Mary Travers «La Bolduc»

La Bolduc
Mary Rose-Anna Bolduc, née Travers, (June 4, 1894 – February 20, 1941) was a musician and singer of French Canadian music. She was known as Madame Bolduc or La Bolduc. During the peak of her popularity in the 1930s, she was known as the Queen of Canadian Folk Singers. Bolduc is often considered to be Quebec's first singer/songwriter. Her style combined the traditional folk music of Ireland and Quebec, usually in upbeat, comedic songs.


Mary Rose Anna Travers "La Bolduc" was born in Newport, Quebec, in the Gaspé region. Her father, Lawrence Travers, was an Anglophone of Irish heritage, and her mother, Adéline Cyr, was a French Canadian Mi'kmaq. Her family included five full siblings, and an additional six half-siblings from her father's first marriage. Bolduc and her eleven siblings spoke English at home, but also spoke French fluently. The family was extremely poor, but Bolduc attended school for a time, becoming literate in French.

Her only music teacher was her father, who taught her how to play the instruments that were traditional in Quebec culture of the era: the fiddle, accordion, harmonica, spoons and jaw harp. She learned traditional music from the two heritages, both Irish melodies and French-Canadian folk tunes. The family did not own a record player, piano or sheet music, so Bolduc learned jigs and folk songs from memory or by ear. She was giving casual public performances by the spring of 1908, when she played the accordion at the logging camp where she worked as a cook and her father as a lumberjack.

Early working life
In 1908, at the age of thirteen, Bolduc was sent to live with her half-sister Mary-Ann in Montreal, Quebec. Mary-Ann worked as a maid and had secured Bolduc a job as a maid in the house of Dr Lesage. She was paid $15 per month, in addition to room and board. A few years later she took a job at a textile mill, which paid $15 weekly for 60 hours of work per week.

On August 17, 1914, she married Édouard Bolduc, a plumber. The couple's first child was stillborn. Denise Bolduc was born in July 1916, Jeannette Bolduc in July 1917 and Roger Bolduc in August 1918. Roger died at the age of ten months and Jeanette at two years. The couple experienced more bad fortune with pregnancies and children; of the twelve or thirteen pregnancies, only four children reached adulthood. The family was quite poor, and in 1921 when Édouard had difficulty finding work they decided to move to Springfield, Massachusetts. Édouard Bolduc's sister was living there at the time. They returned to Montreal a year later, as Édouard had been unable to secure work in Springfield. During this time Mary Bolduc entertained both friends and family with her musical talents. Among her friends were amateur musicians who sometimes performed with the Veillées du bon vieux temps at the Monument-National under Conrad Gauthier.

Musical career
Mary Bolduc with fellow musicians, 1928
When Conrad Gauthier's troupe was missing a folk violinist for a performance, one of Bolduc's friends arranged for her to fill in for the absent performer. Gauthier was suitably impressed by her performance and asked her to return for subsequent productions. The family was always in need of money and the small income she earned this way was useful. Bolduc became a regular player with Gauthier's troupe by 1928, playing the violin or the jaw harp. Her work with them expanded to include other instrumental work and even some comic acting.

Bolduc was recommended by folk singer Ovila Légaré to musical producer Roméo Beaudry of the Compo Company. Beaudry signed musicians for French language recordings on the Starr Records label. Beaudry signed her to a recording contract to make four 78 rpm records, paying her $25 per side. She made her first recording in April 1929, the French folk song Y'a longtemps que je couche par terre on side A, and an instrumental reel on side B. The record was a commercial flop. Her next two recordings also had meagre sales.

Bolduc's second recording was released for Christmas of 1929. The first side had an original song of Bolduc's, La Cuisinière. Side B was an adaptation of an English folk song titled Johnny Monfarleau. The record sold more than twelve thousand copies, which was unprecedented in Quebec. Bolduc earned a total of $450 from the sales and became a household name in Quebec. With this success, Beaudry had Bolduc releasing a double-sided record every month. Bolduc recorded an additional four songs in January 1930. Nine more songs were recorded in April that year. By the end of 1930, she had recorded more than 30 songs. During this time, she collaborated on no less than fifty-six recordings of other artists. Most of these recordings did not credit her. Bolduc sang accompaniments or played instruments for recordings by Juliette Béliveau, Eugène Daignault, Ovila Légaré, Alfred Montmarquette, Adélard St. Jean, and possibly others.

Bolduc's first headlining performance came in November 1930, in Lachute at a costume ball. The audience was extremely receptive to her music and she was inspired to start a show that focused on her own songs. In March 1931 she took an offer from a burlesque company at the Théâtre Arlequin de Québec to perform as their main act. From this, she embarked on a three-month tour of Quebec with Juliette d'Argère. Starting in Hull in May 1931, they travelled western Quebec and Montreal, finishing in Sept-Îles in July. In 1931, her rising popularity increased the cost of her sheet music from four for one dollar to three for one dollar.

Bolduc formed her own touring troupe in 1932, named La Troupe du bon vieux temps. She hired Jean Grimaldi to direct the tours. The performances contained elements of both vaudeville and traditional folk music. Their first tours were around the Montreal area, and from August through December 1932 they gave fifty shows. The tours were a great success in Quebec with Bolduc earning $2000 from her first tour, compared to $500 – $1000 annually she got from royalties. The troupe went on a tour of New England from April through June 1934, and a second tour of New England that autumn. They toured across Quebec, and in 1935 toured the French speaking areas of northern Ontario. They went on additional tours of New England in 1937 and 1939.
As the 1930s progressed, Bolduc's record sales began to slump, but her income from touring remained good. Bolduc stuck to her folk music style as the record buying public turned increasingly to jazz and popular music. She produced eighteen records in 1930 and 10 in 1931, but with her declining sales she recorded nothing from July 1932 until she released a single album in March 1935, and then four more in 1936. In 1936, the family was able to afford a nanny to attend to the children while Bolduc toured.
Beginning in 1935, her daughter Denise appeared with her as a pianist. Other children occasionally appeared as backup singers, and her daughter Lucienne recorded L'Enfant volé.

Bolduc was seriously injured in June 1937 in Rivière-du-Loup when her tour company's car was in a head-on collision. She suffered a broken leg, a broken nose and a concussion. She was sent to a hospital in Rimouski for treatment, where doctors discovered a cancerous tumour. She began radiation treatment at the Radium Institute in Montreal, and engaged in practically no musical endeavours at this point, making no stage appearances for a full year. Her insurance company refused to pay for her damages, notably the concussion that caused memory loss and loss of concentration, which prevented her from writing songs. The suit ended badly as Bolduc did not use banks and had no record of her income to prove loss of income. Of her total damages and lost income, Bolduc recovered only $1500.

Bolduc began limited touring again in the summer of 1938, only in the Montreal area. She made a radio broadcast in January 1939, and made two recordings in February 1939. One of those songs, Les Souffrances de mon accident (French "The sufferings of my accident") was on her accident. She died of cancer on February 20, 1941 in Montreal and was buried in the Cimetière Notre-Dame-des-Neiges.

Musical style
Sheet music for Le Jour de l'An
Bolduc never had any formal music lessons, and developed her own style under the influence of her father's teaching and the musical traditions of Irish folk music and Québécois folk tunes. Her songs tended to be happy and comical with lively rhythms. Her self-written songs often used existing melodies from folk tunes or dances, combined with lyrics she wrote herself. For instance, she wrote the song Les Cinq Jumelles about the Dionne Quintuplets, which was set to the tune of "Little Brown Jug". In other cases, she adapted popular contemporary American songs.

Bolduc often used the technique of the enumerative song, which lists something such as foods or tasks. This technique was traditional in French-Canadian folk songs, derived from similar French traditions. Bolduc also employed the traditional French folk song style of the dialogue song, usually a duet with a man, where the song is a conversation or debate between the man and the woman. One such song was Mademoiselle, dites-moi donc, which she recorded with Ovila Légaré and featured the two of them bantering and flirting comedically. She often wrote in the style derived from traditional English broadside ballads, which tell current news to the tunes of traditional songs. One such song by Bolduc is La chanson du bavard, which notably employs an introduction inviting the listener to hear a tale, as is common in broadside ballads. Other topical ballads by Bolduc include Les Américains about Americans coming to Montreal during Prohibition to obtain liquor and the unrecorded Si je pouvais tenir Hitler, which she wrote a few days after the outbreak of World War II.

Her music relied heavily upon the harmonica and the fiddle, the traditional instruments of reels in Quebec. Her singing also adopted a nasal style, and her pitch was relaxed, both of which are found traditionally. Her singing often featured turlutage, which derives from Irish and Scottish musical traditions. Most often she employed this technique in reels, such as her song Reel turluté.

Her touring troupe La Troupe du bon vieux temps gave fairly consistent performances. Mary Bolduc opened the show with her newest songs. The troupe then performed comedy sketches, ensemble songs, folk songs and vaudeville routines. Most performances included a segment where amateurs performed, sometimes for cash prizes. Bolduc closed with some of her newest or most topical songs.

Bolduc's lyrics are predominantly French, but frequently include a few words or lines in English. This was reflective of her country upbringing in Gaspésie, where the two languages mingle. The recordings were marketed to working class francophone audiences, in small towns and rural areas where people had traditional values.

Professional image
Singing and stage careers were not well regarded in Quebec society of the 1920s and 1930s, especially for women. To avoid gossip and to keep a good reputation, Bolduc was always credited under her married name Madame Édouard Bolduc, both at live performances and on recordings. She attempted to include her family in her activities as much as possible. Her husband Édouard accompanied her troupe on their 1932 and 1934 tours. Her eldest daughter Denise joined the troupe in 1935 as a pianist.

Syd Dean, bandleader
b. England, UK
d. August 1, 1993, England, UK.
Syd Dean was born on 4th June 1907 in the village of Wellesbourne near Stratford-upon-Avon. He took up the piano at the age of ten, becoming proficient within a few years. After leaving school he worked for a while with his motor mechanic father, but his heart was in dance music and, determined to join the music profession, he answered an advertisement in 'The Era' in 1926 for a pit orchestra pianist at the Boscombe Hippodrome.

To his surprise, the 'pit orchestra' turned out to be a 25-piece section of the Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra directed by Dan Godfrey.

This, however, was not the area of music in which he was most interested, so he took a job with a dance band led by John Birmingham (who was later to die after falling from the balcony of his Earls Court flat). After a spell with a dance band in North Wales, Syd took the opportunity to play a season in a ballroom in Jersey where, for the first time, he realised his ambition to lead his own band. This band included alto-sax player John McCormack, who went on to lead his own band and appeared on 'Music While You Work' from the Midlands. After two seasons Syd moved to a night club in Glasgow but, preferring ballroom work, accepted an offer at the Leicester Palais in 1934.

It seems that in those distant days nobody stayed anywhere for long and Syd was soon off to Toni's Ballroom in Birmingham, switching to the New Plaza Ballroom, Derby, in 1935 for a three year stay. He broadcast for the first time in 1936 as solo pianist in the series 'Keyboard Cavalcade'. His success attracted the attention of the Music Corporation of America, which put him into Madame Tussauds, London — no, not as a waxwork! Over the next two years he played at the Café Normandie (Cliftonville), the Rector's Club (opposite Jack Jackson) and then at the famous Kit-Kat Club. A big break came in 1940 when Syd Dean not only had his first band broadcast but was invited to replace Joe Loss at the Astoria, Charing Cross Road, where his nine-piece band played opposite Jack White — already an established broadcaster.

Unfortunately, war intervened and Syd spent the next four years in the RAF. Although he was able to form a small band at Bomber Command in Nottingham, he ended up on a small island in the Outer Hebrides (but without eight gramophone records!).

Although Gaumont-British (who owned the Astoria) had promised Syd his job back after the war, contractual difficulties with the band already playing there made this impossible. So, Syd Dean was sent to the Regent Ballroom, Brighton, with a 15-piece band which was a tremendous success and very popular with the dancers. He resumed broadcasting and, in 1946, did the first of his 177 'Music While You Work' broadcasts. Over the years, Syd's broadcasts (some of them from the Regent) brought several singers to fame, notably Jill Day, Dick Francis and Rita Williams. Syd also came across a vivacious young singer who impressed him to the extent that he arranged for her to be auditioned at the BBC. The young woman failed the audition and Syd, thinking that his judgement must have been in error, let her go. He must have kicked himself when she topped the Hit Parade, her name was Alma Cogan!
Syd Dean and his Band at The Regent Dance Hall, Brighton in 1948
Syd Dean's band was so popular in Brighton that when he decided to leave in 1959, the local evening paper described him as a 'marvellous unofficial ambassador for Brighton, having publicized the resort in many ways'. He left as a result of a tempting offer from the Orchid Ballroom in Purley, but in the event only had a short stay there before moving on again!

During the following year, he opened at the newly-built Gaumont State Ballroom in Kilburn, where he fronted a nine-piece band consisting of five saxes, trumpet, piano, bass and drums. In 1962 he returned to the Astoria for a year, after which he went back to the Regent. In 1966 it was decided to demolish the Regent Ballroom, so Syd had to move down the road to the Top Rank Suite, where he stayed for a further six years.
Syd Dean specialized in 'straight' ballroom music, but, in common with other bandleaders, he had to make adjustments when fashions changed — he even included a guitar in his band from 1963! Although a prolific broadcaster, Syd Dean and his Band only made a handful of records (mostly 78s), usually backing The Stargazers.

Although Syd stayed at the Top Rank Ballroom until 1972, he was finding that teenagers didn't want his music, so he left to go freelance. He said at the time: 'I’m glad to get out of it. They just don't want a band. We tried to please them but all they want are hit records'.

Syd Dean carried on with appearances and concerts for many years and ran successful dances at Hove's King Alfred Ballroom and the Corn Exchange and the Dome in Brighton. Despite his declining health he continued to do the occasional private function. The late Chris Hayes, a musical journalist, provided Brian Reynolds with much of the information in this profile. He interviewed Syd in 1988, when he was planning a big band show at the Hotel Metropole, Brighton. Chris described Syd Dean as a 'dapper and handsome man, with a neat moustache and a ready smile. He possessed a smooth and pleasant personality which endeared him to people. He was genial and gracious without pomposity or conceit.' There couldn’t be a more fitting epitaph!
Syd Dean died on 1st August 1993, aged 86.
Johnny Russell, Tenor Sax
b. Charlotte, NC, USA. d.
There are cases where an instrumentalist's most haunting playing is to be found in the world of cinema rather than through spinning sides. This classic jazz master of several instruments serves as a good example. He devoted an equal portion of his time to dance band and military music, not to mention making members of the military dance -- all the more explaining why his eloquent moments on the soundtrack to Alibi, directed by the great Erich Von Stroheim, have attracted much more attention than any of Russell's prolific sideman credits.
Much of this attention could be easily lumped together under the question of "Gee, I wonder who that was playing on the soundtrack?" That's still more attention than most journeyman players get in their professional lifetimes. Russell's began as a teenager gigging with a combo in Asbury Park and continued at infamous Roaring Twenties venues such as Danceland in New York City, the jazz hound picking up the scent in the early '30s when Russell replaced Chu Berry in the tenor saxophone section of Benny Carter's band.
From the middle of that decade Russell became a presence on the European jazz scene, beginning with a tour featuring the Bobby Martin band and almost inevitably involving the great prophet of expatriate jazzmen, Willie Lewis. Russell worked with the latter bandleader from 1939 through 1941 and had only been back in the States briefly before getting called up for military service. His musical activity simply continued in this new frame of reference, and before long Russell was an assistant to the brilliant Russell Wooding in one of the best bands in the armed forces.
This artist's accomplishments following the end of the war taper off considerably. He worked with Cecil Scott in various ballrooms as well as under the baton of Eddie Cornelius, then he became a strictly part-time player, taking calls in the for-hire "general business" branch of music. Despite the fact that his main job during this part of his life was as a salesman, he should still not be confused with the Johnny Russell who wrote redneck country anthems.
~ Eugene Chadbourne

"Texas Ruby"
C&W vocals/guitar
b. Wise County, TX, USA.
d. March 29, 1963.
né: Ruby Agnes Owens.
Part of Team: 'Curly Fox and Texas Ruby'. Tag: "The Sophie Tucker of the Feminine Folk Singers." Ruby's niece is Laura Lee Owens McBride, who, in the 1940s, sang with 'Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys'. Ruby's husband was trick fiddler Curly Fox. A great favorite with audiences, Ruby sang honky-tonk material in a strong, distinctive voice and wrote many of her own songs.

~Biography by Steve Kurutz
A real down-on-the-plains-type singer, Texas Ruby came from a prairie family and began singing country standards with a booming voice and a sassy persona. 

Drifting to Cincinnati from her native Texas in the early '30s, she met bandleader Zeke Clements and the two began a professional and personal relationship that saw them play to appreciative audiences throughout the decade. The duo played everywhere from New York City to Texas to California, but Ruby's constant drinking and ill temper eventually affected the group and the relationship ended. Ruby then married fiddler Curly Fox and the two were performers at the Grand Ole Opry from 1944 to 1948, recording honky tonk material such as "You've Been Cheating on Me" and "Ain't You Sorry That You Lied" for both the Columbia and King labels at the same time.
In 1948, Ruby and Curly Fox moved to Houston where they spent the next decade perfecting their act before moving to L.A. in the early '60s to appear on the Town Hall Party TV show in hopes of gaining a wider exposure. Another move in 1962 saw them back in Nashville where they recorded an album released a year later, but truck the duo when Ruby apparently fell asleep with a cigarette in her hand and perished in the blaze.
Notable Events Occurring
On This Date Include:


The Dorsey Brothers Orchestra recorded "Annie's Cousin Fanny".
A young trombonist, Glenn Miller, did the vocalizing.

Tommy Ladnier, trumpeter
died in New York, N.Y., USA

Ford Leary, trombonist and vocalist
died in New York, NY, USA.
(b. Sept. 5, 1908, Lockport, NY, USA.)

Todd Rhodes, piano
died in Detroit, MI, USA.
Age: 64

Zeke Clement, C&W singer/guitar
died in Nashville, TN, USA.
Age: 82
(Perhaps best recalled for his work with "Texas Ruby")
Songs Recorded/Released
On This Date Include:


L-R: unknown (drums), Rudy Wiedoeft (clarinet), Marco Woolf (violin),
Buster Johnson (trombone), Arnold Johnson (piano), unknown (banjo)

Earl Fuller's Famous Jazz Band - Slippery Hank


Earl Fuller's Famous Jazz Band - I'm Sorry I Made You Cry
  • Jazzbo Jazz One-Step

Six Brown Brothers - When Aunt Dinah's Daughter Bangs On The Piano


Paul Biese Trio - In Sweet September (Introducing: "Jean")
Rose Of Babylon


W.C. Handy's Orchestra
  • Florida Blues


Bennie Krueger and his Orchestra


Wilton Crawley
Irony Daddy Blues
She's Forty With Me


Dorsey Brothers Orchestra
  • Evening Star


Joe Steele and his Orchestra - Coal Yard Shuffle

Annette Hanshaw - Pagan Love Song

Annette Hanshaw - Ua Like No A Like

Ted Lewis and his Band Lewisada Blues

The California Ramblers


Duke Ellington and his Cotton Club Orchestra - Jungle Nights In Harlem


The Dorsey Brothers Orchestra
Recorded "Annie's Aunt Fanny". A young trombonist, 
Glenn Miller, did the vocalizing.


New Orleans Feetwarmers - Wild Man Blues

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