Blues in Montreal

Wish I had been there for a gig, but it was for a funeral, regrettably. The night before I headed back to T.O. I decided to drop in to Bourbon Street, one of the clubs that presents blues on a regular basis thanks to promoter Brian Slack and the Montreal Blues Society. I was finding it hard to gather the energy, but when I saw legendary Quebec guitarist Jimmy James on the bill I decided if I want to hear JJ, I had better seize the moment because he rarely plays in Toronto. Arriving at the club I encounter the Montreal Blues Society table with a couple a familiar faces from the MBS “hospitality suite” at the Blues Summit a couple of years back. It turns out that Brian S. had to spin a little magic when the bass player was in a car accident and he had to rustle up a rhythm section – apparently the new bass player arrived halfway through the first set. The front man was a barrelhouse boogie piano player. The cynical Toronto blues person would say we’ve got a hundred guys in our town who can do that...but then, can you really have too many barrelhouse boogie piano players??

While we’re talking about Quebec, I got a news flash that there was a feature film being shot on the life of Gerry Boulet, lead singer of Offenbach. How often does a Canadian blues guy get immortalized in a feature film? I actually sent a “tweet” on that (you can follow me on Twitter by going to The one story I remember about Offenbach will not be unfamiliar to a lot of blues bands around the world. Offenbach was seconded to back up Chuck Berry at the Montreal Forum. Chuck usually traveled alone and picked up a local band in whatever town and just assumed they would know all his songs (which they mostly did). Of course in Quebec, Offenbach were as big as Chuck Berry so it was more of a double bill, but the guys were thrilled to back up the living legend. Then when it was showtime, Chuck said that he didn’t want the guitar player, just the rhythm section. Offenbach’s guitarist was Jean Millaire, who was a bit of a guitar god in Quebec. I guess a lot of people were disappointed, but that’s how Chuck rolled.

While in Montreal, I got together with Allan Fraser and heard some of his recent solo recording as well as a live recording of Fraser & DeBolt in 1969. I just heard the first three or four tracks and it was jaw-dropping. Allan was a bit dismissive...”oh we’ve got much better live recordings than that” but the fact is nobody’s doing anything with them. I’ve got a couple of tapes from the sessions I produced in 1971 and who would have thought I’d have to be looking up restoration experts to “bake” some tapes I produced. Wait till this younger generation of folkies hear what F & DeB were doing in the 60s...the original acid folk.  Lots going on on the Fraser & DeBolt dossier. Watch for a big CBC Radio doc on “Inside the Music” and maybe even a CD of unreleased material. After all these years there are still thousands of rabid Fraser & DeBolt fans who would kill to hear some new material. I just put up a video on YouTube and Daisy has been loading up some great old pictures. Check it out at