Tag Archives: Donald Lautrec
By the 1970s, Canadians had had enough of their musicians taking the best of the nation’s music to the United States because they couldn’t earn a living at home. To discourage this, two significant building blocks in the development of the Canadian music industry were put in place. The first of these was the establishment of the Juno Awards. The televised annual ceremony, held amidst a gala of stars, gave out awards to the best in Canadian music.
The second, which has always been controversial, involved the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announcing new regulations governing Canadian broadcasting. The new rules required that 30% of the songs on playlists of Canada’s AM radio stations had to fulfill two of the following four characteristics: the music was composed by Canadians, the lyrics were written by Canadians, the music was arranged by Canadians, and the recording was produced by Canadians. The regulations were designed to compel radio stations to promote Canadian music.
Although some radio stations fulfilled the rules defiantly by playing the Canadian songs early in the morning or late at night, the new regulations allowed the Canadian music industry to really take off. The first artist to benefit from the new rules was Anne Murray whose song “Snowbird” became an international multi-million seller. With the groundbreaking international success of The Guess Who, a number of acts who’d been ignored by radio in the 60s saw breakthroughs in the 70s (Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, Lighthouse, The Five Man Electrical Band, and The Bells). This precipitated what became known in the United States as the “Canadian Invasion”.
First and foremost was Anne Murray who would go on to sell over 54 million records worldwide becoming a national treasure. Second in rank was Diane Dufresne, the first francophone female rocker. Patsy Gallant emerged and released successful songs in both French and English. Country singer Renée Martel had three chart toppers from 1972-1973: “Un Amour Qui Ne Veut Pas Mourir”, “Partir Au Soleil”, and “Si On Pouvait Recommencer”. The other big country singer who began rising to fame and glory was Carroll Baker.
The men were more plentiful (haven’t things changed since the 90s!). First in rank would be Gordon Lightfoot. Although his debut came in 1962, his big (international) breakthrough came eight years later. Neil Young had finished dabbling with Buffalo Springfield and went solo. He was always more successful outside of Canada, especially in the U.S. And he had the first #1 album in Britain by a Canadian artist. Pianist André Gagnon rose to prominence as did Frank Mills after his departure from The Bells.
A number of other singers emerged, like R. Dean Taylor, whom American critics consider one of the most underrated acts ever to record under the Motown label. His “Indiana Wants Me”, which opened the decade, made the Top 5 south of the border, becoming one of the label’s first hits from a white artist. The following year, Taylor came out with “Gotta See Jane” which did even better in Canada, finishing as one of the biggest Top 40 hits of the year in his native Toronto.
Tex Lecor achieved international success with the Georges Langford song “Le Frigidaire”, which he, amazingly, recorded in five languages. The French version topped the charts in Quebec for five straight weeks in early ’72. His “Quand Ca Ne Tourne Pas Rond” also did well. Award-winning folk music came from Ottawa-native Valdy.
Donald Lautrec continued churning out French hits (he was the one who sang a French version of “Whiter Shade of Pale” called “Le Jour du dernier jour”). On Remembrance Day in 1972, Lautrec’s “Le Mur Derriere La Grange” peaked at #2 on the Montreal charts. 1972 also was a big year for Georges Dor. Not only did his “Pour La Musique” top the charts in Quebec, but CKAC radio designated Dor’s “La Manic” as the most popular song of the last fifty years.
The early 70s, like the late-60s, were dominated by The Guess Who, naturally. Their “American Woman” was the 2nd biggest Canadian tune of the whole decade and they had five additional songs that made the yearly Top 100. Perhaps the second most significant band of the period was April Wine with three huge hits that decade (and a couple in the early 80s). Bluesy Offenbach became a formidable force as well. Calgary‘s The Stampeders scored three major hits.
Lighthouse succeeded with “One Fine Morning” (1971) and “Pretty Lady” (1973). They won Juno Awards for Best Group of the Year in 1973 and ’74. The Five Man Electrical Band‘s “Signs” was the 22nd biggest song of the year in 1971 and they subsequently scored with “I’m a Stranger here” two years later. Original Caste scored two major hits in 1970: “Mr. Monday” and “One Tin Soldier”. They disbanded the following year.
There were a couple of one-hit wonder bands that appeared. The first of these was Mashmakhan. Their “As the Years Go By” was the 10th biggest hit of 1970. The following year, gospel-ish Ocean came out with the third most successful Canuck song of the decade: “Put Your Hand in the Hand”.
Before moving on to the big guns, below are mini-profiles of semi-major acts: Patsy Gallant, The Bells / Frank Mills, and The Stampeders.
These guys had originally formed in the mid-60s as the Calgarian sextet The Rebounds before reorganizing into a trio in 1968 Toronto. Their first charting single was “Carry Me” in 1971. Their follow-up, the same year, not only charted internationally but became one of the ten biggest Canadian songs of the decade—”Sweet City Woman”. It helped them garner Juno Award for Best Group of the year in 1972. Two major hits came in 1975: “New Orleans” and “Hit the Road Jack”.
Patsy was one of ten children who all sang in a family group, The Gallant Sisters. She began singing when she was five. In 1967, she started a solo career, appearing in TV commercials and variety shows. Her debut album appeared in 1970 and she became, not only one of the few Canadians to have hits in both official languages (English and French) but also one of the few successful Canadian disco artists later in the decade. Patsy Gallant’s “Tout Va Trop Vite” reached No. 3 on the Canadian French charts in 1972. Later in the decade she had huge success with “From New York to L.A.”, and her “Sugar Daddy” was the best-selling Canadian single of the year in 1978. She won the Juno Award for Best Female Singer of the Year in both 1977 and 1978.
The Bells were a Montreal outfit who debuted in 1968. But their first big hit came in 1971—”Stay Awhile”, the 27th biggest song of the year. Their “Fly Little White Dove, Fly” was nominated for a Juno. Pianist Frank Mills departed for a successful solo career performing instrumental piano pop. His first major hit, which faired much better in Canada (topping the charts) than the U.S., was “Love Me Love Me Love” in 1972. “Pretty Little Fool” followed that year. His huge international breakthrough, however, came in 1979 care of his album Music Box Dancer with two hit singles: its title-track and “Peter Piper”. The album reached #21 on the Billboard charts and its title-track reached #3.
Montréal’s The Beau-Marks have been credited with releasing the first hit rock recording made entirely in Canada. The song was “Clap Your Hands” and the year was 1960. It quickly scaled the charts all the way to number one. It was also released in the U.S., Europe, and Australia where it was the 5th biggest song of the year. A French version was recorded too, called “Frappe Tes Mains”. The following year they scored a big hit with “Classmate”. The Beau-Marks differed considerably from 50s vocal ensembles The Crew-Cuts, The Diamonds, and The Four Lads in that they were a pure rock band that composed most of its own material. Unfortunately, despite incredible popularity and performances in New York’s Carnegie Hall and TV’s American Bandstand, the group disbanded after releasing only three albums.
Rock bands sprang up all over Canada, perhaps most notably in Québec where rock and roll was called by the French name Yé-Yé. Music historian Richard Baillargeon noted that there were 500 yé-yé bands in the province, 50 of which had significant careers. The Mégatones kicked things off with their album Voici les Mégatones in 1962. The single “Rideau S.V.P.” became a classic.
While Canada, as a federation, was struggling to establish its own unique cultural identity in the midst of strong British and American influences, Québec was striving to define its own character within Canada. One of the most important musical figures that helped sculpt such a distinctive portrait was folk artist Gilles Vigneault.
Other big stars in Québec were folk singer Claude Gauthier (“Ton Nom” and “Le Grand Six Pieds”), Claude Léveillée, Clemence Desrochers (though better known as an actress), and Donald Lautrec. Pianist and composer André Gagnon was instrumental in accompanying and writing for many of these stars, especially Léveillée. We’ll talk more about him later. Monique Leyrac performed covers of these singers’ songs on TV, bringing them to the attention of English Canada.
Canada‘s subsequent pop stars after Paul Anka were Ginette Reno, who went on to release over 60 albums in both French and English over the years, and Canada’s next teen-idol, Bobby Curtola, who ended up releasing some 50 singles, many of which made the Top Ten. His biggest hit, “Fortune-Teller” came in 1962, selling millions of copies worldwide. Terry Black also appeared and, though less successful than Curtola, managed several hits, including “Unless You Care” and “Only Sixteen”. Richie Knight & The Mid-Knights had one of the biggest hits of the early 60s: 1963′s “Charlena”. Also big that year was Jackie Shane‘s “Any Other Way”. Shirley Matthews scored a major hit the following year—“Big Town Boy”.
Celebrated Canadian actor Lorne Greene enjoyed a brief signing career spawned by the popularity of his role as Ben Cartwright on the long-running Western television series “Bonanza”. In 1964, his hit, “Ringo” topped the charts. Another country artist in the early 60s was Lucille Star who scored several hits, some with her partner Bob Regan (the duo was dubbed The Canadian Sweethearts). Her “French Song” was the 22nd biggest hit of 1964.
Homegrown folk artists starting out in the early 60s were Buffy Sainte-Marie, Canada’s first high-profile First Nations musician, the husband-wife team of Ian & Sylvia (“Four Strong Winds”), and Canada’s polka king Walter Ostanek. Folk-pop superstar, Gordon Lightfoot, made his debut in 1962 with the hit “Remember I’m The One” and struck again five years later with “Go Go Round”. But, because his huge international success came in the 70s and the Canadian Pop Encyclopedia cites him as Canada’s most popular male vocalist during that decade, we’ll profile him later.
With the growth of Canadian music, artists from other countries began covering Canadian songs. Bonnie Dobson‘s 1961 hit “Morning Dew” was covered by Lulu in 1968. “Universal Soldier” (1964) by aforementioned Buffy Sainte-Marie was covered by Scottish artist Donovan.