COPPERPENNY
 
Copperpenny 1973
Copperpenny's most successful line-up: Blake Barrett, Ron Hiller, Rich Wamil, Kenny Hollis and Bill Mononen from 1973.



biography
1969 Concert PosterNovember 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.

CopperpennyThe 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" 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.
RCA Victor
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."

CopperpennyThe 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.

Sitting On A Poor Man's ThroneProducer 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."

FuseWhen 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.

Rich WamilAfter "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 40 years, and still receives strong airplay.

Copperpenny 1970
Copperpenny's original line-up: Bert Hamer, Vern McDonald, Rich Wamil, Kenny Hollis and Paul Reibling from 1970.





discography
 
singles RPM 100 Singles
Year                      A-side / B-side Catalogue Peak*

1968 Baby Gives Me Everything / I'm Afraid Of The Cold Play A-side Columbia C4-2797
Nice Girl / Help Me Play A-side Columbia C4-2817 77
Beezel Bug / I've Gotta Go Play A-side Columbia C4-2838
1969 Just A Sweet Little Thing / I've Been Hurt Before Play A-side RCA Victor 74-0263
Just A Sweet Little Thing / That Was The Game Nimbus 74-0263
I've Been Hurt Before / Stop (Wait A Minute) Play A-side RCA Victor 74-0371
1970 Stop (Wait A Minute) / I've Been Hurt Before Play A-side RCA Victor 1031
Stop (Wait A Minute) / Just A Sweet Little Thing RCA Victor 1031
Stop (Wait A Minute) / Just A Sweet Little Thing Nimbus 9 0263 71
1972 Call Me / Market Place Play A-side LUV 102
You're Still The One / Call Me Play A-side
You're Still The One
Sweet Plum 9912 26
1973 Sitting On A Poor Man's Throne / Bad Manners Play A-side Sweet Plum 9914 14
Rock And Roll Boogie Woogie And Wine / Taking My Heart Play A-side Sweet Plum 9919 62
1974 Where Is The Answer / Bad Manners Play A-side Sweet Plum 9921 76
Summertime / Get Away Play A-side Sweet Plum MS 9925 DJ
1975 Help Your Brother / Rollin' All Night Play A-side Capitol 72741 84
Disco Queen / Gonna Have A Good Time Play A-side Capitol 72751 56
Good Time Sally / Let It Happen Play A-side Capitol 72757 67
Going Down To Miami / Mind Over Matters Play A-side Capitol 72764
Run Rudolph Run / Hey Now Whatcha Gonna Give Me Play A-side Capitol 72765
1976 Suspicious Love / Feedback Out On Highway 101 Play A-side Capitol 72766 49
Needing You / I Love You Play A-side Capitol 72774
 
Kenny Hollis
1974 Brenda / Unless You're Blue (as HollisPlay A-side Sweet Plum MS 9923
1976 Our World Is A Rock 'N' Roll Band / Saying Goodbye Play A-side RCA Victor PB-50078
Ruby Baby / Sing Baby Sing Play A-side RCA Victor PB-50140
1978 Goin' Hollywood / You Know I Can't Do Anymore Play A-side Change AP-95001
 
*Peak position on the Canadian weekly RPM 100 Singles chart. 
 
 
albums
Copperpenny
1970
Copperpenny
Tracks: 1. I've Been Hurt Before / Ritchie's Party (Wamil-McDonald) 7:26 Play song
2. Stop (Wait A Minute) (Wamil-McDonald) 3:05 Play song
3. It's A Happy Day (Wamil-McDonald) 3:00
4. Castles Of Sand (Wamil-McDonald) 5:05
5. That Was The Game (McDonald) 2:22
6. Just A Sweet Little Thing (Wamil) 2:15 Play song
7. It's A Rainy Day (Wamil-McDonald) 2:38
8. Why Don't You Go For Me (Wamil-McDonald) 2:51
9. Stop The World (Wamil-McDonald) 8:49
     
All selections published by Septima Music, Inc. (BMI)
 

Releases:   1970 RCA Victor (LP: LSP-4291).
Producer:   Jack Richardson.
Other Credits:   Lead Vocals, Keyboards, Bass, Guitar & Trumpet: Rich Wamil.
Lead Vocals: Kenny Hollis.
Drums, Percussion & Vocals: Bert Hamer.
Guitar & Vocals: Laverne McDonald.
Bass & Vocals: Paul Reibling.

Arranger: Ben McPeek.
Recording Engineer: Brian Christian.
Recording Technician: Russ Vestuto.
Mastering Engineer: Randy Kling.
Recorded in RCA's Mid-America Recording Center, Chicago, Illinois.

Liner Notes:   While there are many prophets predicting a shoo-in for those born under the sign of Aquarius, they are merely predicting and with just the stars to help. However, the Canadian recording industry is, in fact, coming into its own and this is not mere speculation; it’s based on fact – the fact that 1969 was the door opener and the bowing of 1970 saw more activity, recording-wise, than in any similar period to date. Although many Canadians had for years been making slight inroads into the international music business, ’69 was the big year when the fuse stopped sputtering and made rapid moves towards the explosive area, which could very well be 1970. The fuse was carried along by names such as David Clayton Thomas, The Guess Who, Motherlode and Steppenwolf (which has a nucleus of Canadians).

Now comes an opportunity to add another name to the growing list: Copperpenny. This group has enlisted the services of producer extraordinaire Jack Richardson, already batting 1000 with his productions.

Copperpenny is from Kitchener, Ontario, not far from the plum of the Canadian music industry, Toronto. Their story goes back two years and several record releases. They’ve gone through a period of struggling and development, and today emerge on this album as seasoned and polished record performers who also equal in person their waxed performance.

One large plus for the group is the fact that they do all their own material and are capable of covering a large range. Whether it is bubblegum or heavy rock, they adapt with ease. Their material is imaginative and will cause the listener to reflect back upon many very acceptable sounds.

This album showcases the highly talented five man group in a package augmented with strings and horns. At times you feel you are listening to a rock classic, while on other cuts you sense the neighbourhood group. It’s also possible to detect an established hit – which will, no doubt, eventually be the case.

With Copperpenny, on disc or in person, be prepared to hear anything. Their bag is not restricted; rather, it is very large and their talents are much larger. They have already become known nationally and they stand on the threshold of breaking into the international market. With this album their musical abilities will be proven.

Meet and listen to the sound of Copperpenny:

Rich Wamil: lead and group vocal as well as organ, bass, piano, guitar and trumpet.
Laverne McDonald: lead guitar, also lead and group vocal.
Kenny Hollis: lead singer, also group vocal. He will soon emerge as one of the few electronic vocals.
Bert Hamer: drummer, group vocal and almost all percussion instruments.
Paul Reibling: on bass, is considered an electronic genius and assists with group vocals.

That’s your program line-up for some very fine listening to today’s bag by a musical unit capable of communicating today’s sounds.

Walt Grealis
Editor/Publisher
RPM Weekly

 
Sitting On A Poor Man's Throne
1973
Sitting On A Poor Man's Throne
Tracks: 1. Sitting On A Poor Man's Throne (Mononen-Wamil-Hiller) 5:26 Play song
2. Taking My Heart (Wamil) 2:15
3. Where Is The Answer (Mononen) 4:20 Play song
4. Thinking Of You (Wamil) 2:50
5. You're Still The One (Wamil) 3:30 Play song
6. Boogie Woogie (Wamil-Wamil) 3:25 Play song
7. Get Away (Wamil-Hollis) 3:17
8. Bad Manners (Mononen-Hiller) 3:04
9. Wine Song (Wamil-Hollis) 2:08
 

Releases:   1973 Sweet Plum Records (LP: SPLP-951).
Producer:   Harry Hinde.
Other Credits:   Lead Vocals & Keyboards: Rich Wamil.
Lead Vocals: Kenny Hollis.
Lead Vocals & Guitar: Bill Mononen.
Drums: Blake Barrett.
Bass: Ron Hiller.

Background Vocals: Thelma Hopkins, Joyce Vincent, Dawn & Pam Vincent.
Clarinet: Barrett Strong.
Percussion: Jack Brokensha.

Arranger: David Van de Pitte.
Chief Engineer: Richard Becker.
Assistant Engineer: Big Jim.
Recorded and Mixed at PAC 3 Studios, Dearborn, Michigan.

Photography: Mike Foster.
Jacket Design: Carole Risch.

Liner Notes:   Special Thanks to Dick Wending for keeping the group together for the past seven years; the Van de Pittes for a home away from home.

 
Fuse
1975
Fuse
Tracks: 1. Disco Queen (Brown-Wilson) 3:00 Play song
2. Suspicious Love (Biddu-Vanderbelt) 3:05 Play song
3. Dancing On The Devil's Doorstep (Murphy) 3:17
4. You Make It Hard (Murphy) 4:24
5. Mind Over Matter (Toussaint) 2:51
6. Good Time Sally (Baird) 3:09 Play song
7. Feedback Out On Highway 101 (Morrison) 3:23
8. Get Myself Back Home (Bridges, Guzman, Monette, Rivera, Olson) 3:11
9. Going Down To Miami (Zesses-Fekaris) 3:03 Play song
10. Tossin' And Turnin' (Adams-Rene) 3:46
 

Releases:   October 13, 1975 Capitol Records (LP: ST-6410).
August 11, 2003 EMI Music Canada (CD: 7 2435 32327 2 6).
Producer:   Harry Hinde.
Other Credits:   Lead Vocals & Keyboards: Rich Wamil.
Drums & Percussion: Barry Keane.
Guitar: Brian Russell
Guitar: Al Mix.
Bass: Paul Zaza.
Keyboards: Eric Robertson.
Sax Solos: Bert Hermiston.

Arranger: Eric Robertson.
Recording Engineer: Haywood Parrott.
Assistant Engineers: Dave Balan & Kevin Fuller.
Mixing: Don Gooch.
Recorded at RCA Studios, Toronto.
Mastered at The Mastering Lab, Hollywood.

Album Concept: Rich Wamil.
Art Direction: Roly Legault.
Photography: David Street.

Road Crew: Al Dunbrook, The Gabourie Boys & Don Forsyth.

Executive Producer: Paul White.

CD only:
Produced for Re-issue: Warren Stewart for EMI Music Canada.
New Art Direction and Design: Verve Graphic Design Consultants, Inc.
Track Remastering: Ted Carson at MusicLane Mastering, Toronto, using Sonic Solution's No-Noise Digital processing in 24 bit / 88.2 kHz using Weiss Engineering.

Liner Notes:   Copperpenny extend special thanks to Dick Wendling, Manager, David Maxmanian and especially Paul White who made this album possible.
P.S. Thanks to Don Wamil for the support.

 
 
on CD
1990 Made In Canada – Volume Two: Into the '70s (1969–1974)
Made In Canada
Track 14. Sitting On A Poor Man's Throne
   
1992 Pretty Girls, Everywhere – Beach Classics Vol. 1
Pretty Girls, Everywhere
Track 12. Just A Sweet Little Thing
   
1997 Marijuana Unknowns
Marijuana Unknowns
Track 12. Stop The World
   
2001 Oh What A Feeling 2: A Vital Collection of Canadian Music (Disc 3)
Oh What A Feeling
Track 4. Sitting On A Poor Man's Throne
 
Bobby "Blue" Bland
1977 Reflections In Blue
Reflections In Blue
Track 3. Sitting On A Poor Man's Throne (cover version) Play song





video
1975 Help Your Brother (3:36) (Keith Hampshire's Music Machine)
   
Rollin' All Night (3:15) (Keith Hampshire's Music Machine)





With contributions from Bill Mononen, Quigley Jones and Alan Dunbrook.


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