, only Hollis and Wamil remained from the original lineup, due in part to what some members claimed to be financial mismanagement, where their manager Dick Wending kept a reported 51% of all bookings and recording deals. Ron Hiller had replaced Reibling on bass nearly a year earlier, and Bill Mononen replaced McDonald on guitars after leaving to join the short-lived Yukon. With Blake Barrett the new drummer, they signed a new deal with Much Productions, which would see the records released in Canada on Sweet Plum (a branch of London Records), and in the US through Bell’s subsidiary, Big Tree Records.

Their 1973 sophomore album, SITTING ON A POOR MAN’S THRONE, was produced by Harry Hinde at Pac 3 Studios in Dearborn, Michigan. Four singles were released over the next year, beginning with “You’re Still The One,” featuring the unreleased “Call Me” as the b-side and background vocals by Tony Orlando’s stage props, Dawn. It gave the band its first top 40 hit, peaking at #26 in Canada, but still failed to make an impression in the US. A shortened version of the album’s title track (covered by Bobby Bland in 1977) followed, and things looked promising when it became their biggest hit, peaking at #14 at home. Despite some more tour dates and an appearance on CBC TV’s “Drop-In” variety show to help bolster sales, “Rock & Roll, Boogie Woogie, and Wine” and “Where Is The Answer?” failed to duplicate their earlier success, and the band again found itself disillusioned.

Hollis decided to test the solo waters in ’74 by releasing his single, “Brenda,” shortly before Copperpenny released a new single on their own, an upbeat version of the old Gershwin standard, “Summertime.” Within a few months, Sweet Plum had bid a fond farewell to the band, and the members themselves all went their separate ways.

Wamil signed a new deal with Capitol Records, who wanted to promote any project as still a Copperpenny album. So Wamil assembled a group of studio players – Alan Mix (ex-Skylark) and Brian Russell (ex-Keith Hampshire) on guitars, drummer Barry Keane, Eric Robertson on keyboards, and bassist Paul Zaza. They released the soulful “Help Your Brother,” b/w the Motown flavoured “Rollin’ All Night.” But despite the band playing some shows, including opening for Bob Seger and Uriah Heep, and showing up on the CBC TV program, “Keith Hampshire’s Music Machine,” the single barely made an appearance on the charts.

Wamil hooked up with Hinde again to produce the next album – 1975’s FUSE. Unlike its predecessors, which was all original recordings, this album was ten covers – ranging from “Disco Queen” (which Hot Chocolate took to the top 10 earlier in the year), a pair of tracks from Rare Earth (“Good Time Sally” and “Going Down To Miami”), to Van Morrisson’s “Feedback Out On Highway 101” and Bobby Lewis’ “Tossin’ and Turnin’.” But with what critics called the same lack of focus that had plagued the band from day one, “Suspicious Love” was the biggest chart success, which only peaked at #49. The label also tried to capitalize on the holiday market, convincing Wamil and company to record a cover of Chuck Berry’s “Run Rudolph Run.”

One final single was released, a cover of “Needing You” in 1976, Natalie Cole’s first hit a year earlier. Although expectations were high, the single didn’t chart, and Wamil packed it in, although various incarnations of the band would reunite from time to time. As well as becoming an insurance broker, Wamil continued to perform regularly in the southern Ontario market well into the early ’00s with his new group, Gravity, which also featured Blake Barrett at one point.

After officially leaving Copperpenny, Ken Hollis returned to RCA for a pair of singles, “Our World is a Rock n Roll Band” b/w “Saying Goodbye” (written by Wamil), and then the old Dion hit “Ruby Baby.” His final single was in 1978, releasing “Goin’ Hollywood.” In the ’80s he ran Lulu’s Roadhouse for awhile, Kitchener’s top nightclub. He died at the age of 57 on July 12, 2002, following a heart attack that occurred three days after he was hit by a pickup truck.

Russell, Robertson, Keane, and Zaza all ended up working with Charity Brown, when Hinde agreed to work with her. Keane then later became Gordon Lightfoot‘s drummer. Zaza became a movie soundtrack composer. After he’d left following the second album, Bill Mononen ended up joining Vern McDonald in Yukon, after working in the aviation business. After playing in a gospel group, Sonlight, for a few years, Hiller earned a BA and BEd, Ron Hiller became a children’s music performer, recording under the name Ronno.

With notes from Annette Hollis, Gary Simmons



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Copper penny in 1968

Copper Penny in 1968

Copperpenny  blue swede canadian tour in support of capitol records album fuse  may  1975

Copperpenny Blue Swede Canadian Tour in support of Capitol Records album Fuse, May, 1975

Copperpenny  january 1973 promo

Copperpenny January 1973 promo

Copperpenny in 1967

Copperpenny in 1967

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Copperpenny in 1975. (2)

Copperpenny in 1975.

Copperpenny in 1975.

Copperpenny in 1975

Copperpenny in 1975

Copperpenny promo from late 1970

Copperpenny promo from late 1970

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photo from Pungo, Virginia. Dick (Copperpenny manager), Blake and Kenny

This is a michael messner photo of 'yukon'.   mike lehman  tommy hishon  wayne dietrich  bobby becker and verne macdonald at the top

This is a Michael Messner photo of 'Yukon'. _ Mike Lehman, Tommy Hishon, Wayne Dietrich, Bobby Becker and Verne MacDonald at the top

This is a photo of the version of copper penny from 1974 to mid 1975.

This is a photo of the version of Copper Penny from 1974 to mid 1975.

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Copperpenny in 1975 squared for mocm



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